Can the fist bump mix with business?
PICTURE: By Jonathan Ernst, Reuters
President Bush fist bumps with Robbie Powell in Little Rock. Robbie gave Bush a green bracelet in memory of a friend who died of a rare disease.

By Del Jones, USA TODAY
The handshake may always have a firm grip on business, but the fist bump is making inroads — albeit in the face of some resistance.

“I have not encountered a fist bump and would judge anyone who tried it as a total redneck,” says Dr. Grace Keenan, medical director of Nova Medical and Urgent Care Center in Ashburn, Va. “I hope that it never is seen as a replacement for a handshake in the business community.”

HOT NEW MOVE? What do you think of the power fist bump? Have you been knuckle-knocked yet?

But Scott Jones, CEO of ChaCha, a search engine company in Carmel, Ind., says he now has a business fist-bump encounter about monthly. David Lingafelter, president of faucet-maker Moen in North Olmsted, Ohio, says he is fist-bumped about twice monthly, where it was non-existent a couple of years ago.

So far, executives say, it is exchanged almost exclusively among male business associates who are otherwise friends, or in informal settings such as the end of a golf round. Fist bumping, or two people tapping fists lightly, has a long way to go to unseat the handshake, a gesture that goes back to medieval times when opponents used it to indicate that they were friendly and unarmed.

Tradition rules, for now

The handshake has been a part of business since the dawn of commerce and is too entrenched to be replaced, says University of Iowa management professor Greg Stewart, who recently completed a study confirming that a firm handshake at a job interview is as helpful as a dead-fish handshake is detrimental. The study is scheduled to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Fist bumps did not come up during the research, but Stewart strongly discourages them at job interviews.

Tim Houlne, CEO of Working Solutions, a call-center outsource company that contracts with 76,000 work-at-home agents, says he thinks the fist bump is a fad. He saw one business acquaintance initiate so many at a social event that “it began to feel awkward and uncomfortable.”

Houlne says he used to do it with his children, but even that stopped once they turned 10.

But others says fist bumping may be more than a workplace fad. It’s been around for years among athletes and is used by Howie Mandel, host of TV program Deal or No Deal, who says he fears germs. Last month, presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, fist-bumped at a campaign speech in Minnesota, and The New Yorker magazine used it as part of a controversial caricature of the Obamas that was published on the July 21 cover.

In business, the fist bump is catching on mainly among younger men. Eric Casaburi, the 34-year-old CEO of Retrofitness, a Manalapan, N.J., company that franchises workout facilities in five East Coast states, says that one of his managers said goodbye recently with a fist bump. It seemed natural, but Casaburi says he would hesitate to do the same with an older franchisee. Older executives believe they can tell something from a handshake, Casaburi says, but, “I don’t buy into that.” He sees the fist bump as a positive addition to the business greeting repertoire.

But Paul Lipschutz, the 62-year-old CEO of water treatment products company WaterPure in Fort Lauderdale, says it should be reserved for light-hearted moments or between business associates who are otherwise friends. “Save fist bumping for germaphobes, boxers and fun,” he says.

And the world says …

Tom Moore, the 62-year-old CEO of Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, Calif., which stores cord blood stem cells from 220,000 newborns for potential medical use down the road, says he began seeing fist bumps at his company about two years ago.

“A female employee considered it a male-dominating interaction, so … people were made aware that it might be inappropriate,” Moore says.

Elizabeth Charnock, 41, CEO of Cataphora in Redwood City, Calif., whose software analyzes e-mails, blogs and phone records, says bumping is “somewhat a gender thing,” but has an upside for women whose hands get crushed by “manly handshakes.”

Graham Barnes, CEO of online health care staffing website Concerro in San Diego, says fist bumps from men are much the same as hugs from women. “Less successful or insecure people are much less likely to bump, or hug,” he says.

Kristi Mailloux, president of Molly Maid, a maid franchisor in Ann Arbor, Mich., says she never initiates a fist bump, but reciprocates if offered. She says she hopes it never replaces the handshake except, perhaps, in the flu season.

U.S. business customs are often quick to go international. Not yet for the fist bump. “What do you mean by a fist bump, exactly?” asks Cyrill Eltschinger, CEO of Softtek China. After getting a definition, Eltschinger says that on the eve of the Olympics, he had not encountered it in Beijing.

But if the bump does go beyond the USA’s shores, it could one day cause international confusion, says Richard Owen, CEO of software company Satmetrix Systems. He predicts something similar to the Japanese faux pas when one person bows and the other extends a hand.

HOT NEW MOVE? What do you think of the power fist bump? Have you been knuckle-knocked yet?

Posted 7/21/2008 9:13 PM
Updated 7/21/2008 9:45 PM


BruntLIVE wrote: 6d 16h ago
One thing I am noticing about Republicans, you call them out immediately after they speak out, they settle down quick. The press was all over Foxnews with the “terrorists jab/fist bump” now it’s fashionable, interesting. People are sick of angry conservative whites (yes, i had to get specific) being angry in public, America DOESN’T CARE anymore.

Inobu wrote: 6d 18h ago
This article is questionable in the understanding of the concept of the fist bump. This by all means is a means of salutation. In the 70’s the fist bump was vertical and the action was close to a hammering motion just a deviation of the slapping 5.

A handshake in business is suppose to be a means to solidify an agreement. It is thought to be a confirmation of spoken words that relays a heart felt reassurance and commitment in ones word.

The bumping of fist is nothing more than a greeting that does not allow the transfer of an emotion used to back up ones spoken word.

Pepper J wrote: 6d 19h ago
Goodness, I can’t believe this is news. It’s just a pound or a dap. Athletes have been doing this for AGES . A couple of weeks ago I was watching the discovery channel’s “When we Left Earth”, and one of the astronauts gave a fist bump to a NASA personnel as they were leaving to get on the space shuttle. It’s been around for a long time.

And WVgirl2 the article stated that people who do the fist bump where are more likely to be successful or secure, not the other way around.

crazemastercraze wrote: 6d 21h ago
so all those nba and nfl players are terrorists now? last time i checked, they’ve been fist bumping since, what, the 70’s?

or all those white canadians who play in the nhl, every time they score a goal they fist bump the entire bench. INVADE CANADA!!!




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