Career

Double Jeopardy - Protecting Your Career During Separation & Divorce

You believed your marriage would outlast your career, but now must so carefully manage your career to transition yourself beyond the marriage, through separation and divorce.

You believed your marriage would outlast your career, but now must so carefully manage your career while transitioning through separation and divorce. The fog and fatigue of breaking up, and all that goes with it, either results in overthinking whether to “let work know”, or acting in haste and blurting out your news to get it out of the way.

Frankly, harm is not typically caused by choosing to “let work know” or not; it is the lack of follow-up plan that exposes your employment to the same fate as the marriage. So, what can you do to protect end-of-marriage from becoming end-of-job (and worse, beginning of job search)? Before answering that, let’s define the motivation/risk:

The average cost of getting divorced varies from state to state, the majority have averages hovering above $10,000.

Home Insider, 2020.

Surveyed Canadian lawyers reported charging an average of $1,770 in total fees for uncontested divorce cases and $15,300 for contested divorce cases.

Divorce, Separation and Uncoupling in Canada, 2016.

The choice you are about to make, to disclose or not, is paired with a behavioral commitment. That behavioral commitment can be key to i) continuity of employment; and, ii) performance-based bonuses — both of which can help offset the associated costs of divorce.

Here are your four options when considering disclosing separation and divorce at work:

  • Keeping your separation and divorce secret
  • Keeping your separation and divorce private
  • Partial disclosure of separation and divorce
  • Full disclosure of separation and divorce
Keeping your separation and divorce secret

This is a commitment to maintaining the demeanor / tone / behaviors and quality of work that you are typically known for so not to raise suspicion that something is terribly wrong away from work.

Key considerations:

  • Given your social/community circles can this remain secret?
  • Do you have the capacity and resiliency to sustain the commitment required so not to betray your secret?
  • Have you arranged, engaged and/or intensified supports such as a therapist, life coach, spiritual guide, and/or are you exercising a self-care regime to process the separation and divorce?
Keeping your separation and divorce private

This is a commitment to the firmest of boundaries that occurs when your separation and divorce is discovered but not disclosed. Further to maintaining the demeanor / tone / behaviors and quality of work that you are typically known for, you do not disclose any details of your separation and divorce, perhaps not even the status, to any colleague.

Key considerations:

  • Can you stop yourself from sharing with the best of your colleagues? If not, the commodity of your trust could become a divisive workplace issue and have a net negative effect with some colleagues.
  • Will you have the discipline to hold the line about the privacy of this matter even if presented with a salacious rumor about yourself or your spouse?
  • Are you prepared in advance to sensitively push back on others at work that encroach on this boundary?
  • Have you developed a strategy to bridge relationships with those colleagues that assert feeling personally hurt you had not disclosed to them?
  • Have you arranged trusted and skilled support to process challenges to your personal-life boundary?
Partial disclosure of separation and divorce

A partial disclosure at work suggests that separation and divorce will remain secret from an individual or group at work; therefore, this strategy also demands a commitment to maintaining the demeanor / tone / behaviors and quality of work that you are typically known for. Furthermore, you trust the party you are disclosing to, and that the disclosure will be held in confidence.

Key considerations:

  • Have you prepared in advance to graciously navigate a betrayal?
  • For any disclosure discussion, are you prepared to propose some ground rules? (e.g. “I won’t be commenting about my spouse or children if asked about my separation & divorce.”)
  • Have you prepared a rationale to explain why you want your news limited to only a partial disclosure, and why you earnestly hope your request will be supported?
  • Are you prepared in advance to sensitively push back on this trusted party upon encroachment of this boundary?
  • If there is a betrayal, have you developed a strategy to bridge relationships with those colleagues that assert feeling personally hurt that you had not disclosed to them directly?
Full disclosure of separation and divorce

Most often, when full disclosure occurs, it is an unintended result of being overwhelmed and a sign that perhaps you lack external support. Few people strategically choose the full disclosure option. The key considerations in this section reflect some of the issues or experiences that have arisen for people that fully disclosed without much thought.

Key considerations:

  • Have you assessed that no party (customers / vendors / colleagues) will be manipulative upon hearing your news?
  • About your separation and divorce, do you have the emotional maturity to only discuss your experience without divulging about your spouse?
  • Are you prepared to listen to the separation and divorce experiences of others, and to graciously limit that sharing when you lack emotional bandwidth?
  • Do you have a strategy to engage your work community equally about your separation and divorce so that it does not become divisive?
  • Have you pre-planned under what circumstances you would change your approach from full disclosure to a more restricted level of disclosure moving forward?
  • Have you arranged trusted and skilled support to process the unexpected so you do not have the burden of identifying a resource when support is needed?

Like any plan, managing your career during separation and divorce never unfolds 100% as planned. Hopefully the considerations above support you to strategically choose a course of action, more aware of what may follow. Separation and divorce may in fact be the lowest point of your life yet require you to be most deliberate, gracious, and prepared in order to protect your career from harm, by you.

Seek and engage the necessary supports in effort to sustain income continuity and maximize potential performance bonuses so that beyond marriage you can have the healthiest career possible.

Seeking separation and divorce support for yourself or staff? Click the link below:

Stature | Managing Career During Separation & Divorce (staturecompany.com)

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