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How do you handle touchy/feely coworkers?

Nurses   (2,508 Views 50 Comments)
by Emergent Emergent (Member)

Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

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3ringnursing has 25 years experience as a BSN and works as a RN.

1 Article; 8,216 Visitors; 542 Posts

I have an autoimmune disease and I am pharmacologically immunosuppressed to help keep my symptoms under control, so I have an unbreakable no touching rule. I don't shake hands, I don't hug outside of my immediate family, and I avoid even small crowds during flu season (such as those pesky monthly mandatory staff meetings for those of us who work from home).

You don't have to give anyone a reason why you prefer not to be touched. It's your body and your rules. Anyone getting close enough for unwelcome touch is invading your personal space. 

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Ruby Vee has 40 years experience as a BSN.

11 Followers; 65 Articles; 169,810 Visitors; 13,893 Posts

On 5/8/2019 at 3:02 PM, Thoenix said:

"Sorry, I know you meant it in a friendly way, but I startle so easily that it's embarrassing sometimes.  Can we keep touches to high fives/fist bumps/other alternative I see coming so I don't end up looking like an idiot jumping like I'm in a horror movie in front of Supervisor?  It's *so* embarrassing to have to ask.  I feel so silly."

I've used that a *lot* in a variety of situations.  Not on a nursing floor obviously as I'm still a hopeful, but I don't think I've ever had anyone refuse.  It makes it very not about them doing anything wrong, so they tend to take it in the spirit it's meant.

I like this!  

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I would also say— speak up early!  The alternative is to sit there and take it for weeks, until one time when you’re having a bad day... then she comes up and pats you, and you flip out. “Why are you always touching me?  I hate that!  It creeps me out!”  When that happens, YOU will look like the crazy person. So don’t wait for it to get to that level!  Address it while it is still a tiny little annoying problem and everybody wins. 

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Pixie.RN has 18 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and works as a ED/Trauma, Educator, IP/Nurse Epidemiologist.

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I worked with someone who actually got counseled for over-hugging — not only did they hug when it wasn't welcome, they would pick me up off the floor. I am little, but that does not mean you can pick me up! Ugh. That really annoys me. I am quick to let people know that I don't appreciate others in my space. I have hugged patients or family or coworkers when they needed it in sad or difficult moments, but don't just walk up and touch! 

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience.

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I would try to keep it lite and say something in a joking manner first (I guess you didnt get the memo, I like my personal space; I guess you didnt get the memo, I dont like the touching; uh oh you touched me now you must die). If they dont take the hint step it up a bit (you know I dont like involving HR but this really needs to stop; I am sorry but I guess you didnt take me seriously before but I really dont like the touching). Have a response ready for next time and just tell them. Most people would want to know so they dont make you uncomfortable. 

I worked with a girl that would come in to work and give everyone a hug. It didnt bother me but someone complained to the manager who told her to stop hugging everyone. Some would have preferred that the one who didnt like it would have just told her upfront.

Good Luck!

And btw I agree with DaveyDo, what did you do with Emergent? Beam yourself back to the mothership and send back Emergent!!

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Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

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Okay, how about something like this: "Hey, sorry, I'm a little uptight about being touched. I tried to overcome this phobia, but it just makes me feel so uncomfortable. Thanks, I guess everyone's different."

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Spidey's mom works as a RN.

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13 hours ago, Davey Do said:

I agree, Snatchedwig. Something odd is going on here.

OP, who are you and what have you done with Emergent?

Good question . . . all in jest of course!  😎

28 minutes ago, Emergent said:

Okay, how about something like this: "Hey, sorry, I'm a little uptight about being touched. I tried to overcome this phobia, but it just makes me feel so uncomfortable. Thanks, I guess everyone's different."

That sounds good. 

I don't mind a pat on the shoulder or arm but massages make me really uncomfortable.  

Speak up.  Unless we communicate, no one can tell what we are thinking. 

(Good marital advice too).  😉

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thoughtful21 has 1 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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I also don't like to be touched like this. There are some situations where it's ok, but I'm not generally comfortable with it. I make it clear with my body language, and people usually "get" it. I'm an active, expressive person who frequently "talks with my hands" and such. If you jump a mile high, stiffen up, and turn around and give them a (startled/upset/what-in-the-world) look, they'll get it. Then you can say what you need to say to express how you feel, and be friendly about it. This will be memorable for most people, and I think they'll stop unless they're really hardcore.

I touch someone's shoulder, pat, or hug them sometimes, but I try to be really mindful and careful about it, and respect other's space, because I know what it is like to feel uncomfortable. Some people have very serious reasons why they're uncomfortable with it, as previous posters have said.

We have someone at work who is always hugging, shoulder-punching, patting and otherwise touching people. A lot of people like her and she has a good rapport. She uses it as a way to communicate, be humorous, and break down awkwardness at times. But I'm not sure if people always appreciate the touches. Sometimes they look annoyed, to be honest, but they still get along great with her, so it all works out. (She does not touch me anymore (and we still get along fine.))

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I don't mind a pat on the back.  but a hug I don't go for.  It kind of depends on if it creeps me out or not.  If it creeps you out then just look her straight in the eye and say " I am not a touchy feely person so just don't do that, nothing personal".

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience.

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9 hours ago, Emergent said:

Okay, how about something like this: "Hey, sorry, I'm a little uptight about being touched. I tried to overcome this phobia, but it just makes me feel so uncomfortable. Thanks, I guess everyone's different."

I think that will work, I would also add the exaggerated startle response as thoughtful21 suggested. Hopefully that does the trick. Nobody needs any extra stress at work!

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JBudd has 38 years experience as a MSN and works as a ED nurse, community college adjunct faculty.

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16 hours ago, Emergent said:

Okay, how about something like this: "Hey, sorry, I'm a little uptight about being touched. I tried to overcome this phobia, but it just makes me feel so uncomfortable. Thanks, I guess everyone's different."

I don't think you need to downplay yourself, skip the phobia part!  You don't have to overcome anything, it is who you are.

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Pixie.RN has 18 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and works as a ED/Trauma, Educator, IP/Nurse Epidemiologist.

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7 minutes ago, JBudd said:

I don't think you need to downplay yourself, skip the phobia part!  You don't have to overcome anything, it is who you are.

I agree, no apologizing or explaining is really necessary! 

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