What Your Handshake Says About You At Work

A visual representation of handshakes at work

Handshakes can say a lot about a person. From the day you meet another person, in a formal or informal setting, you can assert dominance, friendship, or show that you mean business, etc. Whatever the image you want to paint for yourself in your workplace, there is a handshake that will compliment it and make the aura you put forth so much more stronger. Hence, here is everything you need to know about handshakes at work.

Why Are Handshakes At Work Essential?

Through time, handshakes have served an essential purpose in social and professional settings. However, it’s important to note that cultural norms and personal preferences can vary, so it’s always a good idea to be aware of context and adjust your approach accordingly. For example, some cultures might prefer a softer handshake, while others might expect a firmer grip. Being sensitive to these differences is a sign of cultural intelligence and respect for others’ customs.

Establishing Trust and Rapport

A handshake is a universal gesture that signifies a willingness to engage with someone. It’s often the first physical contact between two people, and it helps establish a sense of trust and rapport.

A representative image of rapport building at your workplace.

Non-verbal Communication

Handshakes convey non-verbal cues about a person’s confidence, sincerity, and attitude. Generally, a firm handshake is associated with confidence and assertiveness whereas a limp handshake might be interpreted as indifference or lack of.

Cultural Norms

It is a customary greeting in many cultures to shake hands. Knowing how to offer a proper handshake is a sign of cultural awareness and respect for local customs.


In professional settings, handshakes are an important part of making a positive first impression. They convey a sense of professionalism and can set the tone for a business meeting or interview.

Body Language

Handshakes are part of a larger system of body language. They complement other cues like eye contact, facial expressions, and posture. A confident handshake, for example, can reinforce a positive impression made through good eye contact and a genuine smile.

Closing a Deal or Agreement

Often, handshakes are used to seal a deal or confirm an agreement. Hence, this physical gesture can serve as an example or a symbolic representation of a commitment or understanding between parties.

Making a good first impression

A handshake is often the first physical interaction between two people, and it can set the tone for the rest of the interaction. A firm, confident handshake can convey competence and trustworthiness, while a weak or limp handshake can give the opposite impression.

Conveying personality traits

Research has shown that a person’s handshake can reveal information about their personality, such as their level of extraversion, openness to experience, and emotional stability.

Read more about the importance of a good handshake, here!

Here are some specific examples of how handshakes can be essential:

  • In a business setting, a good handshake can help you to close deals, land job interviews, and make connections with potential clients and partners.
  • In a social setting, a handshake can help you to make new friends and build relationships with people you meet at parties, gatherings, and other events.
  • In a professional setting, a handshake can help you to show respect for your colleagues, supervisors, and clients.
  • In a personal setting, a handshake can help you to show your loved ones that you care about them.

Of course, there are some situations where handshakes may not be appropriate, such as when someone is sick or when there is a cultural taboo against shaking hands. However, in general, handshakes are an important and essential part of human interaction.

To make a good handshake, it is important to:
  • Look the person in the eyes and smile sincerely.
  • Use a firm grip, but be careful not to go overboard.
  • Don’t be too hasty or rushed.
  • Make sure you do not grip until the person’s thumb is firmly locked next to yours. With your fingers straight and your thumb high, offer your hand for a shake.
  • Avoid certain types of handshakes, such as the bone crusher, limp fish, or glove handshake.

In summary, handshakes at work are essential because they can help make a good first impression, establish rapport, show respect, and convey personality traits. Generally, a good handshake involves making eye contact, using a firm grip, and avoiding certain types of handshakes. With a little practice, you can give a handshake that will make a good impression and help you to build positive relationships with others.

Different Kinds Of Handshakes At Work

  1. The Standard Handshake
  2. The Firm Handshake
  3. Dead Fish
  4. The Limp Handshake
  5. The Two-Handed Handshake
  6. The Dominant Handshake
  7. The Finger-Tip Handshake
  8. The Bear Hug
  9. The Fist Bump
  10. The Air Kiss
  11. The Shoulder Pat with Handshake
  12. The Wrist-Grab Handshake

The following is a list of various kinds of handshakes that can be used to your benefit and contextually.

