Two years ago I received a promotion into a higher level technical role, separated mostly by access to production data and servers. This was not a promotion into a management role.

Since then, I have paid off my mortgage and feel I have my finances in order. Therefore, I no longer wish to work a position with the same level of stress as my current one. I would love to step back into my old role.

How do I sell this to management?

I will definitely be seeking a new employer if I can not step down from this position.

Note: There are multiple openings at my old position and at least 2 people eligible to be promoted to my current role.

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    Is there any scope for being a senior version of your old role at the same promotion grade? You could try and sell it to your management as you'd like to go back to the old work without mentioning the demotion first, assuming that'd likely reduce your stress too.
    – Rup
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 14:26
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    @Rup Unfortunately, no. This is a goverment job with clearly defined positions.
    – jmorc
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 16:14
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    @jmorc federal? state? which state? I bet the answers are going to vary by locale. Are there any HR resources you can ping? I bet someone somewhere in your local "company" has had this question or dealt with this... probably documentation somewhere on what is allowed and what isn't.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 18:53
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    Why not ask for an assistant? Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 4:42
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    @BurhanKhalid An assistant is not going to help with this issue. I would still be solely responsible should anything go wrong any of my systems. I don't want someone to help me do my work. I just don't want to have the same responsibilities I have now.
    – jmorc
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


I would love to step back into my old role. How do I sell this to management?

If you have a decent rapport with your boss, then you simply have an honest discussion.

You talk about the stress of the job, and how you no longer wish to deal with it. You don't need to get into the reasons so much (now that I am financially stable, I don't need to put up with the stress) unless you are specifically asked why.

You point out your value to the company, and how you will retain much of that value by moving to an individual contributor role. You hint that this is important enough to you that you would consider leaving, rather than remaining in the management role.

And of course you indicate that you realize you may have to forfeit some salary and benefits with this move, but that it will be worthwhile for you.

Some employers are flexible enough that they are willing to demote you and replace you. I worked at one such company, where I was brought in to replace the former manager when she concluded that she was over her head in the management role and wanted to go back to being an individual contributor. It was awkward for a few months, but worked out okay. Eventually, she wanted to go part-time, and later on left the company.

Some employers aren't as flexible, or don't want to deal with the awkwardness that will inevitably arise. Some folks who talk about taking a demotion to move to an easier job will still want to maintain some control and influence that other individual contributors wouldn't have. Some employers worry about that potential conflict. In your case you want to assure management that you won't be like that.

The only way to know is to talk with your management.

You might also consider if a transfer to a different department within your company would be a viable alternate solution. Sometimes, moving away from your current team eases some of the awkwardness.

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    I would not offer your salary and benefits up front. If you are still within the salary band of the previous position, you could in theory be demoted without losing salary.
    – n00b
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 17:10
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    Also consider future implications of such a demotion. If you eventually find a job with another company, they may wonder why you were a normal staffer, became a manager, then went back to being a staffer. Of course, they may never find out, but if they do, it may look weird (potential indication of an issue). In addition, if at some point you decide to become a manager again, this demotion may prove to be a barrier as-in people will wonder why it didn't work out the first time, and perhaps you're not capable the second time.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 21:57
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    @SnakeDoc I don't know if it'd help the OP (I think the US Federal govt might be too rigid in its career paths); but something I've seen in the past has been people promoted from Technical 3, to Management 3 (with a payscale equivalent to a notional technical 3.5), and then leave management as a Technical 4. At the point of being at a formally staffing higher level the implication can be made that the change in title was still a real promotion despite the nominal removal of management authority. Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 0:41
  • I think I would phrase it as "What would you need from me to make this possible?" and being open to their suggestions of pay reduction, rather than actively suggesting it yourself. If nothing else, accidentally negotiating to a lower salary is a potential negative competence trigger; I'm reminded of the advice always to wait till they give a number because they may be thinking an entire factor higher than you are.
    – deworde
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 11:43
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    I'd personally be worried about "Things are messed up in the department jmorc used to take care of, go get him and see if he can fix it," or something along the lines of that.
    – CKM
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 17:33

How do I sell this to management?

Focusing on your specific question, you can offer to mentor your eventual replacement, and subsequently, offer to do so by accepting a demotion. When asked, it's fine to say you simply don't need the additional hassles, and you want to give one of the very talented, capable people their turn.

For your management's perspective, there are a few questions, and you should ask yourself these before approaching this.

  • How will a new manager react to having his/a former boss as a subordinate?
  • How will you handle people deferring to you or approaching you directly, rather than their new boss, or when they have a problem?
  • How do you ensure you aren't sending a de-moralizing message to the troops, effectively stating "the next job up isn't worth the trouble"
  • How will you ensure that the new boss will be comfortable changing your previous decisions (in terms of policies, procedures, whatever)?
  • Given your greater experience in the role, can you balance mentoring with working for someone new? (The mentor role is a great bit of sugar for selling the deal.)

Focus on why you want the new role, not on why you want to leave the old one.

For example as a technical person you may say that you feel that your technical skills are more valuable both to you and the company and that having tried management for a few years you have discovered that you got more satisfaction from applying yourself technically.

Ask what you can do to move back into the more technical direction. It's possible that a "sideways" move into a more technical or architectural role would actually be just as good for you as a "demotion" move. If that's not feasible then saying you'd be happy to move to an [insert desired level here] role and realize that would mean a change in your package.

  • 1
    The promotion was not into a managerial role, I'll add this to the question.
    – jmorc
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:25

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