5 Ways to Manage a Job Reassignment

Instead of laying people off, organizations are increasingly giving them new job assignments. How to manage what can be a jarring professional change.

U.S. companies announced 42% fewer layoffs in July than in June, and 8% fewer cuts than in July of 2022. The underlying reason is unexpected, however: while companies are continuing to eliminate jobs, they’re often reassigning workers to new roles instead of laying them off. Experts believe this trend could continue.

“Chances are, these are the types of changes we can expect to see over time, whether it’s due to new technology, like AI, or economic trends,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Frances Weir.

While it can be difficult for employees to suddenly step into a new role and work with a new manager and team, experts say reassignment can have an upside. It offers employees an opportunity to learn new skills and bolster their résumé. For instance, if you’re moved onto a team that is underresourced and needs help, there’s an opportunity for you to make notable contributions that could earn you recognition, says Mark Royal, a senior client partner for Korn Ferry Advisory.

Since a reassignment can potentially be advantageous, it’s worth considering what steps to take to help you adjust. Here are five ways to adapt to a job reassignment.

Manage your emotions.

Reassignments are often unexpected, so it’s important to take a step back from your emotions. It’s normal to feel surprise, anger, or a loss of control, Royal says. But making an immediate, emotional decision—like quitting immediately—could wind up being detrimental to your long-term career.

Be diplomatic with your manager and get ready for the new assignment. At the same time, do some self-reflection. “Understand why you feel this way, and know that if you choose to stay, it doesn’t have to be forever,” Weir says.

Treat it like a new job.

As with any new position, making a good impression during your first 90 days is important, says Alyson Federico, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “No matter how familiar you already are with the team or your new manager, don’t make assumptions that you know what’s going on or what you’re supposed to do,” she says.

Remember that your relationship with these colleagues will evolve. Ask questions to understand expectations about deliverables and responsibilities, how the team communicates, and how you fit into the group, Federico says. Make sure you have a clear sense of how your new team defines success.

Determine the reassignment’s length.

“Is this an open-ended shift, or has it been presented as a short-term assignment with some expectation of other opportunities down the road?” Royal says.

Ask your manager whether there will be a probationary period. Determine how much grace you will get before you’re expected to be a full contributor. Ask if there’s an onboarding process to help you get up to speed.

Stay optimistic.

Your new role and new department might provide an opportunity to build additional skills for your résumé and provide future career options. “You might stumble into something you’re really good at that you were previously unaware of, or perhaps land on a team you really enjoy working with, or discover a new career interest,” says Tiffinee Swanson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach.

Remind yourself that even though your old role was eliminated, your company decided to keep you. That is a strong signal that your organization values you and your work, Royal says.

Consider the role’s fit.

Even if the role seems to be a poor fit for your skills, you might consider staying if you can see a career path within the company where the fit might be better, Royal says.

Give it some time, experts say. However, if it continues to be a struggle, it’s OK to leave, especially if you have another job offer, you’re offered a severance package, or you’re burned out and don’t have energy to make a change to a reassigned role.

“The best insurance against job loss, or ending up in a position you don’t like, is consistent networking, keeping your résumé and LinkedIn profile up-to-date, and staying abreast of trends in your industry,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. 

For more expert career advice, connect with a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.