The Art of the Office Affair Breakup

If you have broken up with a colleague, there are certain steps you can take to make the transition easier for all concerned, especially for yourself.
01/16/2014 10:12 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2014

You and your co-worker had a dating fling and it was fun. Lunch together, secret glances and smiles in the workplace, after-work drinks, weekend movies and dinners; you did all the wonderful "couple things." To top it off, the sex was great too! You think he is the one and that it will surely last. It does... for awhile.

Then comes the break-up and suddenly, the guy you wanted to spend the rest of your life with turns out to be a prize jerk. You two are no longer a couple and that is fine with you. Now you want him out of your life for good. But...

After all the misery of the break-up, reality comes at you in a sudden wave and you realize one very crucial point: While the romance may be over, you still have to work together. You will be seeing each other on a daily basis! In addition, the entire office will know that you broke up. Now what?!

Welcome to the art of dealing with an office affair breakup.

A little food for thought first. Many companies frown on what they term "in-house couples" and have a policy against co-workers becoming involved. Office romance has the potential to be both distracting while you're together and to cause acrimonious feelings after you break up. It isn't an easy situation for you or for others in the workplace.

Places of business may even have a written statement that cautions employees against workplace liaisons. It causes difficulty in a work environment when you have an involved couple who work in the same office. If they break up, and most of them do, it may have a negative impact on production. It can be a messy situation. The fallout from disastrous breakups adversely affects the office environment as a whole. It pays to remember that if your company had such a policy, either written or verbal, you need to be cautious about how you act after you're no longer a couple.

If you have broken up with a colleague, there are certain steps you can take to make the transition easier for all concerned, especially for yourself:

No matter how angry you are over the breakup...
Never, ever, talk about him in a negative manner to other co-workers. What happened between you (and that includes sex or lack thereof) is nobody's business, don't make it fodder for the office gossip mill. The effect is damaging to you, and speaking about personal issues makes you seem untrustworthy as an employee.

Be an adult because...
Polite and professional is all you have to be. OK, you would love to spill coffee all over that crucial report on his desk (the one you helped him to research and write), but don't give in to an immature impulse. Others may laugh at what you do, but remember that they are laughing at you as well as at him.

Act like a good co-worker...
And treat him with respect. Yes, I know, this is hard, if not next to impossible, for you, but you have to do it. Don't shoot glares at him, don't look angry, don't be a witch with a capital "B;" treat him the same as you treat all the others in the office. It will benefit you immensely in the office social set. If everyone is going out after work, no one will want to bring you along if they feel you may make a scene.

Big girls don't cry...
In the workplace. Cry at home, cry in your car, cry over drinks with your girlfriends far away from work. The workplace is solely for business, not for therapy.

Chalk it up to experience.
Think long and hard before you consider playing Brad and Angelina again in the workplace. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of an office romance. Was the last one worth it? Probably not. You lived it, you learned from it. Move on.

© 2013 Copyright Kristen Houghton
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