The workplace kiss has become an international phenomenon, and its intent has recently been questioned.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a German think-tank, the Knigge Society, has declared workplace kissing a “form of terror” and called for it to be outlawed – a notion that will be greeted with relief by anyone who has suffered from the experience of grazed cheeks, smeared lipstick or (even worse) mistakenly locked lips.
And while a handshake may these days be considered the normal greeting at work, over the past three decades social kissing has made a comeback – so much so that puckering up now is seen as the professional thing to do. The rise of the office kiss has been put down to various factors, including more women in the workplace, globalisation and the growing influence of the creative industries. Research by an academic at Bath University earlier this year even found that heterosexual men were also more comfortable with the idea of kissing each other, thanks to the behaviour of professional sportsmen, particularly footballers, who embrace in a moment of sporting glory.
For those of you already studying in Australia, you’ll have likely come across the workplace or, simply put, introductory kiss.
It’s not uncommon to greet and bid farewell to those with a kiss on the cheek. The workplace kiss is more common Down Under, and a rare sighting in Canada’s landscape of workplace greetings. But the kiss is growing in popularity.
“This is not a conversation we would have been having 30 years ago,” says Liz Wyse, etiquette expert for Debrett’s. “But less formal dress codes, a less obvious hierarchy, bosses sitting in open-plan offices and no more special dining rooms for management means that those formalities have gradually evaporated. So the rise of air kissing is no surprise – it’s just part of the democratisation of manners.”
Serena Mackesy, who used her own experience in various offices to write the novel The Temp, concurs that bestowing kisses upon colleagues started as a means of signifying authority, but adds: “Although I’m a habitual kisser in real life, I would welcome a stop to this. It blurs boundaries terribly and, ultimately, must cause even more unspoken resentments, as the executives all swap kisses while the secretaries and post people stand to one side; and as people moving up the ladder stop kissing the people they’ve left behind. Dreadful.”
For those who are confronted by the terror of the workplace kiss, there are several solutions. Hans-Michael Klein, the Knigge Society’s president, has suggested that colleagues maintain a “social distance zone” of 23 inches, or place a sign on the desk indicating a “no kissing” area. But both are impractical. “Go with the flow,” advises Wyse. “If someone kisses you, don’t jerk backwards and look appalled; you’ll come across as rude and overly formal.”
OzTREKK has received feedback from past students, noting their introduction to greeting kisses. They have remarked about not knowing which cheek to approach, avoiding bumped noses and holding in giggles should the kiss be met with an awkward response . The Sydney Morning Herald really nails it on the head. While it’s a common practice, it doesn’t mean there’s a smooth understanding to its purpose or execution.
Have you had a workplace greeting kiss gone wrong? What’s your approach to the workplace kiss?
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