I’m the type of person who likes to physically express my appreciation. If a co-worker helps me out or offers a compliment, I often say thanks by squeezing their hand or giving them a shoulder rub. Unfortunately, these friendly gestures of gratitude are now grounds for getting reprimanded by human resources.
When I met with our HR manager, she emphasized that despite my positive intentions, I should not be touching anyone at work. To me, this is like trying not to smile when you say hello. Because restraining my natural instincts is so difficult, I am constantly on guard around my colleagues.
I have considered finding another job, but I’m afraid this is just the world we now live in. To remain employed, I apparently have to be devoid of the most basic human emotions. How did simple, caring gestures get distorted into something that can get you fired? – Touchy
The above query was written four years ago, and I must admit my first thought was I wonder how this individual is dealing with the pandemic, where all our smiles are hidden behind masks and six- feet social distancing is the norm. My curiosity aside, this individual has no way of knowing what life events her colleagues may have encountered. Therefore, it is never appropriate to invade your peers’ space with a hug, backrub, a pat, a squeeze, or any other “gentle” touch. This is harassment, and termination could occur as many individuals see these physical overtures as a personal boundary violation. One must know in the workplace the only way to show appreciation to a peer is a verbal or written expression of gratitude.