To Kiss or not to Kiss? The Do’s and Don’ts of Kissing in the Workplace

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

It may have taken a few decades to catch on, but the cheek kiss greeting is now just as ingrained in Australian culture as vegemite, thongs and footy.  It’s how we say hello to friends and show our family we love them.

Lately, however, we’ve seen the gesture carrying over from social situations into professional environments, muddying the waters of professional etiquette.

Just like we explained in our recent post on handshaking, projecting confidence and being the “frame setter” – the person who takes the lead and is in control – is extremely persuasive. Doing so requires being in tune with the person you are meeting, reading their body language, being aware of their culture and aligning to theirs in a customary and respectful way.

Broadly speaking, we believe that kissing on the cheek is almost always more appropriate in social situations than professional ones. However, there are some very specific situations in the business world when cheek kissing can work to build rapport, much like the handshake. If done well, it can be another powerful form of greeting that breaks the ice and creates an impression that has influence.

Here are some key elements to consider before initiating a cheek kiss:

The cheek kiss conveys a more personable professional relationship and becomes appropriate once a solid rapport has been established. For women, if a mutual agreement is sensed, a cheek kiss is a warm greeting that is accepted. For men, the business relationship between them and women needs to be well advanced (if kissing happens at all) and between men, well it’s not a question of appropriateness – it just doesn’t seem to happen.

When the business setting is more informal, such as a social function or business lunch, the cheek kiss as a greeting tends to be more suitable. However, when meeting someone for the first time and you are seeking a professional engagement, it would be considered unsuitable.

The Presence of Others
Perhaps you are on kissing terms with an associate, but find yourself in a business setting, like a networking event, with others around. In that case, it’s best to refrain from cheek kissing until you are in a one-on-one situation.

The cheek kiss greeting is common in industries such as fashion and the arts, which tend to be more artistic, creative and non-conforming. In some professions, such as consulting, where it is your personality that is the key selling point, it can be considered a sign of approachability. In other industries, like mining or banking, it’s less common and therefore less acceptable.

When meeting a foreigner, avoid the cheek kiss unless it is customary in their culture to greet in this way.  For example, with Italians, a kiss on both cheeks at a first meeting is a customary greeting and therefore considered suitable and even welcoming.  In comparison, a Japanese person might find it confronting as this isn’t the norm in their country or culture.

The same protocol above applies to emails. The convention of ending emails with a kiss, represented by the letter “x”, should only be used in private emails between people in very close relationships. However, we would discourage the practice – especially between different sexes – as in the worst case it could be misunderstood as romantic and in the best case simply unprofessional.

If in doubt, don’t cheek kiss as it may cause awkwardness or embarrassment. If you’re particularly uncomfortable with cheek kissing, it’s important to discourage the gesture in a way that doesn’t offend the other person. Being the first to initiate a handshake – a more widely accepted gesture – signals how you would like to be greeted. However, it’s important to show friendliness and project some charisma by maintaining eye contact and even smiling with your eyes.

So you’ve decided that it would be appropriate to cheek kiss – so what’s the proper way to do it? As with the handshake, we’d encourage you to stand a half a metre or so from the other person. Lightly touch each other’s right cheeks or give a light, dry peck on the other person’s cheek. You could put one hand on the person’s shoulder so long as both parties will feel comfortable with this.  

To create the right impression, naturally, good grooming is paramount in this situation. Your face should be clean and dry. Perfume or cologne have never been more important than for times like this in order to maintain a positive experience for the other person you are engaging with. Dental and body hygiene is also critical as you are entering someone’s personal space.

Done well, cheek kissing is just another way to become the frame setter and set yourself apart. As they say, “those who set the frame, rule the game”.

The Art of Handshaking

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Over two and a half thousand years ago, the handshake began as a gesture of peace. Today,
there’s no gesture quite as powerful as the handshake in creating rapport, showing respect and
demonstrating professional etiquette in Western cultures.

Nor is there a gesture more contentious. Handshaking spreads germs (yes, even more than kissing!)
and everybody seems to have a different opinion on how to do it correctly. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld
once summed up the problem perfectly saying, “There are absolutely no guidelines for handshakes…
too strong, too weak, sometimes they give you the three-quarter handshake – just the fingers. Early
release, late release, too many pumps, coming in too high, too sweaty, from too far away…” Oh, we
know his pain, don’t we?

Matters become even further complicated when you factor in gender. We’ve all been in a situation
where, in a group of men and women, the men automatically shake hands and the women instead
look sheepish, or give half-hearted handshakes. As a woman, your brain whirrs with questions like,
should I initiate a handshake with a man? Does a firm handshake with another woman come off as
aggressive? Oh, god, are my palms sweaty? Did that guy wash his hands?

The answer? Yes, no, maybe and probably not.

To be taken seriously professionally, women must absolutely engage in handshaking. These days,
women are exposed to more networking situations, and a greater emphasis has been made to target
the issues of gender diversity in senior positions, career opportunities and general visibility. So the
handshake works to even the playing field that little bit more by eliminating some disparity between
the genders. Women shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to offer their hand to a man or a woman, as
it instantly opens the communication lines and projects self-assurance and the desire to build instant
rapport with another person. If you are not naturally confident then it is a great way to help you
project that you are and also break the ice. For those who worry about germs, it’s best to just carry
hand sanitiser lotion.

