My workplace is at the reception of our building, and every morning most men want to shake my hand in greeting as they arrive. (I’m excluding the women as they seldom shake hands. These men also aren’t targeting me in particular, it’s how they greet each other amongst themselves, too).
If I were to shake hands with everyone I worked with we’d be at several hundred people. I find a simple (friendly!), “Good morning” sufficient but my other thought is: I don’t want to be impolite but with that amount of hands (many directly after smoking) I find the sheer number of handshakes a little icky and yet would drive myself nuts if I submitted to handwashing after every few people.
Should I just step over my shadow and politely shake hands with everyone and anyone that wishes to greet me like that?
This is a really hard question. Because I suppose so much of it depends on what your job actually is.
If you are at reception to answer the phone, for example, and every Tom, Dick and Harry that is walking past you wants to shake your hand, that is not conducive to doing your job. It is an annoying interruption, and whilst the intent is very polite, the execution, which impedes your ability to do your job to the best of your ability, isn’t.
But if your job is to greet people, both on the phone, and in person, then I would say, shaking hands with whoever wants to shake your hand (and no-one else), is your job. It’s what you’re paid to do, and whilst I can see that shaking unclean and smoky hands is not nice, it’s kind of akin to a checkout person complaining about handling cash, you know? It’s THE JOB.
In scenario one, where shaking hands in not your job, but you don’t want to appear rude, because being polite is part of your job (hint: it’s NEVER not part of anyone’s job), my only suggestion would be to change your physical location, if at all possible. (and I know, it might not be up to you how the reception is laid out, but this is all I can think of).
If you could you place a physical barrier between yourself and the incomers, and then introduce a new form of greeting, I think you could change behaviours without offending anyone.
For example, can you start to position yourself behind a desk, that is too wide or too tall for them to reach across? And then, when they make the initial approach, wave at them instead? Or do a little salute and a ‘Good Morning!’ or something?
I guess I’m thinking of a physical form of greeting, so it’s clear that you are acknoweldging them both verbally and in person, but without actually making physical contact?
I’m suggesting the barrier because it’s easier to change people’s behaviours if other things have changed. If you stand or sit where you usually stand or sit, and then try to avoid the handshake, I think bad-feeling will result. But if the physical set-up changes, and your new greeting can be seen as part of that, people will be more likely to take to the new system.
If you have no scope to change your location or set-up, I don’t think there’s much you can do to alter people’s behaviour without offending at least a few.
Does anyone else have any suggestions? And if you want to give more details about the specifics of your job, I’d be interested to see if my advice changes, or if I can add anything further.