Typically, getting demoted involves a reduction in your compensation or job responsibilities, or both.
The end result is that you are left in a lower position at work that is not as good as you had previously.
What should you do? Before doing anything, you need to understand the reasons for this decision and how it affects your immediate tenure with the company.
Certainly a demotion is a fairly public event and the people that you work with will generally be aware one way or another that you have been demoted if it involves you moving to a different (ie.
lower) position that you previously held.
In this regard, a demotion can be both embarrassing and de-motivating since you might start questioning your future with the company.
Certainly, your long-term status with the company might be in jeopardy especially if the new job you are assigned to doesn't work out either.
Depending on your specific situation a demotion might occur for several reasons such as your inability to handle the job as required, a new manager coming on board and wanting to replace you with one of their friends (this does happen!) or perhaps because the company is trying to push you out the door.
In the last case, if a company wants to get rid of you but would have to pay you severance money to leave, one method an employer might use is to demote you or push you aside to a job that doesn't really have much responsibility to try to "force" you to look for another job or simply quit, so that they can avoid paying severance.
I have heard of numerous situations where this tactic appears to be in place.
Unless you are near retirement age and don't mind waiting to see if your employer blinks first and offers to pay you out, you might end up having to make a decision as to whether or not you want to remain employed with this firm.
The first thing you need to do is figure out - or at least try to figure out - why you were demoted.
If the company is trying to get rid of you by making it difficult for you to stay, they probably won't admit what they're doing but you might have already seen the writing on the wall and already understand what is going on anyways! However, if the demotion is explained to you and the reasons for it are stated, you can take the information and figure out if it's a fair decision and how you will handle it.
If it is a fair decision in your mind and your demotion is warranted, it could be time to consider looking for a new job.
Your career options with this company might be very limited at this point.
Were you simply in the wrong position or is it possible that the employer views your contributions very lightly? Also, you should figure out how you will address the reasons that you were demoted and if training or an improvement in your skills is required, how you will achieve it.
If is not a fair decision and you feel that you have been unfairly wronged, you might consider legal action or another form of complaint depending on how strongly you feel about it and what your actual options are ie.
do you work for a company that offers an appeal process of some sort, is there someone in Human Resources you can speak with, etc? Before you do anything rash, take a step back and consider what you know about your demotion.
Once you have all the information you need, you can make a decision that will make sense for you for the long term.
I have seen cases where people who were demoted were simply in the wrong job or company and once they found a new job that was better suited to their skills, got their career back on track quickly.