Surviving An Office Breakup

While some office romances can bloom and grow in surprising ways—think Michelle and Barack Obama—others can be a lot like unguided missiles: they crash and burn.


Good and bad news 

But life happens, especially where you spend a third of your day.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 37 percent of workers have dated a co-worker at some point. Another survey by career website,( says that five out of 10 business professionals have engaged in office romance.

Let’s say you're one of those people who fell for the cute coworker in the corner cubicle or that good-looking hunk down the hall. And now, you can’t help but wonder what’s love got to do with it between the two of you. It’s a matter of when, not if, the relationship will break up and you worry about how the split will affect your reputation and productivity.

A love affair or fling with a coworker that's gone badly can lead to problems, especially of the legal kind if one person is a boss and the other is a subordinate.

The good news? You can break up with a coworker and keep your sanity and your job.

Ideally, you want the demise of the relationship to be a mutual decision. Whether that’s the case or not, working together on the job is definitely doable, you just have to…well, work at it.

Steps to take

Here are 10 steps to take to ensure a messy personal life at the workplace will not overshadow your professional one:

1. Schedule delivery of the breakup news away from the job. Weekends are for the serious talk, unless you work weekends. Just make sure the break up discussion is nowhere near the office or within earshot of gossipy coworkers. Tears, threats and pleas have no business occurring at your place of business.

2. Avoid trashing the other person. Unleashing an epic verbal beat down on the man or woman who broke your heart may feel justifiable, but words wound. Like, forever. Remember, you will have to see your former partner on the job until one of you departs. So avoid the snide remarks, glares and weird body language.

3. Discuss how to share the news of your status. One day you’re a dazzling dewy-eyed duo, the next, you can barely look at each other. Trust and believe, your coworkers will know something happened. How do you break the news? What will each of you say? Develop coordinated responses before the office gossip approaches with a hint of a smile and a glint in her eye.

4. Decide who needs to know about your dissolved relationship. Now is not the time for a general announcement.

5. Put job responsibilities first. It’s wise to have boundaries you respected before the relationship began, and you definitely need to have them after it’s over.

6. Be gracious. Even if you want to bash your ex’s brains, maintain your dignity. A good reputation is worth protecting. So smile when you want to scowl. Go high when you want to go low.

7. Maintain your distance. Nix the chitchat. Now is not the time to fall into old habits developed when the relationship was healthier. Avoid discussing your personal issues in the workplace.

8. Plan for close encounters. If you know a meeting will include the two of you in the same space, arrive early to get a strategic seat away from your ex. Or if there will only be a few people present, arrive with someone whose conversation suddenly becomes so engrossing you can’t look away from that person until the meeting starts.

9. Take time off. This is a last resort to be used if you know you'll fall apart when spotting your former flame after the breakup. Sometimes the only way to get over someone is to feel what you feel and move through the ache. Yes, emotional chaos may warrant a sick day.

10. Imagine you're on stage. When your former significant other is near, pretend your colleagues, and especially your boss, watch you like an office slacker watches a clock. When you feel angry, weepy or vindictive give your colleagues an Oscar-winning performance instead. Doing so can save you from being written up or from becoming unemployed. Remember this advice when you're dying to act petty, yell an insult, stomp away in dramatic fashion or aim a paperweight at a body part.

The best way to survive a bad breakup with someone you share an employer with simply requires behaving the way you should always act at work: professionally.

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