Asking For a Voluntary Demotion

Downshifting can give your more time and less stress if you do it with forethought.

 Asking For a Voluntary Demotion

By Mark Swartz


Scenario one: you’re in a job you can no longer handle. It’s either too demanding or your skills aren’t a fit. Scenario two: something has changed in your personal life; you need less work-stress or more time for other pursuits.


Does this mean you’ll have to resign to find appropriate work?


Hopefully not. First consider asking for a voluntary demotion. It may be a better solution for both you and your employer.


The Demotion Advantage

It may seem unconventional to think about downshifting. It’s one thing to career plateau, where you stay in the same job for a long time and may even turn down a promotion. There’s also getting demoted against your will.


But voluntarily asking for a demotion in rank, duties and compensation?


The advantage is that, if agreed to, you get to stay with the same employer. Maybe even in your current division with a boss you get along with. Your inside knowledge of this workplace and existing relationships with colleagues will benefit everyone.


Preparing Financially

Can you afford to take a cut in compensation? You’ll have to address this before committing to a demotion. Otherwise it could add extra pressure precisely when you’re seeking the opposite.


Prepare a realistic budget. Look at corners you could cut and luxuries you can do without. Note that a reduced salary might place you in a lower tax bracket. That would make the gap smaller between what you earn now and after downshifting.


Getting Ready Psychologically

Surrendering an impressive title can jangle one’s esteem. So can having fewer people report to you. Then there’s the loss of perks like a bigger office, having senior management’s ear, a prime parking spot and the like.


In addition co-workers will be asking you what happened. Some may speculate that you’re being punished or just can’t cut it. That can be emotionally unsettling.


When you’re convinced that stepping downward is the best option, and you’re willing to discuss why if questioned, it will reduce the tension you might experience.


Doing Your Homework

One way to ask for a demotion is to approach your boss and tell them you want one. That would put the burden entirely on them to satisfy your request.


A more prudent method is to do some footwork yourself before asking. Explore opportunities within your employer that you could point to. Think about roles you’d do well in. Come up with ideas on how shift workloads in an effort to simplify things for your boss. Doing so also displays your concern for others.


Refining Your Reasons

Your boss will want an explanation for your request. They’ll also inquire if you’ve considered other options. Come armed with solid answers.


Transparency is encouraged here. It might be that you have to disclose serious personal problems. Or expose a side of you that might surprise others. Being honest will assist your boss in accommodating you. As well it reassures them that the effort they’re about to make on your behalf won’t be wasted. Plus the manager may know of new openings and people who are leaving.


Highlighting The Win-Wins

If your boss is hesitant to fulfill your request, show them what’s in it for them. They’ll be retaining a loyal employee who has proven they can excel in the lower-level job. It will cost them less than they are paying now. The saved money can go to toward recruiting or training someone else for the role you’re stepping away from.


Aiding In The Transition

Do what you can to make the transition go smoothly. Offer to stay in your current role while a replacement is found. Help train the person who’s taking over your duties.


You’re sticking around in a lower position to reduce stress and ensure continuity for yourself. Go out your way to provide the same for your boss, colleagues and employer. That way they’ll think more of you, not less.