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52% of Hong Kong bosses have demoted employees

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Most employees eagerly anticipate that next promotion, but it’s the frequency of demotions that has had tongues wagging in HR circles recently.

According to just-released research by recruitment consultancy Robert Half, 52% of bosses in Hong Kong have demoted an employee. The main reasons cited for the demotions are the employee being promoted, but not succeeding in the new role (34%); organisational restructuring (31%); and poor performance (28%).

Just 8% of those surveyed said the demotion was voluntary on behalf of the employee.

One former employee Human Resources spoke to believes he was demoted from his position as a regional sales manager as a calculated way of forcing him to resign due to a loss of face – but the company denied this was the case.

While many employees hope it never happens to them, these findings indicate demotions may be more common than we realise.

The study revealed employees react differently to being demoted. More than one in three Hong Kong bosses said the employee handled the news as gracefully as possible, while a strongly negative reaction to being demoted was cited by 27%, adding the employee quit in response. A quarter apparently got upset and lost interest in their role.

Just 10% took a proactive approach and focused on doing better in their new position.

“A demotion may happen for a variety of reasons, including performance issues, organisational restructuring or an employee requesting fewer responsibilities due to personal or career priorities,” said Adam Johnston, managing director at Robert Half Hong Kong.

“While it’s never easy to accept a reduction in rank, workers can demonstrate their professionalism and bounce back by keeping their emotions in check, understanding the root cause and performing at a high level to position themselves for future advancement.”

HR practitioners can help guide their charges in this regard.

“Career-savvy professionals should always be open to receiving constructive feedback on how to improve in their role, so a demotion can also be seen as an opportunity to reflect on performance and identify areas for improvement – which can help to accelerate careers in the long term.”

This study was conducted in December 2018 by an independent research firm and surveyed 225 business leaders in Hong Kong.

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