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Is this OK?

(205 Posts)
porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 14:47:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Mon 03-Oct-11 15:00:09

I would have sent it to all colleagues - so a male colleague doesn't have an awkward moment introducing him to a female customer

I know that when I was living in Malaysia, the more traditional muslims (mainly older gentlemen, at weddings) felt uncomfortable shaking my hand.

TBH I don't have a problem with that at all. I don't particularly like a european kiss greeting, or colleagues in north america that wanted to hug me so I don't see not wanting to hand shake as particularly different.

AMumInScotland Mon 03-Oct-11 15:21:34

Like Pickle, I think it should have gone out to all staff for clarity, but I don't have a problem with people not wanting to shake hands. Assuming that's the only thing which he has an issue with, and doesn't treat women colleagues differently in other ways.

scaevola Mon 03-Oct-11 15:30:08

I agree it should have gone to all staff.

It's not an unusual issue - I've come across it at international conferences - and providing, as noted above, it is solely a greetings issue and does not manifest itself in additional ways then it should be unproblematic. Unless/until you have evidence of any wider problem, them I would let this rest as the small matter the email says they hope it will be. Perhaps thinking of it as a kind of religious tolerance, such as the wearing of a veil, would contextualise it for you. Levels of touching during greeting are both cultural and religious constructs, and need not affect other issues.

sportsfanatic Mon 03-Oct-11 15:34:12

Agree it should have gone to all staff. I would rather though the boss had explained that in this country we don't differentiate (something the new employee appears to know anyway) and that he uses the same hand across the chest greeting to women and men if he is not allowed to shake hands with women. That way it avoids any women who might take offence and underlines equality of treatment.

porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 16:08:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 16:36:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

forkful Mon 03-Oct-11 17:17:53

I think that if he doesn't want to shake hands with women for religious reasons then he should be made to adopt the policy of not shaking hands with anyone - male of female. This then removes the gender from it.

Sorry but this pisses me off no end.

scaevola Mon 03-Oct-11 17:30:03

porncocktail: I can't think of any well established religion that has a long-standing greetings tradition which differentiates between LGBTG people. What did you have in mind.

And I can't think of one for ethnic minorities either - or were you referring to Hinduism and caste issues?

forkful Mon 03-Oct-11 17:33:25

scaevola - porncocktail is pointing out the discriminatory nature of choosing to shake the hands of one group but not another.

Racism and homophobia are taken more seriously than sexism in the workplace.

Tyrionlovingyourwork Mon 03-Oct-11 17:56:36

I had a Jewish colleague that avoided physical contact with the opposite gender. We were both in equally senior positions and the norm in meetings with external clients was to shake hands. I was shocked the first time he declined my hand - more so because his business partner was aghast at my reaction. I asked why not and he said 'on religious grounds'. I said OK then and then finished wrapping up politely. In my ignorance, I had never heard of this. The next time we spoke on the phone I asked if I could ask a question about it. He said sure and explained why.

I wouldn't be offended if it happened again and don't find it sexist.


porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 17:58:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dreamingbohemian Mon 03-Oct-11 18:07:23

I don't think your boss handled the original email very well -- they made it much more awkward than it had to be.

I think I would have advised the new employee that in order to avoid offending any of his co-workers, he may wish to decline shaking anyone's hand, and then sent a brief and non-alarmist email to all staff explaining that for religious reasons xxx does not shake hands with people.

Tyrionlovingyourwork Mon 03-Oct-11 18:16:28

what dreamingbohemian said.
I think this is a reasonable request. Your boss has dealt with this badly.

TheRealTillyMinto Mon 03-Oct-11 18:26:16

if someone is refusing to shake my hand becuase i am a women, that is different & less favourable treatment on the grounds of sex.

he can believe what he likes but he can either treat women the same as men in the workplace or not be in the workplace.

porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 18:27:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scaevola Mon 03-Oct-11 18:30:11

porncocktail: thanks, your answer was helpful in confirming you did not have concrete examples in mind. Unpicking the cultural and religious backgrounds of social customs is a complex and fascinating area, and rarely straightforward.

OneHandFlapping Mon 03-Oct-11 18:34:51

I don't see why we have to tolerate religious practices that are offensive. I'm thinking particularly here about homophobic Christian bed and breakfast owners.

Personally I find the refusal of Moslems to shake hands with the opposite sex offensive. It makes me feel dirty and excluded. My cultural view is as valid as theirs.

TheRealTillyMinto Mon 03-Oct-11 18:44:40

another example is someone refusing to give advice to a couple who were same sex on his religeous grounds.

that makes him the wrong person for that job. or any job where he cannot trat people equally

Tyrionlovingyourwork Mon 03-Oct-11 18:48:43

Negiah (Hebrew: נגיעה‎),[1] literally "touch," is the concept in Halakha that forbids or restricts physical contact with a member of the opposite sex (except for one's spouse, children, siblings, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents). In my example, an orthodox women could have a similar request.

I moved from one large city to another in the Midlands. IMHO I am now more aware of more diverse religious practises and am happy to live and let live. My colleague explained it as a respect issue and I suppose the open dialogue in which the matter was discussed did have a bearing on how I felt about the situation.

I agree the 'why' has a bearing on how I would feel about a specific matter. I have no idea what lies behind the request but would be happy to adhere to the request without further question.

I also think in your case your boss is correct in asking questions to be forwarded to him rather than others approaching the individual. Your boss will need help from HR to ensure it is dealt with in a sensitive way. The original message stated the avoidance of touch was for religious reasons rather than inequality.

I would be willing to discuss my own religious practises but would be offended if I was singled out for questioning or repeatedly asked to justify my personal beliefs.

porncocktail Mon 03-Oct-11 18:55:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheRealTillyMinto Mon 03-Oct-11 19:01:19

it would not be right for someone to be questioned on their religeous beliefs but nor would it to be right for management to ignore someone behaving unprofessionally.

Tyrionlovingyourwork Mon 03-Oct-11 19:05:49

I wouldn't ask that he stops shaking hands.

IMHO this is a code by which one gender cannot touch another and so it is already an equal practise - even if this may not currently evidenced in your work environment.

I am offended by the email sent by your boss but not about the request.

scaevola Mon 03-Oct-11 19:11:37

porncorn: you could say that, but the risk then is that you may step into a Shia/Sunni/Wahabi issue.

Observant females (Hasidic too) do not touch unrelated men either, so the gendering of the issue is not clear cut.

Would you insist a woman shook a man's hand against her beliefs, or removed her veil?

dreamingbohemian Mon 03-Oct-11 19:12:22

I can see why you don't feel right about it OP. That's why I think the best thing all around would be if he doesn't shake hands with anyone, that way he doesn't have to violate his religion but at the same time his coworkers are treated equally.

It's always tricky where the rights of religious minorities and the rights of women come into conflict. As a woman, I want to be treated equally, but I'm not comfortable with the idea that religious minorities have to do things against their will -- especially for something like a handshake, which in the end is not a big deal. (It would be different if someone's religious beliefs meant I could not take a job, for example.)

I don't think there is one right answer -- you can't say that one set of rights should always trump another. I think all you can do is try to approach things sensibly and reach compromises.

But overall I'm glad to live someplace where this is an actual debate, and not in a country where both women and religious minorities have no rights at all. I guess I see the occasional discomfort as the price of living in a generally tolerant society.

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