To say I’m a touchy-feely person would be an under-exaggeration. Hugs are the best when given freely. But, and here’s the but, there are situations in which I reconsider whether a hug is apropos.
This debate comes up most often during the holiday season. While I have no trouble giving friends and family, and even newly made friends a hug (I search them out, really), I tend to draw the line at hugging customers. There’s a boundary there and I’m not comfortable crossing it. I even have to take a look at the whole appropriateness when it’s a work colleague, especially one who I may not work with often.
Just last week, we were talking about the need for professionalism at all levels, even when it comes to sending an email to a regular supplier or client. “You never start an email message with “Hi Karen,” said the owner during an account coordinator staff meeting. It implies friendship and that can blur the line between us and the customer. They may seem like friends now, but when something goes wrong, no matter where the fault lies, that friendship is out the window. “You can be friendly but don’t assume that this familiarity will translate well when they are not satisfied with the product or service,” she noted.
The same goes for hugs. Just this afternoon, after loading up a customer’s car with logoed soft shell jackets, hockey bags and garment bags, an order from hell that had been on the go since the River Styx was a forethought, she stepped in. At first, I was unsure and did a half-step back. What was she doing? She was taking up more of my personal space. Do I step back to let her pass? She was, after all, about to get in her car and go off to a hockey tournament in Fergus. But then she went in for the kill, throwing her familiarity, her friendship around my shoulders and bringing me into her fold.
It was a Christmas hug and I had enough sense to hug her back, though not as fully as I would Anasatan or Mags. Those are reserved for the blessed. But, I still felt unease, uneasy with this familiarity-turned friendship. A question arose: Would I be her friend if she wasn’t a customer? Even the answer was iffy. She would be a friendly acquaintance, one to shoot the breeze with if we happened to be in the same place at the same time. Would I invite her over to the now infamous Festivus Party (The Anti-Christmas Party)? Probably not.
It’s like hugging everyone in the line at the grocery store on Christmas Eve. While you may revel in the Christmas spirit, you may not be so inclined to reach across the conveyer belt and embrace the check-out cashier.
However, if the cashier were a hottie, I may have to throw caution to the wind. It is Christmas, after all.