The Handshake: Does It Stay or Does It Go?

The handshake….does it stay or does it go?

Pre-covid, when running into an old friend, co-worker or acquaintances, for most of us it was a no brainer to welcome a handshake or even in some cases, a hug.

The handshake has been THE socially acceptable way to greet someone, and in many cultures, the expected gesture….

…That is until recently.

Wow, how times have changed.

When COVID hit, in person events came to a screeching halt. ❌

The act of attending a networking event and handing out physical business cards suddenly became a pastime.

We shifted, adapted and each navigated the new world in our own way.


What a wild ride and although it’s not over, many in-person events are picking back up – networking events, hiring events, panel discussions.

It is all very exciting!

With the excitement also comes nerves for many people. Just recently I was asked by a colleague, how I feel about the ‘handshake’ as in-person events pick up.

I have to be honest, the question regarding the handshake caught me off guard something that always seemed to come so easy and naturally, is now something we are having to think about.

What is my comfort level?

How will I know what others are comfortable with?

Will people expect me to shake their hand?

COVID has forced a change.

What was once adopted as ‘acceptable’ behavior, may now be viewed much differently…and the handshake definitely falls into this gray area.

Meaning, if someone doesn’t welcome a handshake, but instead offers a smile, elbow bump, or a wave…it is more socially acceptable than ever.

We’re at a time when we are breaking that social norm of ‘the handshake’.

In my experience of working with hiring leaders and business owners across the country, the handshake is no longer expected.

As silly or trivial it may sound, some companies have put policies into place throwing out the handshake all together. Others choose to leave it up to personal discretion.

A great indicator of what someone is comfortable with is non-verbal communication. If someone is approaching you and doesn’t lift their hand to shake yours or has their arms crossed, hands in their pocket… just offer a smile instead.

Take into account we are all going through these uncharted waters and when all else fails – – just ask.

Bring a little humor to the situation when possible. Laugh at the awkwardness of not knowing…I assure you your counterpart will appreciate it.

And for those of you currently going through a hiring process, feel free to ask your contact in advance what their mask policy is and if they have any policies or guidelines in place that you need to be aware of.

As a hiring leader myself, I value the transparency from my clients and candidates, and would be happy to navigate those questions and concerns in advance.

So in all you are in the driver’s seat. To handshake or not, is up to you.

Put some thought into what you are comfortable with prior to attending an event and it will most definitely lead to a more pleasant interaction!




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