William Rawlings & Associates prides itself in giving good advice to keep you safe on the roads and/or what to do in the event of a vehicle accident. We have even given advice to the dangerous of winter driving and ways to keep yourself and family warm should you find yourself stuck in the snow.
Then it occurred to us, with cold and flu season all around us, there are dangers that lurk right in our own work places. So, we ask the office etiquette patrol out there, “should I refuse a handshake from someone who has sniffled or sneezed into their right hand?” My first reaction would be, “EEE Gads!” However, in business, the most professional greeting is a handshake and it’s extremely “risky” to refuse an extended hand from a client or prospective client. There are other options. Grin and bear it, shake, then wash or sanitize, just don’t do it in front of your client! Or you can simply say, “I’m trying very hard to stay healthy this flu season and I’m going to respectfully greet you without a handshake.” While this still might come across as offensive, it’s a reasonable request from someone who is recovering from a serious illness, or has a compromised immune system.
Then, there is always that fellow coworker or employee who is coughing their brains out without covering their mouths. You could offer them a tissue and say in a polite tone, “It looks like you need one of these – I am often caught off guard without one.” Or you could just offer them your entire box of tissues to use at a later time! And really, cough or sneeze, COVER YOUR MOUTH! It wouldn’t hurt to post a sign over the office sink to, “Please wash your hands”! When working in close quarters with others and sharing office space, telephones, computer keyboards and writing pens, you may have the opportunity to spread unwanted germs.
Personally, I prefer the Howie Mandel approach and would rather “fist pump” than shake someone’s hand. However, the etiquette gurus tell us that even during the flu season, a handshake is expected when meeting and greeting. A hug is less likely in business, but even if you generally would hug a long time client, refrain if you are feeling ill. If someone extends their knuckles for a fist bump, that is a clear signal they are not interested in shaking hands. Feel free to follow their lead, but in business, don’t initiate the first knuckle bump.