By Laura Lifshitz
If you work in an office, you know how gossipy it gets. The office is its own microcosm with rules and a life all its own. People like to mind others’ business, and often, share it. What else is there to do when you’re in cubicle central? You could stay quiet but … many don’t.
And at the same time, our coworkers often see us at our best and worst, and when you’re getting a divorce there is a big chance you will be on your “worst,” on quite a few occasions. You can put on a happy face as much as possible and put your nose to the grindstone at work, but you’ll definitely have a few grouchy days. You may need to step into the bathroom, find a stall and cry for a few minutes. That’s normal.
So, how do you keep your divorce and life heartaches out of the office gossip while you’re going through the process? It’s not easy, but here are a few tips to keep in mind so you’re not the hot topic at the water cooler. You really don’t want a bunch of people putting in their two cents about your disintegrating marriage or you at work. It can cloud your own judgment or, spoil your reputation.
1. Say Nothing & Just Say You’re Dealing with a Family Matter
If you keep your cards close, simply don’t tell anyone you’re going through a divorce until it’s finalized. Even then, you don’t have to rush to the office to share the details. If you need to take a day off or two for court or legal purposes regarding the divorce, you can share with your boss it’s simply a family matter. If you trust your boss, you can tell your boss and ask for your boss to share it with no one else.
Technically if you have a court date, your boss doesn’t need to know it’s a family issue at all, or divorce specifically.
If your workplace isn’t the most kind or is too drama filled, you may want to be mum’s the word for quite a long time, as hard as it is.
In that case …
2. Find a Friend to Vent to on Lunch
If you can’t say a word or choose not to at work, make a friend or two designated contacts to call when you’re on lunch or on your way home/to work. This way, you’ll have a good venting platform and be able to keep it together at work as much as possible.
3. Pick One Trusted Coworker to Talk to
If there is a coworker you really like and trust, pick that person to be your confidant. This way if word gets out, you know the source! Keep in mind you still may want to keep some dirty details very private. There is no need to blast out alimony or child support numbers, or gruesome details of an affair. Trust me — that could end up backfiring in your face.
4. Pick an Outside Lunch Spot — or Take a Walk
When the stress of the divorce builds up and you feel like you’re ready to explode in the middle of your work day, don’t cry at that desk! Oh no, no, no. It will only call attention to you and your situation and create gossip galore.
Instead, go outside and take a walk. Even if you walk every day in the bitter cold, people will just think you’re working on your health or summer body. They won’t know it’s you seeking a release from the stress of your broken marriage.
Also, if in the past you used to lunch on-site, maybe you take your lunch outside the building. That could be your hour during the day to “be you” with all the emotions that divorce brings.
5. Nod & Smile at Unwanted Advice
Everyone knows someone’s uncle’s cousin who got a divorce — or that person got a divorce and suddenly, this person has so much advice for you it’s unreal.
Instead of debating with someone the validity of his or her advice or sharing what you plan to do, just nod, smile and take a deep breath. You don’t have to follow any unsolicited advice. At the same time, you don’t want to insult a coworker. So, just say something like:
Thank you for sharing your experience
I appreciate your insight
If someone asks you what you plan to do about let’s say, child custody or your agreement, you could say:
I’m figuring that out right now
I don’t feel comfortable sharing, but thank you for wanting to support me
It’s been worked on at this time
I’m keeping this a private matter
You don’t owe anyone the details of your life — all you need to do is be courteous, perform your job and be a respectful coworker.
6. Manage Tears Appropriately
You’re human and you might burst into tears… and not conveniently while on a walk or in the bathroom.
If someone asks, just say “I’m not myself today. Please excuse me.” Or, “My emotions got the best of me. I’m ok, but I’d rather not discuss.”
Or, you could grab that one trusted coworker if you feel like, and grab coffee for a few minutes to get yourself together.
Getting a divorce is a life-altering event. It is not always easy to keep your cool. Life is messy and so is divorce. Just do your best, do your job, and do your all to avoid being the latest office gossip.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.