Career

The Dos And Don’ts Of Working With An Ex

Everyone has a crush on someone from work at sometime in his or her life, and sometimes it can develop into something a little more serious.

According to a survey of 4,000 employees, nearly 40% of people have dated a co-worker at some stage. With 30% of those relationships resulting in wedding bells, it’s no wonder so many people are looking to lock-down their colleague crush.

But, if a work relationship doesn’t end in holy matrimony then it usually just ends, and it’s not like we weren’t warned. We’re told that dating our work mates is a bad move. The repercussions can be awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable, but love can be a tricky thing, and hard to just walk away from.

So, you decided to make your move and succeed. You’ve dated, made memories with and now broken up with your co-worker. Your work life may seem much like your previous relationship – doomed – but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are our dos and don’ts to survive working with your ex.

DO: Set boundaries

This is a private conversation to have with your ex before heading back into work (after all, you want to make this transition as smooth as possible).

If you ended on good terms, this conversation will be super easy and you will be able to reach a mutual understanding.

But if the breakup was messy or complicated it can be difficult. Regardless, try reaching a joint decision on what the boundaries at work should be.

It may be as simple as deciding not to sit together at lunch, or moving desks if it spares each other some distress and speeds up the healing time.

DON’T: Socialise

We aren’t saying to flat-out ignore your ex or pretend they’re non-existent, but hanging out in social situations outside of work may blur the lines as to what your newfound ‘friendship’ entails.

It’s great to be pleasant, smile and say ‘hi’ in passing, but getting post-work drinks may come with complications of their own. Avoid any alcohol-fuelled decision-making and keep the interactions to inside the office walls.

DO: Keep yourself busy

Breakups suck, especially if you weren’t the one to end things. Having your ex across the room doesn’t exactly help the cause, so be sure to keep your mind occupied. After all, you don’t want to be known as the guy who cries alone in the bathroom during their lunch break, do you?

Ask your boss for a new client, or maybe try to reach a new sales goal. Any productive way to occupy your mind at work will help hugely. Be sure to adapt this to your home life as well: find new productive ways to stay happy and healthy.

DON’T: Try and win the breakup

More often than not, one person deals with the breakup better than the other – whether it is the first one to find a new partner, or alternatively the one who has actually been showering, maintaining their personal hygiene, continuing to function as a normal human being…

Regardless, it’s not cool to brag. So maybe skip discussing the dates you’ve been on at the lunch table, and try not to show your ex just how well you are coping without them.

DO: Ask for help

If you’re struggling, there is no shame in asking for help. Whether it is a mediator, a mental health day or even just someone to talk to, there are people hired to help so be sure to utilise them. The dudes in HR are most concerned about your health and ability to continue to complete your job, so don’t be scare to ask for a helping hand.

DON’T: Ask people to choose sides

It’s important to be respectful, and making your colleagues choose sides is not a respectful way of approaching things.

If your ex is sitting down with your shared group of friends, be polite and ask to join. Or alternatively just skip it, and eat your desk today to keep the peace. If the tables were turned you wouldn’t like to be the one in isolation, it sucks so don’t be a douche.

The most important thing is to remember that the only sure fire way to get over the awkwardness is time. It will pass, and either you and your ex will get to a point where you can be friends, or it will be so long ago that neither of you can even remember why you were upset. But maybe next time it’d be smart to be a bit more careful with who you date, to save the future awkwardness.


Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.