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Handling an Office Breakup

I’m going through a separation. Not my marriage, mind you; my job. Like the break-up of any magnitude, the moment it happens is agonizing.

You know how it goes—there is the moment of shock, followed by the inability to breathe.

Across the table, your boss is staring at you and his lips are moving in word-like patterns, but you don’t hear a thing. Instead, you’re rooting around in your head, grasping for the executive equivalent of ”You can’t break up with me, I’M breaking up with YOU.”

Instead of delivering the verbal uppercut of a lifetime and turning on my heel, there I sat with a wadded tissue in one hand, a red nose, and barely enough air in my lungs to mutter, “This really sucks.” How profound. I’m a marketer, for God’s sake!

Emotional cognizance didn’t return until I left the scene of my breakup and my ego recoiled. Only then did dozens of colorful come-backs flood my pounding head. None of them were ladylike, considerate or politically correct. But God, they were witty, scathing, and cathartic.

“Taste your words before you speak them.”

That’s my mother-in-law’s mantra, which warns “if they’re bitter, swallow them.” I was bruised, yes, but bitter? Come on, who has time for that? Sure, this is painful. Humiliating at moments. I was heartbroken to leave colleagues and employees behind, and I loathe unfinished business.  

Truth be told, the break-up happened for all the right reasons. I’m taking this gift of time and delicious freedom to choose my next adventure. In case you’re wondering, that’s not just happy talk. It’s a truth at the core of my being. It makes me resilient and passionate.   

So as for all of those things I could have, should have, or would have said? As the gang on Seinfeld say, “it’s in the vault.” I shared a few choice rants with my best friend and scribbled the rest in my notebook to keep my head straight.

My advice for when you find yourself on the receiving end of an office break-up? No uppercuts. No F-bombs. Less is more when you’re in an emotionally-charged situation. Think of my mother-in-law and taste your words, not only in the moment of truth but in the hours and days to follow.

When all else fails, feel free to borrow: “This really sucks.”