Most employees have the goal to work their way up at their respective companies. And while that can certainly take time, the idea is to generally be progressing in an upward fashion. Getting demoted, therefore, is usually considered a major career setback and one we're mostly advised to avoid.

But in some situations, getting demoted actually isn't all that detrimental. It could, in fact, end up helping your career in the long run.

When getting demoted works out

It's often the case that when you get demoted, you don't really get a say in the matter. Rather, you're told that to remain employed, you have no choice but to accept a lesser role.

Man covering his face while sitting at a desk.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

But not all demotions work that way, and you could come to find that you're in a position in which your demotion is more voluntary in nature. How might that come about? Let's say you were promoted six months back and have been struggling in your role ever since. If you were doing well in your former position, you might proactively ask to go back to it until you're able to boost your skills or increase your knowledge base to better perform at the next level up.

In that sort of situation, getting demoted might actually help you grow as an employee and maintain a good reputation within your company. After all, you're better off excelling at a lower level than failing at a higher one.

Another reason to consider a demotion? When you're unhappy with your work–life balance. It's generally the case that the higher you climb on the corporate ladder, the more time you spend chained to your desk. If taking a step back helps you better manage your family- and household-related responsibilities, all the while preventing full-fledged burnout, then it's a worthwhile move to make.

Remember, too, that as your personal life evolves, you'll have more opportunities to grow professionally. But if, say, you currently have young children who need you around a lot, you might be better off reverting to a less time-intensive role and pursuing a promotion when things calm down on the home front.

See the sliver lining

Of course, it won't always be the case that you get a say in a demotion. If your performance isn't up to par, or if your manager notices that you're consistently struggling to manage your workload, your boss might suggest taking a step backward. And demoralizing as that might be at first, recognize that it could end up being a good thing for your career -- especially if it prevents you from getting fired for failing to meet expectations.

All of that said, getting demoted could mean taking a hit on salary, so you'll need to run some numbers to see what an income reduction might mean for you and take steps to work around it. On the other hand, your company might agree to take away some responsibilities but leave your earnings intact, and if that happens to you, it's not such a terrible position to be in.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.