When Ken Blanchard asks you if you've ever hugged your boss, he may not mean it literally.

"Next time you catch your boss doing something right, give him a verbal hug," says the coauthor of The One-Minute Manager. "Most businesses operate on the 'Leave-Alone Zap Theory': We leave each other alone until someone screws up, and then we zap the guy."

Blanchard believes that it's a sign of the times -- not a good one -- that people are "afraid" to hug figuratively and literally on the job. "We're kidding ourselves if we think we can run around with our arms at our sides," says Blanchard, 45, who has told his employes at Blanchard Training and Development Inc., in Escondido, Calif., that he expects hugs. "We shouldn't cut ourselves off at the nerve endings when we come to work. We need to act like human beings."

For physical hugging, Blanchard recommends two rules: If you touch, don't take; and if it's natural, it'll work. "Always hug to support and encourage, never to manipulate," he adds.

Figurative hugging requires that you be specific. "You get into trouble when you're too general," points out Blanchard. "Don't say, 'Wow, you're the greatest boss I ever had.' He'll wonder what you want. Say, 'You know that summary meeting the other day? It really helped me on the project.' That's acknowledging he's made a contribution. You'll be surprised. People love it."