my former employee is using my job and title on LinkedIn

A reader writes:

I recently discovered that a former employee took credit for my title and job during the brief nine-month period she reported to me temporarily while my assistant was on maternity leave. What’s mystifying is that she did it on LinkedIn. While we’re not connected, we share a good number of connections because we have the same colleagues!

By doing so, it appears she was able to secure a senior position, thereby skipping having to serve in a non-senior role at all.

Understandably, I’m livid at someone taking credit for my job — especially since she was completely incompetent and showed no dedication or effort to perform well while reporting to me and spent 99% of her time looking for a job.

Should I contact the new employer and inform them of her lie? Most advice I’ve seen says to stay out of it — but, since she reported to me, I’m fully aware of her propensity for unethical behavior (“little white lies” being the norm) and if I can do something to put a stop to it, I’d be happier for it.

Of course, I understand that even if I report this factual misrepresentation, the new employer could opt to do nothing, but for some reason I think I have to do it! Help — what should I do?

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.

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin*

    I’d assume they figured they needed a pair of incompetent hands over no hands until the woman returned from leave. Not saying it’s a good idea, just, well, that’s what happened, probably.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t think she’s covering a leave a currently — the person who was on leave was the LW’s assistant. It sounds like the ex-employee was either the fill-in assistant during the leave or normally reported to the assistant but now reported to the LW because of the leave. She then inexplicably listed it on her resume as her being the manager, which she used to secure a senior position at her current company.

      1. BPT*

        I think Justin was referring to the end of Alison’s answer where she says “Separately, what’s up with letting someone you describe as “totally incompetent” work for you for nine months? That might be the bigger issue to focus on.”

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Oh! Yes that makes more sense, I thought Justin meant why the new company hired this person.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I think Justin is referring to the end of the response, which went something like “why was this person working for you in the first place, if they were so incompetent?” If so, I had a similar thought to Justin’s when I read it.

        1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

          Yes I assumed they were a short term fill-in, so maybe not worth the trouble of PIPping them, finding a replacement etc.

          1. Mongrel*

            Or losing the assistant altogether “We’re not hiring right now, it’s them or no-one”

  2. Brain the Brian*

    The only time this LW should ever even mention this is if someone directly asks them about it. It’s so small that they’ll look like a crazy person massive overreacting if they try to preemptively bring it up. (That’s even more true now since it’s an old letter. Live and let live.)

    1. Van Wilder*

      I don’t think it’s small at all. I think it’s huge. And yet I also can’t think of how to bring it up without appearing crazy. The new job’s reference checkers should have done a better job.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        It’s LinkedIn, the social network where people embellish flight delays on their vacations into “learning moments” in long, boring, SEO-optimized “stories.” Nothing on that site is fully accurate, intentional or not. Putting so much stock into it that you’re willing to contact strangers about an error in someone else’s profile would look crazy.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          Sure I don’t take LinkedIn as the honest truth, but there is a difference between embellishment, and outright lies.

          Saying I was the project lead, when they were a co-lead, or did 40% of the work is different from saying I was the project lead when they were not even on the project.

          Saying you are the assistant general manager when you were the assistant to the general manager is different from claiming to be “the general manager.”

          If I found out someone was outright lying as in there is 0% of truth to their claim it would make me question them.

      2. Ashley*

        Totally agree, Van Wilder. That’s my take as well. I think the OP is right to be pissed.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        That’s the biggest thing. It’s a big deal, because she’s lying a LOT, but also you look crazy if you call someone to tell them.
        Truly the reference checkers fell right down on the job there. Hopefully in 6 months they learned their lesson, even if you need to hire fast, you should still check references!

  3. Lp*

    If this employee only used the information on a resume and you heard second hand, I would do nothing. However, seeing that she blatantly posted it on LinkedIn, I would 100% contact her new employer. However, I would only do so once and then be done with it. If they opt to not act and she does not change the information, there is nothing more you can do.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Why? It has zero affect on you, and it’s likely you’ll look like the weird one.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This ^ You’re hurting your own reputation more than the employee’s. That may not matter in your industry, but it would certainly matter in mine.

      2. dobradziewczynka*

        Right? It makes YOU look weird. Sadly I think the writer is in their feelings because this person jumped up to their level by lying about their title…which I get but it’s something that needs to be let go because ultimately it has nothing to do with them.

      3. Tree*

        Even large industries are shocking small when it comes to who knows who and who hears about what happens at other companies. If you do this, you may find recruiting gets more difficult as word gets out that you/your employer tries to sabotage former employees job prospects.

