Handshaking Etiquette

By David Martin

Feeling comfortable with your new colleagues has a huge effect on your overall job satisfaction. But you may feel like an outsider at first, especially if you don’t understand the social norms in the workplace, such as chatting at the water cooler or going for a drink after work. So it’s important for you to feel prepared for the many incidental social interactions that you will have in any Canadian workplace — especially when you are new to the job.

The first matter of social etiquette to feel comfortable with is shaking hands. It’s something you’ll be doing often, particularly on your first day at work. When meeting a new colleague, whether you are male or female, a handshake is the appropriate gesture. This is the case whether the colleague is to be your manager or working under your supervision.

Doug Millar, manager of career services at London’s Fanshawe College, explained to Canadian Immigrant why the right handshake is important when starting a new job. “First impressions are very important to employers in Canada, and a strong handshake is the best way to make that impression just right. Those applying for work should be particularly aware of this.”

Millar suggests that you remember the following when shaking hands:

  • Shake hands firmly. This gives the impression that you are genuine and confident. However, avoid an overly powerful handshake; in other words, do not crush the other person’s hand in yours. This is unnecessary and inappropriate. At the same time, you should not have a loose, weak handshake.
  • Make eye contact at the same time as you shake somebody’s hand. This is an important, and often neglected, sign of mutual acknowledgement and respect.
  • Hold the handshake for one or two seconds and shake steadily from your elbow.
  • It is also appropriate to shake hands with new or existing clients in a professional business setting.

Reprinted with permission from: Canadian Immigrant Magazine