When you long to resign or go back to your old job

Dear Joan:

I don't know whether I should resign from my company or just ask for a demotion. I work as a recruitment supervisor but I am very unhappy with what I do.


I can’t take the pressure and I oftentimes carry the workload and burdens home. I have been thinking of resigning but all the other jobs out there pay way less than what I'm already receiving right now.


When the supervisory position was offered to me, I turned it down at first because I really think that I don't have leadership skills. I didn't want to be bothered by a lot of pressure, which would make my life miserable. But my boss was very insistent so I gave in. Now, that boss will be transferred to another area and she has talked me into taking her managerial responsibility (without an increase in pay-just increased job responsibilities).


Right now, I think I just want to be a plain "recruiter" free from any pressure and stress. Is asking for a demotion normal when others aspire to become leaders? Won’t it hurt my pride?



Your former manager must be quite persuasive! Not only did she manage to talk you into a job you didn’t want but she did it twice. The lesson here is to follow your own heart when it comes to career decisions. Just because some people aspire to move up into the ranks of management, it isn’t for everyone.


Unfortunately, “career advancement” has typically been defined as moving up. New thinking on the subject puts a different spin on the idea: “career growth” is the real goal. For some people that may mean moving up the hierarchy, for others it means becoming the expert in their chosen field who moves from company to company or out on their own, For others, it can mean staying where they are and keeping up to date and enjoying what they do. And increasingly, people are willing to step down and sideways. It’s become more fluid and it’s about time.


It sounds like you long for the job you once had. It was something I am sure you did well, or you wouldn’t have been pressured by your manager to move up. Frankly, I wish more reluctant, unwilling supervisors would be willing to step back into what they did best. They would be happier, their employees would be happier and the company’s results would be better. So where does that leave you?


If you do decide to ask for your old job, here are some things to consider:


You raise the issue of pride. You are the one to honestly answer that question. I know of a few cases where managers voluntarily stepped back into their old jobs and pulled it off beautifully. They simply explained that they liked their old jobs better and decided to go back to what they do best and enjoy most. In both cases, they saved face by being honest and upfront about their choice. They also embraced their replacement and cooperated fully in the hiring and orientation.


I know of a few cases where the choice was not voluntary and the individuals were demoted. These folks wanted to stay with the company and swallowed their pride and dug into their work and had a positive attitude. It was tough to do with a bruised ego but over time they were able to make the adjustment.


The key issue here is that you would be doing it voluntarily. It’s much easier to explain to people and much less damaging to your ego when you are the one who has made the choice—you get to put the spin on it.


Unfortunately, when someone is demoted against their will, it rarely works out. They often end up bitter as a result of their embarrassment and loss of face. Frequently they try to undermine the new leader and become the cynical sniper from the sidelines.


Your salary would be reduced if you stay in your current company but is that true if you left for a company that pays more for recruiters? Recruiters can be quite highly compensated in some industries, because they are the lifeblood of the business. You may want to look into insurance, staffing service companies and executive search companies, for example.


If you are that miserable I doubt the pay is worth it. If you would prefer to stay with your current company, you may be able to trim your personal budget or find some other way to augment your income on the side.


If you do decide to step back into your former role, talk to your manager first. She has been your advocate and she is the one who did the arm twisting. She could be an important ally for you in making your case with the company (and don’t let her talk you out of your decision!)


Be prepared if the company says “no.” They might be worried about some of the problems I mentioned. In that case, you might even offer that they allow you to do it for six months (a sort of “reverse probationary period”) and then assess how it is working out. During that time you can demonstrate that you are happy and productive again and a partner with the new supervisor who has taken your place.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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