How To Handle A Demotion At Work—Voluntary Or Not!

Professional woman tries to handle a demotion at work

Being told you're getting demoted is never an easy obstacle to face, whether you fall on the spectrum of "I love what I do," or "Gosh, when can I get out of this place?" The truth is, a demotion will sting and feelings of uneasiness and fear will seep in.

Demotions happen for all sorts of reasons. The company could be downsizing or going through a reorganization. It could also be due to a performance-based review where an employee is not meeting company goals in alignment with their position.

The consequence of this could include the compulsory lowering of an employee's job title, rank, or status. So, if you're getting demoted, what should you do and how can you bounce back after being pushed down?

1.Be Reasonable

Professional man upset about his demotion at work


Feel your emotions in private, process what's happening, and understand that you are entitled to your feelings. Anger, resentment, fear, and anxiety are all natural responses. What's more important here is that you don't allow this demotion to leave you permanently bitter.

Unfortunately, as much as you may not want to focus on this right now, your colleagues and leadership team are observing how you handle this demotion (either positively or negatively). It's important to step back and enter a calm mindset as soon as you can. This could include taking a day off as well post-news to allow yourself to process and move forward (out of the public eye).

2.It's Time To Get Real

A demoted employee works on a new project at work


Next, it's time to get real and ask yourself some honest questions. Reflecting on your answers to these questions will dictate your next professional move post-demotion.

  1. Will this experience make you a toxic employee that criticizes the workplace and adds negativity to work culture by speaking poorly about your upper management?
  2. Will you be content working in the same environment with the same people, although your tasks and decision-making ability will be dramatically reduced?
  3. Can you move forward with a positive outlook in your current workplace without letting the demotion lower your self-esteem?
  4. If you can't envision yourself in that same office, how will you begin your job search and continue in your current role while you search for new positions?
  5. Do you want to quit and, if so, do you have the financial means to do so?
  6. If you do want to stay, are you willing to put in the time, effort, and hard work to rebuild your personal brand within your workplace?
  7. If you do choose to rebuild yourself, is a promotion or advancement even possible for you? If so, what does that path look like? ***This is so important, because who wants to put in hard work for an opportunity that may not even exist?

Chances are, you may not know the answers to all these questions, which is why it's imperative that you schedule in time to speak to your manager and ask for feedback.

This by no means has to be right away, but should be scheduled in advance at a later time. Why?

  • You don't want to catch your manager off guard and just storm into his/her office.
  • You want to give your superior a heads up so they will be prepared to understand the reason why you've called this meeting and what you're looking to get out of it.
  • You can also go in well-prepared to ask the right questions that will benefit you and bring clarity on what you should do next.

Chances are, if your boss is a good person with basic business acumen, he or she will spend time to point out areas for improvement. The truth is, companies value efficiency so for whatever the reason may be, you were not contributing to that. It's a hard pill to swallow, but this is a time for self-reflection rather than self-pity.

3.Be Open To New Opportunities & Learn That You Only Have 3 Choices

Professional man reflecting on his career after getting demoted at work


  1. Stay at the company and rebrand yourself to do better in your role.
  2. Stay at the company and complain about your demotion.
  3. Leave the company and take a hint that this demotion is a sign that this particular organization just wasn't the right fit for you (which is completely okay).

We get it—it's difficult to walk into the same office with the same people, knowing you'll now be left out of the same projects you once spearheaded, perhaps even making less money. But, this could be a positive thing! You may now have more time with less responsibilities, so ask yourself, "Is this the role, company, type of work I see myself contributing to for the next 2-5 years?"

Or, is there a new role or position you've wanted to seek out but couldn't because of the pressures and duties you faced at work?

Now is the time. Step back from the anger and refuel yourself with thoughts of professional growth, change, and positivity. Remember: each job is always temporary. Also, failures sometimes become the catalyst for something better that you just can't see right now.

At the end of the day, no matter what the outcome or reasoning of your demotion was, playing the blame game or harshly judging yourself is pointless. Essentially, the right move for you is the one that will help you grow professionally.

How will you fuel your professional growth? Are you scared to leave your job and, if so, why? So many people focus on their current jobs and ignore their career growth. Yes, there is a difference!

Join our career growth club today and finally take ownership of your career!

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There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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