Touching can enhance relationship building. In the workplace, some touching creates problems. However, the handshake is generally acceptable and is an extremely effective morale builder when used regularly with employees.
While frequently used to greet new people or re-acquaintances, it’s normal for employees to go with unshaken hands for long periods. For example, a fourteen-year veteran machine operator with a 150-employee manufacturing company had never had his hand shaken by a company executive.
I advise that every employee receive a handshake from a company executive (or senior manager in larger corporations) at least once every three to six months. Executives should be able to do this on a regular basis for their top 100 reports.
Shaking employees is usually easy and fun. Extending your hand often encourages the employee to do likewise. Sometimes, when it’s unexpected, I’ve had to keep my hand extended for as much as 10-15 seconds before the employee extended hers. Thus, I often play off the technique’s novelty by saying:
Hello Anne, how are you [extend hand]? [As hand is extending continue uninterruptedly.] It has been a while since we talked. What’s going on with your (client, market, family, vacation, etc.)?
I’ve also had employees ask:
Did you want something in particular?
To which I’ve responded with something like this:
No, I just wanted to see how you were doing and to thank you for your efforts.
Touches influence people’s feelings and in turn their thoughts. For instance, a patient touched by a doctor will tend to think that the doctor spent twice as much time with him than she did. We need to remember that people are not light switches. Over time, handshakes work and lay excellent ground for future initiatives.