        Even when it is absolutely true that they are lying, by the time the story gets told to others, you/your employer will be the bad guys.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, I imagine that, given she’s never actually had the senior role before, she’ll flame out quickly and get fired. Maybe the next job will be smart enough to verify her employment history, maybe they won’t, but unless OP is competing with them for a job, it doesn’t seem like anything they personally need to get upset about.

    2. HR Friend*

      Imagine how this would go. You call her new employer and leave a message with someone you’ve never met that their new employee may be LYING on their LINKEDIN profile? That’s such an absurd thing to do.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I’ve said it many times: LinkedIn is social media and not vetted at all. It’s a starting point for networking and job searches, but no one should rely on posted content as factual.

      If a company recruits and hires based on LinkedIn profiles without in-depth checking of references and employment history, that’s on the company. It’s not anyone else’s job to vet candidates for them.

      We’ve all heard a co-irker claim more credit than due for a successful project. Annoying – yes. Should you do something about the misrepresentation? – most times no. Eventually their job performance will prove or disprove their claimed credentials. Unless it directly affects your standing among peers or professional network, let it alone.

  4. Grumpus*

    Honestly I think many people have incorrect information on their LinkedIn. Unless you know that she lied in her application it will look very extreme to act on this. It could be that the LinkedIn is a genuine error and her CV lists her actual job title.

    1. Heidi*

      I guess it’s also possible that the employer did do their due diligence and former employee is actually lying about having this senior position now. Wasn’t there a post a while back where someone was advised to list the title of the job they were hoping to get as their current position on LinkedIn? Contacting the employer would just seem bizarre in that case.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yes there was. In that case, the advice that the LW had received elsewhere was to make up a fake position with no company listed — bad advice, of course.

        You should always make your own LinkedIn accurate, but don’t worry too much about what other people list on theirs. You’ll look crazy if you start contacting other people’s employers about their LinkedIn profiles.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        If it’s the advice I’m thinking of, it was a bit weirder (but less unethical) than that. The advice was to use that field for a bunch of potential search terms instead of *any* real title, in hopes that non-human screening systems would flag your profile as interesting. So instead of your last job title (Lead Teapot Designer), you’d put in something like: design, teapot, tea, team lead, project manager, senior.

        Alison thought it was terrible advice, because the minute a real human looks at it they’ll recognize it as nonsense and skip your profile.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          You are remembering correctly. That whole letter made me want to track down the person who offered the original advice and smack them upside the head.

          1. AnonForThisOne*

            If you find them, I would like to participate in the smacking.

            I’ve done enough recruiting in my life to just be annoyed at yet another silly gimmick I may have to sort my way through when screening candidates.

          2. I can read anything except the room*

            Perhaps they were concussed from a previous smack when they offered the advice?

  5. EggyParm*

    I had a similar situation happen to a coworker where a subordinate lied about their title and seniority on LinkedIn. She reported it to LinkedIn, they did their thing, and he had to change his title back to what it originally was. That’s what I would advise in this situation as well.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      I like this solution! You don’t have to interact with anyone in your professional network and you keep someone from doubling you on the platform.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Except this is a former employee and not a current subordinate. The situations are not the same.

      1. EggyParm*

        I should have been more clear. The situation was the same. My coworker saw an ex-employee on LinkedIn using a more senior title than they had when that person reported to them. Think an Associate Product Manager using a Director title. It was laughable to all of us because our company only had 3 PM Directors so it felt easily verifiable. She filed the report with LinkedIn using HR info as proof and, boom, he had to change his job title.

        We all wonder if his current coworkers noticed the change or not. Surely it caused some gossip!

  6. Garblesnark*

    You want to contact this person’s new employer to what end? What’s the goal of that conversation?

    It sort of sounds like the goal is to get someone you didn’t like in the past fired. This goal is unlikely to occur and not a good use of your time.

    1. Grumpus*

      And will make OP look like a horrible person. Imagine caring what someone you used to work with and didn’t even like has on their LinkedIn. Why even look?

  7. HR Friend*

    LW sounds way too personally invested in this. The language in this letter is so emotionally charged, and the end goal is to – what – get the ex-employee fired? Ex-employee’s LI title has no bearing on LW – how she’s perceived or how she performs at her job. It’s petty and cruel to consider getting someone fired because you didn’t like working with them X months or years ago.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I still agree the LW shouldn’t do anything, but for a different reason.

      I would change “because you didn’t like working with them” to “because they lied about their title by using your title, and may have gotten their job because of that”.

