I am a manager with an "above the average" track record and have never heard a complaint in my reviews and 1:1s. I was given a best employee of the company award just last month (global company) and am also well-networked with senior management.

But last week my department head told me that in a few days one of his closer right hands will head my team and I should help him. When I asked if he had any feedback about me and my team's performance, he said everything was absolutely great and I should continue the great work. In further details I understood that most of my strategic responsibilities will be taken over by this person - effectively putting another layer of hierarchy between me and the upper echelons - and my own responsibilities will be less managerial.

As performance has not been an issue, I can only keep guessing what might be the reason, although common sense hints at company politics, even cronyism. I know for a fact that this successor is unpopular in my team and didn't even understand the function. However, I was aware for a while that he was being groomed to be part of our team.

In any case, I am unsure what to do next. I truly enjoy my job, the company, my responsibilities - but after all my sacrifices I never expected this to happen; heck, I was even sure to progress higher within a short time.

My future career goal is to be able to succeed in senior management so I need as much strategic experience as possible. If I stay in my relegated role, I might even find it harder to move to a similar role at another company. But starting from scratch at a new company would also mean a longer wait before I can progress higher.

So my main question is: how could I react to achieve the best outcome for my career progression?

Is this situation a reason to ponder a transition to a new company? What are the benefits of me staying?

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    OK, but the consequence is still that I am not managing anymore. So maybe it's not technically/officially a demotion, but in fact I am stripped of my responsibilities. Mar 26, 2014 at 20:13
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    Going to leave this answer here. Might be very, very important reading.
    – enderland
    Mar 26, 2014 at 20:25
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    @VietnhiPhuvan - If you have some evidence to back up that statement then it should be an answer. If not it is not constructive and does not belong in the comments. This is not a discussion forum. Mar 26, 2014 at 20:27
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    BTW, right now you should try to get a job at the next level of management rahter than thinking it could delay you getting there. It might speed it up.
    – HLGEM
    Mar 26, 2014 at 20:46
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    @AntarcticGorillas, can't help but notice everything in your last comment is written in the past tense. How is the present? How do you envision your future with this company?
    – Seth R
    Apr 1, 2018 at 5:02

3 Answers 3


Wow sounds like you failed to play the office politics game effectively. Good performance is never enough. You don't play the game and you lose, 100% of the time if you are in management.

Ok now you have to salvage what is left. First, and I know you are going to hate this one, you have to make friends with your new boss. You have to get him to mentor you. You have to help him and not show your resentment. Yeah I know you resent him, you wouldn't be human if you didn't. But this is the time to take the high road. This guy clearly has the office politics down pat, you need to learn from him.

You need to make sure that if team performance drops it can't be blamed on your attitude. So you have to be seen as cooperating with this guy. You also have to let your team know that they will have to cooperate with him too. Whether they like him or not.

They didn't take your management title away, but it may be a matter of time if this guy takes a dislike to you. Consider if now might not be the best time to find another job. You still have the title, so it might look better on resume and in interviews if you move while you still are officially a manager.

In response to the question by the OP in the comments

You said you saw it coming that he was being groomed for this. I think you should have addressed that right off. What allies did you have organizationally? Did you think that because he didn't know what he was doing ("didn't even understand the function") and he was unpopular with the team that he wasn't a threat? Good political players (especially the snake in the grass kind) are often unpopular with the team because they care more about being well thought of by people higher than them. That should have been a clue that he had something going on to make that unpopularity unimportant or that management wasn't aware of it.

Did you rely too much on your good performance and not enough on your network?

Why did they want him? What is it he brings to the table that they think you do not? What is he promising to deliver that he claims you cannot? Did he talk disparagingly of you or your team and let it go because you knew management thought you were doing a good job.

Sometimes it is hard to win over someone's cousin or college roommate no matter what moves you make.

Are they facing a financial challenge they think he can handle that you can't? Did they like your team management but ultimately, you didn't sell your strategic vision to them? If he is taking over strategically, he almost certainly has sold them some version of the future that they liked more than whatever strategic direction you wanted to go in.

There are many subtle and not so subtle things that could have gone on.

