According to a survey done by Careerbuilder.com 40% of employees at the office have dated a colleague during some stage of their career, it’s not uncommon. You spend 10 hours a day together over a period of 5 maybe 6 times a week.
So how do you deal with those awkward glances, embarrassing bump-ins and the uncomfortable atmosphere when the relationship is no longer but there’s work to be done.
There may be no easy answer but some women and their employers have had first-hand experience with office romances so here are some tips that worked and some that just backfired!
It helps when you start the relationship smart. The saying “Don’t mix work with pleasure” is not a cliché. If you’ve set ground rules in the beginning of your relationship then those boundaries should still apply afterwards (when the relationship has ended). Don’t discuss issues at work. If need be, be the bigger person and invite him for coffee so you can clear the air and remove the big elephant all at once.
Don’t play teenager games like “forgetting” to hand in an important report or “accidentally” spilling coffee on his work briefs. We are not 16 years old anymore and behaviour like that only results in more conflict or can even lead to you losing your job.
Don’t check up on him. Let’s face it, even after a break up we’re still a little curious as to what our exes are up to. In this case however you are forbidden from snooping around to find out who he’s seeing and how he’s been coping. Bottom line: it’s just unprofessional. Focus on your work, that’s why you’re there and there is no better distraction.
Respect each other.
Chiara Atik, author of Modern Dating: A field guide says “There’s no pretending the relationship never existed” so what do you do?
You basically have to rewire and rethink the way the two of you communicate with each other. How was your relationship before the drama (The professional one – as colleagues). In a professional point of view what did you admire about his abilities? Why did you consider him good at what he did? Now the question remains – what if he wasn’t, well then you’ll just have to take the old “fake it till you make it” route, purely for your own sanity.
Try to stay away from correcting each other in front of colleagues it will only create an atmosphere of that might seem like you both are out to “get” each other.
Contribute to the job not the gossip.
The last thing you’d want to do is put your professional standing with co-workers at risk. Tainting your reputation with personal drama will only make the work environment awkward, not just for you but for everyone in the office as well. If you and your ex work on a project together associates might be confused or reserved toward one or both of you.
No matter how much you want to tell on or badmouth your ex – try to resist the urge for everyone’s sake. If people ask questions smile like everything is alright even when you feel like it’s all about to blow up in your face – stick to your guns.
Your co-workers might just admire you for your level of professionalism and composure, it can take years to build a reputation but when it comes to gossip with little tails at their ends your reputation can take a knock in mere minutes so be careful what you share and who you tell.
When your ex isn’t being the bigger person.
After a bad breakup in the work place – Sapna Dave had a hard time working with her ex. “After the breakup he ignored me completely” Things eventually got ugly when he chose not to mark her on an important email making her miss a meeting with her boss.
When this happens you need to take charge. Nobody likes being a tattle tale but we’re not in kindergarten anymore and if work can’t be done, money can’t be made, this is a business after all. Explaining the situation to your superior is a must. Just inform your boss of the current situation, you’re not out to get anybody fired but it is good to keep him up to date. Let your boss know that you have it under control though and that you will handle the matter (remember this might not be the first time your boss has had to deal with a situation like this so he/she might have some pointers).
After you and your boss have had a chat, tell your ex that his behaviour was unprofessional and that you’ve brought the situation to your boss’s attention but also let him know that you’re not looking for a fight but a solution.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just reach out even if it’s a hard.
Give it some time.
If the relationship ended on bad terms don’t bring up old habits, traits or traditions you use to have when you were dating in the office. Things like “Yes I know you like to take the lead” or “Still biting your nails I see” etc. You might think you’re breaking the ice but really you’re just creating confusion. After the dust has settled and the both of you have become comfortable in your roles again these little comments won’t hurt as much.
Sometimes we women have to be the bigger person: wait a while before announcing your new found love. Should the roles be reversed and he brings a hot date to the office party take it as a sign that he’s moved on – if you need to cry: cry in the bathroom, wipe the mascara of your cheeks and stay strong.
Office romances are a tread lightly playing field – Forbes Magazine actually mention companies who have considered banning office relationships all together, but that would just be ridiculous. The heart wants what the heart wants. Set boundaries from day one. If you approach the idea with caution from the beginning there’s a lesser chance that it will blow up in your face when things go sour. In the end just try to keep work and play separate for everyone’s sake.