Although demotions in the workplace may be less common than promotions, they occur more frequently than you might think.

According to new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam, nearly half of HR managers (46%) have seen someone at their company moved down a rung on the career ladder.

demotions infographic

Professionals were most commonly demoted for poor performance (39%) and not succeeding in a new job after being promoted (38%).

Other reasons for demotions were organizational restructuring/position eliminated (16%) and voluntary demotion (6%).

A separate survey found that more than one in 10 workers (14%) have been asked to take on a lower role.

Nineteen percent of male professionals were demoted versus 7% of women.

Employees ages 18 to 34 (22%) were downgraded positions more often than those ages 35 to 54 (10%) and 55 or older (3%).

The surveys were developed by OfficeTeam and conducted by independent research firms.

They include responses from more than 300 HR managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees and more than 1,000 U.S. workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.

Data tables with a breakdown of the results by company size, gender and age are available.

Additional Findings

  • HR managers at companies with 500 to 999 and 1,000 or more employees were most likely to have seen a worker demoted (77% and 91%, respectively).
  • While half (50%) of professionals who were downgraded tried to handle the news as gracefully as possible, 52% quit, and 47% got upset and lost interest in their jobs.
  • Male employees (55%) and those ages 18 to 34 (64%) most often resigned in response to being demoted.

Employers: Proceed with Caution

For employers or managers, demoting an employee can be complex and fraught with pitfalls, particularly if the demotion occurs for disciplinary reasons.

The Society for Human Resource Management encourages employers considering a demotion to proceed cautiously and thoughtfully.

SHRM offers commonsense recommendations for determining if a demotion is the right move and, if so, how to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible with minimal disruptions.