The busy quintessential female professional, business woman, female entrepreneur or woman of faith often feels constrained to wear a mask in order to hide her vulnerabilities and maintain an appearance of strength and focus in the professional world, market place or ministry in which she finds herself.
All over the world, women who are at the top of their game, women just like you, who have gone through or are going through a divorce or a relationship breakup are doing their utmost to keep this trauma from affecting their working or business life and relationships. A breakup or divorce is such an emotional and personal upheaval, that often times even when you try to keep it together for the sake of normalcy and professionalism, it can still overflow into your work environment and then all of a sudden any semblance of control is lost and your very personal affair becomes a very public one.
Your work colleagues and direct reports become unsure how to relate with you and because with relationship break ups there are so many emotional unknowns, you may find yourself filled with dread, anger, confusion and grief, therefore become unable to handle workplace/professional relationships effectively.
The impact of the emotional distress in a professional setting can be devastating not only to you but for your colleagues especially in so far as it begins to affect your ability to carry out your professional responsibilities effectively and objectively.
If you are a boss of some sort, in that you are at the helm of affairs in your organisation, your relationship problems could potentially affect productivity not only yours but of your staff too. This is especially true if your staff and/or team are looking to you to provide strong leadership, support, mentorship and strategic direction but you are unable to do so because you are otherwise pre-occupied and distracted. You may find yourself present at work or in your business or ministry but unproductive – a term known as presenteesim. All in all, another form of distraction, and with distraction comes the increased incidence of business/workplace errors and slower burn rates i.e. productivity and low motivation, reduced profit margins and stunted creativity.
This could potentially result in damaged professional relationships on account of unsupported staff who feel dismissed, under developed and berated because some of the breakdown anger you are experiencing in your personal life is being projected upon them, they could also feel unheard and regularly deflated on account of being snapped at. In addition, the negative impact on profitability, potential job loss and even the affect on the organisation’s reputation cannot be ruled out.
It has been reported that in numerous instances, especially where a senior level personnel is going through a breakup, that team members often feel overburdened and lacking in confidence because their buffer who is their boss is emotionally unavailable; it is therefore not surprising how many buckle under this symbiotic pressure and resign or transfer out of a department, or simply take extended absences thereby causing business disruptions.
Damaged work/professional relationships are a negative by-product of divorce or relationship breakdowns that often get overlooked. What we often fail to take into account is that work relationships can be much more fragile than other types of relationships. The workplace can be a constant battle of egos, jockeying for position, and the desire to advance. Small slights that might be ignored in other settings can ruffle someone’s feathers at work.
Perhaps you lash out in erratic anger or frustration at your colleagues because of what is going on in your personal life, a legal document needs to be signed, a financial obligation needs to be rejigged, maybe your children are acting up at school, maybe the sale of the family property has fallen through, maybe your ex is being unreasonable or you just feel overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of your new reality. Whatever the reason for the lash out in your professional setting, these slights are often unintentional. In fact, it’s common to be at a loss for the reason behind the downslide in the relationship. At work, many people remain on the lookout for any sign that someone is either on our side or against us. My advice would be that as much as you can work at repairing your workplace/professional/business relationship, after all you spend a sizeable proportion of your day at work or running your business or ministry and really can’t afford to burn bridges and/or allow your situation to affect someone else’s’ livelihood.
Follow these 7 steps to help you repair your workplace/professional relationships in a mature and professional manner:
- Attempt to identify the issue. Before addressing your colleague, team mate, coworker, or direct report spend some time attempting to identify the source of the problem. This can be challenging, especially if at first you were quite oblivious to the fact that your actions/ behaviour may have contributed to the issue.
- The origin of the friction can be very subtle and difficult to identify. Your best clue can be the first time you noticed something was wrong. The incident likely started then or soon before. Do some self reflections, perhaps ask a trusted confidant for their opinion. Odds are that someone else understands and appreciates the other person’s perspective on the disagreement and can help to enlighten you in a non judgmental way.
- Schedule a meeting. Set up a time to meet with the other party. Avoid disclosing the specific reason. Also, be sure not to schedule the meeting too far in advance. Ideally, you could ask to meet in just a couple of hours. Giving the other person too much time to think and prepare isn’t best.
- State your purpose. Now that you’re face to face, tell them what you want. You might state that you’d like to work toward the best possible relationship in the future. If you’re confused about the reason for the rift, state that, too.
- Address the current state of the relationship. Describe how you see the current state of affairs. Avoid the urge to blame or judge. Just call it as you see it. It would be worthwhile to have this part of the conversation prepared ahead of time. Address your own shortcomings in the relationship as well.
- Be quiet. Prepare to get an earful. You called the meeting and stated your perspective. You know that the other person is already annoyed with you. Expect the response to be harsh.
- Seek to understand. Restate what you just heard to ensure that you understand clearly. Ask questions if necessary. You may have the urge to retaliate after what you just heard. Suppress that impulse. You can make a bad situation even worse.
- Solve the issue together. Now that you both have your cards on the table, agree on the type of relationship you’d both like to have. Find a solution together that will get you there, do not be too big to apologise where it is needed. The relationship might still be fragile, but it’s on the way to improvement. The possibility to ultimately have a better working relationship than ever now exists.
What if you address the issue and the other party claims that everything is fine? Avoid disagreeing. Tell them that you must be mistaken and look forward to everything returning to normal. Ask them to have lunch with you tomorrow. Hopefully, that will resolve the challenge.
Workplace relationships are especially sensitive and fragile. Many people seek validation at work, so any indication of being snubbed, ignored, or insulted is magnified. It is understandable that as you go through your breakup, you may become insular but try your best to be more mindful at work or in your professional environment addressing issues swiftly and directly as they arise will often alleviate the challenge quickly, as many disagreements at work are only misunderstandings.
Avoid allowing the situation to fester. Consider what caused the rift and schedule a meeting. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner both of you can move on and mend your relationship.
Whatever you do, take the process in your stride, it is all part of your Believe and Live Again recovery, bounce back and transition journey from being a “we” to becoming a “me”.
If you would like to have an informal chat about it, don't hesitate to get in touch on: +44 208 938 3672 and myself or a member of my team will gladly schedule a Complimentary Believe and Live Again Coaching Discovery session or a 30 minute "Forgive and Let Go" consultation and together, we could be embarking upon the Believe and Live Again 5 R's journey to heal your heart, outgrow your challenges and let go of the past so that your glorious future can finally emerge.
Once again, I invite you to contact me or schedule a time to talk, call: +44 (0) 208 938 3672 (24 hours) or click on the pink "Contact" at the bottom right hand side of this page and this will take you into my "Let's Talk" contact form. Kindly complete the form and you will get a call back.
In the meantime, until next time, Keep Smiling, Keep Strong and Keep Believing.
Best Wishes and God's Blessings
Zina Arinze helps female professionals, business women, entrepreneurs and women of faith, swiftly recover from the grief, trauma and stigma of divorce, separation or relationship breakdown by giving them clarity for their radiant future so that they are able to transition their mindsets from “we” to “me”, reconnect to their positive of self, regain their feminine power and walk in the healing restorative power of God. A lawyer by training and armed with an MBA, Zina has over 15 years in IT Project Management Consultancy, Training and Capacity Building for both the Public and Private Sectors, she very passionate about building lasting relationships and encouraging the discovery, development and deployment of hidden talents.