What 'layering' at work means — and how to handle it

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Photo: Getty Images

Things are going well at work and with any luck, you’ll be in line for a pay rise in the near future. 

But before you know it, your employer has brought in someone between you and your boss - and it may well prevent your well-earned promotion. 

It’s called getting ‘layered’ and it can be seriously demoralising, particularly if leaves less room for career progression. But is it always a bad thing - and how should you handle it? 

“Layering occurs when organisations grow or restructure, adding in an extra layer of management,” explains Lisa LaRue, a career coach at CareerWorx and The Career Happiness Coach

Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on how the layer will affect you and your role on a day-to-day basis.

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“If you were eyeing off a promotion to senior management, adding another rung to that ladder can represent a challenge you were likely not expecting,” LaRue says. 

“Being pushed down a level at work can also be demoralising as you can feel greater distance between you and upper management leading to a feeling of disconnect. Having someone come in above you with lesser experience or credibility can also lead to ill feelings.” 

So if you’ve been layered at work, what can you do about it? Firstly, if you’ve been layered at work and not had any involvement in the process, it can be a shock to suddenly learn that it’s happening. 

“It’s important to determine how you feel about it but being careful not to ‘knee-jerk’ respond to the situation,” LaRue explains. “Consider how the extra layer will impact on you and your role. Will it have a significant effect, or will it not make much difference to the way in which you work? It may take some time to fully understand the impact, so take your time to assess the situation.” 

‘Try not to jump to conclusions’

If you’re feeling resentful about not being considered for the position, it can be a good idea to speak to your manager so you can understand the reasons why. It might not have anything to do with your work or abilities, so try not to jump to any conclusions.

“Not getting your thoughts and feelings out in the open early, can lead to a deeper resentment which can affect not only your work performance, but your personal wellbeing too,” LaRue says. 

“Once you’ve done this, it’s time to consider how you feel about everything,” she adds. “Can you continue within the new structure, or do you feel so negatively affected by the change that you no longer feel committed to your role?” 

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You need to recognise that change is something that you will face in any workplace, but don’t make any snap decisions about quitting your job. LaRue recommends giving it three months before deciding if this change is one you can live with or not. 

“If you decide it’s time to move on, think about how you want your next role to be different,” she says. “When you’re clear on your career goals and needs, you are better able to reach out for roles that are a good match.” 

Crucially, it’s important to remember that layering doesn’t automatically mean you have been demoted. To some extent, layering is an inevitable consequence of a growing business. 

“The key is taking charge of your own career development, ensuring you remain relevant and up to date in terms of your knowledge, skills and experience,” LaRue says. 

“Open communication is also vital. If you are ambitious, with a strong desire to propel your career forward, make sure the right people know. 

“There’s no point toiling away in a hidden corner of an organisation expecting that someone will notice your efforts and accomplishments.” 

Instead, LaRue advises to take every opportunity you have to take on new tasks and responsibilities - and work as collaboratively as you can. 

“Be proactive in your professional development, network regularly - inside and outside the organisation - and do what it takes to keep growing personally and professionally,” she says. 

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