my assistant is using my title on LinkedIn

A reader writes:

When updating my LinkedIn profile today, I noticed that my assistant has himself listed in my position and has since February of this year (while the position was vacant).

Because I’m new to this company, I don’t want to rock the boat or make him think I consider myself to be “better” than him, but I can see this getting confusing down the road. Any suggestions on how I should approach this or if I even should?

Secondly, is it weird that this rubs me the wrong way? Have you ever encountered a LinkedIn profile where people are grossly misrepresenting themselves?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 61 comments… read them below }

  1. SheLooksFamiliar*

    It’s possible the assistant temporarily held the OP’s title and simply forgot to edit his LinkedIn profile. But it’s not okay if decided to keep it. And it’s definitely a bad sign if he deliberately assigned himself the title in the first place.

    You might think a Team Lead does all the same things a Manager does, and you might be right. If the Payroll Department is paying you at a Team Lead salary grade, then that’s your actual job title.

    1. Mimi*

      I’d be tempted to respond on the site, so it can play out however it does. In public. Let him explain himself there.

      1. MngConsltnt78*

        I think this is a… really bad idea. Why would you actively want to make yourself, your company, and him look bad, when there might be a reasonable explanation?

        Never assume malice before inquiring.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          And, even if it is malice, it makes a higher-up look kind of petty to be policing the LinkedIn profiles of their subordinates and publicly calling them out over it.

          LinkedIn profiles only really matter for networking or getting a new job, and, if the new job does any sort of employment verification, the titles aren’t going to match, which can lead to offer withdrawal.

    2. Venus*

      I haven’t updated my LinkedIn in over a decade so I can understand if the assistant was acting and then was slow to update the new role. If they were doing other updates on LinkedIn then that would be more of a problem. I think this is a situation where on its own this is small, whereas if the assistant seemed otherwise problematic then this would be one more example.

      1. Mmm.*

        I forget I have a LinkedIn most of the time, and I’ve definitely had to do an “oops” update in the past. I had put a synonym in for a word in my job title, so nothing like this, but still–I hadn’t realized it for months because I was just never on there.

  2. snailsharkk*

    I’ve had several coworkers put inflated titles on LinkedIn. It’s so odd because it’s so easy to be caught.

    At least if you do this on other social media, there’s a chance your company/coworkers may not see it.

    Also, titles are very verifiable when changing jobs so I don’t really get the point in lying. You’ll just get caught and any future employers will pull potential job offers once they’ve discovered you’ve lied.

    1. Heidi*

      There was an update to this one – the assistant got laid off and applied to another job. The employer called the OP to verify his not-real title. Oh well.

      For me, it’s not just the lying, but the fact that the assistant is claiming the OP’s title feels a bit like identify theft, which is really upsetting to experience.

      1. ferrina*

        The amazing thing is that this isn’t even a case of karma- this is the normal chain of events. Totally foreseeable. You write a job title on an application, the employer verifies that information, easiest way to do that is to call the previous company.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Agreed. Karma, Newton’s Third Law, the sin of pride?
          Naw, just plain old bad choice, not a malicious one.
          Dude needs to grow up. Probably could see it in other areas, but no longer OP’s problem.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          According to my parents’ books on parenting, this is a Natural Consequence. If you miss the bus, you have to walk to school. If you refuse to wear a coat, you get cold. It’s just what happens.

          If you lie this obviously on a job application, you don’t get the job.

    2. Quite anon*

      I’ve had coworkers on the flip side of that coin: our VP declared that our team lead is actually our manager, and expects our entire department to treat him as our manager, because he’s promoting him to manager. HR is refusing to process the paperwork to make him a manager. So he’s doing manager responsibilities and the VP is calling him a manager, but on paper he’s still a team lead because HR doesn’t think that lowly peon deserves manager pay.

  3. Karen*

    I once saw a colleague had practically copied and pasted my work history into his LinkedIn profile. Even the jobs I had before he left school.
    I told LinkedIn and the profile detail changed. Don’t know they told him, but it was weird. Especially as he still worked at the place where we worked together.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I may be wrong about some of the details, but I remember a story about someone who applied to be a professor at my college who had copied a resume he found online (complete with several papers he claimed to have authored). He made it through the screening process, and his first interview was with the person whose resume he had copied.