      I think it feels more personal to the LW because it’s their title the former employee used, so it maybe feels more like they have been stolen from than if, say, the former employee had lied about having a skill that she doesn’t actually have.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, if she had used a coworker’s title it would feel more academic to OP. This version lands, emotionally, as the incompetent former subordinate has jumped ahead to a position that could have been OP’s, by pretending that she is OP. I get where that feels particularly, specifically unfair.

    2. Lydia*

      Sometimes people get personally invested because it is personal. I’d say it’s personal in this case since the person worked for the LW and is using their title and job description. I know if I found out someone who worked for me was claiming to have done my actual job, I’d be personally pretty annoyed, too.

      1. Paint N Drip*

        We have established the element of “I managed someone who was bad at their job and then took credit for my work using my job title”. I wonder if there’s also an element of “was I ineffective as a manager to have this bad experience with someone who is now on my level?” or even “are there repercussions for my reputation now that my ‘bad worker’ is at my level?” – the anxiety of these type of self-questions might be leading the intense feelings OP is having about this kinda-not-your-business situation

  8. Skytext*

    I don’t do Linked In, so I don’t know, but is there some way to update your own LI profile to make it clear you are the only Senior Taco Manager at your company, have been in the role 10 years or whatever, and are still in the role. So if someone Googles or searches the role/company they will both come up, but in comparison it will be pretty clear the other person is lying.

  9. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    I would stay out of it. She’ll either get found out and get fired, get found out and it won’t matter, or not get found out in which case it wouldn’t matter anyway.

    You probably have other fish to fry so I’d let it go

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      THIS. If she can do the job, well she got lucky. If she can’t do the job she will get caught out eventually.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      This is what I was thinking, as well. I mean, how are these things supposed to work, anyway?

      1) Says she has experience/skill she doesn’t.
      2) Gets hired to use that experience/skill.
      3) Can’t do her job because she lacks relevant experience/skill.

      4) Either a) gets fired because company has its shit together at that point, or b) doesn’t get fired and flops around incompetently because company is a mess.

  10. dobradziewczynka*

    It would not look good or benefit you to contact her new employer. The onus is on them to do their research and confirm what role she was in – let it be. It will come out in the wash when she messes up over there.

  11. StressedButOkay*

    This is exactly the time the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys” comes into play! Until someone contacts you to confirm employment, this is irritating but doesn’t directly impact you.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      Exactly. Free yourself from the mental and emotional burden of this. It’s not your problem to solve and it doesn’t impact you. Leave it for the former employee and her current employer to deal with. They’ll figure it out soon enough if she really isn’t good at the job, all without you being involved.

  12. Some People’s Children*

    I have a former employee who singlehanded did the work of 30 or so people, or so she makes it sound. She always outs herself as soon as something comes up she should be expert at but obviously knows nothing about. When we’re approached we verify her employment dates, job title, and general duties. If you hire her after that it’s not my problem.

  13. Tess McGill*

    Not sure if I’m off base here, but I don’t see LinkedIn as a resume anyway. It should be a red flag to an employer if her info on LI doesn’t match her resume, and if her resume ALSO includes the lie, well, that should come out in a reference check. Which Alison pointed out, doesn’t seem to have been done.

    I get it. I’d also be ticked off that someone is passing off a title they didn’t earn but like the other commenters, telling her employer it’s a lie isn’t going to end well for anyone and I doubt you’ll feel better. Rant to your friends about it, but don’t go any further with it.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I’m with you.

      Any company who hires someone without doing basic due diligence gets what they get. And verifying dates of employment and job title is about as basic as you get.

    2. AnonForThisOne*


      I don’t care if LinkedIn and a resume perfectly match. Tons of times they don’t and it’s pretty irrelevant IMO because for all intents and purposes, LinkedIn is a social media site. It’s the application the candidate fills out (and the resume if there is not an application) that’s expected to be truthful.

  14. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    “By doing so, it appears she was able to secure a senior position, thereby skipping having to serve in a non-senior role at all.”

    I bet the new job/title was a lie as well. This is an old letter so I wonder if there was ever an update, but if the ex-employee lied about her title/job while working for the OP, she’ll do it again, right?

    1. Also-ADHD*

      That line from LW was one that actually rubbed me the wrong way. To be fair, I’m in a field that plays fast and loose with titles, but it feels really odd to think someone “skipped” something. I do think it’s wrong to lie, but I think LW uses language here that makes it feel too personal and emotionally charged and that’s even more reason to not get involved. Even if the new title is “true”, you don’t know someone’s actual duties or skills from a title consistently either. I’ve seen people with VP titles doing what would be Coordinator work elsewhere (that’s an extreme example but have seen it).

