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Dealing with relationships and break-ups at work

Rhian Morgan

Whether you’re dealing with staff relationships, or struggling to cope with your own heartache, dating and divorce expert Sara Davison has some top advice to help you cope, writes Rhian Morgan

We all know of the woman who fakes surprise when a bunch of flowers bigger than her computer are delivered to reception on Valentine’s Day. There is also the excited gossip around the water cooler from those coupled up about their romantic plans, and for the singles, the joshing about how many cards they received.

But what if you, or a member of your staff, are going through a traumatic separation or divorce? With January and February a boom-time for break-ups (a third more people file for divorce), facing Valentine’s Day in the office can place additional psychological stress on employers and employees.
For those struggling to cope, a new app has been launched - Seven Steps to a Better Break-Up.

Leading divorce coach and dating expert Sara Davison developed the app after seeing a boom in people seeking out her advice. She says: “Breaking up from a long-term partner is never easy, even if it is your choice. There are lots of adjustments to be made and it takes some time to get used to being single again. For some it can be an extremely traumatic and scary process, and one that paralyses us from being able to function well in daily life. This can be difficult if we have jobs to do or children to care, for so it’s important to have some coping mechanisms to help you deal with the rollercoaster of a break-up.”

So how can her app help?

“It is designed to help support you through the early days of separation and to give you techniques to help with both the heartbreak and the practical side of being single again. For many of my clients, this is their first time being single in many years and that thought alone is extremely daunting. My new app is there to support you 24/7. It shows you how to help yourself move through your break-up and out the other side.”

Seven Steps to a Better Break-Up guides you with a series of videos and text designed to arm you with coping tools. These include creating a strong support team, how to cope with negative emotions so you can still function day to day, and techniques to help with heart break and conflict with your ex.
This advice can also be useful in helping managers understand and support employees who are struggling to cope with their emotions in the workplace.
With this in mind, I interviewed Sara about what advice she would have to offer.

Sara, you deal with relationship problems on a daily basis. How would you advise managers to handle staff relationships?

“Firstly, be clear on what your company policy is as many have strict guidelines on dating colleagues. Then be empathetic, as your staff will react better to what you have to say if they think you understand their feelings. Listen carefully and understand that often hearts will rule heads. Sometimes you will need to spell out the pros and cons of dating someone you work with. You may need to delicately explain that there may be negative consequences if it ends badly. Set clear boundaries for them in the workplace so you protect the rest of the team from any awkwardness and also prevent any resentment building.”

And what advice would you give to a manager involved with her colleague?

“My advice is to keep PDAs and any inappropriate behaviour out of the office. Also of importance is to not favour their partner. Keep all correspondence professional, and give careful consideration to what would happen if the relationship did come to an end before you get too deeply involved.”

What if they are dating a junior staff member?

“It would be the manager’s job to provide clarity on the situation from an unemotional point of view – to give them a realistic overview of the pros and cons of their relationship and the impact both on the team and on their career if it all went wrong. Managers also need to be aware that it could damage their reputation and upset others in the workplace. It could breed resentment from other workers. In which case, it is wise to avoid favouritism, to keep professional at all times within the workplace, and to be careful if socialising with work colleagues.”

So how would you advise women how to deal with working with an ex?

“Ensure you’re professional at all times and don’t show emotion about your ex at work. Don’t discuss personal details with colleagues, save this for your friends outside of work. Leave any ongoing issues at home. Be respectful and don’t engage in any personal conversation in the workplace.”

How would you advise our readers on coping if they’re struggling to deal with a divorce or nasty split in general (one that does not involve a work romance)?

“Make sure they have someone outside of work to talk to so that they can deal with their emotions and address any negative feelings outside of the workplace so that they feel stronger to come to work. A positive friend or family member would be key but it is also to involve a professional, such as a coach or even a therapist if needed. It is okay to cry and is an essential part of the healing process but this is best done out of the workplace. I work with clients to ensure they have the coping skills to manage their negative emotions in time outside of work so that they can be stronger when they need to be at work.

Build a strong support team, with good legal and financial advisors to hand. You will find that knowledge about your situation and an understanding of any changes to your future lifestyle will reduce the pressure and overwhelm of a divorce or split. 

Even if you don’t use them, just having them there and their number in your phone will reduce your stress. It is also important to try to exercise, as this will help you to keep a strong mind. Don’t make rash decisions or act on impulse – allow yourself a little longer to work on things. If you feel emotional, then take a break. It’s a good idea to get some fresh air or a change of scenery. Take some alone time, if needed.

“Where appropriate, let your boss know that you are going through a tough time at home as, whilst you do not want to discuss details with them, it will give them an understanding if your work appears to suffer at times. They may be more supportive than you think."


Seven Steps To A Better Break-Up is free to download from iTunes. Additional exercises and tools are £4.99. For more information about Sara’s coaching, visit www.saradavison.com. Or email Sara at sara@saradavison.com




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