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Demoted? Here's What to Do
Episode 6913th March 2023 • Faithful on the Clock • Wanda Thibodeaux
00:00:00 00:15:46

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Faithful on the Clock is a podcast with the mission of getting your work and faith aligned. We want you to understand Who you're serving and why so you can get more joy and legacy from every minute spent on the clock. Thanks for joining us and taking this step toward a more fulfilling job and relationship with God!

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In this episode...

Demoted? Here's What to Do

Demotions are a weird gray area for workers. Do you still have value? Should you leave? In Episode 69, Faithful on the Clock looks at important actions to take when your employer puts you in a lower position.


[00:04] - Intro

[00:33] - Demotion definition and explanation of the psychological significance

[01:15] - Layoffs aren’t always your fault and can happen due to restructuring, mergers, etc.

[01:50] - The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife shows that people can be wrongfully pushed down from the positions they once held.

[03:05] - A local pastor in my community was demoted from the church he’d helped found.

[04:00] - Neither Joseph nor my community pastor were “done.” They just were starting new journeys.

[05:00] - Don’t quit God during a demotion, especially since the demotion doesn’t remove the skills and talents He gifted to you. Just apply what you have differently.

[05:42] - Demotions require forgiveness, sometimes even of the larger culture indirectly involved. Without that forgiveness, you can get distracted from what God wants you to do and get lost in bitterness.

[06:17] - The story of Apple’s Steve Jobs shows that people’s choices can tie to demotion.

[07:05] - Stories from scripture that show how choice can lead to loss of position include Jacob and Esau and Reuban and his father’s concubine.

[08:12] - You might not have a fairy tale ending and get your position back as Steve Jobs did. But you don’t have to stay stuck. You can take accountability and focus forward.

[09:22] - Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Instead, keep a level head and identify new goals. Consider whether you’ll be happy and what’s most urgent, and take the opportunity to learn and prove you’re still an asset.

[10:50] - Foster relationships well during a demotion. Take accountability and communicate well. Seek mentors who can give your confidence a boost.

[11:55] - Give yourself time to acclimate to your new, lower role. You might find that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.

[13:11] - Prayer

[14:18] - Outro/What’s coming up next

Key takeaways:

  • Demotion can be hard to navigate mentally.
  • Demotions aren’t necessarily your fault. They often arise due to mergers, downsizing, etc.
  • The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife shows that a demotion might arise through no fault of your own. A pastor in my community was also asked to step down when he’d done nothing wrong–like the Israelites with Moses, the congregation just wasn’t happy with his leadership.
  • Joseph and my community pastor didn’t let demotions stop them. They just took new paths on how to help others for God. You don’t have to assume that a demotion means everything is over for you or that you’ve lost the gifts He’s given to you.
  • It’s important to forgive where you can during a demotion so you don’t get lost from what God wants you to do.
  • Sometimes demotions do happen at fault, as the stories of Steve Jobs, Esau, and Reuban all show. But you are not stuck. You can humble yourself and seek to make positive changes.
  • Don’t let your emotions drive you if you are demoted. Think about where God wants you and how you can learn.
  • Relationships are important in a demotion situation. Communicate openly and seek to foster good relationships in your new role. Find new mentors who can rebuild your confidence.
  • Give yourself some time to acclimate to your new role. It might be that you end up enjoying it more than you thought you would. Reassess after a few weeks or months.


  • Have an open discussion with your management about how the company is doing and what kind of things they would consider worthy of demotion.
  • Look at your previous performance reviews for at least the past three years. Identify three areas that put you at risk and three areas that you could build on to hedge yourself from a demotion.
  • Find someone who has gone through a demotion. Talk to them about their experience and discover what they learned.

What’s coming up next:

Craftsmanship and quality connect closely to worker mental health and the ability of a company to last over the long haul. In Episode 70 of Faithful on the Clock, learn how consumerism is driving a deemphasis on these points and what you can do to fight back.

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Welcome back to Faithful on the Clock, everybody, the podcast where all the snowflakes in the snowman are meant to get your faith and work aligned. I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, for the whole time, the whole show. And today, we’re covering what to do when you get demoted. Not fired. Not laid off. Demoted. Big difference, right? So you need a unique approach to get past it. Let’s dive right in. Here we go.


All right, listeners, the awful D-word. Demotion. So this is where, rather than being laid off or fired, your employer puts you in a position that’s lower than what you had, maybe in power, maybe in pay, or maybe both. And this is really weird because it’s almost like you’re in limbo, right? Like, mentally, you can think to yourself, well, if they wanted me and I was doing a good job, I wouldn’t have been moved down a peg, but if they didn’t want me, I wouldn’t still be getting a paycheck. So there’s this whole psychological uncertainty that can come along with this. And so how can you deal with that in a healthy, productive way?


