To shake or not to shake, that is the question.

Did you know that the handshake dates back to the 5th Century BC? The ancient Greeks used it as a symbol of peace to show that they weren’t carrying a weapon. Since then, the handshake has been the principal way we greet each other in business in the Western world, but since the Covid-19 pandemic has the handshake had its day?

The handshake in modern business implies trustworthiness, skill and professionalism. Many conversations about the type of handshake you give and what it means still happens to this day. This all changed during the pandemic, in 2020 during a Wall Street Journal podcast, Dr Anthony Fauci, the American public health official went so far as to say “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you… not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically…”

So has the handshake had its day? If so, it is important to understand that the handshake is not the only way to greet each other.  So, with Dr Fauci’s words ringing in our ears, we look at the alternatives.


To Shake Or Not To Shake, That Is The Question.
  • Bowing  – The Japanese greet each other by bowing. This can range from a nod to bending from the waist
  • The Fist Bump – The presidential power couple, The Obamas, popularised the fist bump. This is a friendly gesture that indicates teamwork and trust
  • The Elbow Bump – This is the Fist Bump’s less-friendly cousin
  • Waving – This is a sign of recognition but without eye contact, this could be misinterpreted as dismissive
  • Putting Your Hand On Your Heart – Not just an old Kylie Minogue song, recently this gesture has become more popular its shows openness and trust

Across the corporate landscape, it’s clear that how we greet each other has an impact on our business relationships. Harvey John is a people-centred business. We advocate that how we greet each other not only provides the first impression but often reflects how the relationship will continue.

David Waddell, CEO of Harvey John, comments “Working across the finance, accountancy, tax, legal and treasury sectors, the Harvey John consultants have seen a change in how our clients and candidates greet us. We tend to take our cues from our teams, and if a client is happy to bow, we are too. If a candidate greets us with a fist bump, we don’t see this as a problem.”

If none of the options above appeal, the handshake has not gone, just carry a bottle of hand sanitiser…

David Waddell is Managing Director at Harvey John.

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