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How to Tell Your Coworkers You Are Getting a Divorce

Divorce is an experience that is likely to impact all parts of your life. One of the more difficult dynamics is how it can affect your professional life. A divorce can be very emotionally and mentally taxing, and in many cases it can decrease your performance at work. Regardless of your specific circumstances, there are some tasks related to your divorce that will have to be completed during normal business hours which may require you to take time away from work. Depending on your situation, you may or may not feel the need to discuss your divorce with your boss, coworkers, or other people within your professional life. Here are a few things to consider when making this decision.

Telling Your Supervisor and Co-Workers

You know the dynamics of your workplace and your relationship with your direct supervisor better than anyone. Every situation is different, but for a majority of people, it’s likely that the best choice is to tell your supervisor that you are going through a divorce because of the possible impact on your performance, demeanor, and schedule. Moreover, you may need to leave work early to meet with an attorney, therapist, or real estate agent. Additionally, if you have children, the custody arrangement may impact your work schedule. Though this is the right path for most, it is not the best path for all.

If you do not find your divorce distracting while at work and will have limited impact on your schedule, you are already on unstable footing with your employer, or if you feel that your supervisor may be less than sympathetic to your situation, it may be best to avoid telling your supervisor what is going on in your personal life. While a good supervisor and employer should support their employees during their times of need, it is not always assumed that this will be the case. If you feel that you can manage the impact on your professional life and that there is no benefit to discussing this with your supervisor, you are not required to do so.

The most important factor when determining whether to have this conversation with your boss or not depends on how you are handling the divorce mentally and how it will impact your schedule. If your divorce is keeping you from performing at the same level or your schedule is preventing you from putting in the same amount of effort, having this discussion with your boss may be a wise choice, especially if you have a good working relationship. Your supervisor is likely to notice a drop in performance, and if they are unaware of the fact that you’re going through a divorce, they may come to their own conclusions.

It is also possible that your supervisor will confront you unexpectedly to see if there are issues at home if they feel your performance is dropping. Everyone is different but most people will find that it’s easier to have this discussion on your own terms, and in order to do that, you will need to think about how you want this conversation to go and bring it up with your boss before they ask if something is going on in your personal life.

When discussing your divorce with your supervisor, you determine the level of detail shared. In most cases it’s best to not provide details. Although you do need to inform your supervisor, you should keep the conversation short, professional, and request that your supervisor keep the information confidential. If you feel the need to share more with your supervisor due to your personal relationship, it’s probably best to get as far into your divorce, or completely through your divorce before you share extensive details. Going through a divorce brings out a lot of emotions which can lead to oversharing details that you may regret sharing later on.

Telling Your Co-Workers

You should consider telling your co-workers about your divorce on an as needed basis. Your co-workers might observe that you are not wearing a wedding ring or they might hear that you are getting a divorce through social media or other channels. Working in close proximity to others can make the conversation difficult to avoid. If you decide to tell your co-workers that you are getting a divorce, it is best to keep the conversation short and professional. Providing details might feel necessary at the time, but these details could needlessly hamper your professional development in the future. Consider asking your co-workers to respect your privacy during this time and directly asking that your co-workers keep this information to themselves.

Telling Your HR Department

A divorce may also cause you to have to make changes to your tax status and or health insurance plan(s). Typically these items are handled by your Human Resources (HR) department. Talking to your HR department is slightly different than talking to your boss or coworkers about your divorce. There is a reasonable expectation that your HR department personnel will not discuss matters with other employees. It depends on the size and structure of your employer, but in general this is the case. While you do not have to discuss the reasons for changing your tax status or need for health insurance with your HR department, you should consider whether you want to provide this information or not beforehand. If you chose not to, they may make assumptions. If you would prefer this situation to providing some level of detail, that is perfectly okay. If you do describe what is going on, again, it’s best to keep the conversation short and to the point without providing specifics.

There is a lot to consider professionally when going through a divorce, setting some time aside to think specifically about how you want to handle this and coming up with a game plan ahead of time can have a major impact on how you are viewed professionally as you go through one of life's biggest challenges.

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