Bring Your Preschool Attitude to Work


December 2, 2010

*When I first started blogging, I wrote something on hugs at work that most people probably didn’t see.  It seems to be a topic again around the blogosphere.  Since I’m just back from a late night flight, I thought I’d share mine again today.  Tomorrow….something on enthusiasm!

Preschool Hugs

Times are tough everywhere- that’s not even news anymore.  Companies are thinking more about cost saving measures and how to save jobs and avoid layoffs.  There is less and less money available to recognize employees.  Because of this, leaders are trying to find creative ways to reward employees and increase motivation.

I, too, have been coming to work and trying to keep a positive attitude.  Trying to motivate myself.  Trying not to worry that each day may be my last in my role at a job I love.  It’s an ongoing challenge.  Today, I was dropping my five year old twins off at preschool when it hit me.  I NEED TO BRING A PRESCHOOL  ATTITUDE TO WORK. Let me explain.

Each day when my kids arrive at school, they are greeted by their peers with hugs and squeals of delight.  It’s “I’m SO happy you’re here”, and “Good morning!  I’ve been waiting for you.”  This is accompanied by hugs all around.  The parents and I just smile and feel good that we’re leaving our kids at a place they enjoy coming to.

So, this happened again this morning.  That’s when I thought, I’m going to do this at work today.  Let me tell you, I work in a human resource department that is quite conservative.  We have our fun, but it is typically a quiet work environment where people tend to stay in their offices.

Well, I walked in and the first person through my office door was my administrative assistant.  She said her typical good morning.  I responded with a VERY warm good morning.  I then asked if I could hug her.  She looked at me oddly, but agreed.  As I hugged her, I told her I was really glad I work with her.  You should have seen the smile on her face.

I didn’t stop there.  I walked to the office next door and hugged two more colleagues.  I sincerely told them that I enjoy working with them.  I headed toward our kitchen.  Again, each colleague I encountered, I hugged or patted on the arm and told them how much I enjoy working with them.  I continued this throughout the day.

I had a few colleagues come by and request a 2nd and 3rd hug throughout the day.  I had one colleague tell me that I hugged her right before an important meeting she was not looking forward to and that my hug made a difference in her attitude so her meeting went well.

I know it’s not much of a scientific experiment, but look at the impact even one person can have on employee morale in an office.

So, I challenge anyone reading this blog to bring YOUR preschool attitude to work and see how much better your day is.  And, when you do, let me know how it goes in the comments.

For more on hugs at work, check out Fast Food HR and My Hell is Other People. Really.  Go read them because it’s good to think about hugs sometimes instead of all the heavy HR issues we deal with!


  • Being a not very huggy person, this exercise could feel frankly weird. I don’t know if hugging every client would work for me, and my co-workers aren’t particularly huggy people, either. I am not going to lie about this tidbit- I know I would have to check for a knife in my back after a hug from some people…

    I couldn’t be a cynic, could I?

    I see where you are going with this, however. I can’t remember what pre-school was like for me. But maybe trying to be a bit warmer wouldn’t be a bad thing. Becoming an adult does take warmth out of the equation for many of us. That child-like innocence and openness could make the day go by a little easier.

    Maybe take Trix to work? She reduces my age by about thirty years…

    • @Doug- SURPRISED! You seem like a hugger to me. Definitely bring Trix to work anyway. That would be cool. AND, I think you make all your clients feel important and appreciated even if you don’t hug them. Definitely could be a fun experiment though to see if maybe a warm double-hand hold/shake makes a different. Not quite a hug, but always nice to get.

  • Trish-

    I will do that experiment.

    When Trigger was still around, he probably would have only been nice to the cute girls if I took him to work. Trix is just social. Maybe she comes to work on Saturday…

  • Always get a chuckle when the hug/non-hug discussion comes around. You guys crack me up.

    But, I love the preschool model! Each child feels special and welcome when they are singled out for that special hello each morning. And I have witnessed parents observe closely to make sure their child is greeted warmly. If the greeting does not transpire the parent feels snubbed or is wondering if the child is seen as bad or is not liked by the teacher. I have seen a ‘non-greeting’ witnessed as a sign that little “johnny” is not learning social skills or is not playing nice. And parents will go out of their way to address it to make sure their child has acceptance and is behaving.

    Maybe the hug does not work for everyone. But, certainly an over-the-top greeting can get you far. Would love an analysis from this crew of the “WalMart Greeter” strategy. Just be glad they aren’t hugging everyone coming in the door.

    • @Lyn- It does come back around at least once a year as a topic. I guess it’s because so many people like human interaction to have some physical component (and I don’t mean that inappropriate kind of touching). The key is gaining permission and knowing the social boundaries. I do find it interesting that so many parents of preschoolers want that contact for their kids. Do you think the next generation will be more accepting of physical contact? I wonder. Thanks for weighing in Lyn.

  • Recently, I had a lawyer/trainer/presenter come to our organization to talk about how to do performance evaluations. I have known this guy for awhile and he has some conservative views especially on social media. However he is a excellent presenter and a great guy.
    I’m not sure what brought this up during his presentation, but the subject of hugging co-workers came up. I was really amazed that he went off about how completely acceptable it is to hug, and how there is an acceptable way to touch co-workers, and how it is just part of being a human being. It was the best part of the presentation.
    Thanks for reminding me of this.

    • @Paul- You’re welcome. Thank you for sharing that story. It’s encouraging to hear a lawyer telling people to be human. I wish more people embraced this. Actually, it’s not even about the hug itself. It’s about making sure you give colleagues that sincere message that you value and appreciate them. Every day. Thanks for weighing in.

  • Hugs are okay, I guess. When I started my first job there was a guy who wanted to shake your hand the first time you entered his department. Each day. Seemed like a little overkill, but everyone knew who Larry was, and when he asked for help, he got it.
    I work in a tight team today, but most of the hugging is save for birthdays, departures, good-news-sharing, and that sort of thing. I don’t mind it, I just am not a frequent initiator.

  • As a 6’6″ extroverted white Protestant male, I think I fit into every statistical oppressor category. I’m actually a caring, compassionate, sensitive guy, but those check boxes aren’t on “the form.” So, while I am a big hugger, I have to be extremely careful. Bummer, but it wouldn’t be fair of me to run the risk of creating a hostile environment for someone — even if my intentions are good. (Knowing you, I can see how you pull it off while creating the sense of a safer environment.)

    I read your blog this morning and replaced the hug with a thank you note to two of our customer care representatives who went above and beyond to provide oustanding service to one of our newest clients.

    I use Best in Class Customer Service as a differentiator in the sales process. Every time Customer Care Team earns an unsolicited kudos from a Client, I get an extra shot of sales adrelanine and deliver the message to prospective clients with genuine confidence (the opposite of slimy arrogance). Then, we win that Client and build a long-lasting relationship.

    I’ll consider thank you notes as my work hugs. Then, I store up the real hugs for my kids.

    Thanks, Trish, for writing this blog. I look forward to it every morning, followed a few hours later by Jason Seiden’s ever-thought-provoking (and funny) posts.

    Hugs to you,


    • @DK- You, my friend, just made my day! And as I recall, I think I hugged you after meeting you. Hugs definitely don’t work in every workplace. In my case, I was in a situation where I would NEVER have hugged these people ever. So, I just asked permission. Some I just did the “side hug” and some just a pat on the shoulder. I think the sincere message of “I really enjoy working with you” also helped. So glad you are making thank you notes your work hugs.

      *virtual hugs* to you!!

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Preschool Hugs
Preschool Hugs
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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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