How to Deal With a Difficult Breakup at Work
Dating a coworker can be thrilling, especially if your job is boring…until the breakup. These six tips for dealing with a work breakup will help you refocus on your job, get through the workday, and heal your broken heart.
In Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup, Susan Elliott describes how to examine past relationships for unfinished business and negative patterns, identify warning signs and red flags, and keep your standards and boundaries high even when you’re head over heels (this is especially important when you’re falling in love with someone at your workplace!). You’ll also learn how to work through rejection, rebounding, and other bumps in the road when you’re dating again, and how to know when to take a relationship to the next level and when to say goodbye.
“Getting back out there” – but NOT at your current workplace – is one of the best ways to deal with a work breakup. Why? Because it helps you focus on the future, not the past. The sooner you can let your ex go (especially if you see him every day at work) the sooner everyone will forget about the relationship. And that’s what you want: for everyone at work to forget that you dated your coworker. You want to learn how to stop thinking about your ex and get on with your life. You need to heal from the breakup and refocus on your priorities at work. And, you may need to rebuild your professional reputation.
One of the hazards of dating a coworker is the possibility that the relationship won’t work out. Even if you do live happily ever, you run the risk of damaging your reputation at work. The breakup may be a blessing in disguise – and even if it’s not, you may benefit from trying to see it that way.
Here’s how to deal with a breakup at work, ranging from the obvious (quit your job and find a new place to work, so you won’t be reminded of the breakup) to the practical (avoid the temptation to get revenge on your ex at work). These tips for dealing with a work break up are inspired by a reader’s comments about dating a coworker.
“It’s heartbreaking to see my ex-boyfriend every single day at work,” says Samantha on 10 Warning Signs of Bad Relationships. “I can’t avoid seeing him because we run a business together, and now I’m afraid our business relationship will be ruined too. I don’t even want to think about my professional reputation or how this will affect my career. Hopefully not at all! Do you have any advice for getting over a breakup with a coworker?”
6 Tips for Dealing With a Breakup at Work
The problem with falling in love at work – and dating coworkers – is the emotional fallout. It’s painful when someone ends up with a broken heart if there’s a breakup. It can destroy your career if the emotional fallout spirals out of control. If you’re “just” dealing with awkward and uncomfortable feelings at work because of the breakup, consider yourself lucky! Some professionals have lost their jobs or suffered serious career setbacks because of relationships at work that failed.
My tips for dealing with a break up at work won’t erase the pain and discomfort, but they may help with the breakup process. The most difficult – and the most important – way to deal with a breakup at work is to refuse to allow your emotions to control your behavior. This is crucial if you’re in a management position, and your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend is under your supervision.
If your relationship ended suddenly, you might find How to Deal With a Breakup When You Don’t Have Closure helpful.
1. Take control of your career; find ways to empower yourself
You can’t change how you feel or what happened between you and your ex, but you can control what you focus on. You can control what you do, what you talk about, and what you think about. Instead of obsessing about the breakup, what happened to your relationship before and while you were dating your coworker, why you broke up, and how heartbroken you feel, focus on other aspects of your life.
Research different ways to grow in your career. Take training courses or workshops. Consider business or night school. Think about where you want your career and your life to go. Where do you want to be in one year, or five years? What are your career goals, your life plans? This is the perfect time to take a step back from your current career path and look at your life in a new way.
2. Consider finding a new job or asking for a transfer within the company
It may feel exhausting or even impossible to get a new job, especially if you’re heartbroken and grieving the end of the relationship. But, finding a new job may be better for you and your ex in the long run. It depends on the relationship, how it ended, how you and your ex are dealing with the breakup, and what type of work relationship you now have. You need to weigh the pros and cons of finding a new job versus working with a coworker you dated. Don’t make the easiest decision; make the best decision for your career and future happiness.
Do you want to work somewhere that helps you avoid the temptation to date your coworkers? Read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone.
