Last Updated Jul 11, 2011 9:48 AM EDT
1. Act Early As with any relationship, staying in a sinking ship until it's Titanic-time is not a great idea. But when you're talking about an office relationship, it's crucial to break ties while they can still be broken relatively amicably. It probably won't be as difficult as you think: "Once in a while an office romance gone wrong makes headlines, but the ones that make headlines are the exception, not the rule," says Stephanie Losee, author of Office Mate: Your Employee Handbook for Romance on the Job.
2. Pick A Neutral Spot To Break Up When I covered How To Make An Office Romance Work, I advised keeping the romance out of the office. You should do the same for the breakup, says Losee. Nobody needs to hear or see details of your sad tale, just as they didn't need to see your relationship in its happier days.
3. Be Compassionate With a normal breakup, you can switch to a different local bar or grocery store -- whatever you need to do to avoid running into the person. But if you're going to continue working at the same office, you have to be extra careful to try to stay friendly or at least civil. "It's like going to parties with someone you used to date in your social circle," notes Losee.
4. Take More Time To Hash It Out So you tried to end things with a clean break, but what if your ex is bringing things up again at work? Make time for them with an after work drink so they can vent, express their feelings, and have some closure, says Losee: "Say that you're sorry that things didn't work out between you, but you need to make the people around you comfortable now that you're no longer a couple."
5. Keep Your Composure If after you've given your ex a chance to vent and work through your new neutral relationship, he or she is still acting out, don't react. "The only behavior you can control is your own. So conduct yourself with dignity and hold your head up. The rest of your office gang will probably follow your lead, and if your ex doesn't, then he or she looks like a jackass, frankly," says Losee.
6. Last Resort: Involve HR HR should be the last step, but it may be a necessary one if you can't do your job effectively, says Losee (note: this obviously isn't a good idea if work relationships are strictly forbidden at your company). "But try my other suggestions first because the #1 rule of being a good employee is to be a low-maintenance employee, and HR really doesn't like to get involved in tussles between employees," Losee says.