7 Tips for Keeping it Together at Work When Your Marriage is Falling Apart

handling divorce at work

We’ve all heard the sage advice when things aren’t going your way at work, “Don’t take it home with you.”

However, what do you when the stresses and worries of your home life follow you to work each day?

While a “leave it at the door” attitude sounds good in theory, creating that kind of separation between your personal and professional life is easier said than done, especially when separation or divorce are looming in the background.

For those days when keeping it together at work feels like mission impossible, here are few strategies for handling life on the job while you’re going through divorce.

1. Give your boss or supervisor a heads up.

Although you may not be interested in making your personal life public knowledge, in most situations your boss or supervisor should know you’re getting a divorce. Before initiating a conversation, decide what you need to say to your employer or supervisor about your situation.

Remember, less is usually best. Skip the blow-by-blow details of who did what to whom and provide basic information.

If you have an employee benefits package, it may be wise to ask your boss or someone in the Human Resources Department about supportive services or if the company has an Employee Assistance Program.

2. Be discreet.

It’s okay to let others know about your change in relationship status. However, unless your goal is to be the next hot topic around the water cooler, it’s probably wise to share details with co-workers sparingly.  While it may feel comforting to have a shoulder to cry on, letting the floodgates open could compromise your credibility or worse, jeopardize future job opportunities.

When casual work acquaintances ask what happened or how you’re holding up, think about coming up with a generic short response. You could say something like, “Right now I’m just taking it one day at a time, thanks for asking” or “I appreciate your concern but I’m still sorting things out.”  Keep in mind, you can always choose to say more later, but you can’t take back what you’ve already said.

3. Have a good support system outside of work.

Most of us have a handful of office buddies that we socialize with outside of work. Even though sharing more intimate details with those people is understandable, avoid making close co-workers your only source of emotional support. While occasional venting or talking through a tough situation is healthy, expecting your friends at work to be your personal self-analysis group is not.  To keep you and your friendships balanced, make sure you have other sources of support in place.

4. Have a plan B when you hit a bump in the road.

No matter how well you are managing your divorce, there will be days when emotions hit hard. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or on edge, do your best to manage the moment constructively.  Leave your desk or clock out for a brief break. To give yourself time to regroup, go walk around the block, get a cup of coffee or make a beeline for the nearest bathroom and take a couple of deep breaths.  Once you feel like you have a handle on things, go back to work and finish out your day.

If taking a break isn’t an option, then do your best to mentally compartmentalize the issue. Get out a piece of paper and write down a few sentences or words about what’s bothering you, fold it up and tell yourself you will deal with it later.

5. Minimize calls, emails or texts from your soon-to-be-co-parent.

Nothing can derail your workday faster than getting an unexpected call from your soon-to-be co-parent.  To stay on track while you’re on the company clock, avoid engaging in unscheduled or impulsive conversations (that includes texting) with your co-parent. Unless it’s an emergency situation regarding your kids, almost anything can wait until after 5 pm.

Instead of diving head first into a potentially upsetting exchange, take control of the situation by letting your co-parent know you can’t give the matter your full attention right now. Follow up with a suggestion to talk at a more convenient time. If you must respond, think ahead about how you to want to handle the call before picking up the phone. It may also help to jot down a few key points so you can keep it focused and quick.

6. Avoid using work as the great escape.

For some work is a much needed distraction from the tension and worry that usually comes with splitting up. While it can be beneficial to use your job as a way to unplug from the stress of divorce, you’re not doing yourself any favors by using it as a way to block out or avoid your feelings of loss.  You stand to benefit more both at personally and professionally by paying attention to your feelings and finding healthy ways to address them.  Promise.

Surround yourself with positive energy

7. Create an environment that helps you stay positive and focused.

Without a doubt, separation and divorce can turn your life inside out.  Keeping your feelings at bay and staying focused on work instead of your breakup is no easy task.

Help yourself stay focused on the job by giving thought to how you can offset potential distractions.  If concentrating is difficult, consider using notes, daily reminders or calendars to hold you accountable.

Also do what you can to make your work space a positive environment. You can post quotes that inspire, put up pictures of your children, place sticky notes with encouraging words where you will see them daily or decorate your desk with favorite items. Don’t have an office?  Then choose an uplifting image for the screen saver on your phone or pick out a small object to carry in your pocket that reminds you of what really matters.   Do what you can to surround yourself with positive energy on the job. While you won’t always be able to leave it a the door, it can definitely help you keep your divorce in perspective at work.

Until next time,