The organization I work for is going through a restructuring. I currently report to the person just under the CEO (my current boss is essentially a Vice President level). In the restructuring, my department and another department are going to merge, and I'll be reporting to a person who is currently my peer. 

I will be maintaining my same job title, salary, and direct reports, though.

My boss says this isn't a demotion, and that I'll maintain a "dotted line" reporting relationship with her (my current boss). But I I will be the only person with my title level who will now be an indirect report to my current boss instead of a real direct report. No one else in the company with my title reports to someone who reports to the VP. They all report directly to a VP level person.

I have expressed my concern that this feels like a demotion.  Part of the reason for the merger is that the VP I report to has 9 direct reports, which is too many. But she'll already be moving 2 people (neither of whom have my level of title, neither of whom have direct reports) to others to supervise. 

The other dynamic is that the peer I'll now be reporting to is a friend of mine, a lovely person, and someone who is much older than me, and who is planning to reduce her hours and retire in the next 2 years. Her unit does a lot of things in common with mine, but it's actually smaller and serves fewer customers. It makes no sense to me why she'll want to take over supervision of a unit that is actually bigger than her own, at this point.

At minimum, I want to propose to be a co-director with the co-worker whom they are proposing would be my boss.

Chris Zeller's picture
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Hi Purp,


I can absolutely understand how this can feel like a mental and functional demotion -- particularly when you view it through the lens of reporting relationships. Many of us have had similar experiences ourselves or at least seen this kind of thing happen.


How you choose to respond is important. If you lobby for changes or make alternative proposals, you run the risk of being perceived as petulant and professionally immature, a "sour-grapes" reaction, if you will. Remember, it's not only your peers and bosses who are going to be evaluating you, your directs will be laser-focused on what you say and do as well.


This might be an opportunity to engage in some professional subordination (painful and embarassing though it might be) and enthusiastically support the chosen decision of the organization. There are a couple of podcasts for that ;)


It sounds like you'll have an opportunity to learn a great deal from the friend that you'll now be reporting to. Yes, some things are likely to change. And, if she's looking to wind down and retire, you're perfectly positioned to be on the receiving end of some things that she could delegate to you. Candid conversations around that can give you the chance to broaden your own skill sets and push some of what you do now down to your own directs.


My overall recommendation is to re-frame this as a long-term opportunity, embrace the changes, find the positives, and showcase your ability to handle disappointments with class. Keep delivering results, do it with a smile, and impress the heck out of everyone with your response.



NLewis's picture

Professional subordination is the way to go.  Especially if you haven't been reduced in pay.  If your former-peer is retiring in a couple of years that means a vacancy.  You are already poised to step into her position based on your experience and internal relationships.  That might even come with a raise or additional benefits.  If your upper management is worth their salt they will take notice when you act as a team-player.  It could lead to even bigger things.

On a personal note:  If it was me and I had a good relationship with her then I'd be honest about my feelings.  I'd telll her frankly as her direct that "I was a little stung to be the only one moved down in the org. chart.  I understand why it needed to happen, though, and I want you to know you can count on my full support.  You've always been good to me and this is my chance to show you how much I appreciate that."  Or something to that extent.  This might not work for you depending on the nature of your relationship and your personalities, but if this is person is worth your loyalty, then this is a good opportunity to express it.

shellandflame's picture

NLewis, I think you hit the nail on the head.  Let your feelings be known once, then be all in as a team player.   I was in a similar situation many years ago.  After a couple months, my skip level boss pulled me aside and let me know how impressed he was with how supportive I was of my peer-turned-boss and started growing me in other responsibilities to put me in line for a promotion.

I would also recommend working with your now boss to start taking over some of their duties.  If they are cutting hours, some things will have to be off loaded and your in the perfect position to pick them up.  When the boss retires, you'll already be carriying the load, and make it easier for management to just slide you up.

ConradAnderson's picture

I think if you continue to develop and progress further, there will definitely be progress. The main thing is not to give up and keep your position.