Dealing with Divorce in the Workplace

08/18/2017 02:52 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2017

Dealing with divorce is sticky in any situation but, dealing with it in the workplace comes with its own unique set of issues. Spending 40-plus hours a week at an organization creates the opportunity for your vulnerabilities and at-home issues to find their way into this environment. Whether an employee or the employer, there are some routes I invite you to look at to help both parties navigate this process as seamlessly as possible.

Employee

You and your partner decided to split – what’s next? At its early stages, you are probably learning to cope with the stressors that come with dealing with divorce and are ignoring how it is going to affect your work life. Communication and self-organization is key. Here are some tips to guide you:

1. Let your immediate boss know your situation and insure him/her that you will do everything in your power to limit missed time at work. Chances are he/she has been involved in a divorce in some capacity and will understand that attorney’s schedules aren’t very flexible.

2. If you have a teammate or officemate, you might want to let them in on it since they work closely with you. It’s important that they understand mood shifts, stepping out to take calls, etc.

3. Keep time missed at work to a minimum. Just because you are going through a tough time doesn’t give you the right to inconvenience others by not showing up to work. To the best of your ability, schedule appointments around work. Get up, dress up and show up. The last thing you want is the extra complication of a lost job and income.

4. Please, do yourself a big favor and do not make every conversation with coworkers about your divorce. You need their understanding and support but everyone has a limit; don’t overburden them. Be grateful for the distraction that the workplace brings. That being said, be prudent in what you disclose. Not everyone has good intentions.

5. Continue with a professional demeanor. Keep work, work and personal, personal. If you have divorce papers to fill out, don’t bring them to work to do; keep that for home.

6. Accept that you will not be as focused or productive at work as usual. To think that there will be no change in your productivity during divorce is unrealistic. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.

7. Take care of yourself. Spend some quiet time doing something that makes you happy. If ever there was a time to look after yourself, it is now.

8. Seek the help of a professional divorce coach. This is a person that can help you navigate the entire process, work through the myriad of emotions, help you stay organized and head off potential problems. Your coach will also help with any post divorce plans/issues that you anticipate.

Employer

As an employer, you have a responsibility to the company but also to your employee. That can be a difficult balancing act given the emotional state of him/her. Divorce will cause distraction, which will cause mistakes, depression will creep in and focus can get lost. Productivity can decrease and they may come into work looking like they haven’t slept in a week – which sadly, is probably the case. How do you balance the welfare of your employee while maintaining the company’s financial spreadsheets?

1. Take the extra time to understand and work with your employee. Ask them what their biggest work challenge is right now and help them strategize solutions.

2. Don’t offer up empty “sage” advice. The last thing anyone wants to hear is how lucky he or she was that they didn’t have children with that person.

3. Be aware of office gossip. When going through a divorce, people feel all kinds of emotions and feeling like an outcast or suddenly “different” can lead to depression. Don’t let co-workers contribute to this by gossiping at the water cooler. Your goal is to keep your employee at work being as productive as possible and not staying at home because she/he feels ostracized.

4. Watch for signs of anger towards co-workers that weren’t there before and have honest, non-judgmental conversations with the divorcing employee.

5. Divorce makes a person question everything about themselves. Keep an eye open for a loss of confidence on the job and take the time to let him/her know they had a great idea, did a fabulous report, etc. A loss of confidence will do nothing for the bottom line, productivity.

Whoever came up with the phrase, “This too shall pass,” had to be going through a divorce. This does pass and if the employee and the employer work as a team to help each other out during this transition, everyone stands to benefit.

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