This is a great guest post by employment attorney Branigan Robertson, who offers divorce advice and coping mechanisms for those who might be letting the stress, sadness, anxiety, fear and anger of their divorce get in the way of their job.
Don’t Let Your Divorce Affect Your Job
by Branigan Robertson
“Get it together or take some time off.” If you’re dreading the possibility of hearing your boss say these words, you’re not alone. Divorce is a horrible thing to go through. It affects all aspects of your life, including your job. It’s scary to think about losing a partner and a job at the same time, but there are precautions you can take to lessen the impact that divorce has on your professional life.
It’s been documented that divorce reduces productivity in the workplace. One publication cites a study claiming that it costs employers on average $8,300 per divorcing employee. As an employment lawyer, I know that this is something that concerns employers because they want focused employees, not ones that are constantly missing workdays because of court hearings and mediation. Divorce is personal, but it can spill over into other parts of your life. It may come easier for some people to separate their personal and professional life, but to others it all becomes jumbled into a big mess. Let’s explore the divorced life and what you could do to save your career.
What Interruptions Would You Likely Be Facing at Work?
Besides the complications that could come from child custody, child support and/or spousal support, there are other things that come along with the divorce territory. Especially at your job.
- Bad Days. It’s inevitable that you will have bad days during and after your divorce is finalized. This might cause you to take quite a few days off work or become unfocused in your tasks.
- Letting the **** hit the fan. Other days, you’ll want to scream at your co-workers, boss, and anyone else who says hi to you. You’ll want to curse at your ex and cry in your car.
- Wage Garnishment. If a court orders that you pay child support, a wage garnishment may be issued to your employer. It instructs your employer how much money to pay the other parent in child support. In many situations, you can come to an agreement with the other parent to avoid a garnishment or wage assessment from being issued. This would “stay” the court order. This is something you may want to explore heavily to head off an inconvenience to your employer.
- The talk with the boss. If you’re letting your emotions affect your work, you’ll likely hear from the boss. They’ll wonder what’s going on with you and question your commitment to the company.
6 Tips to Adjust Your Work Life
It’s scary to think that you might be unable to control your emotions and actions at work. There are things you can make note of to lessen the impact of your divorce on your work.
1. Be honest, but discreet with your boss or supervisor. You don’t have to make your divorce a public affair, but it’s important to be truthful with your boss if you anticipate some bad days ahead. First, decide what you’re going to say to your boss. The less, the better. You only need to tell them what they need to, to understand the change you’re going through.
2. Use your support system outside of work. It’s okay if you have friends at the office, but make sure that you’re getting the support from them outside of work hours. Besides co-worker friends, have other sources of support as well. It’s a tough balance, but it’s better to make sure you have a support system that is separate from your work life too.
3. Make time for mental breaks. During those times that you lose focus at work, you should have a plan B for your day. Take those 10 minute breaks and go for a walk or enjoy a nice cup of coffee (or tea). Watch a funny YouTube video or do something simple as washing your face with refreshingly cold water.
4. Minimize emotional triggers. Those triggers may be phone calls, texts, and emails from your ex. This is especially true when your ex-spouse committed infidelity. While at work, avoid getting emotionally triggered. Stay on track when you’re on the company clock. You don’t want to give your employer a reason to write you up.
5. Create a positive workspace. When you’re in this vulnerable mentality, it might feel like your life is upside down. You can help yourself by creating a workspace that makes you feel happier and calmer. That might include adding photos of your children or sticky notes with your favorite quotes or bible verses. Consider changing up your whole desk environment. Change your screen saver, get a new pen holder, use sticky notes to remind you to stay focused. Lastly, clean up your space. A cluttered desk will only add to the frustrations you may feel.
6. Maintain your health. Did you know that lack of vitamin D and/or Magnesium can contribute to depression? You might have some deficiencies when you stop going out to get some sun, eating healthily, or stopping your exercise routine. Make sure you’re eating correctly and getting exercise. You’ll be surprised how much these things can affect your mood and ability to think. Also, staying well-hydrated will help you stay alert better than coffee!
Only you know what will work best for you, so just give it a try. Don’t hold back on deviating from your old, routine lifestyle. You’re facing a new chapter and you have the choice of making it a better one.
Don’t Fall Apart – The Law Doesn’t Protect Your Job
This is going to be a stressful time, but just keep looking forward. It’s going to be okay, as long as you’re trying your best to help yourself. Keeping your job will help you be independent and happy again. You’ll probably think that getting rid of the stresses of work will help you get better, but don’t quit your job. It will only be more stressful when you can’t pay your bills without income. In addition, if the divorce has you paying child support or alimony, you’ll fall behind on these payments. Quitting your job doesn’t excuse you from paying what a court has ordered you to pay.
If you let your negative emotions from the divorce take over your life and spill into your workplace, you’ll just be giving your bosses a reason for termination. Unfortunately, there isn’t any employment law protecting people’s jobs if they are going through a divorce. So, at least in most states, your employer can fire you if you let your private life spill into and interfere with your work life. So it’s important to compartmentalize your divorce as much as possible.
Branigan Robertson is an employment attorney in Orange County, California. He is a member of the California Bar, California Employment Lawyers Association, and the National Employment Lawyers Association. He exclusively represents employees in lawsuits against employers and focuses his practice on wrongful termination, whistleblower, and harassment cases. Mr. Robertson attended Chapman University School of Law and was President of the Employment Law Society.