A good handshake isn’t as easy as it sounds. How often have you experienced the “Wet Fish” (a limp,
cold, unemotional and sometimes wet handshake that conveys apathy), the “Cruncher” (an overly
strong grip that can be construed as aggressive) or the “The Palm Pincher” (only a few fingers and
thumb grasp the palm for the shake, sending a negative message).

In a well-executed handshake, hands are gripped firmly, eye contact is made, smiles are exchanged
and the hands make two firm shakes. It is customary to face the other person straight on and stand
about three quarters of a metre apart. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, then of course it’s
important to make a solid introduction of yourself during the handshake.

To project a confident image through your handshake, it’s important to put effort into grooming,
making sure hands are clean and moisturised and nails are manicured.

Being well-versed in the art of communication and following proper etiquette has the power to
give you an invaluable “one percenter” – that special something that sets you apart and catches the
attention of all the right people. Who’d have thought that a simple gesture of peace could be so

A Strong Leadership Brand

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Individuals can be trained and slowly cultured into strong and powerful leaders. But imagine being suddenly thrust into a leadership position without any prior knowledge or training. Well this was how it all began for Sam Walsh, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

It was after the unexpected death of his father, that Walsh’s leadership skills came to surface. Despite being only a young teenager, Walsh took it upon himself to start managing all of his family’s affairs. Undoubtedly, this is a feat that only a natural born leader with great strength of will and character would be able to achieve.

With his strong leadership qualities, it is no surprise that Walsh is now in a high-powered management position in one of the world’s leading resource companies. Despite his incredible degree of authority and power, Walsh remains a very open and relatable character.  He has been known to prefer a more open-door and informal style to leadership which encourages team involvement and empowerment.

Walsh’s individual style to leadership and high level of professionalism is well reinforced by his external image. His choice of blues and purples in shirts and ties, communicate a sense of formality and professionalism, but also reflect his approachability and openness. From a colour perspective, these colours are well suited for his image as blue is a colour which represents integrity, communication and trust and purple denotes vision and regality.

Walsh is also often seen wearing a handkerchief in his suit pocket, which communicates his gentlemanly characteristics as well as adding an interesting twist, which sets his style apart from the more simplistic and conventional style of other high level executives. The addition of cufflinks and a pin finishes his elegant look, completing the image of a refined, statesmanlike figure.

Overall, Walsh is truly an inspirational leader whom has successfully distinguished himself by cultivating an image which strongly aligns with his professional status, as well as his own personal characteristics and leadership style.

Sam Walsh

Helping Young People to Achieve their Career Goals

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

If you have a dream, then you should chase after it.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Well take a step into the shoes of a young woman who has low self-confidence and is struggling to step out of her shell.  There is no denying she’s a smart woman, after all she’s excelling academically at university and has the potential to accomplish great things in life.  But having potential can only get you so far if you’re shy and unsure of yourself.  So it’s not surprising that the thought of attending an interview, which even a self-assured person can find nerve-racking, is petrifying.  Not only that, but this lack of confidence can prevent someone from achieving their future goals.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone.  This somewhat daunting and over-whelming feeling is a reality for many young people who are just starting their careers.  Imagine the surprise of entering the big world of corporate and professional organisations after just having graduated university.  Or having the potential and skill, but not being able to portray yourself visually in the way you want to be perceived.

We all have career goals and aspirations at some point in our lives but making them happen is another completely different story.  And that’s why projecting a confident image is such an important and powerful tool.  We also all have positive qualities, but what many people don’t realise is that confidence defines who you are and helps you in pursuing your career.

EGAMI recognises the importance of nurturing talent and working with young people to build their confidence, establish an influential image, help cultivate their leadership ability and develop life skills.  For this reason, we are thrilled to be involved in helping young people achieve their career goals through our image programs and workshops as well as supporting the WA Miss Universe event.

From a holistic perspective, our approach enables young people to develop their own unique brand and create a memorable presence that goes beyond first impressions.  For the WA Miss Universe participants, what’s really important is that this is a life skill they will be able to take with them beyond the competition and greatly assist them in their future endeavours.

Keeping your Image Current

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Men, keep your image current this season by incorporate a different trend into your style.  Perhaps introduce a nautical element by opting for a navy suit over black.  When it comes to selecting a shirt, choose dark blue stripes or a simple blue shirt to add more emphasis to your image.


Meet the Team

Friday, October 15th, 2010

It has been an interesting month all round, particularly in relation to this year’s AFL.  Although many sporting seasons are coming to an end, the team at EGAMI are becoming even busier creating awareness about the power of investing in your image to be remembered.  And the team at EGAMI has been expanding!  With our focus being on holistic image and image from the inside out, we have recently acquired new talent to refine and diversify our capabilities in order to provide a more unique service.  Check out our team here

EGAMI is here!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009


After years of inspiration and months of planning – EGAMI is here.

A revolution in Image Consultancy, EGAMI offers a complete agency service for corporations, professionals and personal image makeover needs.

EGAMI is an image and style specialist delivering expert and qualified advisory in corporate, professional and personal imaging. We take care of image projection across all levels, providing businesses and individuals with the edge in how they present.

The team at EGAMI are ready to help your define your style and define your position!


Saturday, July 18th, 2009

corporate-buttonIs your company image congruent with your brand? Are your staff brand ambassadors? EGAMI helps to Define Your Brand and Define Your Position.