Divorce can take toll on workplace
By Margarita Bauza
Detroit Free Press
By Margarita Bauza
DETROIT — When John Casey's wife filed for divorce a year and a half ago, he immediately worried about how he'd stay on top of his high-stakes career.
Casey, then the managing director of a public relations company, would add a heavy dose of litigation, custody battles and financial maneuvering to an already hectic schedule.
"I had days at work where I'd be on a natural high after hitting a home run and came back to an e-mail at the office from an attorney that sucked the wind right out of me," said Casey, 42, of Waterford, Mich., who at the time supervised 25 employees at the Detroit offices of Stratcomm.
As candy, roses and other romantic gifts pour into the nation's offices today, there is a quiet epidemic simmering in the hearts of millions of workers across the country. With more than 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce nationally, studies show that breakups increasingly harm the workplace.
"It's nearly impossible to go through a divorce and have it not impact your work life," said Karen McDonald, Casey's divorce attorney and a partner at the law firm of Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss PC in Southfield, Mich. "Aside from the immediate toll it takes, you're going to be involved in a litigation that requires you take time off of work."
Employees getting divorced must balance legal, financial, housing and childcare decisions. They typically spend a large amount of time and energy finding a lawyer, revising household budgets, looking for a new place to live and making childcare arrangements.
What that means for the other workers is a potential loss of productivity, dealing with a moodier boss or co-worker and, in some cases, picking up the slack for someone who is distracted or must be out of the office to deal with divorce matters.
A 2006 study by the Minneapolis-based Life Innovations titled "Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America's Business?" calculated that:
Because of this, many employees have to adjust to a major change in their standard of living. "These challenges are not the kind to be resolved overnight," said Joshua Estrin, a licensed psychotherapist based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "The divorce process can take anywhere from a few months to several years."
Robert Pasick, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Michigan's William Davidson Institute, says it's common for employees going through divorce to appear angry and bitter and to spread those feelings at work.