Monday, November 26, 2007

Learning From a Demotion

Remember the time as a child when you tripped and fell in front of all your classmates? You probably thought you would die of embarrassment, right? Well, of course you didn’t, and somehow you managed to pick yourself up and survive the incident.

But what happens when as an adult, you trip and fall again? Only this time it’s not you physically stumbling and sprawling in front of others, it’s the kind of tumble that is often more damaging emotionally and spiritually. Specifically, how do you survive the humiliation of being demoted?

Few events in your career are as difficult as being demoted. It may be that you saw it coming – verbal and written warnings from the boss indicated you were not meeting expectations – or it may totally blindside you. Whatever the reason, being demoted is something no one wants to experience, and the pain is often so great some people will just quit rather than accept it.

Still, that’s not always the best move. For one, quitting means the paychecks stop, and that’s pretty devastating for someone who has car payments, school loans, a mortgage and kids to support. And two, quitting doesn’t accomplish anything other than putting you in the unemployment line and possibly facing the same consequences in the future. Because if you haven’t probed deeply the reasons behind your demotion, you may just be doomed to repeat it.

Specifically, once you get past the shock and hurt, it’s time to think about:

*Sitting down with the boss and try to find out exactly why this happened. Let the boss know that you’re interested in focusing on the problems and fixing them. It could be the boss will tell you that it’s merely industry restructuring, and it’s happening throughout the company. In that case, you need to consider your future job security not only with your current employer, but within the industry.

* Considering your overall value. Do you need to think about training and additional schooling in another area? Maybe jobs in your industry are being sent overseas or phased out because of technology. In that case, you need to seriously look at how you can get training in areas that are expected to grow and prosper.

* Setting new goals. With the boss's input, you should immediately establish some new goals to get you back on track. Get a professional mentor to help keep you focused and committed, and make sure you meet with the boss more frequently to ensure you're headed in the right direction.

All of this will be difficult, of course. It’s natural that you will be angry and upset, and going back to work after a demotion will be tough. Still, keep in mind that even if you want to quit, you’re still going to need a good recommendation and you’re still going to have to explain to another employer about why you left the job. So hanging onto that job is better in the short term until you figure out what you really want to do.

Of course, your decision may be that you need to look for another job. Maybe the job was never a good fit in the first place (you disliked your duties, hated the hours, etc.), and the demotion was something that resulted from your lack of full commitment to the job.

The point is that whether you decide to tough it out and earn back your old job (or an even better one), or leave the employer, take the time to make the demotion a learning experience. Was there anything you wish you had done differently?

Use what happened to do some soul-searching and find out how you can avoid tripping again in the future.


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