Choosing a Voluntary Demotion

I was sitting in a floor-level seat at the Eagles concert in Los Angeles back in January. Although I was enjoying myself, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread. I had performance reviews (along with my regular never-ending stack of work) waiting for me back in Fort Worth.

I was promoted to my first supervisory position, a Division Director with the US Department of Housing Urban Development, back in 2011. After rising through the ranks from a Student Trainee, it was the first time I began questioning if I had made the right decision.

Michael Roberts cites three signs you should consider a voluntary demotion: stress-related health problems, poor fit with the higher level position, and had more fun at a lower level job. Fortunately I was healthy (although maybe a little crabby at times), and I felt like I was a good fit for the position (I grew more confident with supervision over time and I received positive feedback about my performance). However, my previous job was fantastic. Management was very supportive, I had more flexibility with my schedule, I could telework, morale was good, and I had the time and energy to pursue other activities outside of work. But I had to make sure a voluntary demotion was the right choice.

In her article “A Report on the Importance of Work-Life Balance,” Melissa Abercromby emphasizes the importance of “self-management,” meaning that people need to control their own behavior and expectations. I tried to improve communication with my staff and also delegate more assignments. I stopped working through the lunch hour and got back to my old routine of going to the gym or occasionally meeting friends for lunch. I began limiting my access to work email when I was away from the office. Also, I stopped working on the weekends. But the biggest struggle I faced concerning work-life balance was turning the “off switch” when I left the office. My “to do list” weighed heavily on my mind, even when I knew I should be enjoying myself.

It was a very difficult decision. I didn’t want to feel like I was “giving up,” especially because I worked so hard to get to that level. I also enjoyed the work I was doing and the feeling of accomplishment. However, the pros of going back to my old job outweighed the cons, and in April I made the switch back to a Financial Analyst. I’m enjoying the aspects of the job I remembered (and missed!), and I am working on some challenging assignments. But now I have a better work-life balance, I am happier and less stressed, and I am able to pursue some new opportunities (like applying for a leadership program and blogging for GovLoop). In the near future I will be ready for the challenges of supervision and a promotion again, but I will choose wisely because it will be tough leaving this great job (again)!

Nicole Willingham is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Sabrina H. DeLay

Great first blog post Nicole! Your courage and honesty demonstrated through this blog post are valued traits in government employees no matter their rank!