Why Employees Take Job Demotions

Updated on June 10, 2020
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 20 years in the public sector.


Why Would an Employee Take a Voluntary Demotion?

People change jobs for a variety of personal and professional reasons. As the change of a job carries anxiety much like other life changing activities, people carefully contemplate the decision to make such a career move. After all, jobs provide stability and a livelihood to employees and their families as they live out their lives in a manner they choose. Taking a "leap" to a job with more responsibilities with a new employer leaves room for a lot of "unknowns" for the individual and those who depend on them.

For those individuals who voluntarily accept a demotion, there are good reasons which cause them to want to make such a change. Since taking a demotion often means a decrease of salary in addition to the lessening of the level of responsibility, individuals carefully consider all aspects of this type of job change. The reasons for making a downward move is limitless but are worth examining to understand what would encourage such an important change.

Sometimes, the path upwards is not the path that a person wants to take in terms of their career.
Sometimes, the path upwards is not the path that a person wants to take in terms of their career. | Source

Why Would an Employee Take a Voluntary Move Downward?

The things that motivate and provide satisfaction to an employee varies based on the values and priorities that the employee has. Personal goals are often made and then changed as lifestyles and domestic situations change for the employee. For example, an employee who becomes a parent for the first time often finds the need to increase their income to cover expenses that have grown. Individuals whose ambitions push them to higher positions will seek promotional opportunities as they arise for them. Yet, despite these positive situations, there are others who decide to seek employment positions that reduce their salary. They make this decision for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Stress and Health Issues
  • Being at the End of Their Career
  • Desire for Change in Career
  • Family Demands
  • Spouse's Career Has Advanced
  • Change in Management

People seek a balance between their needs and a positive level of job satisfaction. A demotion to another position offers a favorable situation because it changes the conditions of the job that better suits the needs of the individual at that point of their career.

Many employees experience serious health issues that require medical attention.  Short term fixes that only act as a "band aid" to a bigger problem are ineffective.  These employees may choose to change jobs.
Many employees experience serious health issues that require medical attention. Short term fixes that only act as a "band aid" to a bigger problem are ineffective. These employees may choose to change jobs. | Source

Stress and Health Issues

Many people find their jobs to be so stressful that their health is negatively affected. Loss of appetite, sleepless nights and other anxiety symptoms are typical characteristics for the stressed-out employee. For some of these employees, they become so overcome with anxiety that they seek medical attention. One of the common remedies suggested from the treating health care practitioner in these situations is that the employee should seek alternative employment. Since the circumstances are often difficult to change, the medical profession is likely to suggest that the employee make a change for him/herself. A change is employment, in this example, becomes just "what the doctor ordered."

Being at the End of Their Career

Many employees decide to take a demotion during their final years in their career. As mentioned above, some positions are stressful and/or have a level of responsibility that causes an employee a lot of stress. Employees nearing the end of their careers often make a conscious decision to take a lower position that does not require as much from them as higher level, more demanding positions. For example, some employees choose to pass on the supervisory positions as they require more oversight and care for others than they want at this point of their careers. These employees have the wisdom to know what they want as they may have already performed in a higher, demanding position when they were younger. Employees who take a demotion for this reason are generally grateful to do what they want, and are satisfied with their decision to accept such a position.

Many people find themselves in careers that they no longer wish to be a part of.  They often choose to go back to school.
Many people find themselves in careers that they no longer wish to be a part of. They often choose to go back to school. | Source

Desire for Change in Career

Many people find themselves in a place in their lives when they want to make a change in their career. Most people do not know what they want to do when they grow up until they get to that place in life when it matters. If life has taken them to a profession or job that is no longer satisfying, these employees could choose to pursue other professional opportunities that require higher education or new training. These individuals may not want to be burdened by the same responsibilities so that they can start to focus on their goals of a change in careers.

Family Demands

Priorities vary from person to person. Family pressures often place a lot of stress on employees to balance personal with professional demands. Mothers, in particular, find themselves with a difficult balancing act between the needs of their children and advancing in their careers. Men and women work hard everyday to make ends meet for theIr families. High level positions cause much strife because they take so much of an employee's time away from their families. Trying to get away from the office to attend a school play or a little league game can become a challenge that employees no longer want to face. These employees sometimes make career changes so that they can keep their families as their number one priority. Taking a demotion to a position with less responsibility and less time away from home is very attractive to some employees.

Spouse's Career Has Advanced

Some employees take demotions because they no longer need the same salary and/or benefits because their spouse has successfully advanced in their own careers. These employees then choose part-time work or a lesser paying position. Since their husband or wife has achieved an employment opportunity that meets their household needs, a demotion is a career move that appeals to them. These situations are especially appealing to an overworked employee who has been unhappy in a demanding position.

Change in Management

A change in management means a change of goals, and often a major shift in an organization's strategic plan. Employees sometimes find this change as unpleasant and, therefore, contrary to what an employee finds rewarding in the employer. Furthermore, this new leadership may make the employee's work experience less than satisfactory. Employees can make a decision to demote to a more appealing position that does not require the same working relationship with senior leadership.

Involuntary Demotions

While the list above is not an all-inclusive list of the reasons for a voluntary demotion, they provide examples of why someone would step down to a lower, less demanding position. There are many individuals, however, that take demotions for other reasons that are not of their choosing. Employees may accept a demotion because they realize that failing to do so means that they will be without a job. Some demotions are given to employees as a form of discipline. These employees have done something in the performance of their job that has caused management to decide to demote them as a form of punishment. For example, ineffective or abusive supervisors may get demoted to a position where they will no longer supervise other employees. Again, these employees accept the job because they know that they will be terminated if they do not accept the demotion. Many employees in this situation accept the demotion as a means to maintain employment until they are able to secure a better position with another employer.

Some Closing Thoughts About Demotions

Whether voluntary or involuntary, demotions provide a change of job tasks and responsibilities that can have a huge effect on employees. When employees are able to gain more satisfaction in their employment, they will make changes to their household budgets to accommodate the loss in income. Since there is great value placed on a person's time, some employees prefer a demotion if the end result will be more time to spend with their families. If the new job means a more rewarding work experience, an employee will consider the idea of accepting a demotion to reach such satisfaction in their career.

If conditions were right, would you take a demotion?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      7 years ago from USA

      Very thorough hub!! My career has had ups and downs, but I've enjoyed most of the jobs I've had. It was worth the job changes I've made:). Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Hi Chris - Well I guess because I decided to stay home for 10 plus years, when I do go back to work it will be considered a voluntary demotion. Oh well, I don't need, or want, the hassles I had at my old job anyway. Nice hub. Hope you are well.


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