How to Cope with an Ex at Work - Breaking Up with a Coworker


The thing about workplace relationships is that while they are easy to get into, they are as hard to get out of. When people spend the greater part of the working day together, they are bound to find someone with whom they have some common interests. This often leads to sharing a few social moments and if they hit off, things are ripe for a relationship.

However, when a workplace relationship goes kaput, both partners are faced with a difficult situation. While professional ethics demand that you continue to respect your co-worker and work as a team, the conflict in your personal relationship makes it exceedingly difficult to be around your ex. However, with the following suggestions, you and your ex can continue to be co-workers without the underlying tension.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.

Put professionalism first. When you're at work, your mind should be on the job – irrespective of the turmoil in your love life. Avoid dwelling on the reasons of your breakup and keep yourself from stealing glances at your ex – whether in anger or misery. Vow to see him or her as just another colleague and no more. Remember, your employer is paying you to deliver on your work and not to mope around the whole day.
Discuss with your ex

If you find yourself being increasingly thrown into your ex’s company at the workplace, and feel that the constraint between you two is too great to work comfortably, decide to talk it out. Make an appointment where you two would not be interrupted, and thrash out underlying issues. Help him or her to see that what has happened is better left behind and that you are looking forward to being good workmates. It is not only important for both your careers that you put behind relationship issues, but it is also necessary to do so if either of you are to move on in your personal lives.

Give each other space

In case of a break up, it is natural for the former partners to want to see as little of each other as possible. To a certain extent this helps with the healing process, as it enables them to put the past behind. However, if you work at the same place as your ex, it would be difficult to avoid him or her completely, especially if you are expected to work on a project together, or have adjoining cubicles. But give each other some space whenever possible, without making it too obvious. Avoid going to the coffee machine, if you see your ex standing there. Or wait for the next trip, if you see your ex getting into the elevator. It will save you both many embarrassing moments.

Don’t degrade yourself

Despite your attempts at maintaining a professional relationship with your ex, if you find that he or she continues to rake up personal issues at the workplace, be tough but calm. Let it be known that you will not stoop to the level of badmouthing colleagues, but at the same time, deal firmly with any attempts to draw you into a controversy. It will not help to completely ignore your ex as you are bound to be thrown together some time or other. Rather act as normal as possible and soon you will find your ex following suit.

Keep away from touchy matters

You may find that your ex is making efforts to maintain a professional relationship with you. Talk and act like co-workers but be careful to avoid sensitive topics. Remember that the wounds caused by your breakup are yet to heal and dragging up your past will cause only more pain to you both. So don’t go reminiscing about what a great time you had at Hawaii and particularly stay away from any mention of the breakup.

Don’t start flirting at your workplace

Granted, that you and your ex have agreed to move on. But this does not mean that you start flirting with the new intern at the first chance you get, especially in the presence of your ex. This will only go to show that you are actually yet to get over your break up, since you are still looking for ways to make him or her jealous. Moreover, it may lower you in the esteem of the rest of your colleagues, who will see you as just another sex maniac whose mind is never on the job.

Don’t involve other co-workers

If it has been hard for you to get over the break up, you may be tempted to share your pain with the other colleagues. And if it has been a particularly messy break up, you may even be inclined to reveal your side of the story. But it would be foolish to share the details with your colleagues, as it will lead to gossip-mongering, with the whole episode being picked over, again and again. Some of your co-workers may feel pressured to take sides with you or your ex, and others may feel embarrassed about your situation and begin to avoid you.

Have patience

Understand that normalizing your relationship with an ex at the workplace will take time. This is because you are bound to keep meeting every day and even may have to work together in a team which is bound to delay the healing process. Give it time and you may eventually have a more meaningful working relationship with your ex than you had before.

Getting over a breakup is difficult under any situation but when your ex happens to be a co-worker, it is that much more challenging to put the past behind. It is unwise to immediately expect to have the same working rapport with your ex that you share with other co-workers. But if you persevere with a cool head and lots of patience, there is no reason why you and your ex cannot continue to work together comfortably. So stop brooding at what happened and get back to work.