Demoted? Don’t be Demotivated

by Pranav Ramesh
April 08, 2021
How to Handle a Demotion at Work

Demotions happen for many reasons. Maybe the company is downsizing, maybe your performance is not up to your manager’s standards, or maybe you received a recent promotion that isn’t working out. Sometimes individuals even opt for a voluntary demotion, when they feel overwhelmed by their role and wish to work at a lower level of responsibility. An involuntary demotion, though, is a gut punch—no doubt about it. The lowered status, pay cut, and loss of face, can be tough to get past. How, then, do you deal with it? In this article, we are going to discuss how to cope with a demotion at work and get your career moving again.

Topics covered:

  • Take a minute to process
  • Request a sit-down and feedback
  • Figure out your next step
  • Take some time off
  • Don’t wallow in your misery

Take a moment to process

The demotion can come to you as a shock or maybe the writing has been on the wall for some time now. Either way, when it actually happens, take a moment to process your feelings. Anger, frustration, resentment, and anxiety are all natural responses to receiving a demotion letter. Under these circumstances, it is better not to rush to any snap decisions, or respond when influenced by strong emotion. You may well have cause to regret such actions later on, not to mention the impact they might have on your reputation at the organization. Don’t burn bridges you cannot rebuild. Take the time to work your way through these feelings, and achieve an even keel before contemplating your next step.

Request a sit-down and feedback

Once you have taken time out to fully process your emotions and feel a little more in control, make sure to request a sit-down session with your boss. Take this opportunity to find out exactly why you are being demoted and request that the feedback be given in writing. This way there will not be any possibility of miscommunication and if you decide to appeal the decision, you will have the document for proof.

That being said, don’t be resistant to feedback or dismissive of your manager’s reasoning. A demotion does not always diminish your value as an employee and your manager might be looking to give you a chance to develop skills that you need to get ahead.

Figure out your next step

When faced with a demotion at work, you really only have three options open to you:

The first option, and one you really should not pick, is to stay on in your new role, but without first reconciling yourself to your change in status. This could lead to bitterness and resentment over time, creating a negative atmosphere in your workplace, and bad relationships with your coworkers and employers. This is not really an option at all, but rather a warning—if you don’t feel you can cope with the demotion in a positive manner, it is better to leave.

The second option is to take it in your stride, and make peace with the reduced responsibility and pay cut. This isn’t always easy. It would involve soothing a bruised ego and facing the challenge of going back to work at a lower status. You would have to work on building a new relationship with your superiors and dedicate the energy required to get back into your old role. If you have opted for a voluntary demotion, then this could be a good choice. It gives you the chance to go back to a position that you were thriving in, and plan better for next time.

Your third option is to take this as a sign that you are not a good fit at the organization and look for greener pastures elsewhere. According to a survey conducted by the staffing firm OfficeTeam, more than fifty percent of people who get demoted, choose to find employment elsewhere. If you do decide to move on, try to spend some time first rebuilding your relationship with your managers and leave on a positive note. This would be useful for you in case any future employers ask for a recommendation.

Take some time off

Until you figure out what you want to do next, you could treat the demotion as an opportunity to take a breather, step back and re-evaluate your life choices. Remember, a demotion is not the same as being let go. You will still earn a steady paycheck, albeit a smaller one; you will still have a role to play within the organization; though your career may have suffered a setback, it hasn’t gone off track completely. Having fewer responsibilities might even give you time to relax a little and think things through.

Don’t wallow in your misery

Finally, don’t let a demotion at work get you down too much. As difficult as it may be, you need to find ways to move on and make a fresh start. It is important not to let your job title define who you are but recognize that it is simply one aspect of your life. Reach out to your support group, find time to appreciate what you have, explore your options and remember, in the words of the immortal TobyMac, “You may be knocked down, but you’re not out forever”.

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Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has partnered with some of the biggest Fortune brands to offer excellence of service and best-in-class team building for the last 25 years. 

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