The Standard Handshake

To begin with the standard handshake is a basic, neutral handshake. It’s a common way to greet someone in most formal and informal settings. It signifies openness, respect, and a willingness to engage.

The Firm Handshake

A firm handshake indicates confidence, assertiveness, and strength of character. This kind of a handshake is usually associated with a person who is self-assured and capable.

A visual representation of a firm handshake.

Dead Fish

This kind of a handshake involves the hand not having any energy, there is no shake, no squeeze, not even a pinch, and it gives the feeling you are holding a dead fish instead of a hand. This handshake is associated with low self-esteem.

The Limp Handshake

A limp handshake can suggest a lack of confidence, disinterest, or even insincerity. It’s generally considered a poor handshake, as it may be interpreted negatively.

The Two-Handed Handshake

Offering both hands in a handshake conveys warmth, sincerity, and a strong desire to connect. It’s often used to express deep respect or affection.

The Dominant Handshake

When one person’s hand is on top, it is generally interpreted as an attempt to assert control or dominance. It may be perceived as aggressive in some situations.

The Finger-Tip Handshake

Usually, a finger-tip handshake, where only the fingertips touch briefly, can indicate a desire for minimal physical contact. It’s often used in very formal or reserved settings.

The Bear Hug

While not exactly a handshake, a bear hug is a strong, full-body embrace. It’s a sign of close friendship, warmth, and genuine affection.

The Fist Bump

A fist bump is a more casual and friendly alternative to a traditional handshake. It is often used among peers or in informal settings to convey camaraderie.

A visual representation of fist bumping.

The Air Kiss

In some cultures, an air kiss involves making a kissing sound in the air near the other person’s cheek without actual physical contact. It’s used as a polite and friendly greeting.

The Shoulder Pat with Handshake

Adding a pat on the back to a handshake can signal camaraderie, support, and encouragement. It’s often used among close friends or colleagues.

The Wrist-Grab Handshake

Shaking hands while grabbing someone’s wrist is seen as an attempt to establish dominance or control. It may be perceived as aggressive or inappropriate in many situations.

To know more about the various kinds of handshakes there are, read more at 10 Types of Handshakes and What They Mean

What Your Handshake Says About You At Work

Going ahead, let’s look into the usage of different kinds of handshakes at work and what is the impression it leaves behind.

Firm HandshakeConfidence and AssertivenessFirm handshakes at work suggests that you are self-assured, confident, and capable. It can indicate that you are proactive and take charge of situations.
Limp HandshakeLack of Confidence or IndifferenceA limp handshake may imply a lack of confidence, disinterest, or a passive approach. It could be interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm or engagement
Two-Handed HandshakeWarmth and SincerityOffering both hands in a handshake conveys warmth, sincerity, and a strong desire to connect. It can be seen as a sign of genuine interest and respect.
Dominant HandshakeAttempt to Assert DominanceUsing a dominant handshake, where your hand is on top, can be perceived as an attempt to assert control. It may come across as overly aggressive or assertive in a professional setting.
Bear Hug (Not handshake):Close Friendship and WarmthWhile not a traditional handshake, a bear hug expresses a deep level of friendship, warmth, and genuine affection. It’s a sign of close personal connection. This is appropriate only if you have a close relation with the colleague.
Fist BumpCasual and FriendlyA fist bump is a more informal and friendly gesture. It’s often used to convey camaraderie and a sense of ease in a professional context.
Air Kiss (In Some Cultures)In some cultures, it’s polite and friendly.An air kiss has to be done taking into consideration the context of culture. This involves making a kissing sound in the air near the other person’s cheek without actual physical contact.
Shoulder PatFriendly and SupportiveAdding a pat on the back to a handshake can signal camaraderie, support, and encouragement.
Here’s what your handshake might say about you at work:

Generally, a firm and confident handshake suggests that you are self-assured, capable, and assertive. It sends a message that you believe in yourself and your abilities.


A well-executed handshake at work is a sign of professionalism. It shows that you understand and respect the conventions of business etiquette.