So just like in Episode 67 that I just did on layoffs, I will emphasize that a lot of the time, demotions have nothing to do with your skill or knowledge set, OK? A lot of the time, it can happen because a company is restructuring, whether that’s because of budget issues, a merger, you know, all those types of things. And I’ve known people where that’s been the case and their employer was like, we do not want you to be without a job, we care about you, but we have to eliminate some of, like, these higher positions if we’re gonna survive here. So don’t automatically assume that it’s all on you, OK?


Now, one story from scripture that proves this point is the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. And so basically what happened was, Potiphar, you know, he’s one of Pharoah’s most powerful men. And Potiphar had just put Joseph in charge of everything in his house. But Potiphar’s wife, she takes a look at Joseph, sees he’s a good-looking dude, and essentially propositions him to have an affair with her. And Joseph is not having it. He literally runs away from her. And well, she’s not happy about being denied and scorned, so she tricks her husband into thinking that Joseph had assaulted her, when of course that wasn’t what happened at all. And Potiphar, he gets so angry that he throws Joseph in prison. And the reason I call this a demotion is that, you know, Potiphar, this was a situation where Joseph, being a Hebrew slave, Potiphar could easily have had him killed. But he didn’t. And then, too, Joseph didn’t leave those powerful people around him. When things got straightened out, he ended up still working for Pharoah in a big way. So that’s kind of my rationale there for why I’m seeing it that way. But I point to this story because it really is a case where somebody lost out really harshly and they’d done absolutely zero to deserve it.


And so now I want to tie this back to modern-day real life. You know, how does this play out today. And not too long ago, one of the churches in my area, their board voted to remove the pastor there. And this, just so you understand, the pastor who was demoted, he was the guy who actually had founded the church. And to be honest, I cannot imagine what that must have been like. Because here this guy is, trying to do what the thinks is best, to serve God as a shepherd, and the people he’s shepherding say they don’t want his leadership anymore. That might sound a little familiar if you’ve heard the story of Moses in Exodus, where the Israelites get angry at Moses as they’re wandering around and start complaining about what a bad job he’s doing. It happens all the time. But to make a long story short, the church, fortunately, they did elect somebody who I absolutely respect, absolutely somebody with a heart for God. I’m glad he’s where he is.


But here’s the deal. Joseph, when he’s sitting there in prison, he didn’t just sit there counting his toenails. He kept trying to help people. He kept doing good things. And the guards there noticed. And it was because of his help to other people that eventually word got to Pharoah about his ability to interpret dreams, and that was what ended up setting Joseph free. And the pastor from my community church, well, he could have gotten bitter and said, you know, “God, what on Earth are you doing? I thought I was supposed to lead the people here for you. I’m done.” But he didn’t do that. Once he was out of the church, he went out and he got involved in all kinds of activities for God, missionary stuff, supporting causes. So his service for God, it wasn’t done, not by a long shot. It just looked different than the pastor thought it was. You know, God put him on a different assignment, and the demotion was actually the start of that new journey.


So my first message is, when you get a demotion, don’t quit God, OK? Don’t assume everything is over. Instead of that, look for how you can help in the new place where you’re at. Even if now you’re in a position where all you do is look at Excel spreadsheets all day, you can say, “All right, God, I don’t really get it, but I’m gonna be the best darn Excel expert I can be here.” Because what I want you to realize is, a demotion doesn’t erase the gifts God has granted to you. It absolutely does not. It just means that now you’ll have to apply them differently. And that’s OK. You can do that. You’ve got that strength inside of you, I promise you.


Now, within that, there has to be some forgiveness. Because a demotion usually means that somebody’s just made your life a little bit harder, right? And that somebody isn’t always your boss. I mean, your boss doesn’t necessarily control all the market stuff that forces the company to look at a restructure. So sometimes it’s just, you know, forgiveness for the whole culture, for the decisions people you don’t even know have made. But that forgiveness is important because without it, you can get distracted. Instead of focusing on what God wants you to do, you can get lost in how bitter you feel.


But let’s back up a little bit. Let’s say you’ve been demoted and you DO have a lot to do with it. Maybe your company for whatever reason can’t fire you but your work is just slipping. Or maybe you made some really bad choices that other people in the company question and don’t agree with. You know, look at Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs had an absolutely massive marketing dispute with CEO John Sculley about how to handle the company’s product lineup. And as things unfolded, the board voted to demote him from head of the Macintosh division. And that demotion prompted Jobs to resign a few months later. I’m not saying the board was right or wrong. I’m just saying, they questioned his judgment and took away the power he had because of it. His behavior was part of the story.


And going back to scripture, we see choices influencing the positions people had, too. You can start with Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25:29-34. Esau was the firstborn son and so he was entitled to the birthright from their father. And I’m not condoning how Jacob tricked him out of that birthright, but Esau didn’t really value it. He decided to sell it all for a bowl of stew Jacob had. And so Esau got demoted, he didn’t have the rights of the firstborn anymore. That absolutely was a choice on Esau’s part. And then in Genesis 35:22, we have Reuban, the first of Jacob’s sons, who went in on purpose and slept with his father’s concubine. There are scholars who think this was a deliberate ploy on Reuban’s part to get back at Jacob and assert dominance because of the favoritism Jacob had shown to his second wife, Rachel. But in Genesis 49:3-4, when Jacob is doling out blessings to his kids right before he dies, that all blows up in Reuban’s face, and Jacob takes Reuban’s birthright away.


