was I demoted after telling my manager I’m job-searching?

A reader writes:

I work at a very small company (there are 10 of us in the office). I was originally hired as their administrative assistant but have since been promoted to their financial analyst. I have learned a lot, but have decided that it was time to find a bigger company so I can expand my experience. I told my supervisor (we are actually pretty close) and he has been very supportive of me — even helping me with my resume.

Anyway, since I let him know that I am actively searching, he has already hired a replacement for me so that I can train him for as long as I’m here. I was also told that I am “not being rushed out the door” and that I can take my time in finding a new job.

Just last week, however, I found out that they are planning on giving me back the administrative duties. The “good thing” is that my pay won’t decrease, but I was under the impression that I would still be able to keep my financial analyst duties. They know I’m not thrilled about this, and they said it’s not final, but can I even do anything about this? I don’t want to be stuck up and say that I’m above the admin tasks, but I was promoted for a reason and don’t want to go back to those duties. I am also ramping up my job search efforts, but don’t want to be stuck with these duties in the meantime.

Can I do something about this?

Yeah, this is (sometimes) the problem with letting your manager know that you’re job searching: Even if you have a great relationship and you’re confident that you won’t be pushed out early, you do give up some control over what happens next.

After all, think about this from your manager’s perspective: You’ve alerted him that you’re looking for another job. He knows that at any point you could get a job offer and be gone in two weeks. Given that, it would actually be irresponsible for him not to get to work searching for your replacement, assuming that you’re in a job that — like most — requires time for hiring and training. And once he’s started the search, he has to conclude it by hiring someone; he can’t wait around indefinitely for you to move on, or he’s likely to lose his best candidates.

If you expect him not to do that, you’re putting him in an unfair position: You’re giving him information that will affect (possibly significantly) his ability to keep his department or company running smoothly and expecting him to pretend he doesn’t know.

In fact, he’s actually being pretty nice in giving you unlimited time to find a new job (although prepare for the fact that it’s probably not unlimited — there’s probably some point at which he’s not going to be able to justify paying you and your replacement). Good managers don’t demand that people leave just because they’re job searching, but it’s pretty common to come to some agreement about the time frame, so that the employer can move forward with what they need to do to ensure their operations continue to run smoothly.

Does it suck that you’re now being given your old work to do? Sure. But in a small company, it probably doesn’t make sense to have both you and your replacement doing the work that only you used to do, and your manager is being pretty generous to you within the confines of the situation. It’s not ideal — but that’s largely because managing around an indefinite-but-maybe-imminent departure date is hard.

{ 27 comments… read them below }

    1. The IT Manager*

      In retrospect, it may have been wiser to not inform you supervisor until you started getting interviews and needed time off or when you needed him as a reference. Your boss was surprisingly proactive in getting your replacement which is rare (but obviously very important in a 10-person company), but unfortunately for you he was managed to hire your replacement before you found a job.

      He actually did a good thing for his company and he’s actually treating you amzingly well. Time to redouble your effort, though, because it does make sense for the company to have new guy do the work while you’re around to answerr questions.

      I would take it as a lesson learned that you informed him a little too early.

    2. Michele*

      I agree. You told your manager that you are looking for a job did you really expect them to not change your responsiblities. This is why I whenever I decided to look for a new position I do not share it with anyone in my current office.

  1. BCW*

    It seems it worked out in everyone’s best interest. You are getting paid the same, for less responsibility, and maintain a relationship with your boss. He has already found a replacement. Did you really expect him to pay you AND your replacement to do the same job? I mean it clearly didn’t take 2 people before. So when it comes to financial things, why wouldn’t he keep the person who plans on staying in charge of that?

  2. Shelley*

    Agreeing with the chorus. Besides, this way your replacement gets to practice the duties of the analyst with you nearby to answer questions. If s/he has to do administrative work while you find a job s/he would likely get upset at the “bait and switch” and possibly leave entirely.

    I think your manager is being very generous here, OP.

  3. Audiophile*

    You lucked out here. They’re keeping you on, which is good, because I know there’s been a few situations mentioned here about the opposite occurring. I know from personal experience, that I don’t give notice until I’m truly ready to move on. Years ago when working retail, I gave notice early to be professional, well boy did I regret it. They took my scheduled days back and announced they hadn’t expected me to return at all. That was the last time I ever did that.
    Now I give two weeks notice, and I’m prepared for anything.
    Definitely ramp up your job search efforts, because should this new hire be a quick learner, they won’t need two people around for an extended period of time.

  4. Anon Mahna*

    It’s kind of a crappy lesson to learn here for the OP. It seems that no matter how close you are with your boss, if you’re in a small company like this one, you absolutely should not tell them before you have an offer on hand, just because they are especially going to feel the effects of your leaving after two weeks. With more people and support, they might be able to hedge that a bit, but your boss is doing all he can to be supportive and also be realistic about what the company needs. Maybe you were already resigned when you wrote in, OP, but think about how nice your boss is being here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, I think in many cases you CAN tell them (assuming a good relationship and that you’re valued), but the key is that you need to be ready to agree on a timeline … something like X number of months. Because otherwise you’re giving them info that they need to act on and expecting them not to.

