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Demotions Are More Common Than You May Think. Here's How to Avoid Them.

By Maurie Backman – Aug 12, 2018 at 10:16AM

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Nobody wants to take a step down at work. And if you're careful, you won't have to.

No matter your line of work, your goal is most likely to keep climbing the ranks in the hopes of getting promoted. But what happens if the opposite scenario occurs? What if you suddenly find yourself being forced to take a step downward at work?

Though you'd think demotions wouldn't be all that common, in a recent OfficeTeam survey, 46% of HR managers said they've seen employees demoted at their companies, and the reasons mostly stemmed from performance issues. If you'd rather avoid a similar fate, here are some steps you ought to take.

Woman at a laptop holding her head


1. Don't accept a promotion without understanding what it entails

Moving up a level at work is always exciting, especially if there's a raise to be had with it. But accepting a promotion without really understanding its implications could actually end up hurting your career instead of helping it. If you're offered a better position, ask exactly what your new role will entail. Will it require you to utilize skills you're iffy on? Will it translate into longer hours that you may or may not be willing to put in? These are all details you need to get a handle on so that you don't end up getting promoted only to take a step backward.

2. Check in with your manager frequently to ensure you're meeting expectations

Some bosses are great about providing their employees with ongoing feedback. If yours isn't, then you'll need to be more proactive about checking in, especially if you have concerns about your performance. This way, if you're not meeting expectations, you can get ahead of the problem before it reaches the point where a demotion might be in order.

3. Keep boosting your skills

There are some jobs that don't require you to do much more other than show up and plug away at the same old tasks. But if your job requires you to continuously boost your skills to keep up, then that's an extra step you'll need to be willing to make. If you're not sure how to best focus your efforts, sit down with your manager and ask for some guidance, or enlist the help of a colleague who's been doing the job longer than you have. The key, however, is to make sure you're able to keep pace with the demands of your role, whether that means learning new technology or reading up on new rules and regulations.

4. Ask for help when you need it

Maybe you're struggling with a certain aspect of your job, or are having a difficult time keeping up with deadlines. Rather than stay silent about those issues, sit down with your manager and ask for some help. Perhaps your boss can pair you up with a senior person at the company who can guide you through the job-specific challenges you're facing. Or maybe your manager can help you map out a list of priorities so you don't fall behind on your most critical tasks, thereby compromising your overall performance. Even if your manager doesn't step in and do much, he or she will have a harder time demoting you if you make an effort to get ahead of the problems you're having, so it pays to at least have that conversation.

Getting demoted can be a major blow to your career and self-esteem. So don't let it happen to you. Take the above precautions, and with any luck, the next move you make at your company will be an upward one.

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