You had the perfect office romance—until you didn’t. Now you’re broken up. You’ve removed all of his or her belongings from your apartment, untagged all of your cutesy couple Facebook photos, and sobbed about it with your good friends over peanut butter and cookie dough.
Normal breakups are hard, but office breakups are a whole new ballgame. And, unfortunately, whether things ended in a mutual agreement or a heated argument doesn’t always matter. Working with your former significant other is really awkward.
But, that uncomfortable atmosphere doesn’t mean you need to run out and get an entirely new job. Here are five tips for getting through the breakup of an office romance—even if your ex is in the next cubicle over.
1. Keep it Professional
Hopefully you and your former significant other agreed to keep your relationship out of the workplace from the get-go. Either way—now is not the time to let your personal matters creep in and negatively affect your productivity and professional reputation.
As impossible as it might seem, you need to treat your ex like any of your other co-workers. Keep all of your communications polite and strictly professional (moreso than with anyone else while the break is still fresh), and avoid muttering snide remarks under your breath. Yes, it can be tough to bite your tongue. But, it’s important—because a screaming match in the office just isn’t going to make your situation any better.
2. Avoid Gossiping
When a relationship falls apart, it can be tempting to badmouth your ex to anyone who will listen. After all, it’s basically the first page in the breakup handbook. But, this was an office breakup. So, the rules of the game are a little different.
Stay away from office gossip, and avoid chatting with your co-workers about the details of your split (no matter how much they ask you to spill the deets). While that vengeful voice in your head might encourage you to completely destroy his or her reputation, it simply won’t do anything but make you look bad.
There’s no need to add fuel to the office drama fire. And, you don’t want your breakup to become an exaggerated office legend. (“One time, a couple in marketing broke up, and well, we’ve never seen a presentation with so many underhanded references to cheating.”)
3. Limit Your Interactions
Alright, so you accept the fact that you need to swallow your pride, stuff down your negative emotions, and continue to work with this person. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be constantly involved in each other’s daily lives.
So, while your emotions are still raw, you might want to practice the age-old breakup tactic of avoidance. No, you can’t shirk those important team meetings or conferences just to keep your distance from your ex. But, you can change a few small parts of your schedule that could help ease the tension of your situation.
Arrive at work a little earlier to avoid that uncomfortably silent walk together into the office. Stay away from the break room around your ex’s regular lunchtime, or ask a co-worker to join you to eat.
Yes, it might seem like a total high school strategy, but you don’t need to be juvenile or even vocal about what you’re doing. And, if it helps to take at least a little bit of anxiety out of your dynamic, it’s totally worth it.
4. Channel Your Energy
We’ve probably all been a little obsessive over a breakup at one point or another. It’s human nature, really. But, rather than wasting your time churning over the fact that your ex is already talking about a date for this upcoming weekend, channel all of that pent up energy and passion into your work.
It’s not always easy, but try to check your emotions at the door of the office and zone in on excelling at your job. Remind yourself, you only need to get through the next nine hours. Not only will it take your attention off of the situation with your ex, but it will also show your boss what a productive and amazing employee you are. And, that’s enough to make you feel at least a little bit better.
5. Remember This
You spend a lot of time at work. So, it’s totally understandable (and maybe even expected) that romance will bloom there.
But, while you’re recovering from this particularly tense and awkward situation, take some time to evaluate the circumstances. Was that office fling worth all of this extra care and caution? Maybe it was, or maybe it wasn’t. Whatever you decide, it’s important to take the time to really think through the matter—especially before jumping into another romantic workplace relationship.
All breakups are at least a little bit uncomfortable, distressing, and distracting. But, an office breakup introduces a whole new awkward element to an already fragile situation.
No, you don’t need to quit your job and move across the country. Simply put these tips to work to get through it all with dignity. Oh, and you can definitely still pick up a high-calorie treat on your way home from the office. You deserve it.
Photo of broken heart courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author