Need marriage advice?
Are you struggling with your love life? Find Out What Men Secretly Want
3. Make a clean break from your ex with the “no contact” rule
One of the most common ways to deal with a breakup at work is to avoid contact with your ex. But if you work together, it can be difficult or even impossible to avoid each other. Find out if you can work in different departments or divisions. Ask if you can get a transfer to a different location – either in your city or in another state or province. Talk to a supervisor or coworker you trust, and brainstorm ways to do your job well while avoiding contact with your ex.
You might consider talking to the Human Resources Department of your organization. There may be professional consequences of dating and breaking up with a coworker; the more you know about what could happen at work because of the breakup, the better. Knowledge is power.
4. Avoid the temptation to get revenge on your ex
If you’re angry and hurt because of the breakup, you may be tempted to get back at your ex. Maybe you want to spread rumors, criticize him to your coworkers, or talk about how disappointing he was in bed. Don’t do it! Resist the temptation to get revenge. This is really important, because getting revenge on your ex after breaking up at work will backfire. Revenge will only prolong your pain and make you look bad at work. Getting revenge won’t help you deal with breaking up with a coworker, it’ll only make things worse for you.
The best tip on how to with a breakup at work is to let take a deep breath and let go. Accept that the relationship is over, and learn how to move on. Focus on healthy ways to let go of someone you love.
5. Don’t talk to your coworkers about the breakup
Even if you’ve already confided in your coworker, it’s not too late to draw a line between your personal and professional life.
Avoid the temptation to spill your heart to your coworkers (even confiding in one coworker about the breakup could set you up for a disaster at work). Remember that very few people can keep a secret, and many people find it irresistible to talk about even their closest friends. Assume that what you tell your coworkers or friends at work will eventually spread to your other coworkers…and maybe even to your supervisor, manager, or the boss of the company. If you need to talk about the breakup, talk to friends you don’t share office space or work with.
The only exception to this is if you’re dealing with professional ramifications of the breakup. For example, you may find yourself unable to supervise or be supervised by your ex – or your ex might be causing problems on the job. Then, you need to talk to someone who can help you through this (a Human Resources officer might be your best bet, depending on the size and structure of your company).
6. Believe in yourself
A relationship breakup – whether it was dating a coworker for six months or leaving a marriage that lasted 25 years – can fill you with insecurity, self-doubt, and fear. You may feel like this was your last chance for happiness because you don’t meet people, other than at work. All your relationships are work-based and you don’t have time outside your job to meet or date people. Maybe that’s why you started dating your coworker: you felt you had no options.
This is a limiting belief. It is not true that this was your last chance, no matter how old you are or how often you meet new people. What you focus on grows. If you focus on your pain, heartache, and trepidation about the future then you will set yourself up for professional and personal failure.
Instead, decide what you want to create in your life and where you want to go. Focus on who you are becoming and how you will get there.
If the work breakup hasn’t happened yet…
If you’re not good at difficult conversations, read How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding: With Your Spouse, Adult Child, Boss, Coworker, Best Friend, Parent, or Someone You’re Dating by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
You’ll learn how healthy confrontation can improve relationships, and get tips on preparing for the conversation. This book also shows you how to tell people what you want, stop bad behavior, and deal with counterattack. Plus you get actual examples of conversations to have with your spouse, your date, your kids, your coworker, and your parents.
It’s time to start looking forward. Your office romance is over, you dated a coworker and the relationship didn’t work out…now you need to focus on how to start over after a breakup. Read Dealing With Depression After a Breakup if you find yourself emotionally depeleted.
I welcome your thoughts on how to deal with a break up at work, but I can’t offer relationship advice or help. It may help you to share your experience, though. Writing often brings clarity and insight.
May your breakup and the healing process go smoothly. May your heart heal, your coworkers move forward without dwelling on the breakup, and your job not be affected by the fallout. May your professional reputation stay solid and your job prospects increase.