Ask the HR Lady: Asking for Raises, Hugging at Work

Our anonymous HR lady weighs in on your work dilemmas.
Publish date:
April 13, 2012
career, work, job, ask the HR lady

Last month, HR Lady told us about some of the stranger parts of the job. Now she's anwering your questions.

What is the etiquette on interviewing for other jobs while currently holding a position? I am pretty happy with my current job, but I received a very flattering email asking if I'd come in to talk about a great-sounding opportunity. I don't think that I want to leave, but my instinct is that I should at least go and talk about it, if only for the chance to make a good connection. At the same time, I feel guilty about it and am worried about my boss finding out. What's the right way to do this? Am I disloyal if I go on the interview?

Here’s my philosophy on “self-love.” The most important person in your life to nurture is you. If you don’t, you can’t give your best to your job, your friends, your partner, or your family. Part of taking care of you means eating right, exercising, staying on your meds and all that other boring stuff, but it also means looking out for your ability to make a living.

To that end, especially these days, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not seeing what other opportunities are out there. You should always keep up with what’s going on in your industry. Trust your instinct and take that meeting!

What’s the etiquette for interviewing for another job while employed? Simply put, don’t ever forget who is currently paying you. Call the sender of the flattering email. Talk about the job. Is it real? Does it honestly sound great? Spend some time thinking about what it may offer you that your current job doesn’t. Arrange a time either outside of working hours or take vacation time to meet with the company. Be up front, especially in an incestuous industry (I’m looking at you, media).

Tell your wooing company that you are not actively looking; you love your job and would hate to have them hear on the street that you’re interviewing. Then hear them out! If the stars align and this is your dream job, well go for it.

Just remember, you said you loved your current job, so don’t let yourself be flattered into moving, really make sure it’s the right move. If the job is not for you, you have a contact to add to your network.

And if your boss finds out before you’re ready to quit? Practice this speech in advance… “You know how much I love my job and what I do here, but part of my job is staying informed of happenings in the industry. I thought it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to meet someone else in our industry and hear them out.” Honest, professional, and respectful.

I don't know if this is a woman thing or a “me” thing (I suspect a bit of both), but my feelings always interfere with my business negotiations. Last year, I had the opportunity to leverage another job offer into a raise from my then-employer, and I spent the whole period of weeks that it took to get everything settled feeling alternately guilty and terrified. I am such a people-pleaser that I can't stand to make my bosses unhappy, even if I am just asking for something I deserve. I know it's business, but how do I separate that from my emotions and personal relationships with those I work for and with?

*Disclaimer-Before I enter into the actual answer portion of this question (which I think came out pretty good, actually) I would be negligent if I did not express my feelings that the above situation, the old leveraging one offer for another, is tricky business indeed. You may well end up with nothing. You run the risk of pissing off your current employer and potentially burning a bridge with your future one. I believe that if you accept a purely financial counter offer, the other things you hate about your job generally don’t change, you just get paid more to endure them. Only proceed if you are fully prepared to stand your ground and walk away if you don’t get what you want (or at least most of it).

Wow-what a great question. I can’t wait to answer it. But first…. Did you know a study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire proved women are better at multi tasking than men?

In the summer of 2010, researchers gave 50 men and 50 women a series of tasks to perform simultaneously. When additional tasks were added, women did markedly better than men at juggling tasks and completing them successfully. A similar study proved that working mothers spend the majority of their time doing 2 or more things at once (shocker).

Right now, I’m typing, helping with homework, putting off making dinner, and imagining how I would look in red skinny jeans. And while we’re getting all social scienced up, the commonly held belief that men are better negotiators than women is a fallacy.

We certainly approach negotiations differently -- men try to posture and intimidate. Men generally look at a negotiation as a game to win. Women, however, tend to view a negotiation from a “mutually beneficial” perspective. We look to highlight similarities between both sides and craft solutions that allow everyone to come out feeling good. The fancy term for this is Interest Based Negotiation.

Women also show an increased ability to recognize and interpret non-verbal facial and body clues, which can often be the truest way to read the person across the table. All of the above would be my rambling way to get to the point that you are probably a good negotiator, once you can separate your emotions from the task at hand.

The only way to get good at this is to do it a lot. You will never be able to remove your emotions from negotiations entirely, but you can temper them.

I have three things that work for me when I am faced with a negotiation (or any difficult conversation, really)


The best way to enter any negotiation is with the knowledge that what you are asking for is reasonable, deserved and obtainable. Network with others to find out what a reasonable salary request would be. If you are asking for a promotion, make sure you have the skills and performance to warrant it. Come in with ideas of what you would do if you actually got the promotion. Illustrate what your employer would have to gain by giving you a shot. Make it a win-win.


Role play the conversation. Then role play it with someone who knows how to be an antagonistic asshole. Then repeat. The more comfortable you are with your talking points the better. Practicing them in a low stress setting helps to mentally prepare you.

Be Confident. Or Fake Confidence.

Do what makes you feel your best. Whatever it is -- red lipstick, your favorite skirt, a morning quickie. Listen to that song that makes you bounce when you walk. Do the things that give you that invincible feeling. Sounds shallow, but it works. Good Luck!

What are your feelings on hugging at work? I recently went on a job interview and when the interviewer stuck her hand out for a shake, I impulsively gave her a hug instead. I was kicking myself afterward for being so inappropriate, but then again, sometimes I feel like my personal warmth has been an asset in professional situations. Is hugging ever OK at work?

Okay, full disclosure…I have done the EXACT same thing. This is probably more common that you would think, it even played prominently in one of my favorite episodes of "Friends" ever. That being said, I am firmly anti-hug with people in an interview setting, those you have just met, or in any situation where you are not sure the contact is welcome. Add up all those instances, and I’m afraid I am pretty much anti-hug in the office.

One can never be sure of another’s personal boundaries, religious customs (I once tried to shake a Hasidic Jewish man’s hand. It DID NOT go well) or general feelings, so unless you have a hugging contract with someone, I think it’s best to avoid.

-- HR Lady

Have a work-place question you would like answered or career topic to discuss? Leave it in the comments!(If they're super-secret, you can email them to and she'll forward them along.)