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How to deal with a demotion

So, you’ve just gotten notice that you’re being moved into a position that has less responsibility, fewer professional development opportunities, and less exposure to upper management. Though your supervisor may nicely frame it as a “reassignment,” don’t be fooled—if this was positive, she’d be telling you you’re being promoted. By all accounts, this is a demotion. But don’t be discouraged—what you do when you receive the news and how you self-motivate in the next few months is essential to getting back on track—quickly.

Handing the news
First thing’s first. This isn’t your cue to quit. When a prospective employer asks why you left, a “demotion” is not exactly the ideal answer. So when you receive the news, bite your tongue, thank her for the opportunity, and highlight a few of the responsibilities you’re excited about. Even though you don’t feel that way now, you’ll get there.

Starting the job
A few tricks to keep you positive and motivated:

  • Practice mindfulness in the morning.
  • Buy a few new office supplies.
  • Post your personal goals where you (and your supervisor!) can see them.
  • Write out all the processes you’ll follow and spend some time over the weekend brainstorming how you can make them better.

Developing yourself
It’s essential to identify any opportunities for improvement that you could take over the first few weeks. Since you’ve been demoted, chances are good that your supervisors may wait to invest a lot of money in your training until you’ve proven that you’re serious about making this work. So take it upon yourself to find professional development opportunities that resonate with you. Consider these:

Intentional follow-ups
Instead of waiting for your supervisor to check in with you, ask to set up a bi-weekly meeting with her to ensure your expectations are aligned and to highlight some of your recent achievements. Each meeting, run through what you’ve accomplished or gotten involved with, and explain how it’s positively impacted your work and the company.

Documenting performance and being bold
As the months go on, be sure to document all of your noteworthy performances. Any time you finish under budget or ahead of schedule, write it down. Save any praise you receive in emails from colleagues, supervisors or clients. Your chances are riding on the next annual performance review. During that review, be bold—ask for feedback, request additional responsibilities, and offer up some professional development opportunities in which they should invest for you.

Maintain your composure and self-motivate your way through this demotion. You’ve got this.


A version of this article originally appeared on Career Contessa, an online platform facilitating honest conversations by real women about work and life—to help you achieve fulfillment and balance in both.

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