How to Support an Employee Going Through a Divorce

Not all marriages are destined to last. This is nothing out of the ordinary, as people change as they grow old and decide that their spouse is no longer the right man or woman for them.

But there's no such thing as easing through it. The person’s other spheres of life inevitably suffer as a result and they might even lose their job. In order to prevent this scenario from happening, your company should actively support employees going through a divorce. Don’t leave everything to co-workers and friends, as there are systematic steps you can take to ease things for the employee.

Indicators that something’s wrong

There are several types of personalities that deal with hardships in life differently. Strong mentalities may simply shake off the divorce conundrum as it were a slap on the wrist, while others may totally lose all motivation. The latter can be recognised most often by breaking down at work and bursting into tears or simply acting differently. They will feel ashamed because of the ordeal they are going through and try to avoid their co-workers.

The response they get from their colleagues can also indicate a problem. Workers can ignore the person going through a divorce, be extra kind to them, and even blame them for business failure. If the co-workers are compassionate enough and try to offer comfort and a word of advice to their colleagues, then there is really no reason for you to get involved in their interpersonal relations.

A warm, human response

If other people try to help a colleague who is feeling down, you can leave the grieving process to take its natural course. However, if there is obvious discord among staff, gossiping, and even targeting of any employees, then it’s time for the HR department to step in.

In such a scenario, they must maintain the level of productivity and at the same time justify the term “human” in the phrase “human resources.” Firstly, the worker should feel that HR people are compassionate. This is reflected in the fact that it’s OK to be sad and reclusive about the whole thing.

Secondly, you should listen to the employee going through a divorce. The HR practitioners are not psychotherapists, but the can at least hear out the worker’s predicament. The person speaking will get a lot off their chest and your HR staff will learn how to approach the matter and help both the company and the worker.

Staying productive

After you understand the core of the problem and how the individual worker is taking the divorce, it is time to act. Don’t bother giving them a pep talk because this is the job you should leave to the friends and family. Your main task is to ensure their productivity levels do not drop below a certain standard during this troublesome period.

Needless to say, don’t expect this employee to excel at their job but be happy that they are coming to work every day like millions of Australians and performing to the best of their ability. After all, they are probably busy tracking down the best family lawyers in Sydney and other cities to help them take care of all the legal stuff. The only thing you can insist on is for this transitional period to be as short and smooth as possible.

Helping the employees stay on track

The best way a worker going through a divorce is going to weather this period is by keeping themselves busy. The 8 hours they spend every day at work present the perfect distraction for them. The workplace can be a refuge and a constant during a time of turbulence.

If you notice that their performance rate is dropping, give them gentle reminders instead of harsh criticism. They will look back on this time and remember that you were compassionate, taking into account that the divorce was a real issue.

Furthermore, protect the employees from any office gossip because it won’t only hurt their feelings but the company morale will suffer as well. If certain workers start pushing it too far, don’t hesitate to give them a written warning. After all, hard times like an individual’s divorce are a true test for the strength of the corporate team spirit.

Time to get serious

For most people, a gentle approach from the very start should yield results. Either the employee's experience of sadness, anger and other emotions that come will divorce will soften after a couple of weeks, or they will admit that they cannot continue and they will take leave. The HR department should explain to them that there is nothing wrong with the latter option.

However, if you fail to notice any changes in their behavior and the performance remains below par, then it’s time to have a serious talk with them. Explain to them that underperforming over a prolonged period is not acceptable so they need to make a decision. Yes, they are going through a divorce but that doesn’t mean that you should have a special status inside the company.


Divorces are difficult, and demand time as well as mental, emotional and physical resources that may have an impact in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility towards their employees to ensure that they are supported and feel safe at work.

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