The Art of the Office Break-up

You and your co-worker had a dating fling during the holidays and it was fun. Lunch together, secret glances and smiles in the workplace, after work drinks, week-end movies, theatre, and dinners; you did all the wonderful “couple things.”  To top it off the sex was great too! Hey, it’s the holidays, you’re both adults and it happens.

Then, holidays are over and wham!, here comes the break-up. Suddenly Mr. Holiday fun turns out to be a jerk. You two are no longer a couple and that is fine with you. Now you want him out of your life for good. But……..

After all the misery of the break-up, reality comes at you in a sudden wave and you realize one very crucial point; while the romance may be over you still have to work together. You will be seeing each other on a daily basis! Besides that fact, the entire office will know that you broke up. Now what?!

Welcome to the art of dealing with an office after-the-holiday break-up.

Many companies frown on what they term “in-house couples” and have a policy against co-workers becoming involved.  Office romance has the potential to be both work distracting while you’re together and to cause acrimonious feelings after you break-up. It isn’t an easy situation for you or for others in the workplace.

Carolyn Evans, CEO of Evans-Burkitt Technologies says that her company policy strongly discourages office romances. She has seen the fallout from disastrous breakups in her own office environment.  

“It causes difficulty in a work environment when you have an involved  couple who work in the same office. If they break-up, and 90% of them do, it will have a negative impact on production. It can be a messy situation.”

If you have had a break-up with a colleague there are certain steps you can take to make the transition easier for all concerned, especially for yourself.

No matter how angry you are over the break-up –

Never, ever, talk about him in a negative manner to other co-workers.

What happened between you, (and that includes sex or lack thereof), is nobody’s business, don’t make it fodder for the office gossip mill. It cheapens you as a person.

Be an adult because –

Polite and professional is all you have to be-

Okay, you would love to spill coffee all over that crucial report on his desk, (the one you helped him to research and write), but don’t give in to an immature impulse. Others may laugh at what you do but remember that they are laughing at you as well as at him.

Act like a good co-worker –

Treat him with respect-

Yes, I know, this is hard if not next to impossible for you, but you have to do it. Don’t shoot glares at him, don’t look angry, don’t be a witch with a capital “B;” treat him the same as you do all the others in the office. It will benefit you immensely in the office social set. If everyone is going out after work, no one will want to bring you along if they feel you may make a scene.

Big girls don’t cry in the workplace-

Cry at home, cry in your car, cry over drinks with your girlfriends far away from work. The workplace is solely for business, not for therapy.

Finally –

Chalk it up to experience-

Think long and hard before you consider playing the holiday version of Romeo and Juliet again in the workplace. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of an office romance. Was the last one worth it? Probably not. Move on.



  • Kristen Houghton

    Kristen Houghton

    Thrive Global

    Kristen Houghton is the award-winning author of the popular series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation.  She is also the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. Her horror novel, Welcome to Hell, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel. Before becoming a full-time  author, Kristen, who holds an Ed.D. in linguistics, taught World Languages on the high school and university levels. Along with her husband, educator Alan William Hopper, she is a philanthropist for Project Literacy and Shelters With Heart, safe havens for victims of domestic abuse and their pets . mailto:  [email protected]