  4. Bigger the Hair…*

    Why are we women conditioned to feel “apologetic” for defending our own titles/experience/talents? A guy would never feel bad for pointing this out. The LW earned this position. She deserves to own the title…not the assistant.

    Regional Assistant Manager vs. Regional Assistant to the Manager

      1. dot*

        Allison does in fact refer to the LW as female in the update to the original letter when it was first posted back in 2011.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              To clarify: When gender is unknown, I personally default to she/her (for everyone, not just managers), as a way of countering centuries of the male default. No one else needs to do that; it’s not a site-wide guideline or anything (as I have sometimes seen people think).

              We don’t know the actual gender of this LW.

  5. mouse*

    Interestingly, I’ve worked with people who did things like this and didn’t consider it a falsehood. They felt if they were doing some or all of the work of the higher/different job title they were entitled to use it – even if it wasn’t the one they were given by the company. Almost like they saw their job title on LinkedIn etc. more like a job description than anything else.

    1. HigherEdEscapee*

      I get this. I’ve worked in places where my job responsibilities had nothing to do with my job description or my official job title. I’ve solved that by listing the job title that most closely matched what I actually did and then parenthetically listing the job title I actually held.

    2. pally*

      Yeah I work with someone who is a manager per the org chart. Only, in LI he’s now a VP. For a while he was a Director. These positions do not exist in our company.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That I can kind of understand – company doesn’t “do” senior level titles, but gives people senior-level mandates. From an outside perspective, it looks like the person has never progressed in 7 years, but in fact they now manage a national team of 25 people, are setting strategy for a division, and are part of the executive management of the organization. But they’re still a “manager”.

        Companies doing this often say they are fostering equality in their culture, but the effect is that it holds individuals back from achieving career opportunities externally. I don’t really blame people for pushing back on that, so long as they make it clear what their real title is (and put their inflated title in brackets). eg. “National Manager, Llama Grooming (equiv. to VP”).

        1. pally*

          Agreed-except -in my case- the manager doesn’t have any senior level responsibilities. And there’s nothing making it clear what his actual title is (such as the parentheses that you indicated). He’s a VP.

    3. Mockingjay*

      The thing is, LinkedIn is not official. People can post whatever they want. Sure it’s useful for job hunting and reaching out to potential candidates, but it’s primarily a free social media app and there is little to no vetting of what a person can list about themselves. I use LinkedIn as a starting point for job searches and networking, but I take everything posted with a VERY large grain of salt.

      It’s the resume that’s important. The correct titles (with descriptive parentheticals, if needed) should be listed on the resume for verification.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is the approach we have taken. Unless someone is holding themselves out as having a professional licensure associated with our organization that they do not really have (like saying they are a CPA or a barred attorney or a Professional Engineer), that’s between them, LinkedIn, and their future employer.

        I see all sorts of people who are assistants using an elevated title – someone I used to work with when I was law firm-side recently tried invited me to connect, and they listed their title as paralegal when they were actually a file clerk. (I managed the paralegal team during their tenure with the firm, and they weren’t on my roster.)

        1. Fish*

          Yes. In my state, many legal admins/secretaries called themselves legal assistants because it sounded better. They had to stop when the law changed regarding who is considered a paralegal.

    4. semicomposed*

      I can see the logic behind this in certain contexts (like many of the scenarios described in the comments today), but then I come across things like a post I saw on LI just this morning — someone announced their recent promotion and then went onto clarify that they had actually changed their title on the site a few months ago, before being promoted, as a way to “manifest” their goal. The title change was basically going from something like “Individual Contributor” to “Senior Individual Contributor” so it seemed especially odd and pointlessly misleading. But the person got their promotion in the end, so… who knows anymore, really.

  6. Kim*

    Allison as usual has great advice . I would also be very wary of this person because it appears he was passed over for the higher role (served as interim until the new person was hired). I doubt that he didn’t want the job since he is inflating his resume . So watch your back with this guy .

    1. Person from the Resume*

      No. He was not the interim, never was the interim (LW clarified that in comments on original letter or the update). That was just Alison’s least worst case possibility where he didn’t lie (exactly), but it was actually just that the guy was a liar who lied on LinkedIn and on a job application and then got what was coming to him when his potential new company tried to verify his employment and got the person who actually held the title.

      1. Elsewise*

        Out of curiosity, do you have a link to the original post? I’m curious to see LW’s comments!

