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What to do if a divorcing employee sours the workplace | Lisa Collins Werner

·2 min read

We all know that divorce can be devastating to the individuals and family experiencing it, but what are the ripple effects that it causes in the workplace?

With 50 percent of initial marriages ending in divorce in the United States, the effect of someone else’s divorce is bound to touch businesses and employees on a regular basis. The consequences are different for the employer, co-workers and the divorcing employee.

Divorcing employees can spend long periods away from work in meetings with their attorneys during regular business hours. For contested divorces, employees spend additional time preparing for and participating in depositions and mediation as well as additional hours in court.

These absences cause stress to the employer due to lack of productivity and stress for the employee, who may fear that they could be fired.

A divorcing employee may have higher than normal absenteeism, not just due to handling legal matters, but for employee illness due to depression and other mental health issues. According to the AARP, 28 percent of individuals over 40 report having depression during a divorce and following.

One employee’s divorce can affect the production of their fellow co-workers. This can occur in a variety of ways, including employees spending work time discussing the issues in the divorce and the associated drama.

There may be further complications if co-workers become resentful of the extra workload that they are balancing because the divorcing employee is frequently physically or mentally absent. Some divorcing employees become angry and aggressive in the workplace due to the financial and emotional stress of their divorce. This can give rise to tensions among co-workers.

With all of these factors in mind, how can you best navigate the issues that divorcing employees bring to the office?

Set reasonable expectations. Find out what your employee anticipates occurring regarding work absences. Plan how those days off from work will be addressed. Will they use vacation time? Sick days? Will their missed hours be made up and if so how? Setting defined expectations for the employee and the employer will help eliminate the unknowns and reduce stress for everyone involved.

Discuss workload issues with co-workers and determine if they can handle additional responsibilities and seek collaborative solutions.

As the divorce process continues, the personality and temperaments of individuals may change. There can be a variety of raw emotions and displayed actions typically out of character for this employee. Be mindful of these issues and respond quickly, making any changes to avoid other employees being needlessly affected.

If possible, allow the employee to work from home or allow them to work a flexible schedule. You may want to add a short-term temporary employee to fill in the gaps.

Finally, have patience and respect. Realize that this situation will pass. A good employee is not someone you want to lose because of short-term circumstances, no matter how challenging.

Lisa Collins Werner, the principal of the Law Office of Lisa Collins Werner, has practiced law since 1992, and her firm handles family law matters exclusively. This column is provided through the Knoxville Bar Association, your trusted source for lawyer referrals. The KBA is a nonprofit corporation that offers community service programs such as the Lawyer Referral & Information Service, speakers’ bureau and public education programs. Find more information on our website at www.knoxbar.org or call 865-522-6522.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: What to do if a divorcing employee sours the workplace