The following appeared in Elle Magazine on May 18, 2016. To view the original piece, please click here.
How to Keep Working After You Break Up With Your Work Wife
By Jaime Buerger
Breakups are the worst. But a breakup with a work bestie can be its own exquisite kind of torture. “Suddenly, the person you used to laugh with is trying to laugh (or roll their eyes) at you,” says Rachel*, who is recovering from a recent work wife split. “You breathe too loudly, and you’re getting the side eye from across the cubicle.”
It turns out that a work-wife divorce sucks so much because it’s nearly just as painful as a real-life romantic breakup. “Like any breakup, you’ll be thinking about it all the time at first,” says Anita Chlipala, a marriage and family therapist in Chicago. And unlike after a romantic split or a breakup with any other friend, you’ll be forced to see this person every day, and, depending on your positions at the company, asked to work together as colleagues, because the head of your department does not care about your petty drama.What to do if it happens to you? Here, some tips from two experts on how to handle an office split:
1. Don’t fight in front of the kids.
“When two people aren’t getting along, it’s going to have an adverse effect on the rest of the office,” says David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources consulting firm that focuses on successful recruiting and operational management. You might not think you’re bringing the drama to everyone, but they’ll more than likely still feel the friction…and there will be looks tossed your way. For their sake (as well as yours), do your best to keep things cordial, and to keep any negativity private.
2. Don’t let your productivity plummet.
There’s a good chance it was easier to crank out gold-star work when you were bouncing ideas off her. And she likely helped you keep your cool when deadlines and pressure hung heavy around your shoulders. But since that woman definitely is not worth losing your job over, use this time— free from the frequent distractions—to get used to powering through your latest project solo. Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer at ThinkHR, a human resources knowledge company based in Pleasanton, Calif., reminds us that companies are always striving to create an atmosphere where their employees are engaged and happy, and office friendships are a big part of that. But if those friendships go south, it’s no excuse to let it affect your work, and chances are, the company won’t have any patience if it does. And let’s be real: You most certainly don’t need a codependent cheerleader to be awesome at your job anyway, right?
3. Set up some lunch dates.
Hey, those other people your manager hired? They’re likely bright, interesting people, like you. And while the goal isn’t to immediately hold auditions for the role of New Work Wife, you’ll feel better knowing you have other friendly faces around the office. Take this opportunity to create a stronger relationship with someone else in the office, suggest Kerekes. Because hey, the best way to get over a man is to get under someone else (or something)—why can’t that apply to friendships, too?
4. Ignore the baiting.
First rule of the office fight club: Don’t talk about it. If your former confidante takes the low road and lashes out (in the form of, say, insidious gossip, loud rehashings of why you’re no longer close, quiet bitchy comments, or a diabolical takedown of all your ideas in meetings), you might have to be the bigger person and suck it up, Kerekes says. Not that it’s a contest, but the rest of your coworkers will always side against the mean girl who’s making things way more complicated socially. So if it were a contest, you’d totally win.