Feel Like You’ve Been Demoted? Ask Madeleine

Hi Madeleine,

I have been working for over 15 years in my field and have moved up the ranks. In my last role I was a manager. 

Six months ago, I left my old job and moved to a company that had a small team where I was given a supervisor/team lead title that was one step below my previous position. That was fine, given that the title was the next rank down in the new company’s hierarchy. I also anticipated that the job would further my skill set and I would learn different tools and approaches. I had felt stagnant in my previous job. 

Recently, our department head created a new “senior team lead” level between the role I have and the one above. My teammate was then promoted to this new role based on the fact she’s been here for a year longer than I have and would be assisting my team lead with strategy. 

I don’t begrudge my teammate her promotion because she deserves it. However, I’m feeling like I’ve effectively been demoted because I’m now two ranks below manager instead of one. And the way that my manager presented a document detailing the new “career path” felt patronizing. 

I also feel that my 15+ years in the field counts for nothing and that I’m just seen as a new person who has been with the company for six months—even though I have more experience and skills than both my team lead and my teammate put together. 

I know I have the skills for this newly created job, but I would have to work here for another three to five years to be promoted even to my former level, let alone anything above that. 

Should I say something? What? How? And to whom? 


Did I Make a Mistake?

Dear Did I Make a Mistake,

I think you might be focusing on the wrong things. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • In this new job, are you able to further your skill set and learn different tools and approaches as you expected?
  • Do you like your team and your new manager?
  • Do you enjoy working with your new team?
  • Is your current compensation and benefit package working for you?
  • Is your quality of life (workspace, commute, personal sustainability) better with your new job, or worse?
  • Do you want to manage people, or do you prefer to be a technical specialist?

It sounds like your mind is really stuck on the seniority and your career trajectory, which is fine, but you must decide if that is more important to you than everything else.

That you felt patronized in your meeting with your manager is a different and separate issue. You definitely want to clear the air about that. If she isn’t aware of your experience, it wouldn’t hurt for her to know about it. If she is open to feedback about her approach to the conversation, it would be very good to share what you thought and how it made you feel. Just because your title isn’t where you want it to be doesn’t mean that your experience should be diminished or that you should feel disrespected.

If you weigh the answers to all of questions against your dissatisfaction with your seniority and title and it still feels all wrong, then you have your answer. Fight for the right title and level based on your experience—and be ready to go elsewhere if proper adjustments can’t be made.

If everything is really working for you, I suggest you let this go and focus on simply enjoying the work and doing a great job.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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