Career Advice

How To End A Relationship Without Hurting Your Career

Breaking up is never easy to do, but add an office romance to the mix and it can be downright treacherous to your career. After all, you don’t want the one with the broken heart to try to torpedo your career by bad mouthing you, making scenes in the office or trying to block you from getting assignments. While many times ending a relationship is one sided, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to minimize the damage it can have at work.

Let’s face it office romances are a common occurrence. We spend much of a day at work and in some cases our evenings so it’s not surprising that many co-workers end up in romantic relationships. A big no no from a career standpoint is to carry on the relationship during work hours and the same goes for breaking up.  “You don’t conduct your romance at the office and you don’t break up with them at the office,” says Stephanie Losee, co-author of Office Mate, a book explaining why the office may be the best place to find your true love. “You don’t use email, you don’t text, you don’t do it on Facebook and you especially don’t do it with company resources.”

Losee says that when breaking up with someone, show them the respect they may or may not deserve. “People who are shown due respect tend not to flip out,” she says. Losee says to look them in the eye and talk about why you are breaking up with him or her. Never cite reasons that are fixable because it not only puts the other person on the defensive but gives them a glimmer of hope that the relationship can be fixed, she says.

Timing Is Everything

When you choose to break up with someone at work also matters, according to Marie  McIntyre, the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics and The Management Team Handbook. She says that doing it on a Friday or ahead of a long weekend is ideal because it gives the person getting dumped time to come to terms with what happened. “You certainly don’t want to do this after lunch,” says McIntyre. “Don’t make this announcement one evening and expect it to be ok when you show up for work the next day.”

According to McIntyre, breaking up has to be planned in advance which means not only when you intend to do it, but how you are going to act at work once the relationship is over. The person being hurt might not want to talk about work, but McIntyre says to appeal to their self-interest so you can get a sense of what will happen when you two are working together in the future. “Neither one wants to come out looking badly” so it pays to discuss how you both are going to keep working together, she says.

The main goal when starting, and more importantly ending a relationship, is to keep the drama out of the office. “At work we are supposed to be calm, mature professional adults,” says McIntyre. “Broken romances tend to make people act like kids.”

Man Or Woman Scorned

Contrary to what you may see in the news, according to Losee, the number of office relationships that go awry are far and few in between. In fact, Losee says that studies in the past have shown that one in five people in an office romance go on to get married. That stat is on the rise, with CareerBuilder saying 31% of office lovers end up getting hitched.  Still, there are times when things end badly and the animosity ends up poisoning the workplace. Career experts say in that case it may be time to get upper management or human resources involved.  Losee says to first talk to your former lover, but if you hit a brick wall, then go to your supervisor or HR department. “The whole point of being an employee is being low maintenance,” says Losee. “You don’t want to run to HR or your supervisor unless there are no other recourses.”