Boardroom breakups

How to cope when you’re working with your ex.

If you’re in the throes of the split but can’t escape your job or him, here’s how to make it all a bit more manageable…

Annabella, 25, had a strict “no dating coworkers” policy, but after Tom, 28, pursued her for months, she gave in and the pair started sharing sexy sleepovers. But six weeks later, Tom wanted to end it. “He said it was too intense and he wasn’t ready,” says Annabella. Shocked and hurt, she couldn’t avoid contact with the guy who’d just trodden all over her heart. Instead, she had to see him eight hours a day, five days a week. Although Annabella describes her situation as “horrendous”, it’s not uncommon: one in five people meet their partners at work, and 48 percent of women admit sleeping with a colleague. Here’s what to do if your office romance doesn’t survive.

Face up to it

Some companies don’t look kindly on relationships in the workplace, so check the policy before ’fessing up. If your relationship was public knowledge, it’s a good idea to let your immediate manager and close colleagues know about the split, says psychologist Meredith Fuller. “By taking control, you’ll encourage people to see you are managing it. Say, ‘We’ve decided not to continue our relationship, but we’re still good friends.’”

However, make sure you avoid a blow-by-blow account of its demise. And if you’re worried about gossip, enlist your closest office buddy to be your PR machine. When people fish for details, ask your friend to tell them you’re doing just fine, thanks.

Present a united front

It’s important you and your ex remain professional, says Fuller. If there are projects you’re both assigned to, discuss how you’ll make them work. “Try to look after each other – neither of you want your breakup to impact your careers,” says Fuller. And if you really can’t work with him? See if your manager can temporarily assign you elsewhere while you clear your head.

Keep emotions out of the office

On those inevitable days when you want to wallow in misery à la Bridget Jones, Fuller says it’s worth letting your colleagues know you’re feeling fragile. Try escaping outside for some fresh air, especially if you need to cry. “It’s OK to have a big sob, but don’t cry in the office. People will feel really uncomfortable.” Fuller says two weeks of full-on weeping is normal, but if you find you’re not improving beyond that, perhaps you need to speak to a counsellor for more support. Just because your relationship is over, that doesn’t mean your career should follow suit.