My girlfriend/coworker and I broke up about a month ago, and we’ve been working together ever since. Despite the warnings from my friends, family, and literally everyone I know, I never expected this day to come. “We’re going to last,” I told myself–or more accurately, “We’re going to last longer than I stay at this shitty job.” Wrong. “We’re both adults, and we can handle a breakup maturely and amicably.” I don’t know why, given my history of extremely messy breakups, I thought that would happen. The last month has been trying, both personally and professionally, but when it comes down to it, this is my advice to anyone in the same position.
DO: Map out some ground rules about what your interactions can be at the office with your ex. Make sure you both understand that you will not hinder each other in any aspect of your jobs because of unresolved feelings. This may be hard if you resent the other person, but I promise you, people will look for this to happen after a breakup. People are animals. They will be silently hoping for a knock down, drag out fight to erupt in the middle of the office at any second. Make sure that never happens.
DON’T: Have “relationship talks” at the office. Much like I was, you are under the impression you will work it out with your ex and get back together, and you feel like you need to talk about something with him or her. WAIT UNTIL AFTER WORK, IDIOT. I don’t care how minor it may seem, nothing will look worse for both of you than a whispered fight at your cubicle or, God forbid, someone crying at work. I don’t care how important it seems, save it until you’re not on the clock. No texting, either. Text arguments will lead to one of you deciding that something needs to be said in person, which leads to awkwardness for everyone in the office.
DO: Refer to the breakup as “mutual” to all your nosy coworkers. Everyone wants to hear a juicy story, and your coworkers likely thought of you as the Jim and Pam of the office, and they’ll want to know what happened. Stick to a vague story that doesn’t incriminate either party, and don’t let people pester you into giving more details. As a rule of thumb, it should be so bland and boring that you have to yawn while saying it. I stuck with, “We both decided that it wasn’t the right time in our lives, but we want to stay friends.” The last thing you need is people taking sides.
DON’T: Make–or even let–your coworkers pick sides. In my situation, my ex definitely has more pull over the office than I do, so the people who were in my corner were ready to go to war for me. I had coworkers saying that they could start a rumor that I already had another (hotter) girlfriend, or tell people she cheated on me. This is a tempting but terrible idea. The only thing worse than management finding out an inter-office breakup caused issues between two employees is our bosses finding out that it pulled the entire office into an HR nightmare of rumors and passive aggression.
DO: Have angry breakup sex in the office if you can swing it. Full disclosure, this is probably not a good idea, but I never achieved this bucket list goal, and you can bet I’m doing the nasty on top of a copy machine if given the opportunity.
DON’T: Move on and date another coworker. DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT. “The Office” is one of my favorite shows, but the most unrealistic part of the show is the incestuous nature of the relationships within the office. Pam dated Roy and Jim, Andy dated Angela and Erin, Angela dated Dwight and Andy, Erin dated Gabe and Andy, Michael dated Jan and Holly, Holly dated Michael and AJ. I’m shocked that series didn’t end with everyone in that office murdering each other in a massive crime of passion.
So there you have it. Follow these rules, and if you’re ever not sure of what to do, always take the high road. It may feel like you’re losing the breakup, but it’s better to lose a breakup than lose your job.