To Tell or Not to Tell – That is the Question, When Discussing Your Divorce at Work

You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, co-workers become friends, and many other colleagues can - sense when you are “off your game”. Divorce affects every aspect of your life, including work; so, is it a good idea to tell anyone at work about your divorce?

Well, the answer is both yes and no. Divorce is such a personal issue, and if you normally share your personal life at work, it can be very difficult to keep your divorce a secret. Well meaning, and even caring colleagues will more than likely ask the traditional Monday morning question, “how was your weekend”? For someone going through a divorce, this can set off all the emotional warning signals; you may struggle with how to even respond, or you might say something that you really don’t want to share, or your facial expressions may even “speak” for you!

So, if you need to “tell”, then who do you tell, when should you tell, and how much do you tell? Let’s first start with your manager. If your work schedule may be affected by meeting with lawyers, a divorce coach, therapists, or dealing with child care related issues, you really don’t have a choice than to let your manager know, even if you have flexibility in your schedule. It’s just not a good idea to lie or repeatedly use the excuse, “personal reasons” when you need to take time away from your job. So… yes, you should tell your manager and if you decide that they will be the only one you tell, let them know just that. Ask for privacy and also ask them to speak with you directly if they feel there is any reason you’re not fulfilling your responsibilities.

If you can still go in do your job, without needing to change your schedule and keep your emotions in check, then, maybe it’s better not to say anything at all, at least in the beginning stages. It will be difficult to keep this to yourself, as you go through changes in your life, if you deal with the public and live in the community, or some of your colleagues are also friends.

Now, what about co-workers, this is where you need to make the decision, to tell or not to tell. It’s my professional opinion that you keep this group to a minimum; only your manager, and trusted confidants. We all know how the rumor mill at work, gossip spreads like wildfire and the last thing you want at your job is to have to deal with such a personal issue, having people ask questions and keep you from getting your job done. It’s also really nice to use work as a distraction from the craziness of uncoupling.

Depending on the type of position you have, more people may need to know. Here are some examples:

  • If you have a fixed schedule and the divorce will disrupt your schedule –you may need to call on co-workers to cover your shift;

  • If you have an assistant who may field calls from your spouse, or legal team;

  • If you are in a domestic abuse situation and you or others might be a risk

If the rumor or gossip of the pending divorce gets out, confront both the potential source and those spreading the information. Be honest, and ask for privacy. This should allow you to shut it down; if you need to take someone aside, do it and let them know this is a difficult time for you and your family and you don’t want it discussed. Confrontation isn’t fun, but, it most cases it’s the fastest and easiest way to stop the conversation.

The worst possible action that you can take is to engage in conversations about your ex, the divorce and everything in between; it’s not the right place to do it. If you need support at work, confide in a colleague and talk only during breaks or lunch. Don’t use a corporate email to discuss the situation and certainly don’t work on your divorce during the time you should be working. Keep your personal life separated from the time you should be working. The last thing you need is to lose your job.

You probably will get some questions about how things are going, keep the answers light, to the point and if it’s been a difficult time, a response like one of these below are probably best:

  • “It’s crummy, the process is terrible, but I’ll get though it”

  • “It’s been difficult, I feel bad for my kids, but it’s nice to come to work where I can just focus on my job”

  • “There are good days and bad, counting the days until it’s all over and I can move on”

  • “Just trying to stay focused on my job, it’s been great to come in here and be distracted from the nonsense that’s going on”

These types of statements let people know it’s been a tough time for you, but, they don’t create more questions, they show that you are in control -- even though the situation may not be. It’s always good to have an answer like these in your pocket, because when caught off guard, you can sometimes go down an emotional path that you wish you had not.

Especially in the beginning, keep your divorce to yourself, don’t say a lot and if you need to share keep your inner circle of trusted colleagues small and the information to a minimum.

Kerry is a Certified Divorce Coach and the Founder of

Divorce Response Team© 2017

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