I had to demote one of my engineers

Charles Buckingham

Engineering Manager at InVisionApp Inc



I work in a fast moving start-up where things change regularly. Recently, a new organizational system was introduced, which involved redefining job titles. This required evaluating all of the company's engineers based on several criteria, and based on their evaluation gave them a new title. As a manager, I contributed to this process, and it resulted in the promotion of some engineers and the demotion of some others. I was the one who had to communicate these changes to my team, and I also had to let one of my engineers know that he had been demoted.

Actions taken

I spoke openly and transparently with my engineer. I told him exactly which criteria had led to this decision, and also discussed his areas of progress.

"I don't feel that if I was giving you a project and you had to do it all by yourself that you would feel at ease".

We had the chance to discuss how we both felt about this situation. He said he was thinking about resigning, and I told him that I would support him regardless of whether he decided to stay or go. I reassured him that he could count on a good recommendation from me. He finally decided to stay and said that he had appreciated having such an open discussion with me and that he recognized that I was being fair in my decisions. He was even motivated to work harder due to his demotion, and he's now one of our best engineers.

Lessons learned

When you have difficult news to share with a team member, I would suggest ensuring you are as informed as possible before entering into the conversation. The team member is likely to have a lot of questions and being unprepared will give the feeling that the decision you made was arbitrary. It is important to speak thoughtfully and empathetically. Be transparent with the team member and clear about why the decision was made.. It can difficult to communicate bad news, knowing that you have made a thoughtful, fair decision will allow you to proceed confidently.

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Charles Buckingham

Engineering Manager at InVisionApp Inc

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