Religious at Work: Handshaking, Tapping and Hugging

Religious at Work is a series about my experience balancing a religious lifestyle with the demands of a full-time job in a secular environment.

religious at workHandshaking, tapping and hugging. That’s what I’m talking about today.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me that handshaking is the norm in the business world. I expected it and was prepared for it. I even used to practice with my dad. He insisted that a good handshake emits confidence.

Now I’m not here to debate whether or not women should shake hands in the workplace. That is for you to decide for yourself.

What did come as a surprise to me was that certain men will tap me on the shoulder. It’s not done in an inappropriate way and it’s done very infrequently, but every time they do it I give a little jump and it gives me a heebeejeebee sorta feeling.

Yes, that’s a real feeling.

Honestly, it’s just something that I completely did not expect.  It’s like the time on New Year’s Eve when my male boss went around wishing everyone a happy new year with a hug.

Luckily I’m not a super touchy feely person to begin with and my boss saw the freaked out look I made as he came by my desk. I guess some people get all weird by the holidays.

I think that growing up in a frum environment made me extra sensitive to this.  In frum circles any type of touch between males and females is considered inappropriate.  Since it’s something that is so not done in my social life, it makes me feel uncomfortable when it is done to me at work.

As I was entering the work force I thought that I would be able to avoid all touch that would make me feel uncomfortable, but I’ve learned very quickly that there are always unexpected things that are bound to happen.

I realized that the important thing is that I’m able to recognize things that make me uncomfortable, even if they are within the parameters of being appropriate.  I feel confident enough that if a male co-worker was  tapping me on the shoulders too often I would probably say something to him about it.  I don’t think I’d turn it into a religious thing, just maybe point out that there are other ways to get my attention.  Not everything has to be about religion… sometimes it can be about personal preference.

I’m lucky that I’ve never been in an environment where people acted completely inappropriately.  I guess that’s what HR is for though… one of the benefits to working in a large company.

How do you deal with handshaking in your work environment?  Have you ever been in a situation that made you feel completely uncomfortable?

Until next time,