Now, if you’re in this position, you might not be able to have a fairy tale ending like Steve Jobs got and end up back in power. You might not have your company ask you back and end up even more respected than you were. And I understand. It is not easy to admit you didn’t do so hot or let biases get the best of you. That’s tough. But what I want you to take away is that there’s nothing chaining you to the way you were or what happened, OK? You have every capacity to look at what happened, to learn from it, and from there, to make a conscious choice to walk differently. You can step back in a little humility. You can say, “You know, that was not, I just wasn’t doing my best there at all.” And you can take accountability and, from that point, work to change the habits or behaviors that led you to the poor judgments you made. So you’re not stuck. You just have to focus on where you can go, rather than lamenting about how awful you were. And I encourage you to ask people for a little help. You know, let them know how you’re trying to do better, set up some checks and balances or just some points where you can check in with others.


So on the practical side of things a bit more here, when you’re demoted, looking at all these scriptures as a background, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Just go in with a level head and identify some new goals. Now, it might very well be that, depending on the circumstances, you don’t want to stay with the company that demoted you. That’s OK. Maybe the demotion means that, financially, you really can’t afford not to look for something else. But really think about where God wants you. Think about whether you’ll be happy or able to make an impact depending on whether you stay or go. Think about what the influence is going to be on your career. Now, assuming you do stay in your new, lower position, ask yourself, what’s most urgent? What can benefit other people or the company the most if you give it your attention? You know, be creative about what you can do and turn that new position into. Take the opportunity to think about the positive ways you genuinely can learn and improve yourself so that a demotion never gets on your plate again. The aim has to be to show the company that you’re still an asset and that you intend to always be an asset, OK? And the more positive you stay about it, the more you try to see the opportunities hidden in the situation, the easier it’s gonna be to keep the stress at a level you can handle.


Then secondly, fostering relationships is going to matter a lot when you go through a demotion. A lot of times, in a demotion, maybe you know some of the people in the business, but it’s still gonna take some time to really understand the dynamics of the people around you. You might never have been in charge of the people you’re in charge of now, or maybe they feel a little resentful that you got put into the position you’re in. So don’t assume that everybody’s gonna want to share with you or that they’ll automatically accept you. And keep in mind, people absolutely are going to be looking to see how you react to the situation. So just, again, take accountability where you can and work hard to learn who people are. Be deliberate about communicating really openly and figuring out where you can support everybody. As an aside here, go out and find some new mentors. Because a lot of the time, a demotion, that can really do a number on your confidence. You need people who can teach you and reassure you and help you find new opportunities in the company or elsewhere.


Then thirdly, give yourself some time. I mean, the connotation of a demotion is that it’s bad, right? And I think a lot of people assume going in that they’re not going to like the new role they get shoved into. That’s kind of natural because, even though we do need a little novelty to stay motivated, people are hardwired to like a certain degree of familiarity, too. We don’t like getting ripped out of what we know and we assume that there are all kinds of threats in the unknown. But sometimes what happens is, you get into it, and after a while, you find out that you really enjoy being where you are. You know, things can surprise you like that. So try to keep an open mind. Let yourself acclimate a little bit. Then after a few weeks or months go back and reassess and think about how you’re feeling. And I’ll point out here, too, that Steve Jobs, ultimately, in hindsight, he recognized that the demotion actually had helped him grow. He ended up saying it was the best thing that ever happened because leaving apple let him think like a beginner again. So it might be that the demotion is exactly what you need to become even better, and you just never know what positives are going to reveal themselves to you about it over time.


So I hope that all of this helps you see that demotions aren’t always your fault, and that even if you’ve made some not-so-great decisions to get into one, you still can work to make the best of things. You still have the ability to learn and do some great things. So with that, let’s pray.

Lord, as I talk about this topic today, I cannot end this show without acknowledging that your son Jesus took the biggest step down from power of all time. He had everything with You. But He was willing to literally come down from Heaven and become as we were so that we could be worthy of Your forgiveness and peace. And as part of that, when He was on this Earth, He let Himself be demoted again, and He went from being a teacher with thousands of followers to suffering on the cross. So God, I thank You that He did not lose sight of His purpose through the way we treated Him. And I just ask that, for everyone listening, you keep them focused on You, too. In Jesus’ name, I pray.


OK. So that’s the episode for today. For next time, we’re going to talk about craftsmanship and quality. How does that tie to worker motivation, mental health, and the longevity of your company? As you wait for that, I want to remind you all that we host our weekly challenge group. Every Monday, on Twitter @FaithulOTC I pick a verse and challenge you to take action on it, and then we chat about it on Thursdays. So get involved in that. It’s a great way to connect with me and other listeners. I’ll talk to you then, everybody. Be blessed.