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      That is actually not uncommon. Like maybe they didn’t want the job, but agreed to be interim until a replacement came. I don’t think it is a red flag that this person didn’t get the job. Heck, maybe they found out they hated being Director of Teapots and wanted to go back to their old job.

      1. Quite anon*

        Or the employer pulled a sorry we don’t want to promote internally, we need an outsider’a flair! on them.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Especially if you are an effective, productive employee. It’s better and easier for the business to keep you where you while they hire a replacement manager.

  7. Goldenrod*

    I had a co-worker who was a known fabulist. We all worked as administrative assistants at a hospital, doing calendaring, note-taking, etc. for the administrators.

    After she dramatically quit, I noticed that she had listed herself as a “hospital administrator” on LinkedIn. So weird. Even though the titles sound similar, that is a MUCH more lofty position.

    Since she was well-known for inventing and embellishing her life, I figured she had done this on purpose…But pathological liars often get confused about reality, so on some level, I guess she believed it?

  8. moi*

    My former employee did this – put her title on LinkedIn as manager, when she was not even remotely a manager (I was the manager). It totally burns my biscuits. It may be petty, but she’s burned a major bridge with me, and now that she’s looking for a new job, she’d better hope no one calls me to confirm her title!

  9. QueerColumbo*

    Ah this happened to me once a long time ago! A new coworker had his “title” listed on LinkedIn and his email signature as department manager. We were a very small startup, so I asked the CEO directly if new coworker was in fact my boss? The next day sure enough…title changed to “specialist”. Still not sure what his deal was tbh!

  10. BoratVoiceMyWife*

    this happened to me a few years ago when an intern fresh out of college arrived at my place of work and by the end of day one had updated every single one of their social media profiles to the feature same title it took me 10 years to earn.

    in their defense, they turned out to be great at the job and continue to succeed in the field, but the boldness of calling yourself that on day one of an internship was startling.

    1. Betty*

      I have to hope this was just a kid who did not understand the difference between an objective and a title, or who got a career development assignment to write an imaginary future resume for the job they wanted in 10-20 years but didn’t understand that they shouldn’t then put that on LinkedIn like it was real… [insert cringe emoji]

  11. Khatul Madame*

    Someone who lies about things that are verified so easily, lacks not just integrity, but also intelligence

  12. HearTwoFour*

    It’s possible this is a customer-facing position, and the decision-makers felt it would look better to publicly show someone in this role for PR reasons.
    There are plenty of possibilities, and this is one of them.

  13. not a hippo*

    We had an employee at my job do that recently. Checked his LinkedIn and it was nothing but overinflated false titles and hot air. (I was part of the hiring process and saw his resume so I know what he put on his resume vs his LinkedIn. Plus “coffee specialist” when you worked at a coffee shop chain? Uhhh ok buddy)

    Spoiler: that overinflated sense of self lead to a lot of problems. He no longer works here.

  14. Another Academic Librarian too*

    My very bad assistant who was let go on after a year and 1/2 PIP has a linked in profile that lists that during her tenure in position she:
    • Hire, train, and manage project staff, and monitor their workflow
    Well she was supposed to and didn’t so for over a year she had no supervisory responsibilities
    • Maintain Academic Libriarians calendar, schedule staff for events, book researchers and class visits- Another big Nope. didn’t do any of that.

    • Direct the planning and execution of special events- HAHAHAHA!
    • Maintain relationships with donors and members of the Friends group
    If you mean didn’t write down their requests, ignored their phone calls and emails and actually slammed the door in the presidents face as it was “your lunch” time (3:00 pm)
    • Creation of departmental newsletter, publicity materials and social media content
    A nope, never happened.
    • Manage all researcher visits & requests, including international patrons.

  15. marypoptart*

    I once had a similar thing happen – that ended up going a bit crazy. I’m a university program director, and an alum leading a teapot certification study group on campus listed himself on LinkedIn as “Hogwarts University Teapot Certification Instructor.”

    I was shocked when I spotted this. But it got nuttier, because when I called him on the lie, turns out he might have been deluded – he told me I was being a bad “manager” and reported me to HR! Luckily that’s where it stopped… since he was not actually an employee. But left me with a bad taste about these things. You can see how easy it is to misconstrue on LI – and if I hadn’t looked at his profile, he could have gotten away with it.

    To me it is important to call people on this stuff – otherwise, LinkedIn is useless as a professional tool.

  16. BlondeSpiders*

    This reminds me of something I’m still salty about.

