Breaking up is hard to do and feels more unbearable when you’re forced to work with your ex. Since most relationships end in either heartbreak or marriage bells, why do we take the risk at work? The answer may be in the time spent together. The average employed person spends seven to eight hours working per day, and a report from 2015 showed that only 24% of the workforce spent some or all of that time at home. This means that most of us are passing more time with our office mates than anyone else, and common interests or goals may cause the lines between professional and personal lives to blur. According to CareerBuilder.com, 39% of its employees dated a co-worker at least once during their professional career. Unfortunately, this can only mean more than one messy workplace relationship breakup too.
Even though we know we probably shouldn’t, we sometimes can’t seem to help but get romantically involved with the people we work with. Did you attempt workplace dating and then go through a nasty split? Here are five steps to help you navigate the choppy waters after going through a workplace relationship breakup.
Vent to Friends Who Don’t Work With You
Venting can help you feel better, but avoid doing it at work. Instead, why not meet your sister or childhood friend at one of your homes? If your best friend is the person sitting in the next cubicle, wait for after-work drinks or coffee to talk. Finding closure is important; but once you cross the office threshold, leave the tension at the door. At work, you want to be known as the person who benefits the company, not the one who co-workers and supervisors associate with drama.
Plus, you wouldn’t want to put a co-worker friend in a weird position. If that person happens to like your ex, that’s their choice, and it’s no one’s place to try to change or tarnish that. Sometimes, it’s just easier to keep certain conversations off-limits — and the conversation of your workplace relationship breakup might be one of them.
Be Respectful of Yourself, Your Ex, and Your Co-workers
Personal relationships can motivate us to work better, but they can also create an uncomfortable environment. It’s important to keep your eyes on the prize, and at work, that means progressing the success of the company and earning a paycheck. No one will appreciate you for inhibiting either target. It may sound harsh, but this company isn’t about you or the heartbreak you’re going through. Remember why you are there and what you’re being paid to do.
The best way to respect everyone, including yourself, is to arrive with a positive and assertive attitude. It’s not necessary to be Susie Sunshine. You’re still human, after all. However, you do need to be professional and add to a productive environment. Otherwise, you’re only making yourself look bad and jeopardizing your reputation.
Remind Yourself of Your Ex’s Professional Strengths
Are you required to collaborate with your ex on a project? Is he or she your supervisor? If avoidance is impossible, remind yourself of the benefits of working with them. Perhaps their communication skills always win clients over, or their personality is perfect for calming tense environments. Remembering why you’re working with them in the first place can help put things into perspective. After all, you did like and admire them at one point. Those particular feelings don’t have to go away. Even though you didn’t make it as a couple, you might still be able to find reasons that person is amazing at what they do.
If you’re really strong, try complimenting them after a job well done. Not only will he or she appreciate the gesture (and possibly pay you a compliment in return), but it will show the office that you’re a composed and dependable professional. Take the high road, stay classy, and prove to yourself you can totally handle this.
Let Your Work Distract You
It’s normal that everything, from the lunch room to the water fountain, may remind you of your ex-love, but chase those memories away with your current task or project. Throwing yourself at your work will not only make each moment easier but help make the day go by faster. Before you know it, you’ll be able to return home and wallow with pizza, ice cream, and the Gilmore Girls revival (or any other way you prefer).
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t acknowledge and deal with your feelings. Burying them and bottling them up just means you’re going to explode with anger or sadness (or both) later on down the line. Give yourself time to heal and get over things. Just don’t dwell on it too much, or you’ll drive yourself nutty.
Be Transparent With Your Ex
Are you still able to have a somewhat civil conversation with your ex? Fantastic! You should be proud of yourself. While you may not want to do this while at work, there’s nothing wrong with being upfront with your ex about how you’re feeling since your workplace relationship breakup. If you feel uncomfortable at work and can tell they do to, sometimes, a simple text saying, “Hey, I know it’s weird, but we just need time,” is all it takes.
Worst Case Scenario, Consider a Move
Sometimes, a move can be the best decision for your mental, emotional, and professional well-being. Before spending your breakfast hour poring over the classifieds, however, consider all of your options. Are you in the best situation for career enhancement? Do you work for a large company with the opportunity for lateral movements? Remember, you may not need to leave the company to remove yourself from an undesirable situation.
Don’t mistake this for running away. No, you don’t want to run away from your problems. But there’s a big difference between avoiding dealing with your troubles, and simply choosing to put yourself in a more positive environment. If you really and truly believe you can no longer be in the same area as your ex because it’s detrimental to your wellbeing, then plan your next move out of there.
Have you ever gone through a workplace breakup? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below.