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Handling a wrongful demotion at work

For many people, a demotion at work is worse than being fired — especially if you know it’s unfair — or outright illegal. The frustration of knowing that you’re being treated unjustly can combine with the embarrassment of having to go back into work every day with all eyes upon you and make your situation very uncomfortable indeed.

Regardless of what legal action you plan to take regarding your wrongful demotion, you have to know how to handle the next few weeks in order to minimize the stress and anxiety you feel. Here are some tips:

1. Find a support network

You need to find a support network outside of the office. Talking about your demotion at work won’t help your situation — and it could endanger your legal position if you say the wrong thing. Confide your feelings in a few trusted (nonwork) friends, a family member or a counselor instead.

2. Gather more information

Take time to gather more information about your demotion. If you have a human resources department, make an appointment to discuss your demotion, and ask to file an appeal. If there’s no human resources department, ask to review the decision to demote you with your supervisor.

Remember to stay calm and collected during your meetings. Even if you aren’t successful, you may learn information that could help your case if you decide to pursue legal action over your demotion.

3. Prepare to address the issue in job interviews

No matter what the circumstances, you may want to look for a new position with another company. You can avoid drawing attention to the demotion by simply noting the change in your job title. If the issue comes up, don’t say anything negative about your employer. Simply state that the prior position wasn’t a good fit and discuss the benefits of learning a new position and having new opportunities instead.

Ultimately, you can’t stop your employer from demoting you — but you can control how much you’ll participate in your own punishment. By minimizing the effects of the demotion on your life — both emotionally and professionally — you don’t allow your employer to gain the upper hand.

If you believe that your demotion was illegal retaliation, find out more about your rights. It may be possible to pursue a claim in court — which will set the record straight.