10 Tips for Surviving an Office Romance Breakup
Breakups are hard. They’re even harder when the person you broke up with works with you. Now, you have to adjust to working with someone to whom you used to be very close. Unfortunately, your days will be filled with awkward encounters and whispers around the water cooler. Your once blissful union used to give you goosebumps, but now whenever you think about going to work you’re just filled with dread. You’re no longer bouncing out of bed in the morning, filled with excitement about seeing your significant other at work. Instead, all you want to do is hide.
If you’ve been romantically involved with a co-worker, you’ve got a lot of company. Roughly 50% of U.S. workers admitted to engaging in an office romance, according to a Vault.com survey. The survey results found that 22% of men and 15% of women have had a random office hookup, while less than 10% of either gender met their spouse at work. Furthermore, 71% of men said they would have another office affair, while 43% of women said they wouldn’t do it again.
Are you nursing a broken heart after dating a co-worker? Here are 10 tips for surviving an office romance breakup.
1. Focus on your work
You might be distracted for a while, but you’ll need to pull yourself together and focus on doing your job. You’re probably hurting right now, but you also have a responsibility to do the job your employer is paying you to do. Getting fired after a breakup would complicate your life even more, so do your best to make work a priority. If you find your mind wandering, take a quick break, get some coffee or tea, and then get back to work.
2. Don’t try to get revenge
Your heart was broken into a million pieces, so your first thought might be about getting revenge. Work is not the place to do that. Take a deep breath, and push away those thoughts of emailing pictures of your ex in a compromising position. The “send all” feature in your email account is not your friend right now.
Rhonda Milrad, founder and chief relationship adviser at Relationup, told The Cheat Sheet getting revenge is not worth putting your career at risk. “You may want your ex to fail and be humiliated, but don’t let your hurt get the best of you and lead to unprofessional conduct. Even if your behavior isn’t caught, your ex might suspect you, which means you just might have opened the door to a war,” Milrad said.
3. Minimize contact
You might not be able to avoid seeing each other at the office, but there are some steps you can take to minimize contact. If it would be too distressing to see your ex right now, you can change the time you usually go to lunch if you know you’ll have an awkward run-in.
Therapist Toni Coleman told The Cheat Sheet it also might be a good idea to decline group work outings until your heart has mended. “Avoid group lunches and happy hours if the other person will be there. When possible, consider changing a joint office setup or routines that used to allow for more interaction. Keep all face time to a minimum,” Coleman said.
4. Keep conversations about work
When you run into your ex at work, don’t start talking about the breakup. Your conversation will either end in crying or arguing. Avoid the embarrassment by keeping conversations short and focused on work. If your ex starts to talk about the relationship, say you would rather not discuss it.
5. Don’t get into details with your co-workers
If co-workers ask you about the breakup — and they will — be prepared with a polite, yet succinct response. Don’t give too much detail about what led to the breakup, and don’t complain about your ex’s annoying habits. Keep details to yourself, so you can avoid further heartache down the road. The gossip about your breakup won’t die until you stop feeding the rumor mill.
Dating expert Yue Xu, co-host of the Date/able podcast, told The Cheat Sheet employees also should remember whatever they say will get around the office. Nothing is ever a secret at work. “Don’t talk about your relationship with your co-workers. It’s unprofessional and frankly none of their business. And as you know, work places are gossipy. Just know that whatever you say will eventually travel back to your ex,” Xu said.
6. Don’t use the breakup as an excuse for poor work
If you missed a deadline because you were up all night crying about your ex, don’t tell your boss you can’t work because you’re getting over a breakup. That isn’t an excuse you should be offering your supervisor. If you can’t get control over your personal life and choose to bring your issues into the office, your boss might begin to wonder why he or she hired you. Get it together.
7. Keep your boss out of your personal life
Don’t use your boss as a sounding board. You’re there to work, not to get a free counseling session. If your boss asks how you’re doing, don’t go on and on about how horrible your life is right now because of the breakup. Just say you’re fine, and move on. The office is not the place for you to air out your personal problems. Instead, have lunch with a close friend.
8. Stay professional
Your emotions are running high right now, but that’s no excuse for unprofessional behavior. Continue to get to work on time, submit quality work, and don’t engage in unsavory conversations. You have a career to nurture, so don’t let one tiny bump in the road distract you from your goals.
9. Consider a transfer
If things are very uncomfortable, consider requesting a department transfer. This way, you won’t have to work closely with your ex. It will be hard to focus on your assignments if you’re often required to collaborate with your former flame on work projects. Ask your manager or human resources whether this is an option.
“The saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ has some truth to it,” said Jennifer Seiter, co-owner and general manager of Ex Boyfriend Recovery. “It takes a lot of time and distance to completely get over someone. Co-workers pose another issue because they will ask you what happened, and if you’re repeating the entire story of the breakup over and over, it’s only going to make you relive the negative emotions.”
10. Consider quitting
If your office breakup is becoming so distracting that your job performance is starting to suffer, you might want to think about breaking up with your job, too. This will likely be a tough decision, especially if you love your job. But if you can’t focus on your work, you’ll have to make other arrangements.