Certainly, a warm and friendly handshake is indicative that you are approachable and open to collaboration. It can help create a positive first impression.


Offering a respectful handshake demonstrates that you respect the person you are greeting. It’s a courteous gesture that can foster goodwill.


Engaging in a handshake, maintaining eye contact, and offering a genuine smile can convey your interest and eagerness to connect with others in the workplace.


Indeed, a sincere and straightforward handshake can help establish trust. People may perceive you as reliable and trustworthy if you have an honest and transparent handshake.

Social Awareness

Attuning to cultural norms and accordingly adapting your handshakes is a sign of social awareness. Adapting your handshake style to suit the preferences of different individuals and cultures demonstrates your sensitivity and respect for diversity.

Communication Skills

Handshakes at work are a form of non-verbal communication. A good handshake complements your verbal communication and can help convey your message more effectively.

Leadership Potential

Generally, a strong confident handshake is associated with leadership qualities. It may suggest that you have the presence and charisma often associated with leaders.

Attention to Detail

Generally, a well-practiced and polished handshake demonstrates attention to detail. It reflects your commitment to making a positive impression in professional interactions.


As a matter of fact, your ability to adjust your handshake style to suit different situations and individuals shows adaptability and flexibility, important skills in the workplace.

Cultural Sensitivity

Understanding the cultural significance of handshakes and adapting your approach accordingly indicates cultural sensitivity and a willingness to accommodate diverse perspectives. Hence, being mindful of your usage of handshakes at work can indicate your cultural inclusivity.

It is equally important to remember that while your handshake can convey these qualities, it is just one element of your overall professional image. Your actions, behavior, and communication skills tend to play an extremely crucial role in your perception at your workplace.

Tips To Improve Your Professional Handshake

A firm, confident handshake can leave a positive impression in professional settings. Here are some tips to improve your professional handshake:

Maintain Eye Contact

Look the person in the eye as you extend your hand. This shows confidence and sincerity.

Stand Up Straight

Good posture communicates confidence and respect. Try avoiding slouching or leaning.

Approach with Purpose

Walk confidently towards the person you’re going to shake hands with. Avoid rushing or hesitating.

Use Your Right Hand

Traditionally, the right hand is used for handshakes. In some cultures, using the left hand can be considered impolite.

Match the Grip

Adjust the strength of your grip to match the other person’s. A firm, but not bone-crushing, grip is generally recommended.

Dry Hands

If your hands tend to be sweaty, consider drying them before offering a handshake. Carry a handkerchief or tissue if necessary.

Pump, Don’t Crush

The handshake should involve a gentle up-and-down motion, usually 2-3 pumps. Squeezing too hard is generally frowned upon.

Keep it Brief

A handshake should last about 2-3 seconds. Don’t hold on for too long, as it can be uncomfortable and make things awkward.

Use a Confident Hand Position

Aim for a neutral position, where your hand is parallel to the ground and your thumb is pointing up.

Smile and Maintain a Pleasant Expression

A friendly facial expression complements a good handshake and reinforces a positive impression.

Be Mindful of the Situation

In some cultures, handshakes may not be the customary greeting. Be aware of cultural norms and adjust your approach accordingly.

Avoid Using Excessive Force

A handshake should not be a test of strength. Although a firm grip is necessary, excessive force should be avoided. This prevents the perception that you are trying to overpower the person.

Be Mindful of Jewellery

If you wear rings or bracelets, be cautious as it can cause discomfort or hurt the other person.

Follow Up with Conversation

After the handshake, engage in polite conversation. This helps to build rapport and establish a connection.

Respect Personal Space

Pay attention to the other person’s body language. If they seem uncomfortable, be mindful and accordingly adjust your approach.

All things considered a good handshake is just one aspect of professional etiquette. It sets the tone for a positive interaction, but it’s important to follow through with good communication skills, active listening, and a professional demeanor throughout the conversation


Remember, the interpretation of a handshake can vary and is rather dependent on the cultural norms and individual preferences. Being mindful of context and adapting your handshake to suit the situation can help you make a positive impression in a professional setting. To help you with this, you can get in touch with our professionals!

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