Is it okay to demote a manager to a previous position?

Special to The Globe and Mail

Is it okay to demote a manager back to his original position? (John Lund/Corbis/John Lund/Corbis)


Companies are always leery about demoting a manager to position she or he previously held. But executive development professional Dan McCarthy, on his Great Leadership blog, says he has seen instances when moving a manager one level down in the organization has turned out to be a win-win for the manager and the company. It usually happens when a technical expert is promoted prematurely or for the wrong reason, such as when the best sales person is named sales manager. “Why in the world would you want to lose the person who used to be the best performer in the group? Why should they pay for the organization’s dumb promotion mistake?” he writes.

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For the demotion to work, he says:

  • The new position must be legitimate and justified, not a made-up job to allow the person to save face or to avoid having to fire someone.
  • No one should be bumped to make room for the manager.
  • The manager should be well-qualified for the post, or be able to get up to speed quickly.
  • He or she should be willing to make the move, committed to succeed, and not holding a grudge.
  • The manager should accept a pay cut; it can be gradually reduced or frozen to give the person a chance to adjust to the new salary.
  • He or she should be given the opportunity to develop the skills needed to be considered for promotion again.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter