I’m a female marketing consultant. I always greet new clients with a firm handshake. I generally don't do anything in subsequent meetings with people I already know. My question is, how should I greet my regular clients? Should I shake hands every time? I'm not a kisser and I don't want to give the wrong impression, but I never know if I should kiss or hug someone. I don't want to appear cold, but I don't want to give the wrong impression.
What's appropriate for female professionals?
M. D., Saugus, MA
Yes, whenever you greet someone, you should shake hands. It’s an expected norm in today’s business world. As a woman, by extending your hand first, you remove any question a male might have about whether or not to shake your hand. Conversely, if a person reaches out to shake your hand and you don’t reciprocate, it creates a very uncomfortable moment as the person stands there with his neglected hand dangling between you. All the focus of the greeting turns to why you didn’t shake his hand. You literally could damage an existing relationship or ruin your chances for gaining business from a prospect simply by not shaking hands.
The only excuse for not shaking is if you have a cold or the flu and don’t want to chance spreading your germs. In that case, offer an explanation as the greeting starts. For instance, at a first meeting with a prospect, you might say, “Please excuse me for not shaking. I have a cold and don’t want to chance giving it to you. I am so pleased to meet you.”
A woman who was in marketing once told me about her most important client, who invariably would greet by coming out from behind his desk and giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. She was creeped out by his greeting but, at the same time, didn’t want to say or do anything to mar the relationship. Given that this had been going on for a while, doing something to prevent the hug and kiss probably would be noticed. She would have to decide if the effort to change the greeting was worth the risk of causing an awkward moment with her client.
In business hugs and/or kisses are not appropriate for any except people you know very well. Even then, it subtly shifts the focus away from the professional. What could Ms. Marketing have done to prevent the hug and kiss initially? At the first greeting, she holds her hand out to shake; then, if the person starts to move in for the hug and kiss, she should stiffen her arm gently to keep him from moving in. Works every time.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
about this blog
e-mail your question
Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.