After 10 years at the same job, Marie is getting demoted. And she was told this by Human Resources, not her boss. HR explained they felt it best to be the ones to give her the news … so she could be “fully informed of her rights.”
More likely, so her boss didn’t have to look her in the eye, she thought as she numbly sat in the chair listening. There had been no clue of this possibility that she was aware of. And her first thought, not surprisingly, was to quit.
Why was she getting demoted?
Although she thought of herself as an invaluable employee because she worked hard and knew how to handle things no one else knew, Marie’s department was being reorganized. And a new person was going to head up the department. Some of Marie’s duties would logically go to them.
⇒ ABOUT REORGANIZATIONS
Sometimes they are for real. The result of many months of re-strategizing the way a company operates. But sometimes they are codeword for “we want to get rid of or reassign / demote longtime (often older) employees without causing any legal problems.”
Just so happens Marie is over 60. And in her case, only her department was affected. She wound up in a position with less responsibility AND less pay. Without ever including her in planning the “reorg”. But there were other reasons too.
What about the company’s POV?
Sometimes there are valid reasons for demoting an employee from the company’s point of view. Reasons that have nothing to do with a person’s age. Or any other non work-related trait such as race, religion, politics, etc. Although it may be tempting / comforting to latch on to that as the reason. (And there are times any of those very well may be the reason.)
Maybe the person has been there so long they are stuck in their old ways — and unwilling to learn new ones. Or maybe they are just “special” people who have over the years continued to need more care and maintenance than others.
⇒ LET’S NOT FORGET MONEY
When you’ve been with a company for a long time and gotten raises all along, your salary may be way out of range of other employees. And therefore out of range for your current responsibilities, such as in Marie’s case.
Since a company can’t easily just cut one salary, they need to find a way to reassign and realign the person. And demoting them (or restructuring their position, to say it more nicely) is one way of doing that.
But sometimes people just don’t see how much time and energy they take up. Or if their constant looks of dissatisfaction and critical background chatter (not presented openly with useful suggestions) are seen as actually hurting company morale.
While speaking up and adding needed alternative opinions is a healthy thing for organizations, some people are just a ball of darkness — often not even realizing it. And this was true in Marie’s case. Not that she grasped any of it.
So Marie’s demotion was no accident
After all these years — and with her adamantly sure she was always right — managers found it easier to avoid trying to rein Marie in. And so she never realized that her managers felt she was not a team player. And that they had to expend more energy trying to satisfy her than it was worth. Even if she got the work done. Even if she did it well.
And so finally they acted.
It’s hard to fire someone like that, especially if they have good knowledge of company methods & needs. So offering a demotion may be a way to keep them if they want to stay, while minimizing negative impact whether they stay or go.
Should YOU stay or go if demoted?
Odds are, your case is not exactly like Marie’s. So if you’re getting demoted you need to assess your own situation carefully. And then think through your choices. I strongly advise taking time to do that — even if “I quit” is on your lips.
Things to consider:
- Is any of this a wakeup call that gives you a chance to examine / ask about things you might be able to change. So often what goes wrong in one job can still follow us to the next one.
- Is getting demoted a different kind of wakeup call? One that finally gets you to think about what you want from a job. And how to get yourself there.
- Is there a personal work / life benefit to the demotion? Even with less money (assuming you can handle it), might your personal life get a welcome boost from less responsibility and workload?
- Are there other hobbies / business ideas you can now find time & energy to explore?
- Is there a niche within the new position that you can actually grow and enjoy?
A few more thoughts
If you’re curious, Marie decided to stay. She’s not happy about the change, but even at a lower salary, she’s still earning more than she could elsewhere without taking on much more responsibility. And, she’s slowly seeing the upside of not having so much pressure in her day.
Often, the hardest thing to accept about getting demoted is the hit to your ego. But if you step back from a wider perspective and see that there might be benefits, you’d do yourself a big favor to let that part go. And instead work on making the most of where you are now.
BUT … and this is an important “but” … if there is any part of you still looking for more in your career, use the shock / anger / resentment or whatever to turn this around for yourself. Do what it takes to move yourself forward … new skills, new contacts, new attitude.
Rather than sitting in misery and feeling done to, take action and do for … yourself! This can be a new beginning that gives you so much more than a stale job ever could. Yes, it’s not easy after so many years. But all you need to do is start with small steps to maybe find that fresh start.
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