    I went back to school in my mid-40s, and got a business degree from a respected public school in my state. The summer before my senior year, I developed a new student club with a friend. It took us a quarter or two to really get things rolling, but we had a few successful events and our outreach efforts were very satisfying. Our last act as graduating seniors was to pick officers for the next year to ensure the longevity of the club. We interviewed candidates and installed 6 board members. One of the women we recruited started in one position and then became President her senior year. I will admit, she did so much with the club; it’s thriving and I’m so proud.

    But on her LinkedIn profile, she claims to be the founder of my club and it really stings. She deserves mad props for all she brought to the club, but it was MY idea and I (along with my co-founder) created the club. Someday I will ask her about it. Maybe when I am able to commit to my Founders’ Scholarship plan.

      1. ResuMAYDAY*

        Leave her a LI testimonial that thanks her for taking over your signature project and maintaining the excellent standardst that you and Other Co-Founder established.

  17. Pitch Black*

    I worked with someone who was the admin assistant to the Provost. She decided to leave a few of those words out on her email sig and says that she was the Assistant Provost. That got sorted out pretty quickly once it was spotted.

    1. N C Kiddle*

      I did a stint in telephone market research where we had to interview people at various businesses about their printers or whatever. At the end of the interview, we asked their job title and we were supposed to put down whatever they told us. But while I was training, a woman told me she was “PA to the MD” and the bloke training me told me to put that down as “Assistant Managing Director”. It’s stuck with me for 20 years because just why?

  18. Fluffy Fish*

    Once upon a time we fired a new hire after about 3 months max.

    His linked in has that he worked for us for those few months (dude just leave it off – seriously). Even better he lists himself with the title THE boss has. Lets say its Director. His real title was lets say Specialist. There is exactly zero chance he misunderstood his job title.

    Its utterly fascinating. Dude was fired for multiple reasons – stuff came back on his background check that rendered him unable to do said job, disappearing to go “work” outside, taking sensitive documents off site to have a writing professional review (it was his mom and the met at a fast food restaurant), refusing to take direction from senior staff, and finally showing up to work in a vulgar shirt directed at said staff.

    Presumably if hes listing it on linked in his listing it on his resume. Last I new he was still trying to get a new job in the same field and failing miserably.

  19. New Senior Mgr*

    He gave himself a title bump. It’s hard out here.

    But seriously, I’d keep a close eye on him and his work for a few months.

  20. Here for the petty stories*

    I was once hiring for a job with a title similar to “assistant librarian”. Someone applied saying they’d been “assistant librarian” at X organisation for a year, before doing their qualification. Except that they’d been “library assistant”, and I knew that because the more senior postholder with the job title they were claiming was someone I knew, as well as it not being a job title they would have had before they did the qualification. Being in the more junior post still gave them great experience that could have been useful, so it was an absolutely pointless, damaging lie. They didn’t make it to interview, partially because other applications were better but also because we just didn’t trust what they said any more.

  21. greenfordanger*

    The first post about office space reminded me of when I worked in a government office which had the types of modular offices that you can put up and take down fairly quickly so that you can change the layout. Across the atrium from me was a bank of four offices. One of them was occupied by a very cranky man who held political views different than those of government and really did try to throw a spanner into every progressive policy initiative he was asked to work on. One Xmas he went away on holiday and while he was gone, his manager had the four offices disassembled and put back into three larger offices. His furniture was moved into government storage and when he came back the only trace left of him or his job was a small cardboard box of personal belongings. He ended up, rightfully, with a big settlement for wrongful termination but his boss still says it was best thing that she ever did for the morale of other workers and for ensuring that government’s agenda didn’t continue to be siderailed. Whenever I go into an office with those types of easy up easy down offices I wonder who might be “disappeared” .

  22. fredlyn*

    One of our clerks listed himself on LinkedIn as “Teapot Assistant” when the role was “Teapot Clerk.” At first I figured he just got the title wrong. But he also inflated it to look like he did some regular copywriting (instead of giving the odd document a quick look for anything glaringly wrong). It was inflated to the point where I had to wonder “Damn… how much work were they giving him when I wasn’t there?” The answer is: not much.

    I never knew what to say about it, if anything. It’s true that sometimes the clerks were asked to do the occasional task outside of their usual scope. This did not happen often enough to warrant being called an ‘assistant’, and that was never what his title was. Maybe it’s just strategy sometimes.

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