My manager said I need to shake his hand at any given moment because it is creating a friendly environment. I hate touching people. Do I have to and if I refuse will my job be on the line?

  • He is the kind of man who likes to shake your hand 10 times in a day. It's kind of creepy and we all feel like it's invading our personal space. – Mrs. Morris Oct 16 '17 at 22:22
  • Note that there are benefits of touch in relationships. Perhaps you could suggest an alternative, like a high-five? But it may just be he's that kind of person (likely from an older generation, I can't imagine this is some 20 year old instigating this) – Tas Oct 17 '17 at 2:21

If your manager says it is necessary then it is necessary. In general a handshake is not considered a hostile or sexual touching, and is a quite common sign of respect. If you work with the public, it could be that he wants to show that display of respect to your customers. It could also just be he is the type of person that does not understand personal space.

If this really bothers you, I would suggest explaining to him that it does bother you and that you would prefer to limit personal contact. Its nothing against him it just makes you uncomfortable. If that is not acceptable to him then your only real recourse is to either comply, go to HR, or quit.

If you choose to go to HR, then be prepared to explain why it bothers you. If you have a diagnosed phobia, or some sort of immune system condition this may act in your favor. If his handshakes are different for men, than women, or even just you, they that can create a hostile work environment. That is something HR is more likely to be concerned about. Basically you need a reason for the business to care enough to ask the manager to back down.

But, if your only reason is that you do not like it in general, I would be prepared for the company to back up the manager. Especially if they are successful in their job. And yes, it is possible that your job could be on the line if you complain. In fact is likely to freeze your career with the company, even if they side with you.

  • @JoeStrazzere Uhm, maybe, his respect battery has worn out and drains fast. It needs to be recharged 10 times a day by handshakes. :) Perhaps time to replace the battery and get one of those fast chargers. ;) – Masked Man Oct 17 '17 at 1:34
  • To the best of my knowledge, touch does improve relationships and is beneficial for humans. Perhaps he has simply read too into some studies though. I think a handshake as you come/go might be reasonable, but multiple times a day (unless after a meeting or something) sounds weird – Tas Oct 17 '17 at 2:22
  • @Tas, agree completely with every word you wrote. What I add by this comment is that I am a diagnosed high-functioning autistic. We realise the social aspect of things, we must cope with never being comfortable with un-asked for touch over our lifetime because the condition (condition, not disability per se) is permanent, sometimes we leave a job because of a similar social aspect although we may love the job and nearly everybody we work with. You engage "neurotypical" (ordinary) people by touch; you engage a capable high-functioning autistic by keeping a social distance and friendly talk – Stan H Oct 17 '17 at 4:18
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    @JoeStrazzere - I suspect 10 times may be a bit of an exaggeration, though it may feel that way to someone with a phobia, or social anxiety. But I have had a manager that had problems prospecting personal space(just got to close not touching) and can relate to the issue. It was creepy. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 17 '17 at 9:40

You don't have to shake his hand at his apparently random whim. Your job may be at risk, but it certainly ought not to be.

It is clear to me, myself as a former manager, supervisor, tertiary teacher of trade skills to adults, and most relevant of all, as a counsellor to people who are distressed by unprepared-for touch (in my case, counselling people with a minor neurological condition who can otherwise be capable employees) that your manager lacks management training, in particular a most basic part of management training which goes something like: don't invade the personal space of a competent employee; do respect the personal vagaries of an employee - so long as the work is being done up to standard; don't discriminate against an employee because their belief system has minor differences to yours.

Essentially, your manager is being a bully, albeit a subtle one, given that you have revealed that this generally accepted social inter-action is to be inflicted upon you at his whim (not yours). Bullying or torment, call it what you will.

I will put money on it that at your job interview, no mention was made that mandatory handshaking at random times and not by your initiative, was part of the job description.

There is no fault on you. A manager who inflicts distress on his staff in the mistaken belief that it would improve workplace efficiency, should be re-trained or fired.

So, with apologies to those who have suggested that you should get used to handshaking, I must say absolutely not, for the simple reason of the level of distress it causes you. Go to HR and explain politely but firmly and clearly how deeply this matters to you. It is not unknown for an employee's talents to be recognised and yet for a personality clash within a department to sometimes occur. An enlightened company will much prefer a transfer to another department rather than a resignation, followed by months of training a new employee.

If HR offers no satisfaction, think about quietly looking for a new job, if, as I suspect, the feeling is so deep within you that you may never get used to an un-asked for touch. My practical life experience informs me that these feelings can run very deep indeed. On your resume, a resignation is going to look far better than being fired.

FWIW #1: Your manager may possibly have a minor pathology. HR should be talking to him about this and how it adversely affects some employees.

FWIW #2: Short of professional team sports, I don't see any reason for random personal touch at another's sole whim in a workplace.

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