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What to Do When a Relationship with a Co-Worker Ends

Wondering how to deal with an office breakup? Use these 8 dos and don’ts when a relationship with a co-worker ends, to heal and walk away gracefully!

relationship witha coworker

Sometimes, as much as you try to shy away from something like this, it inevitably happens.

You two lock eyes over the conference table or in the lunchroom, you coyly introduce yourselves, and you start getting coffee together every day.

After a few weeks, this leads to going out at night, and before you know it, your relationship with a co-worker has begun.

All goes well for a while – your boss and fellow co-workers are surprisingly accepting *or, you manage to keep the relationship a secret*.

And regardless of how much you enjoy or don’t enjoy your job, you actually start looking forward to each workday, since it’s just another chance to see your sexy sweetheart.

You’re so happy stealing kisses in the break room that you never give much thought to what could possibly go wrong.

Nonetheless, one fateful day, what you didn’t spend much time thinking about actually occurs. And for whatever reason, you break up.

Maybe you had a tiff over something stupid that turned into a major fight, and eventually led to the demise of your relationship. Perhaps previously amicable coworkers started gossiping about the two of you, and one of you couldn’t take it anymore. Another co-worker may even have thrown themselves at your partner, and they, unfortunately, reciprocated. [Read: 12 tips to keep in mind when you date your boss]

Nevertheless, the real reason for the relationship’s end is practically irrelevant. The fact remains that you’re devastated, you are dreading the thought of ever walking into your workplace again, and have even considered applying for a job halfway across the world.

What to do when a relationship with a co-worker ends

Dealing with the loss of a relationship with a co-worker is always difficult, no matter how thick your skin is, but it’s actually not impossible, even though it may feel that way at times.

You, like many others before you, can survive this kind of breakup with your job and your dignity still intact. You’ve just got to pay attention to your behavior in certain situations, so that no matter how much your former partner may push your buttons, you don’t look like the psycho ex to the entire company *or, maybe even worse, appear completely sane while silently going crazy on the inside*. [Read: 8 important things you need to do to get your self esteem back immediately after a break up]

The 8 big dos and don’ts you have to keep in mind

Here are eight very important dos and don’ts that you must remember if you want to successfully deal with the recent end of a relationship with a co-worker.

#1 Do return all their stuff

Especially if you were in a relationship with your co-worker for a considerable amount of time, you likely have some of their things, while they have some of yours. After the breakup, you should return your co-worker’s possessions promptly, as this will cause them to see you in a more positive light, even if the two of you have argued or you are the one who has done the dumping.

You should arrange a time and place to meet in private to deliver the belongings – this will encourage your ex to return yours as well.

Do not dump them on their desk in a dramatic show of emotion, plop them on top of their vehicle and drive away, or engage in any of this sort of immature behaviour. You’ll just tick off your ex, while making yourself look stupid in the process.

#2 Do keep your distance

After you experience a breakup with someone you work with, you need to give them some space, as well as take some space for yourself, too. Find some new lunch and coffee buddies, and don’t volunteer to work on committees or projects you know they’re involved with, if you don’t have to.

Don’t constantly call or email them to find out what they’re doing, and above all, don’t spy on them or enlist another co-worker to. Even if you have to pass by their windowed office on the way to your own, avert your eyes and resist the urge to peek in.

If you ensure that a fair amount of physical and emotional distance is put between you, you will eventually be able to function comfortably as just colleagues again. [Read: 12 reasons why the no contact rule always works for you]

#3 Do maintain a professional attitude

Chances are, even if you don’t do so voluntarily, you will be forced to work with your ex again at some point. Perhaps, you committed to a certain project before you knew the two of you would break up, or maybe you have to assist with a certain assignment that they’re involved with to keep your job.

If you do have to communicate with them for work purposes, take care to maintain a professional attitude, especially in front of others. Don’t make wisecracks about their looks, their personality quirks, or any of their other attributes, and don’t criticize their work more than you would any other colleague’s.

