Divorce has a far-reaching impact. If you’ve experienced it, you know that divorce affects, of course, the couple involved but also their children, family members, friends, and coworkers. As a child of divorce, divorcee, and collaborative divorce attorney, I’ve seen how divorce can affect the workplace in various ways. Conflict at work often stems from personal matters at home. A common struggle for millions of workers is divorce.
Retired Colorado Supreme Court judge Rebecca Love Kourlis explained this in an article entitled, It Is Just Good Business: The Case for Supporting Reform in Divorce Court, published in Family Court Review in 2012. She states, “[A]n employee in the throes of a domestic relations matter is not the ideal employee–distracted, angry, depressed, and absent from work more often. When the legal process drags on–perhaps for years–the employee is drained financially and emotionally and is simply less productive.”
After retiring from the Court, Love Kourlis became the founding Executive Director of University of Denver Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. In her article, she goes on to state the benefits of a non-adversarial divorce method, such as collaborative law.
“The adversarial model traditionally used in civil or criminal litigation only aggravates this conflict, and consequently, courts have difficulty fostering a quick, inexpensive, and final resolution. The adversarial system is premised upon each side of a case arguing a position and pointing out the discrepancies in their opponent’s position,” wrote Love Kourlis. “Not only is the system ill-suited to the resolution of family disputes, but the mismatch has harmful effects on children.”
My research for my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, additionally supports these thoughts. This book, which details much of my life and personal experience as a child of divorce and divorcee, exposes the myths and stereotypes behind divorce culture. The goal is to illuminate the cure and incite transformation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, half of all marriages end in divorce. Half of those divorces involve children. While the statistics speak loudly, companies need to realize that these numbers represent many of their employees’ past, current, or future experiences as divorcing employees or employees who are children of divorce.
My work to assist divorcing employees in the workplace has been used by companies nationwide. I’ve created new methods to support human elements in the workplace. These concepts are used by human resources professionals when working with employees who are experiencing wide-ranging issues like conflict in the workplace or divorce at home.
Through implementing collaborative family law to the community of Greenville, North Carolina I was awarded the Small Business Leader of the Year award because my clients are healthy and happy contributing members of society. They are not locked in their own mind with fear and stress of a litigious court battle that literally have no end date. Custody battles can go on for ten years, sometimes even longer. If they choose collaborative, they’re not missing work for court dates and they’re not receiving subpoenas for thousands of pages of documents. I was also featured on a commercial by Southern Bank to promote the spread of collaborative. After all, banks are weighed down with years of productions of statements daily for their divorcing clients. Yet, other businesses are also impacted by the extreme loss of productivity. I’m currently working with the Fayr app to develop those statistics for employees to see a better picture of exactly it is changing their workplaces and workforce.
Conflict in the workplace must be addressed differently than in years past. The diversity of the workforce in the United States continues to increase through more than gender, age, and race. An employee’s life experience has an impact on how they handle conflict, which means resolution should not have a cookie-cutter approach. When employers actively direct employees to collaborative resources and away from harmful court battles, they are able to maintain more control of productivity. This just came up in a recent conversation I had with author, speaker, and business consultant Cy Wakeman on my podcast, “Divorce, Healthy!” She said that, “divorcing has more to do with working on yourself, and how you want to move through the world, rather than working on an agreement around an ex.” As a leadership coach, she explained on how ego plays a role in the workplace and at home. She stated that, “you need to know how your mind works so you quit getting played by your ego and you need to know how the world works so you quit arguing with reality.”
Employees who are experiencing intense conflict need more support than ever from their employer. When an employee feels supported by their employer, they perform better. It is possible for managers and human resource professionals to sensitively approach an employee during the process of divorce or separation. Through my unique method, company representatives have been able to develop a concise plan of action. My specialized strategy is known to increase employee retention, decrease employee stress, improve trust and communication, enhance productivity, and maintain employee performance. Since conflict at home naturally follows them to work, there is a high probability of increasing workplace conflict which decreases the productivity for other employees.
Children of Divorce
Conflict in the workplace must be addressed differently than in years past. The diversity of the workforce in the United States continues to increase through more than gender, age, and race. An employee’s life experience has an impact on how they handle conflict, which means resolution should not have a cookie-cutter approach.
Through my extensive research in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, I focus on how the divorce impacts future generations. These findings show complications in personal relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression, including:
- 200% of children are more likely to get divorced if one spouse is from a divorced home
- 50% more likely to get divorced when one spouse is from a divorced home
- 18.9% of children living with one parent have a drug or alcohol problem
- 18.8% of children of divorce suffered from a lifetime of alcohol dependence
- 30% increase in likelihood of suicide attempts by adult children of divorce
As an expert in divorce, mediation, and dispute resolution, I’ve found that many disputes stem from how people handle conflict in the first place. If an employee is a child of divorce, they likely handle conflict much differently based on their experiences as a child. As they observed their parents’ divorce, they mimicked their actions.
I encourage employers to show their support by managing the forest mindset of conflict, offering professional emotional support, and sharing corporate assistance information. I’ve been working with companies to update Employee Assistance Programs to include a network of Collaborative Law attorneys to their services. Collaborative family law is a session-driven dispute resolution process which is proven to be less destructive to children and less stressful on external relationships, friendships, and careers. Collaborative keeps the conflict confined and productive. With an efficient process that is generally two to three months, the reduction of conflict is palpable. This is what all employers and businesses need to seek to add to their employee assistance programs.
In addition, it is beneficial for companies and corporations of all sizes to get statistics on divorce among their employees. Unlike death or illness, human resources departments don’t keep track of how many of their employees are divorced, going through a divorce, and/or are children of divorce. If they have this information, they can better help them personally and professionally.
A Better Way Forward
I’m on a mission to change divorce culture in America and in the workplaces of America. I’ve presented these ideas to human resources groups as a way to educate them on ways to address employee disputes, manage internal conflict, and improve divorce culture in the workplace. When used correctly, these models are proven to help employees feel happier, healthier, and more supported as they are dealing with transformative and life-altering experiences.
If you or your management team is interested in learning more about handling conflict in the workplace, I’m here to help. I’m currently offering consultations for businesses on how to best manage conflict, implement divorce support programs, and track data related to conflict for greater result measures. Reach out to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Love Kourlis, R. (2012). It is just good business: The case for supporting reform in divorce court. Family Court Review, 50(4), 549-557.