The art of handshaking: Awkward office protocols Part II

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The first port of call when meeting someone new, conducting business dealings and sealing deals is of course, to shake hands. But for something which is done as a matter of course, there are so many variations that can turn a basic ritual into a political minefield.

The importance of making good first impressions is well documented. And really, after a new candidate has walked through the door and you’ve given them the once over, what’s the next thing you’ll judge them on? That’s right, their handshake. As to why many people get the basics of the simple greeting so terribly wrong is a question for the ages.

HRM Online gives you the range of awkward handshakes we’ve all had to endure over the years.

1. The soggy hand

Understandably people get nervous, especially before an interview.

While there are many repulsive handshakes, we’ve rated the wet one as probably the worst handshake around. Given how often people speak about the wet shake, one would think a simple pre-interview hand wash would be the norm. Alas, no.

NB: (Adding to the unpleasant exchange is when someone feebly attempts to wipe away moisture on their pants before extending their hand)

2. Is that a hand or a plush toy?

Some say a soft handshake demonstrates a lack of confidence, and even a lack of interest. When meeting a candidate, these attributes are not high on the list as being desirable.

If you’re someone with a weak handshake, the suggestion may be to firm it up. This will generally leave a better impression every time you shake hands. It’s also important to pay attention to how much pressure is applied by the receiver and notice if your handshake is firm enough, then adjust yours accordingly.

3. The Bone-Crusher

It is the most fearful handshake is business dealings, and leaves an indelible memory on the recipient’s mind and fingers. The bone-crusher is a handshake that usually happens without warning, done by a seemingly aggressive individual, and for reasons unknown the aim seems to be to grind the recipients’ hand to a smooth paste.

Special warning to women: If you sense a bone-crusher may be on the way, remember to remove your rings to avoid drawing blood, leaving you in a state of shock upon commencement of the business meeting.

4. The Finger-tip Grab

The finger-tip grab often lurks in male-female greetings, where one person mistakenly grabs the other person’s fingers. The main goal of this style of handshake may be part of an effort to keep the recipient at comfortable distance.

It is also known to happen because of the personal space differences between people in the handshake.

5. The Socket-Wrencher

It is popular among power players and common cause of watering eyes and even torn ligaments. It involves forcefully gripping the receiver’s outstretched palm, then simultaneously applying a sharp reverse thrust, attempting to drag the receiver into the initiator’s territory

6. The Pump Handle

The pumper grabs the recipients’ hands with both of theirs, and commences an energetic and rhythmic series of rapid vertical pumps. The pumper will cease pumping but continue to hold receiver’s hand to avoid them escaping the two-handed embrace.

7. A good handshake

So then, now we know what not to do, what’s the correct formula for a good handshake?

  1. Eye contact (essential)
  2. Not too long (2-3 seconds)
  3. Not too hard (but nice and firm)


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