Never, ever bring up anything that happened during the relationship, especially anything that happened in the bedroom. Dragging your former relationship into the picture while you’re supposed to be completing a team assignment will likely cause you to bicker openly with your ex and annoy the rest of your team. [Read: 14 things to keep in mind when you bump into an ex often]

#4 Do keep the details of the breakup to yourself

Following your breakup with your man or woman from the workplace, you will likely be tempted to spill your guts to some of your other co-workers. If your ex dumped you, you may feel like filling your cohorts in on what a horrible, misled person they are, or if you dumped them, you may want to tell your co-workers all about the horrible things they did to get themselves dumped. However, while telling your co-workers that you and your ex are no longer a couple is fine, you’ve got to keep the amount of details you share about the relationship’s end to a bare minimum.

Not only will going on and on about the breakup make you look unprofessional, your ex may hear that you’re talking about them, and start talking about you, too. Both of you will look gossipy and childish, and in the worst-case scenario, the majority of people will take your ex’s side, making you somewhat of an outcast within the workplace social scene. [True confession: My (co-worker) ex’s revenge – How my ex’s rumours ruined me!]

#5 Don’t start dating someone else at work right away

While having a rebound relationship rarely brings anything good to a person, this is even worse when, after breaking up with a co-worker, someone decides to have a rebound relationship with another co-worker.

You may be tempted to do this due to loneliness, or to rub the fact that you are still found attractive by someone else in your ex’s face, but for the sake of all parties involved, you should stay out of the dating scene at work for at least a few months after your breakup.

Rebound relationships rarely last long, and once this one is over, you’ll have to go through the whole healing process in front of your colleagues all over again.

Instead, take the opportunity to get out socially and look for love outside of your workplace – you never know whom you might be missing if you focus on searching within only one venue. [Read: The 10 worst people you can have a one-night stand/rebound relationship with!]

#6 Don’t bad-mouth their new significant other

Of course, your ex may not attempt to avoid an at-work rebound, and may start dating another co-worker right under your very nose. Alternatively, they may get a new girlfriend or boyfriend outside of work who starts showing up to see them constantly, forcing you to see their face.

No matter how much anger or other negative emotions begin to stir within you, if and when this happens, avoid publicly insulting their new flame, even if they do have a really strange laugh, drive a car that looks like it was purchased when they were in high school, or think wearing stripes with plaids is appropriate. Instead, be thankful that your breakup will now allow you to find someone who’s better for yourself. [Read: The real reason behind why you’re jealous of your ex]

#7 Don’t engage in unnecessary competition

If you’re a competitive sort, and your ex is in a similar position to you, you might be tempted to compete with them for honors such as promotions or raises, and “show them up” to prove that you are smarter than they are.

However, this is just a waste of time and energy, especially if you don’t really want to take on any extra responsibilities. As opposed to realizing what a star you’ve become, your ex may clue in to the fact that you’re competing with them on purpose and find it amusing.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continue to go after goals in the workplace that you truly want to achieve, just don’t make these goals dependent upon what your ex does.

#8 Don’t play games to try and get them back  

Perhaps you were the dumpee, and never wanted to break up in the first place, or shortly after you dumped your ex, you realized that you made a mistake. Do not resort to using sly tactics in the workplace in order to get your former partner back.

Repeatedly walking by their office doused in a cloud of cologne and wearing your hottest outfit may turn their head, but it won’t make them respect you as a long-term relationship option, and depending on what your sexy outfit consists of, this may get you sent to the human resources department.

Leaving gifts in their office, or arranging fake meetings so that the two of you can talk will just make you look desperate, and the more desperate a person seems, the less attractive they seem. [Read: 10 things you HAVE to do after a breakup to feel awesome!]

If you’re interested in getting back together with your co-worker ex, just honestly tell them so, but realize that you have to accept their answer, whatever it may be.

By following the advice above, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of surviving a breakup with a co-worker with little to no bumps or bruises, metaphorically speaking. Provided that your ex behaves maturely and respectfully too, you two will be able to seamlessly make the transition from being significant others to being professional associates only.

And after a while of healing, you can decide whether you want to jump back into the workplace dating pool, or, instead, vow to never date a co-worker again. If you choose the first option, who knows – maybe next time, there won’t be a breakup to deal with!

[Read: Love or career – How to make the right choice at your workplace?]

But however it goes, and whatever you choose to do, just keep these 8 dos and don’ts about the things to do when a relationship with a co-worker ends. It’ll help you in more ways than you can imagine!

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...