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Titles in STEM are often quite meaningless in that they don’t cross companies. At my last job I was a Senior Associate Scientist. In some other companies, they don’t have an Associate Scientist track, so I was applying to both Research Associate and Scientist tracks. To be more confusing, some places only have Research Associate and Senior Research Associate, while some have a Principal Research Associate. Really the only way to tell was to apply and get a phone screen, where the screener would be telling you where you’d fit on that track (I had one screener who asked why I was applying for an RA position because I was more Scientist at the company, and I said “that’s why we’re having this conversation, because not everyone has the Associate track and it’s not always obvious where I’d fit”. He paused and was like “oh, I get it now”, so I guess it was good I made him think about it?)

  15. Tree*

    Don’t do anything. One of the many reasons I am looking to leave my current employer is because they contacted a former collègues new employer and claimed he was misrepresenting his experiences when he worked for us. That current employer would spend time and effort trying to get this guy fired from his new job for something like this is causing me to accelerate my job search.

    If the former coworker is lying about experience, the new employer will figure it out.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Do you really think they will figure it out though? If they didn’t figure it out in the hiring process that normally explicitly includes references checks/employment history verification, I am not sure what other process would randomly turn up the former employee’s real title.

      I think LW should try reporting it to LinkedIn if they still feel strongly about it. That’s all they have standing to do.

      1. Cordelia*

        they’ll figure it out if and when their new employee is unable to do the work.

  16. Decidedly Me*

    I see so many lies on LI – wrong titles, job dates, duties, achievements, etc. It’s annoying, but not my place to do anything about it unless I’m contacted as a reference and asked about it. I’m honestly surprised at how few reference calls I get, so companies must not care to do due diligence. People may be giving other references for this reason, but if you lie about one job, it wouldn’t surprise me if they are lying about the others, too.

  17. Overthinking it*

    What’s up with letting someone incompetent work for you for nine months? We’ll, given what I read here (AMA) it often takes 9 that long either to fire someone for incompetence (PIPs and documentation and all that) OR to hire someone and onboard them (advertising, multiple rounds of screens and interviews, allowing them to work out notice where they are, and take those vacations they already had scheduled, etc.) and give that the boss was expecting regular assistant to return after maternity leave, I can see why it would not be worth it – especially if extent of incompetence wasnt known for the first little while. (You might EXPECT in competence the first couple of weeks, and then keep trying extra coaching and support for a couple months. Then, you’re almost 3 months in when you give up and say “this won’t work!” And you’re an organization that take months to hire? Well, no point.)

  18. Ess Ess*

    I liked someone else’s comment about reporting the invalid information to Linked In. I googled ‘linked in false work history’ and it gave me a direct link to a form to report false employment information.

  19. Fluffy Fish*

    Do nothing.

    It feels personal but it doesn’t affect you.

    Any company she works for will either do a background check and the information will come up as false or they wont and her work will quickly show she’s incompetent.

  20. Pioneering Data Practices All Over The World*

    I could foresee a situation where it might be warranted to “tell on them”. Suppose you are one of the 50 fellows in the world nominated as a thought leader by peers of your profession. Like a governing body in law, medicine, data analysis, science, etc. Having this employee falsely claim to be a manager/director under your supervision could adversely effect your reputation in the field if it comes to light that they did things that are in flagrant violations of the field’s best practices if it is implied that you endorse their practices by making them a leader. In this case, I would do more than “tell” the employer, I would also “tell” the associations associated with my field.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, the OP needs to ensure that her own reputation is not damaged by this ex-employee’s lie/misrepresentation.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Or if a senior position like LW’s involves decision making that could endanger the well-being of others, like senior hospital staff or a safety inspector. But you’d think that high-stakes employment would involve a pretty thorough background check.

  21. Betsy S*

    OP would be right to push the person to correct LinkedIn.

    Right now there are two people claiming the same job during the same time frame (and hm, what about accomplishments?) Unless it’s the sort of position and company where there could be two people in the same role, it could look like OP is the one lying. And LinkedIn works both ways – if this other person is asked about the discrepancy , what will they say? Of course, they could still lie, but at least they’ll have less of an opportunity.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      It’s unlikely to look like OP who has been there much longer and has many connections to the company will be suspected of lying.

      Any company worth their salt will be asking questions in an interview that sus out experience as well as verifying employment.

      Anybody can say anything on LinkedIn. It’s a social media site and should not be treated as gospel.

  22. BJMN*

    Plenty of people are hired directly into senior roles without “serving in a non-senior role”. There is also no proof that this person included that job title etc. on their application, so naming that as the reason they were hired into that role is a guess at best with the information you have.

