Learn How to Ask for a Voluntary Demotion

Get Insight Into Drafting a Request Letter and More

Businessman sitting at meeting table
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Voluntary demotions are uncomfortable. Chances are that someone seeking a voluntary demotion has been unhappy for some time. Hopefully, such a person has come to the decision to seek an involuntary demotion after considering other options like adjusting job duties or pursuing a lateral transfer.

But if the signs have been pointing to a voluntary demotion and other options don’t exist, it is time to ask for a voluntary demotion.

Doing this is tricky because you don’t want to give the impression you’ve mentally checked out. You want to show you’re valuable to the organization and should be cast in a different or previous role. Follow these tips when asking for a voluntary demotion.

Be Honest

You must be honest when asking for a voluntary demotion. You need to lay all your cards on the table and have an open conversation with your manager. Be clear and specific about the reasons you want to step down. If your manager knows what is bothering you and what you want to do, your manager may be able to offer options you don’t know exist. Even if there are no other options, your manager should be your best ally in getting you where you want to be professionally.

While being honest, remain tactful. You can be honest without being brutally honest. If your manager is part of the problem, you can probably say so without causing the situation to deteriorate further.

You also don’t want to badmouth colleagues. If you need to bring up colleagues, focus on their behaviors, not their personalities. Make sure you don’t sound like you are blaming them for your situation.

Prepare What You’re Going to Say

You don’t want to freeze up when you approach your boss about the demotion.

Plan what you’re going to say. You should jot down some notes so you touch on all the points you want to cover.

Don’t memorize your speech because what you’re going to say shouldn’t even be a speech. Your ideas should spark a conversation where you and your manager seek options that will work for you, your team and the organization. Going into the conversation you should know your wants and how you will articulate it, but you must be ready to listen as well.

Draft a Letter Requesting the Demotion

As part of your preparation for the conversation with your manager, you should draft a letter formally requesting the demotion. You probably won’t give it to your boss during the meeting because the two of you may come up with other options. It will help you define and clarify what you want to accomplish with your demotion, and it can help you formally kick off the human resources processes that need to happen to get you in the position you want.

Be aware that in government and in many other employment situations it might be hard to revoke a voluntary demotion letter once it has been accepted by your manager or your employer’s human resources office. Before you turn in the letter you need to be absolutely certain a voluntary demotion is what you want and that you are willing to accept the role the organization decides to give you.

Schedule the Conversation

Once you’ve done all the preparing you can do, schedule the conversation with your manager. The reason you don’t schedule before you prepare is so you don’t get caught off guard if your manager suggests an impromptu conversation when you attempt to schedule.

When you schedule the appointment you don’t have to say precisely that you’re seeking a voluntary demotion. You can say you want to talk about job growth, your responsibilities or your career path. Your manager won’t be caught totally off guard when you bring up the voluntary demotion because you set the stage for talking about your career.

Be Open to Ideas

Once you engage in the conversation with your manager, listen. Your manager may have advice for better handling your current role. That advice may make the difference between your desire to leave or stay in that position.

For example, you may be experiencing an unfavorable work-life balance. Your boss may give you tips on getting your work done faster so you’re not staying in the office until 8:00 each night.

Your manager may be privy to upcoming opportunities that aren’t known to the organization at large. There may a role that better fits you that you can take without giving up status or salary. The organization might be ready to create a new position, or someone might be leaving, creating a vacancy.

Be Helpful

While you may be itching to get out of your current job, make things as easy as you can for your boss. Offer to stay in your current job for a transitional period. You don’t want to leave your boss doing your job while you step back into something more comfortable. Make other helpful offers as your situation dictates. A voluntary demotion is about doing what is best for everyone involved, so proactively look for ways to help others.