Divorce can make the workplace a tense environment if you have to deal with a couple's marriage baggage on a regular basis. Fireworks may fly from time to time, and they won't be sparks of celebration. Unless a divorced couple has a non-confrontational relationship, harbors no anger or guilt, and doesn't get jealous of other relationships, a co-worker relationship might work. However, these are almost superhuman expectations. Difficult personal relationships can lead to a drama-filled workplace.
Since married couples have a history of good and bad times, it's not unusual for one or both to carry feelings of guilt, depression, anger, disappointment or rejection. These negative emotions can lead to confrontation in the workplace, forcing co-workers to take sides. A former spouse might lash out because his ex-wife made an error on the job, was late completing an assignment or refused to comply with his expectations. His frustration could be a result of displaced anger about something unrelated to the job that stems from the marriage. According to a business article in "The New York Times," when business owners divorce, employees -- much like children -- often pick sides. Playing the role of the peacemaker, without taking sides, can put you in an awkward position that makes your work day stressful.
A divorcee may try to prove to you or other employees that she's the better worker and is more qualified than her ex-husband. Just like competing for sole custody of a child, a divorcee could want sole custody of the workplace environment. Divorced couples make co-workers feel uncomfortable by expressing assertive behavior such as competing for clients, dominating meetings, instigating unnecessary assignments, demonstrating superiority or belittling each other publicly. If you're a supervisor, you need to reprimand their competitive behavior before it leads to departmental issues.
Tension and Division
If a married couple gets divorced as a result of improper conduct in the workplace, such as an affair or flirtatious behavior, it can lead to workplace division. Affected co-workers might leave the company, develop hatred for one of the ex-spouses or feel insecure about their job. "Split-ups have the potential to send tremors through an organization," according to a "Fortune" magazine article published on CNNMoney.com. Even if there wasn't any corrupt behavior, tension after co-workers divorce can make others feel uncomfortable, and force them to seek employment in other departments or divisions of the company.
Divorced couples might make it difficult for you and other workers to maintain a high level of productivity. Conflict between the two ex-lovers might also affect their personal work performance. Gossip, rude jokes, dirty looks, mean attitudes and hateful words detract from work goals, making it difficult to stay focused. Awkward tension might isolate a divorced spouse from the rest of the work group, leading to communication difficulties and contention. It's hard to maintain a unified, productive work force if employees are being pulled in different directions. Co-workers are likely to get frustrated with all the drama, resulting in low morale.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.