- Nearly half of HR managers in a new OfficeTeam survey said they have seen an employee demoted. Results from an accompanying survey of workers showed one in 10 had reported being demoted. The survey queried more than 300 U.S. HR managers and more than 1,000 U.S. workers.
- The No. 1 reason given for a demotion was poor performance (39%), followed by "not succeeding" in a position to which a worker was promoted (38%). Other causes included organizational restructuring (16%) and voluntary demotions (6%).
- More than half of the workers in the survey who reported being demoted (52%) ended up quitting their job, while 50% said they tried to be as gracious as possible when told the news. Meanwhile, 47% said they got upset and later became disengaged at work, but another 41% said they focused on improving their performance while in the lower position.
The survey shows demotions may be more common than once thought and that the circumstances of demotion vary widely. Employers should have a detailed set of steps to take before an employee is demoted, including action plans and mandatory meetings to go over performance improvement. Some demotions may be unavoidable, but an employer can affirm that it did everything to help an employee succeed while documenting actions taken — should a compliance issue arise.
Strengthening engagement from the moment of hire might be one way to avoid a demotion; the act of helping employees understand and appreciate their role in fulfilling the organization's mission is key. Marc Hildenberger, strategic relationship manager at Exude, previously told HR Dive that communicating an employee's role isn't a mystery. He said employers must consider how employees engage, how they fit in, and whether they're heard, listened to and empowered.
HR managers shouldn't hesitate to communicate with employees for any reason, even in cases where a demotion is pending. A 2017 study found that employees want a stronger connection with HR and that the majority (75%) said HR communicated with them "rarely," "sometimes" or "never." As the overseer of human capital management, HR leaders can open up communication channels to drive better engagement.