Why you probably shouldn’t expect a hug from your boss - even at your Christmas party

Should we really be 'hugging it' at work?
Should we really be 'hugging it' at work?

Do you expect more care and consideration from your female boss just because she’s a woman?

Earlier this year fashion brand Ted Baker’s CEO, Ray Kelvin came under fire for instituting a corporate culture of ‘forced hugging’. 

Essentially, it went beyond the parameters of someone standing in a square offering Free Hugs and further than ‘Hug Your Boss Day’ (an actual faux holiday, celebrated in places of work around the world).

Ray wanted co-workers to ‘hug it out’, so to speak, as an everyday office rule. (Ray allegedly also asked his female co-workers whether he could massage their ears at times).  

According to South African Labour Law “Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee, undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion…”

Could denying a hug be grounds for termination? Or not getting that promotion? Perhaps. 

READ MORE: 3 people share their sexual harassment stories - but what does the law say? (TRIGGER WARNING)

This Ted Baker ‘sexual harassment case waiting to happen’ (in fact, more than 2000 employees signed a petition against these unsolicited embraces) shows unwanted intimacy in the workplace enforced by men. 

But what about intimacy between you and your female boss?

Not sexual necessarily, but that of a bond, kindness, extra consideration and care. When you work with a female boss, often one that is close to you in age and interests, the societal expectation is that you should get along. Not just as colleagues, but that a friendship should develop.

One that sees her being more considerate of you than a male boss might be. It’s an unspoken expectation of closeness. Women are ‘supposed’ to be allies, sisters, have good relationships with other women – otherwise there might be something wrong with you. 

“She has no female friends, I find that soooo weird.”“Why doesn’t she allow me time off, she knows what it’s like to have your heart broken? She’s so cold.”

Women often expect other women, especially in male-dominated spaces to be their allies. Research shows that within these spaces, token women are more reluctant to advocate for other women.

But it’s not an inherently female thing to do as in these environments she sometimes has to fight for her her place, instinctually as she’s been shown repeatedly that there’s only space for one woman.

READ MORE: 10 things women wish their sexist bosses would stop saying

But women can support each other at work without it getting personal. Or too close. 

In Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s New York Times piece, Sheryl Sandberg on the Myth of the Catty Woman they address the stereotype that ‘cold female bosses’ are ‘bitches’ or ‘catty’, saying: “In business and in government, research supports the notion that women create opportunities for women. Women aren’t any meaner to women than men are to one another. Women are just expected to be nicer. We stereotype men as aggressive and women as kind. When women violate those stereotypes, we judge them harshly.”

Sure, a hug would be nice when your cat dies and you’re crying in the office, but you shouldn’t expect your female boss to give it to you because she’s a woman.

Nor should you begrudge her for not offering you support. Rather expect her to support your career, mentor you and mould you into a better, more powerful worker.

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