To shake or not to shake …

Posted on Jul 29, 2020 :: Commentary
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Forget just about anything you know about business etiquette and networking. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way many of us interact with other people — that’s if you actually meet in person and not over Zoom, which has its own etiquette woes.

It’s a natural habit for most people when they meet each other — whether it’s for the first or 10th time — to extend their hand. But with a pandemic going on, handshakes may be a thing of the past. And saying no to a handshake isn’t just about your health but the other person’s as well. By skipping the handshake, you’re telling the other person that you care about her health, too.

That leaves the question of what to do when meeting with someone: Do you bump fists, wave or nothing at all? I find the entire situation awkward, so I pretty much stand still and look to move the conversation along so neither of us is thinking any longer about what to do with our hands.

Since that’s probably not the most professional option — and I think it will be a long time before everyone will be comfortable shaking hands again — I reached out to Dan Heiser. As the dean of the Schneider School of Business and Economics at St. Norbert College in De Pere, I figured he would have some helpful advice since he regularly deals with business leaders.

Heiser says what people need to remember now is that “the other person may not be comfortable with human contact due to the uncertainty we’re all living under.”

One option Heiser likes is clasping your hands together and putting them over your heart as you approach someone. If that’s not your style, as you’re walking up to the person — stopping early enough to maintain social distancing — put hands behind your back and nod. Putting your hands behind you leaves no question about a handshake or any type of physical contact.

As for wearing a mask, if you are indoors, it’s a must right now especially if you are in close quarters. “It shares
that you care about the other person’s health,” Heiser says.

And with more retailers and schools requiring masks for entry, it may be needed to get you in the door.

As for the handshaking quandary, I haven’t settled on a choice yet, but I’m leaning toward the head nod.