  • HLGEM, it's your last sentence that I am pondering about. I still have the title, and I still have the knowledge and experience that led me to "real" management. If I loose all that, how quickly can I get back into management (at ANY company)? Worst case scenario, I will have to cooperate with the new guy, but I sincerely feel like I would rather leave the company than submit to him. Mar 26, 2014 at 20:20
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    "Wow sounds like you failed to play the office politics game effectively." - Sometimes you just get the bad break, you do not have the knowledge of the specific circumstances to actually make this judgement here. Mar 26, 2014 at 20:26
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    There is plenty of information here to make that judgement. "I can only keep guessing what might be the reason, although common sense hints at company politics, even cronyism", "However, I was aware for a while that he was being groomed to be part of our team.", "most of my strategic responsibilities will be taken over by this person", "I was given a best employee of the company award just last month", "successor is unpopular in my team". All that points to someone who lost out at the political game. Great performers are not replaced by unpopular people unless they have lost at politics.
    – HLGEM
    Mar 26, 2014 at 20:44
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    @AntarcticGorillas "he almost certainly has sold them some version of the future that they liked more than whatever strategic direction you wanted to go in." I think this is the most common scenario in the workplace
    – ILikeTacos
    Mar 26, 2014 at 21:21
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    HLGEM, Thank you for adding further notes about the possible reasons for losing the political game. In response to your question, my simplest suspicion is that this person just happens to work closer (physically, in the same office/country) as the department head and CEO, whereas my team and I are located in another country. When I spoke about cronyism I mean that most of those located with the CEO are literally friends or alumni from the same university. There is a trend where they grow faster, however I never expected that this would place a hurdle in my own growth. Mar 26, 2014 at 22:36

I've been in your position.

First thing to do is go to your boss (the old one, not the one you've just been given) and demand to know why you've been demoted, and what your future is. Demand is not too strong a word here. You should be polite, but you should not allow them to fob you off with nothing. You are entitled to an explanation. You should get an explicit statement from them as to whether they had any issues with your performance. You should also expect to know what your future is going to look like, and when you might expect to get a similar level of responsibility that you had before. From my experience companies do not demote people and then promote them again later. When it happened to me, not only was I never given an equivalent post, but when the new boss left someone else was given my old job.

Your next decision is "Do I want to continue working in this demoted role". Everything I read in your question says you shouldn't. You won't be getting the experience you want, and frankly if you've been demoted it's a sign they don't want you in that role, no matter what reason they give. If you decide you are happy in your new role, and with the reduced prospects, then follow HLGEM's advice.

If you are not happy, then start looking for another job. Also consult a lawyer. It's possible that the company's actions may constitute 'constructive dismissal, i.e. you've been fired without being fired. If that's the case you may be able to claim severance or other compensation

  • Has the OP actually been demoted? Does it make sense to demand to know why a new layer of management has been implemented? Why does everyone claim "constructive dismissal" these days? Seems like a new fad or something. Oct 4, 2016 at 11:43
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    Yes. Beforehand the OP was the head of the team. Now someone else is head of the team and OP is 'helping' him. That is unquestionably a demotion, whatever the company says. It doesn't matter if it is accompanied by a pay cut or not. Mar 31, 2018 at 23:01

It sounds to me that you have not actually been demoted at all. A demotion typically results in being given a new title or official position that is lower than your current one along with a change in salary.

What is unclear to me is wether or not your current position of authority or management responsibilities were officially given to you or if you simply slid into the role.

"one of his closer right hands will head my team and I should help him"

The way I see it, using your description of the scenario, one of two things could be happening here (assuming your management role is not self imposed and is a titled position within the company organization):

1) The team is yours, you manage the people who make up the team in an official capacity, and this new position is created to manage the function of the team, or "the team" as a whole and not the individuals within the team. In this case there is no demotion, there is simply a new position that is being filled.

2) The team was your team where you held an authority position but have been stripped of any authority and the team was handed over to another employee. This case is more like a demotion (if you held the leadership title in an official capacity*) but without being formally moved to a lower position. You would simply be losing responsibilities within your current position.

You said yourself that the man who is moving in to this position was the "right hand" of your department head. That means that this person is technically more experienced in dealing with upper levels of management and has, in at least one way, held a higher position than you to start.

If what is happening is more like the first scenario I listed, what actually seems to have happened is a new position was created and then filled immediately by another company employee. Some companies have a policy that when a new position opens or is created that they must make that position known first within the company and then to the public to solicit applications. You can certainly look for such a policy and go to your hiring manager and ask why you were not informed and given the opportunity to apply for the new position.

If it is more like the second scenario, I would bite the bullet and start looking at yourself and how you relate to the company as a whole. It is great to have the respect and admiration of those who work directly for or with you, but it is a completely different thing when you start to look outward and upward. Those who work in a parallel position or advanced position could have an entirely different view of you. For example, a teacher who just turns on the TV and plays a movie and hands out candies to the kids might be beloved by those kids, but not the other teachers or parents in the school.

Regardless of the scenario, the best advice that I can give you is to stop assuming that you know better than those making the decisions. Unless you are involved in the process, you really do not have enough information to be able to give an opinion on the topic. In all of these scenarios where an employee feels the wrong person was promoted or hired, the only thing you can and should do is go with the flow and allow the person to prove you wrong or right. Going in to it with a chip on your shoulder is certainly not the way to maintain a good environment in the workplace.

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