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Workers admit 'greeting blunders'

A successful handshake can be the foundation for a working relationship.

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Global Office

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Most workers believe first encounters can make or break a professional relationship, yet new research reveals their hopeless confusion when it comes to greeting colleagues and clients.

Whether administering a "bone-crushing" handshake or a misplaced "smacker," more than 80 percent of workers admit having blundered their way through an introduction.

As with other aspects of working life, it is a habit that has been accurately spoofed by award-winning TV comedy The Office.

In an effort to impress a secretary with his bonhomie, inept middle manager David Brent jumps forward too enthusiastically and ends up headbutting his new employee.

While few have failed so spectacularly, more than two-thirds of 1,500 workers polled by recruitment consultancy Office Angels said that getting it wrong had cause them embarrassment and 52 percent said it had affected working relations.

More than half blamed the problem on modern society's preference for more casual forms of greeting etiquette while 45 percent said they were even more ungainly when greeting members of the opposite sex.

A quarter were in favor of a return to the days when a firm handshake -- somewhere between the "bone-crusher" and the "wet fish" -- covered all bases.

One cheek or two?

The most common blunder -- committed by 32 percent of those polled -- was attempting to "go continental"; lunging forward with a two-cheek kiss, as the other person leaned in to kiss just once.

In worst-case scenarios, admitted to by 12 percent of workers, such misjudgment could lead to the ill-fated "smacker" on the lips.

The more reserved world of the handshake is not without its pitfalls, however.

Twenty-one percent said they had "turned the other cheek," offering a handshake as the other person goes for a kiss, while 27 percent admitted crushing the other person's hand.

Eight percent said they had unintentionally administered a "bear hug" as a consequence of over-enthusiasm.

A third of those polled feared their blunder would be remembered forever by the recipient, yet more than three-quarters considered an initial greeting as being vital in a successful business partnership.

Those working in creative professions, such as fashion, media or publishing, were generally considered to be kissers while the more traditional business world of law and accountancy was still considered to be the domain of the handshake.

"Knowing how to greet colleagues and clients can be a difficult business, with most office workers having made a 'greeting blunder' at some point in their career," said Office Angels Managing Director Paul Jacobs.

"Firstly, you need to judge how formal the situation or relationship is and opt for an appropriate greeting on this basis. If in doubt, the general consensus is to be too formal rather than too informal -- you can't really go wrong with a handshake.

"If you do make a blunder, all is not lost -- just apologize straight away. In most cases, all will be forgotten or the recipient will see the funny side."

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