Working halfheartedly

 I would guess that the magnification power of the mind hovers somewhere around 10x the actual reality of any situation.

Humanly events—like, say, the breakup of a relationship—tend to fill one’s head till it spills out the ears.

Playing hooky from work to lick the wounds isn’t an option for those of us who have to pay rent and purchase fine bottles of Gamay Noir so we trundle on, forcing our outer shells to mimic their former in-love glory while our insides writhe in agony. Joy.

Most people quietly process matters of the heart by heading to work, staring blankly at a screen for eight hours, and doing just enough to stay under the boss’s radar. An informal poll of some friends revealed a common theme – their normal workday productivity shrank to the bare minimum. Some even got away with doing nothing for weeks and months after a break up.

One girlfriend took two years to get over a cheating ex and had to move back home for free rent and mom-love dinners. None spoke to senior managers about their situation. All agreed that such things are private and would be unprofessional to voice at work. That’s just in my small realm, but everyone I know has been through it so multiply that by however many people are in the dating pool, sprinkle it with B.C.’s 41.0 per cent divorce rate, and serve up a big ol’ slice of lackluster-performance pie.

I googled the subject, looking for statistics on how our romantic worlds affect productivity and didn’t find much with Canadian relevance. A 2002 Wall Street Journal story reported that the workplace costs of romantic heartbreak from lost productivity, absenteeism, and increased errors and accidents hover around $11 billion dollars per year in the US. The info was based on an extensive study done by The Grief Recovery Institute in Sherman Oaks, CA. (Interestingly, the same study reported that loss of a pet costs the workplace $2.4 billion, financial trouble $4.6 billion, family crisis $9 billion, and the loss of a loved on $37.6 billion).

So the healing process—that queasy, distracted, unmotivated perma-zone we wallow in when our hearts are bruised (not broken, no heart can be broken—fight the power)—is kryptonite to vocation. The same study says that 85 per cent of management-level decision makers said their decision-making abilities ranked from very poor to fair in the weeks or months following a grief incident. So our bosses are not impervious, which might just make them understanding. Sacrebleu.

I don’t think the boss’s easy chair should be a quasi-psychologist’s couch, but there is something to be said for direct honesty. I recently waded through the sticky swale of a break-up, barely functioning in silence until the guilt of my inability to focus at work forced me to spill the beans to Matt. Because I had managed to meet my deadlines he hadn’t noticed anything was wrong, but crossing that no-no line gave me a certain boost. There was no more reason to feel guilty, which gave me extra energy to devote to writing.

Sharing (not gushing—they don’t need details) can have a marvelous motivational quality, even if it’s only because you realize how rueful you sound outside of your own head.
No matter how agony chooses you, know that it’s bound to stay a little while and addressing it helps. In my own case, solving my issue at work stopped the past from meddling with my present.

The future, as always, is flawless.