Signs You Should Consider a Voluntary Demotion

Stressed businesswoman with head in hands at office desk, considering a voluntary demotion.
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The prospect of demotion is a scary one. What will people think? Would I ever be promoted again? Can I live on less money? Sometimes a voluntary demotion is the best thing someone can do personally and professionally. While it isn’t always the answer to a tough time at work, there are situations where employees should consider taking a step down the hierarchy.

The Work-Life Balance Is Unbearable

As you rise through the ranks of a government organization, you have to spend more time working late and attending work-related functions. It just goes with the territory.

A city lifeguard clocks out at the end of a shift and doesn’t have to think about work until the start of the next shift. The city manager, on the other hand, has city council meetings, emergencies, and community events that often happen outside of normal business hours. City staffers at the various management levels have time commitments along the continuum between the lifeguard and city manager that coincide with those staffers’ places on the organizational chart.

At some point along the way to the top, some people find the time demands of upper-level jobs not worth the trade-offs in their personal lives. These time demands can be perceived by people at lower levels of the organization, but you can’t really know how those demands will affect you until you’re living through them.

If you find yourself constantly sacrificing personal events for working late or making an appearance at a function you don’t really want to attend, you may have reached an untenable work-life balance. If you can’t stand it any longer, you may want to consider a voluntary demotion.

You're a Poor Fit with the Higher Level Position

Sometimes you think you’re ready to take the next level job, but once you get there, you find that it exposes your weaknesses. You were a stellar performer at your old job, but this is a whole new set of responsibilities. Sure, your experience is helpful, but the new job is different.

A poor fit with a higher level position happens often when people are promoted from individual contributor positions to management positions. Individual contributors have to work with other people, but communication challenges take on different characteristics when supervision is involved.

Individual contributors may feel like their only way to advance their careers is to take on management responsibilities. That’s one way to advance, but there are other ways to grow professionally like taking on more advanced tasks or exploring opportunities in a related area of the organization.

If you feel your talents are put to better use at your old job, you may want to consider going back to that old role or finding a different role that more aligns with your talents.

You Had More Fun at a Lower Level Job

While your talents may translate to the next level, perhaps you aren’t having as much fun as you did in your old job. Some people love the challenge of managing at higher levels in an organization, but others don’t. Perhaps frontline supervision or an individual contributor role is more fun for you than managing wider and wider arrays of functions.

If you were significantly happier in your old job, you may want to look into a voluntary demotion. You can’t spend your life in a job you don’t like.

Stress-related Health Issues

The most important asset you have in your career is your health. Without it, you can’t do anything. Twelve-hour days and sleepless nights eventually catch up to you. You can maintain this schedule a short time, but you have to crash at some point.

It doesn’t have to be time demands that get to you. Poor performance can cause severe anxiety, especially for people who are used to exceeding expectations.

If you find yourself experiencing stress-related health problems, you probably have a job that is unhealthy for you to hold. Better to get out now before a heart attack takes you out later.