Savage counsel – stepping down gracefully

Chris SavageDear Chris,

Our agency recently lost a client or two and I was given the difficult choice of taking a demotion or leaving the agency. I opted for the former but am struggling to adjust to my lesser position. Any tips on how to take the step down gracefully?

You always have the choice to move on. So the power is with you. They say there is a war on talent. Not true. The war is over. Talent won. So go get a new role if you are unhappy.

However, there is another way. Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. Maybe this ‘demotion’ is a great opportunity to recharge, recalibrate and accelerate forward. Use the opportunity to revisit your ‘brand’ and offer. Use my ‘Brand You’ test, which I stole from Tom Peters. There are four pillars to our personal brands at work. Here they are. Score yourself out of 10 on how you reckon your colleagues perceive you in each. Ten out of 10 means you’re seen as brilliant, awesome, OMG. One out of 10 means you’re perceived as an unmitigated disaster in this.

  1. I am seen as someone who delivers outcomes – I am a productivity ninja; I get things done, quickly, efficiently, without fuss, relentlessly
  2. I am known to be an expert in something – there is something my colleagues would say I am seriously good at
  3. I am known to have a point of view on the future – I am not just stuck in the ‘now’, I am also always thinking ahead, anticipating change, pushing to get us fit for the challenges of tomorrow
  4. I am known to be a supportive and trustworthy colleague – enough said.

Work on your brand. Work on strengthening your productivity and effectiveness, on your expertise in key capability areas, on your perspective and insight on ‘what’s next’, and on your relationships.

Here’s the rub. Good things will come from this. And in two years’ time you’ll look back and say: “Hey – that demotion was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Give it a go. It might even be true. Alternatively, go find another job today. You’ll get one. So all’s good.


  1. nick williams
    29 Nov 13
    10:47 am

  2. that’s excellent advice Chris

  3. Been there
    29 Nov 13
    1:05 pm

  4. There’s no shame in a demotion on the agency side Chris.
    Titles are freely given to pad agency structures to impress clients or push internal agendas.
    Easy come easy go.
    Take this as an opportunity to recalibrate your options and reinvent yourself.
    Try the Client-side.
    The titles sound less impressive there but the money is a great deal better.
    I should know.

  5. Four Peas
    29 Nov 13
    1:37 pm

  6. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Chris. These really are useful columns for a lot of people.

  7. Liza
    29 Nov 13
    2:02 pm

  8. Put in the effort, make yourself indispensible – then in a few months, tell them you’re not adapting well to the demotion and that you’re thinking of moving. If they don’t upgrade you in some way at that point, then that’s the time to leave.