How to get past a demotion at work

Imagine going to work to learn you’re being demoted just six months after being promoted.

That’s just what happened to Collin, a former account manager at a San Francisco company. Collin knew something was up when his boss asked for an ominous impromptu one-on-one meeting just days after his performance appraisal. “Here we go,” Collin said to himself with a foreboding feeling that he was in for some disappointing news.

(Getty Images)

Try to keep a positive outlook after the demotion. (Getty Images)

“I thought I was about to get fired. Instead, my boss said I didn’t meet my sales expectations over the last six months so I was being bumped back down to the position of ‘account specialist’—my previous position,” he said.

Collin says he completely understood why he’d been demoted. As an account specialist, he’d received glowing performance evaluations, which catapulted him into the promotion. However, after the promotion he acknowledged having lost momentum. “When my managerial duties increased my sales volume decreased,” he said. “I get it.”

Collin says he isn’t so concerned about the slight pay cut that comes with his demotion. Instead, he’s worried about co-existing with his coworkers. He learned one of his friends was promoted to account manager.

Collin isn’t the only person bummed about the demotion. His boss, Roger, says he wasn’t happy about having to deliver the news.

“I know it’s pretty off-putting for the employee. I’ve been this company for a number of years and have had to do this on a couple of occasions,” he said. “In most cases we’ve had an employee who was a stellar performer, but nonetheless more junior than senior when it comes to leadership and increased responsibilities.”

Roger gives a few words of advice for supervisors who find themselves in a similar situation.

“Handle the situation with care. Getting legal counsel is very important, but so is exploring ways to help the employee make the transition with dignity,” he said.

A job demotion can send you on an emotional rollercoaster. You might experience feelings of rage, embarrassment and a strong urge to quit. But before you throw in the towel read these tips for insight on getting past a demotion.

  1. Keep a positive outlook. Try to find a renewed interest in the work. Take Collin’s case for example, he actually excelled as an account specialist. Chances are he can slip back into his position and continue to exceed expectations.
  2. Limit conversations about your demotion. Co-workers are likely to inquire “what happened” and “what are you going to do next?” It’s OK to say that you have been demoted and you’re transitioning right now. However, avoid remarks that undermine your boss or the company. If you feel the need to vent or cry, it’s best to do so with a trusted confidant outside of the company to avoid the appearance of any melodrama.
  3. Assess the situation. For example, if your demotion resulted in a pay cut what are the implications? Will you be able to manage your expenses? Is it time to consider looking for another job? You might consider looking at the work environment, is it a healthy environment for you? Your answers to these questions should inform your decisions about whether to stay or leave.

Collin says he plans to stay. He acknowledges he had some challenges adjusting to the account manager position and feels the account specialist position is probably the best pace for him right now. However, with a little professional development he says he will surely climb the management ladder.

Have you ever been demoted? How did you handle it?

Kia Croom