Be careful when kissing a client . . .

Feb 23 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Kissing a client rather than shaking their hand or giving them a bear hug in a misplaced display of enthusiasm are just some of the greeting mistakes, highlighted by new research, that can seriously undermine business relationships.

A survey of 1,500 office workers by recruitment outfit Office Angles has uncovered widespread confusion over etiquette when meeting business contacts.

More than eight out of ten said that they had made some sort of greetings faux pas at work, while almost seven out of ten admitted that they had caused serious embarrassment by wrongly choosing to kiss or shake the hand of a cringing client.

Unsurprisingly, more than half of those surveyed said that their etiquette lapses had seriously affected professional relationships. A third thought that their blunder was so bad that it would be remembered forever by the recipient.

The problem with greeting etiquette, it appears, is the confusion caused by society's widespread adoption of a more approach to greetings, with kissing causing particular problems. As a result, a quarter of people said that traditional handshakes should remain the standard workplace greeting.

The biggest blunder, according to Office Angels, is attempting to 'go continental' with a two-cheek kiss while the other person leans in to kiss just once, something that was admitted by a third of those surveyed. 'The bone-crusher' - giving a 'bone-crushing' handshake in order to show eagerness has been committed by just over a quarter, while 'turning the other cheek' - going for a handshake when the other person offers their cheek, has been the undoing of one in five.

Thankfully 'the smacker' - misjudging a kiss and almost planting a 'smacker' on the lips - was reported by only 12 per cent. Giving a startled client a bear hug was confined to a mere eight per cent.

Paul Jacobs, managing director of Office Angels, said that erring on the side of caution was always the best policy if you are unsure about the most appropriate greeting.

"Firstly, you need to judge how formal the situation or relationship is and opt for an appropriate greeting on this basis," he said.

"If in doubt, the general consensus is to be too formal rather than too informal Ė you canít really go wrong with a handshake.

"If you do make a blunder, all is not lost, just apologise straight away. In most cases, all will be forgotten or the recipient will see the funny side,Ē he said.