Stories from my past: I would give you a hug but I don’t want you to report me to HR

leroy laugh comic

I once had a female coworker tell me “I would give you a hug but I don’t want you to report me to HR.” I laughed and said I wouldn’t report her and accepted a hug.

leroy laugh comic
leroy laugh comic

Now of course giving hugs at work can be dangerous. It is easy for good intentions to be misinterpreted. The safest thing is to not give hugs, but I would rather be authentic, and if I get fired for being a human being that is ok with me.

For example, some people I worked with have told me very personal things and I could tell they were emotional about it. In general, people seem to trust me. So at times, I will ask someone who shared something personal with me “Is it ok if I give you a hug?” I have always gotten a yes and they gave me a hug.

Now I realize by talking about this I might be perceived as inappropriate. I always ask for permission before I do something, and only with someone that I consider a friend. Normally that person and I would have already gone to lunch or felt comfortable talking to each other outside of work.

My efforts to be kind usually are well-received. I have gotten 99% good feedback and even things like gifts and sweet notes. My goal is to ease people’s burden not only with technology but with whatever issue they might share with me. I am not trying to heal people, and I don’t act like a psychologist. I listen and then ask if they are asking me for advice. If they are, then I share it. If they don’t act like they are asking me for advice I shut up and just listen.

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For the record, I have never reported anyone to HR no matter what they did to me. If someone does something that makes me feel uncomfortable I have a discussion with them. Plenty of times my coworkers have done things that made me feel uncomfortable. For example, female coworkers have: started a porno while I was in the room on their computer, told me they loved me, showed me their breasts, felt my body, and other things. I left those situations as quickly as possible. I am not excusing what they did, but I am not going to threaten their livelihood by a silly decision on their part.

Connecting with people always poses some risk. Just be careful and wise.