5 safe tips to ask for a demotion (+ samples)

Updated on August 19, 2023
how to ask for a demotion at work

If you were promoted recently to a managerial position and you have realized that you are not capable of handling all the extra responsibility that comes with the job, then you might be thinking about how to ask for a demotion without losing the respect and trust of your superiors.

The best way to ask for a demotion at work is to reassure your superiors that you have not lost motivation to be a productive and dedicated worker. Explain your reasoning carefully when given the chance, and state that you will be working to the best of your abilities to ensure a smooth transition.

According to some rough estimates, there are between 1.5 and 2 million employees in managerial positions in the United States.

The reality is that even experienced professionals may ask to be demoted at some point in their careers due to personal circumstances or sheer inability to perform as expected of them.

While there is nothing shameful about asking for a voluntary demotion, stepping down from a leadership position at work may not be as easy as some might think because this may cause a significant setback for a company.

Can you get fired for asking for a demotion?

Can you get fired for asking for a demotion

You can get fired for asking to be demoted because your boss may see this request as a sign that you are not a motivated worker who can be trusted with more responsibility.

But generally, companies do not wish to part ways with experienced workers, so a demotion would be preferable.

In the USA, you can be let go from work at any point if you work under what is known as “at-will employment,” which makes up 70 % of the American workforce.

However, letting go of an experienced professional and looking for a new recruit to fill the role would probably be a lot more tedious and time-consuming than simply accepting a request for a demotion.

So in most cases, it is OK to ask for a demotion when you are well aware that this is the best possible decision for both you and the company that you work for.

You just need to make sure that your superiors will see that as well. And if you are a valuable professional for the company, you should have every expectation to keep your job.

How to explain stepping down from a position

Your superiors and HR reps would probably want to learn your reasoning behind your request to be demoted.

This would be your chance to share your views and why you think this would be the best possible decision both for you and the company.

The key to explaining how come you wish to step down from your position is to craft an explanation that consists of multiple components.

Here are some basic directions that you can implement.

  1. Apologize to your superiors for causing this inconvenience.
  2. State that you think this would be for the best of the company.
  3. Make sure to use the word “because” to be more convincing.
  4. Consider sharing your personal reasons that have led you to this decision.
  5. State your willingness to work towards a smooth transition.

For example, you can say something like:

I believe that this role should be taken by somebody who is more capable than me in order to bring maximum value to our company. I wish I could fill this role, but due to my personal circumstances, I am unable to do it, and I apologize for this.

The idea behind an apology and explanation with multiple components is to make your appeal sound more genuine and credible.

A shallow request and a poor explanation might have a negative effect, alienating your superiors and causing them to lose their trust in you.

A worker asking to be demoted isn't unheard of. In fact, it is somewhat expected. However, It is important to show your superiors that you understand very well that this is a setback, both for you and the company.

Hopefully, there is a coworker who is suitable for the role and willing to take it once you step down. This would be the best possible scenario for you.

How to request a demotion

How to step down from a position

If you have a hard time taking action toward your demotion request, then here is the entire process broken down into 5 simple steps that you can follow.

1. Speak to your boss first

Before you send an email to anyone with your request for a demotion, it would be best to speak to your boss first and explain what is going on with you and what led you to this decision.

As they are probably more experienced than you, perhaps they will be able to give you some useful advice about what you should do.

Maybe they will be able to think of how you could be provided with additional training and support so you could fit your role better.

Who knows, maybe you won't have to step down from your position after all. So ask them what they think and consider their advice if they offer any.

2. Make an official request

If there is absolutely no way for you to remain in your current position, then making your request official is the next logical step.

In most cases, you will have to send an email with your request to your superiors and wait for it to be noticed and considered.

3. Show your superiors it's for the best

Your main priority should be to show your superiors that for you to step down from this position is the best possible course of action for the company, as explained above.

Simply apologize for causing this company setback and do your best to move past this situation.

4. Ensure a smooth transition

If your superiors approve your request, then later on a coworker from the company or a new hire will be appointed to take on the position that you are stepping down from.

The best thing that you could do is make sure that the person who will be taking your responsibilities from now on is provided with all the necessary resources and information to do their job properly.

