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Bosses Have Begun Hugging Their Employees — What Could Go Wrong?

A nice embrace from the boss man. Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

As traditional offices with water coolers and cubicles become a thing of the past, long-held boundaries and employee protections are under threat of going out the door with them. In this new world of open office plans, chat apps, and hoverboards, you could catch your boss walking toward you with open arms. No, he’s not giving you a raise – he wants to give you a hug. Ahh!

The Wall Street Journal reports on the unsettling new trend of bosses moving past the stuffy old handshake in favor of a hug, which supposedly makes for a more pleasant, caring workplace. Here’s Ray Kelvin, CEO of Ted Baker:

“We don’t just hug for the sake of hugging,” Ted Baker CEO Ray Kelvin says. He adopted the practice 12 years ago, when bad arthritis made handshakes painful.

A circle around his desk at the company’s London headquarters is labeled “hug zone”; about five times a day someone will stand within its confines and receive a hearty embrace, he says.

The circle is about 10 feet in diameter, “enough for two people to get in it, sometimes three if you feel like having a group hug,” Mr. Kelvin says.

Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of Belfor Property Restoration in Michigan, says that he estimates that he gives hundreds of hugs to his employees a week. One employee hugged him so hard that he “broke three of his ribs, sending him to the hospital.”

An employment lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, explained that, to avoid the onslaught of harassment and unlawful-touching lawsuits sure to pour in as a result of this new trend, there are two appropriate alternatives: “the HR hug, ‘the go-to-hug for HR professionals looking not to offend anyone,’ a one-armed sideways embrace,” and the “FFBB, ‘full-frontal but brief.’”

Here is one more:

No hugging.

Bosses Are Hugging Their Employees — What Could Go Wrong?