Last Man Standing


            I received an unexpected email this morning from the head of HR: “We have reassigned you to the ‘X’ department. Please report to your new manager by 9 a.m. to learn your duties.” The email’s second paragraph said the company wasn’t firing me but eliminating my job. The third paragraph assured me that if I chose to resign, I’d be eligible for rehire and paid for any unused leave.

            I quickly realized I needed another cup of coffee. After that, I texted my manager. He didn’t text back. I called him. The line rang ten times, and I hung up. I emailed him and got an auto-replay explaining he was no longer with the company but wished our company and its customers a profitable year.

I read the email again and called the head of HR. According to the department assistant, the two HR representatives were busy, but would call back during the afternoon, and I needed to report to my new manager ASAP.

Can you help? The department I’ve been transferred to isn’t one in which I want to work. Don’t I have any say in this? Is this legal?


            Company restructuring and job reassignments are legal—unless you’ve being transferred or demoted for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons or have an employment agreement guaranteeing a specific title and set of duties.

            That said, you have options. You may decide to resign and seek a new employer or  might be able to negotiate a different assignment. Alternatively, you may decide to make the best of this, given that job opportunities aren’t as robust as they were last year or even six months ago.

            Before you take any action, learn the reasoning behind your reassignment by speaking with your new manager and Human Resources. Ask if this change is strategy driven. If so, ask for more information about the direction in which your company is heading. Your company may have restructured to better adapt to a changing marketplace and have reassigned you rather than laid you off because they highly value you.

Ask questions to clarify your new responsibilities and whether your company intends to provide you with training or other resources, so you’ll succeed and become an even more valuable contributor. Ask also whether you can negotiate a different re-assignment. Although most of your answers will come from within your company, you may be able to reach out to your former manager via LinkedIn or a personal cell. He may have been privy to discussions over the last several weeks.

Remain positive and professional in these discussions. Although you didn’t choose this new role, it might actually strengthen your career in the long term. Learn as much as you can so you can figure out how to succeed in your new job and how to work your way into a position you want.

You may, however, uncover something worse. Some companies transfer employees into job purgatory in hopes that reassigned employees will resign rather than remain in jobs they don’t want. This strategy avoids termination lawsuits and severance payouts. Signals this has happened include being reassigned into a position far below your current pay and skill level, or into a division rumored to be on the chopping block or being given an option to relocate at your own expense. If you learn you’ve been “put out to pasture,” you may want a second cup of coffee as you launch your job search.

Finally, because this change came suddenly, take a day to assess what it means to you before you act.

(c) 2023 Lynne Curry

You might also enjoy this article on “dry promotions” or my new “real-life writing” author site,

One thought on “Last Man Standing

  1. My first thought was to try to make the best of it and try to think of it as the company really doing as they said–trying to find you a job within the company after your current job (and department, it sounds like, from the recorded voice mail from the former manager) has been terminated. Lynne’s suggestions of talking to the HR manager, asking about the company’s direction seeing if you can negotiate a different transfer assignment all sound very worthwhile. Then we get to the darker possibilities–job purgatory, going to the job to die/fail in so they don’t have to fire you and you quite first. This sounds possible, too, and some careful footwork will be required while seeking another job outside the company, if so. I’m glad that the realities of the current job market are acknowledged here–it’s no longer put out your resume and watch the offers flood in. I knew that wouldn’t last. There are so many ways employers make their organization and working with them suck. What’s wrong with trying to be a place where people want to work and supporting and developing the workers?

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