Shaking Hands and Changing Roles - Work In Sports Podcast

Is it OK to respectfully decline a handshake prior to a job interview? That and more on the Work In Sports podcast!

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

I feel like we have a lot to talk about today. Big picture stuff. So we’re just going to jump into things. 

Great question today coming up from Giovanna P, Giovanna is a member of our private facebook group and posted a really great question yesterday that we’re going to dig into soon.

But first -- a question from a friend of mine, someone who wishes to remain anonymous, but presented a very, very timely and important question.

This friend asked:

“Hey Brian, I have an interview coming up this week I am very excited about, I’ve heard you talk about first impressions a lot on your show, and I value it’s importance as well.   Handshakes, eye contact, smiles -- all important stuff.

But I have to admit - normally, I hate handshakes, I’m a bit of a germaphobe by nature, but I struggle through it in these instances. But now, with coronavirus and the instances of community it fair for me to avoid a handshake completely?”


Friend who slipped into my DMs… yes. 100%.

I won’t deny there is a part of me that thinks, ugh, I hate this catch 22, because that awkward first moment could be damaging and we should all just suck it up

But that is crappy advice.  Let’s be real people -- if someone is offended right now, by someone not wanting skin to skin contact - that person is an a-hole. 

I think there is a way to do it respectfully, and proactively that helps avoid any awkwardness. 

You have to think ahead and start your motion before someone else moves to shake. At this time you raise your hand higher, shoulder height, and start to wave courteously.

Hey John nice to meet you, waving at them. 

If anyone says – “oh we’re not doing handshakes” because some people can’t help themselves, they have to be a meathead, its lodged in their DNA. Just be respectful and say something while smiling like, “it feels like an appropriate choice”

If they push any further – this is a red flag, and likely not someone you’d want to be around in a work role anyway. Put this in your data file and remember you are choosing them as much as they are choosing you.  

Alas, I don’t think this will happen – a polite wave, with eye contact, sends the signal quote clearly – we’re not doing that…and in this time in our history, quite understandable.

Again, you have to make your move early -- and take charge with a wave. So, there is no awkward hand out-stretched and you start retching, like they are handing you tetanus.

You who listen to this show know I am not a big quotes guy -- not a big fan of the posters with quotes. BUT, I have a few movie type moments that bounce around in my head a lot. 

One, is from the movie “the girl with the dragon tattoo” great book series, decent movie, which is very applicable here.

I won’t get into the full scene, but the bad guy says to the good guy:  

“Sometimes the fear of offending can be stronger than the fear of pain” 

Let’s break that down into everyday life. 

Would you shake someone’s hand, knowing it *could* harm you, because you are afraid to offend them?

Really think about that.

Would you shake someone’s hand knowing it could hurt you, just because you are afraid to offend them?

Think about this in your daily life – have you ever made a choice that you really really questioned, just because you were afraid to offend the other person?

I’ve known women, who went out on dates with guys they hated because they were afraid to offend them.

I’ve known guys, who went base jumping, or some other risky move because they didn’t want to offend the friend who booked the surprise trip.

Are these smart choices? Don’t make decisions, important decisions, based on your fear of offending. Make them based on what you truly believe is right, or safe.

My wife and I deal with this all the time with our kids -- we’ll get an offer for a playdate with one of our kids, come on over to our kid's place, we’ll pick them up, we’ll feed them, we’ll bring them back. But we know the friend's parents aren’t top-notch, we’ve observed enough to have questions, or we don’t know them at all, and that’s a lot of trust to put in charge of my 2nd grader who can’t fend for himself yet.

We sit there thinking to this the right choice, should we let him go? Is this important social development? Is this a necessary part of the human experience?

And then we always come back to -- I’m not going to let my fear of offending them, put my kid in a situation that could be dangerous, or at least unpredictable. 

Now, that means other parents may talk shit about us, may think we are aloof, may think we are helicopter parents, which is bullshit… but, at the end of the day, I’m less worried about offending someone else than I am putting my kid in a bad situation.

I’m telling you – this is a  life-changing perspective, at least it was for me.

When you are making a decision based on your instincts for safety and what is right, don’t let offending someone else come into the decision making process.

So as it pertains to the handshake – make your move early to initiate a wave vs. shake, and this sends the clear message – I’m not doing that. And that is 100% OK.

Wow… that was just the intro question, let’s get into the bigger one.

Giovanna –

"looking for some words of wisdom/advice - I have an interview with an org. that I would really love to work for, but the role is in a department that isn’t my first choice (would really love to work in Community/Marketing). 

I could see myself excelling, learning, and growing in the role I am interviewing for, but wanted to know if anyone has had success in changing departments/roles once in an organization?

If I get this role, should I offer to work on different projects, present ideas, and jump in when I can? Any advice or insight would be appreciated."

Giovanna – great question.

The simple answer is yes, get in the door with the great organization you want to work for even if it isn’t the ideal role.

Here’s why:

1: Chance to prove yourself, show your true abilities.

2: Promotions and opportunities come from within

3: Networking chances

4: Do your job first, but then go extra

5: Speak your truth – celia bouza and others – say what you want! Be serious about this role, and doing it to your best, but once you start to establish yourself, be vocal about your career path to your boss and your network within.

By Brian Clapp | March 02, 2020
Sign In or Register to access all articles and insider tips for help in your job search.

Search for Sports Jobs