      1. movingjobs*

        I agree, timeline is important.

        My manager was great about my notice – I actually gave them a heads up almost 6 months ahead of time that I was applying to a program and was expecting to leave in the summer. As it got closer to my end date I was able to give them “official” notice of a month, and train my replacement for a week.

        However, I don’t think it would have worked as well if I had simply said I was planning on leaving without a timeline. If the manager tries to accommodate your (unknown) timeline, they are stuck choosing between bad (having an unfilled position) and worse (having a double-filled position, which is a waste of money). So most managers will create their own timeline, by filling the position as soon as they can, and either letting you go or demoting you as the workload in the office requires.

        If I were you, I would talk to your manager immediately about how long she expects you will be able to continue in the administrative role. If your job search stalls, you need to know your options.


    You laid your cards on the table and now your manager must play his. Sooner or later he had to let this new person do the job he/she was hired for. Just be lucky you haven’t been pushed out which may still happen.

  6. huh*

    AAM.why should anyone risk their livelihood giving notice before they have a job? It can take over a year to find work. OP good luck!

  7. Anonymous*

    With one exception, I’ve always given long term notice. It really depends on where you work.

    My current employees keep up to date on their leaving plans, and it makes a huge difference. It means a lot to me that we can all work together for the best resolution.

      1. De Minimis*

        And I think people generally have a pretty good idea of how these situations are handled if they’ve been working there long enough.

  8. JR*

    I can see how you ordinarily wouldn’t want to tell your boss you are applying for other jobs. But I wonder how the analysis changes if you are applying for a federal law enforcement job where the (very competitive) application and selection process will take months to years, and you want to list your boss as a reference/ keep him in the loop so he is not surprised if you make it to the background check phase and someone contacts him out of the blue.

    1. Lindsay J*

      It depends on the situation.

      My fiancé was (and probably is) still in various points of the process for various federal law enforcement positions.

      He was working at a job where he was close with the boss, and where it can be a career for some but is a temporary job or stepping stone for a lot of others. He was able to be honest with her about the fact that he was applying for these jobs and that if got one he would be leaving. On his end he did his best to ensure that he had a strong team trained that could step up in his absence, and that he had SOPs and other documentation for pretty much every job process he was responsible for, that way if he did have to leave suddenly it wasn’t a hardship.

      However, in a lot of these cases each process takes several months, and you know if you are advancing to the point where they background check, etc. He usually didn’t tell anyone when he was testing, only once he reached the background check or oral board type interview (whichever came first). He only reached that point in a couple of the processes (Supreme Court Police and Border Patrol) and ultimately wound up not taking the Border Patrol position and on the eligible list but never hired on for the Supreme Court police.

      He just accepted a county law enforcement position and he was able to not have them speak to his current boss until he was actually hired on by having them speak to one of his peers who he trusted not to notify others about his job search. However, IIRC this would not have been possible with the federal hiring processes so your options would pretty much have been to either tell your boss in advance that you expected them to be called soon, or have them surprised by a federal background checker calling out of the blue.

        1. De Minimis*

          It really can very even within the federal process, for me the bulk of the background check took place after I was already on the job! I doubt if that is the case for law enforcement positions, though.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I think it also depends on where you work now. A 10-person company with only one person performing financial analysts duties must have the position filled right away and it’s actually preferable to have the departing employee train the new one.

      At larger companies there is probably other people doing the same job or a similar job that can fill in until your replacement is hired.

  9. S3*

    It might be worth considering how you’d feel if you were playing a different part in this story. If you were staying at the company & another co-worker had notified your boss of the intention to leave, I think you’d be grateful to your boss for handling the scenario the way he has, particularly if you might have ended up handling tasks in the interim while a replacement was sought.

  10. Working Girl*

    Never tell your boss you are leaving unless you have a job to go to. People forget the boss is the boss not your friend. The boss will take steps to protect his business. Now that you have told that the company it is not your priority number one he is protecting his business by finding another replacement. He may also be ensuring you do not have the inside on his business since you may be competition on your new job. You gave him no time to realize what a good employee he missed out on as you are training a new you. He didn’t offer you a raise to stay or other benefits to stay. Likely your job responsibilities changes may trim you out of your current job so keep looking. Good luck on your job search.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    I suppose for the Boss, it is ideal, in the sense that the new employee has an opportunity to transition into the role, and their predecessor is still around to answer any questions.

  12. Stephen*

    OP was right to let her boss know when she did. He clearly didn’t hold it against her, and when she does move on she’ll be able to talk about her expirience training and mentoring a new financialanalyst. It’s no fun that she got shuffled back to admin tasks, but thimk of it as and investment in goodwill. She’s demonstrating a willingness to go am extra mile to meet the operational needs of her current employer, and when it is time to give references, her boss will rememmber that. With any luck, it won’t be for long.

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