    Definitely do not reach out to their company about this. It will do nothing to help you in any scenario. It can only hurt your own reputation. If this person is truly incompetent, that will shake itself out with the new company. And whether it does or not, it has zero effect on your life.

  23. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Normally I’d say do nothing if the OP had discovered any random lie by an ex-employee.
    However, it probably does irritate her much more and feel more personal because it is HER job and title that the ex-empoyee used.
    So in those special circs I would probably mention this to the new employer.

    It’s not “getting someone into trouble” to stop them misappropriating your own job to skip career steps.

  24. Grapes are my Jam*

    Very quickly after LI came out, I realized it’s a good practice not to review my employees’ LI profiles during or after their their employment with me. I’ll review a profile in the recruiting and hiring phases, but not after that. If they give themselves a promotion they didn’t earn, it’s their future employers’ jobs to suss that out, if it’s important to them.

  25. Rick Tq*

    OP, unless your title requires external certifications or registration I wouldn’t worry about what an ex-employee puts on Linked In.. It is a social media site, not an official registry.

    If she is as bad an employee as you claim she will crash and burn quickly at the new job.

    Or, maybe she IS qualified to for the role she is now filling and you didn’t see her potential.

    Either way, not your company, not your problem. Stop giving her space in your head and move on.

  26. Scottish Beanie*

    “…if I can do something to put a stop to it, I’d be happier for it.”

    You can’t save your former employee from herself. Just cut the strings. You’ve let her go, occupationally; let her go, psychologically.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Yikes, that makes OP sound even more overly invested to the point they’re filling in blanks with assumptions they’ve made.

      All the more clear OP needs to drop it and stop letting it fester as some grand horrible thing.

  27. AnonForThisOne*

    LW: I get it. It’s tempting, but in the end it’s just not worth it, for all of the reasons Alison mentioned and for one that occurred to me when I was in a similar (admittedly less egregious) situation…the new employer won’t give what you have to say any credibility.

    Why? A couple of reasons. 1: why do you even know this? If the person was that awful, why are you spending any time on her LinkedIn to begin with? As Alison said, this will make you look like a busybody. Was I obsessively looking at LinkedIn after the boss who was the reason I left a company resigned after I left? Yes. I really, REALLY, wanted to know who was silly enough to hire the VP of HR who thought you could deny FMLA and an ADA accommodation because it had gone on too long and for no other reason. Was I going to admit that to others in a formal way? Heck no.

    And, and this is the main reason: people don’t like to be wrong and they already hired her, likely picked her over other candidates. They thought she was the best, and you calling them to say otherwise is NOT going to make them change their mind. It may make her have to explain it away (if they even ask her about it), but as long as she has something pseudo reasonable (and she will likely claim she was doing your job as it was or something else silly) they are not going to care what you said about her. Because believing you means they made a bad hire.

    I would just obsessively stalk her LinkedIn to see how long she lasts in this role. :)

  28. Marcella*

    I feel a little differently. Twice I have reported to someone who exaggerated or outright lied about their experience and everyone on the team suffered for it. Two were let go because she blamed her mistakes on them. Senior positions impact others and often have the credibility to shift blame for their incompetence.

    That said, I was in this exact position when a customer service rep got a Content Director job by pretending to have my role and created my work. I was pissed but decided not to rat her out. She was fired in under 2 months.

  29. Stoli*

    I’d leave it alone. The “what’s up with” comment got me a little. LW may have had zero control over whether or not she was fired.

  30. Glen*

    it’s understandable to be annoyed, but livid? She’s claiming to have done a job on a social media that she hasn’t actually done. She’s not taking credit for your work, leaving you looking bad to your employer and peers. She’s not doing anything that affects you in any material way. It really isn’t something one should be “livid” about, because it frankly just… doesn’t matter all that much. Save it for something/someone who’s actually harming you.

  31. HonorBox*

    I’ve been trying to come up with a scenario in which saying something is the right move, and not going to look bananas. And the only thing I can come up with is this: If OP knows someone personally at the other company. Then it comes as more of a casual, professional heads-up since the receiver of the information will know where OP is coming from presumably. It won’t come across as a stranger ‘outing’ someone, but rather just a friend calling a friend.

    If that’s not part of the equation, then I think a heads up to the former employee that OP is going to report them to LinkedIn, followed by a report to LinkedIn is the only way to go, other than to just leave it alone.

  32. Jellyfish Catcher*

    Alison: I’m really sorry to hear about your mom.

    Sometimes I catch up on more than one day at a time of your column, so belated condolences. I’ve been there with the second parent; it’s a milestone.
    Be sure to take care of yourself as well.

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