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.

“Getting back out there” – but not at your current workplace – is sometimes said to be 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.

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.

How to Deal With a Breakup at Work
How to Deal With a Broken Heart at Work

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 you’re ready to start dating again…

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.

dealing with work break up

Is it time to start looking forward? If your office romance is over, you dated a coworker and the relationship didn’t work out, are you ready to start focusing on how to start over after a breakup?

Read Dealing With Depression After a Breakup if you find yourself emotionally depleted.


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10 thoughts on “How to Deal With a Difficult Breakup at Work”

  1. I work in a small company so I can’t change department and really like my job. I don’t want to leave but my ex wants us to be friends and I know he’s going to try hard.
    Right now I’m not working but I want to be prepared when I go back to work on how to interact with him.
    I told him before we started dating that it’s either were together or I ignore him (were not friends). I’m either 100% friend or lover or 0%
    I don’t want to share any part of my life with him and he knows that but I want to remain professional and friendly. What do you recommend?

  2. I had an affair with a married co-worker. He told his wife he was not in love with her anymore. They have agreed to stay together for the sake of their 3 young children. He broke it off with me in a lunch break. I know what I was doing was wrong. I know this is the right thing to have happened. It is just tough because we were friends for 7 years before anything happened. It all started when I broke up with my partner of 10 years and he was there to listen. I feel like he persued me despite being married and told me we were going to be together. I feel like a fool. I now have to see him everyday and pretend to everybody nothing is wrong. He has the sympathy of other colleagues and our boss who are aware he is working through issues in his marriage, he has not said it is because he had an affair. I am struggling and I can’t tell people why. I am drinking too much to try and block out the feelings. All these articles and stories I have read on this site are helping me think and start behaving differently. Just writing down what has happened makes a difference. Thank you.

  3. Even though my relationship only lasted a few months it was very intense with a co-worker. I would have been over this guy by now (tons of red flags that I did not feel strong enough to stand up for myself and confront him about) if I did not see him almost every day. The worst thing is that now he is talking all the time to another co-worker who happens to be in the office just across from mine. The breakup was so painful (he poured out a very nasty list of what a bad person I am) and now he is doing this. He knows that I can see them together talking all the time…and he is smiling with her like he used to do with me. Aaaagh, it’s so hard already to detach and grieve and now all these sad emotions knowing he is not for me…again.

  4. I have had to hold back the urge to get revenge. I was seeing a manager at work for a bit and we broke up. I’m getting overlooked on promotions now. It’s difficult to be in the office at the same time with her and the other men she has slept with. I’m tired off seeing her flirting with other men in the office.

  5. Dear Joe,

    I’m sorry for the loss of your fiancee – even though it happened a few years ago. Losing someone you love is painful and not easy to get through.

    And, I’m sorry for this breakup. It’s difficult to deal with a breakup at work, especially when she seems to be so eager and willing to move on quickly. It doesn’t sound like she was the woman for you, though. She did send up a bunch of red flags – and you are self-aware enough to realize that you may have overlooked things you wouldn’t normally.

    You inspired me to write this article:

    Think You’ll Be Single Forever? 7 Ways to Be Happy Anyway

    I know how depressing it is to think of never finding a life partner. I didn’t get married until later in life, and we can’t have children. Living with disappointment is something I’m learning how to do…and my prayer is that you find your way through the grief and disappointment of breaking up with someone you care about.

    Give yourself time to heal, and know that you will find love. Don’t lose hope.


  6. I agree that watching them move on is so painful. We were together for a year before my co worker ex suprised me with our breakup. I asked why and she said that it was how she rolled. Its been especially bad for me as she knew this was my first relationship 2 years after the death of a woman I was engaged to. I must be so afraid to be alone that i missed important signs along the way. At the start She told me she wasn’t good with relationships and it took about 6 months before she comitted to me and another 3 before we slept together. Despite that she was seeing and sleeping with someone within 2 weeks of our breakup.
    I am so hurt and crushed. and I am scared that at 44 years old I have lost my chance to find someone to share life with. Any advice is welcome.

  7. The worst part of dealing with a work breakup is that you see your ex moving on, starting over, flirting, and getting on with life. It really does suck, and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    Take heart, KX! You will love again. Your heart will heal, you will get over her, and you will be happy in a new relationship again one day. Allow yourself time to grieve the end of your relationship and to say good-bye.

    You are sensitive and loving, kind and compassionate. You will be a treasure to a new girlfriend.

    You will be loved for who you are.

  8. I dated my workmate for 8 months and we really had a great relationship. We broke up 3 months ago and now am hearing rumors about how she is having some sort of relationship with another of my co-workers, who was supposedly a friend of mine. I was really moving on until i heard about this and it sucked heavy. Then just the other day she was flirting with a close friend of mine while I was there. I had good memories of her and the relationship before but now am just losing all respect for her and regretting that I dated her in the first place. I have learnt my lesson, am not gonna date a workmate (or possibly any-one) ever again.

  9. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for your thoughts on how to deal with a break up at work! I agree – breaking up is never easy, regardless of the circumstances or reasons for the break up. An office romance that doesn’t work out can make the job more difficult…but the heart is still broken. There are no easy tips on how to deal with a breakup at work.

  10. Breaking up from a loving relationship is never easy for anyone. Dealing with heartbreak can be very painful and can completely drain you emotionally. It is really difficult to break off with a person with whom you have been attached for some time. It can not only break your confidence, make you feel miserable and shatter your spirits, but also make it hard for you to trust anyone in future.

    Managing heartbreaks is one of the most difficult things to do and it becomes almost impossible if it is your first love. You have to accept the fact that a relation started has to end someday in case you are not thinking of a long-term commitment. Dating and breaking up with a coworker makes it even more difficult.