Ensuring a smooth transition will show your company superiors and your coworkers that you are still invested in the company as an employee.

5. Provide ongoing support

In the spirit of team culture and collaborative effort, It would be nice of you to tell the person who takes your role that they could contact you at any point if they have a question or need some advice.

It is possible that they will need some time to adjust to their new role so ongoing support from you could prove to be valuable.

Besides, this is a good way to amend the situation and make it up to the company for causing a minor setback by stepping down from a leadership role.

How to write a letter asking for a demotion

A letter or an email with your request to be demoted is probably the best way to inform your superiors about your wish to step down from your current role.

Here is how to write a demotion letter if you have a hard time adapting the recommendations outlined in the previous sections into writing on your own.

With these 7 good practices, you can craft a letter that will actually increase your chances of having your request noticed and approved.

  1. Go for a short and precise subject line
  2. Start with a casual, friendly greeting
  3. State in short your request to be demoted
  4. Explain that you have not lost your motivation to be productive
  5. Apologize profusely for the inconvenience that you are causing
  6. State that you are willing to work toward a smooth transition
  7. Thank everyone involved for their time

How to write a demotion letter sample

Subject: [Your name] – demotion request


This might come as a bit of a surprise to you all but I think that it would be for the best of the company if I were to be demoted from my position as (your role) because I don't think I am doing a good job / of personal circumstances that prevent me from doing my job optimally.

This comes after careful consideration on my end and I am very sorry for causing this setback.

If possible, I'd like to return to my previous position as a (role).

I remain available for further discussion of this matter.

Thank you.

Sample letter of stepping down from a position

If your request is approved, then you might be asked to inform relevant departments and coworkers about your demotion. Here is a quick example draft that you can use.

Subject: [Your name] – demotion announcement


I'd like to inform you that I requested the higher management of the company to demote me from my position of (role name).

This means that I will be returning to my previous role as…

The person who will be taking my responsibilities as the new… is…

If you have any questions, then please contact me at your convenience.

Thank you.

What should you do if your request is denied?

If your request for a demotion is denied, try to remain calm and professional.

Start by seeking feedback from your manager about why the request was not approved. This can provide valuable insights and may open the door to alternative solutions.

Consider proposing a revised set of responsibilities for your current role that aligns more closely with your skills and work-life balance needs.

Alternatively, you can explore other roles within the company that might be a better fit for you. Asking colleagues in different departments can provide insights into potential opportunities.

If you find that there are no suitable positions within your current company, unfortunately, it may be time to consider looking for a new job elsewhere.

In this case, update your resume, reach out to contacts in your industry, and start applying for positions that align with your career goals and personal needs.

My advice on how to step down from a leadership position

The trajectory of a career isn't always linear. There could be ups and downs due to circumstances out of your control.

However, concluding that stepping down from a leadership role is the right decision suggests that you possess admirable maturity and a sense of morale.

This speaks volumes about the kind of professional that you are.

Your biggest challenge is probably going to be to convince your superiors that this is the right decision.

After all, they were the ones who decided that you were the right person for this promotion, and now you are telling them through your actions that they were wrong.

Hopefully, you will be able to convince them it's for the best. Remember to give them a multi-layered apology and an explanation.

Frequently asked questions about stepping down from a position

Will asking for a demotion affect my future career prospects?

Some employers may view it as a mature decision based on self-awareness, while others might see it as a lack of ambition. It’s important to frame the demotion as a positive step for your career development when discussing with future employers.

What are some alternative options to consider before deciding to ask for a demotion?

Consider requesting a lateral move to a different department, renegotiating your current role’s responsibilities, seeking a mentor or coach for guidance, or exploring flexible work arrangements like part-time or remote work.

Is it common for people to regret asking for a demotion?

It varies. Some people find relief and satisfaction in a role with less stress and responsibility, while others may miss the prestige and challenge of their former position. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making the decision.

How can I negotiate my new salary and benefits after a demotion?

Research industry salary standards for the new position and prepare a case for why your experience and skills warrant a certain salary range. Be open to negotiation and clearly communicate your needs and expectations.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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