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A team member gave himself a new job title in his mail signature and asked for new business cards. I was the team lead and moving out of this position at this moment. I can leave it to my replacement, but the issue really bothers me and I want to support the new lead in resolving this issue.

What we tried: address the issue in a private conversation.

Result: He feels like it describes what he is doing and refuses to change it.

What we tried: Talked to the CEO about it.

Result: He wants to address it after an important project is finished to not ruin the "momentum" so close to the the deadline.

My issue with this is that the longer the self-assigned job title stands, the more accepted it will become by co-workers and clients.

How can I address this without undercutting, but rather supporting the new lead and resolve it without firing people?

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    Why is this such a big deal? – David Apr 5 at 6:54
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    Are we talking changing his title from "Junior Software Engineer" to "Junior Software Engineer and Database Administrator" or to "Senior Software Architect EMEA". First one I would have no issue with (if he really is perfoming tasks of db admin), second one is clearly just fraud. – Yuropoor Apr 5 at 7:21
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    You've talked to the CEO and he isn't interested in addressing it at this time. Why is this so concerning to you? Why does this bother you so much? Life, and work, is full of people pretending to be things that they're not and pretending to have earned titles that they haven't rightfully earned. Are you going to take up this fight with everyone who does such a thing? – joeqwerty Apr 5 at 7:43
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    @asdf It is a big deal, because titles / positions are assigned by company, and not chosen at-will basis. Also, the email signature for a company account is expected to follow some rules and guidelines. It's not left to individual choice. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 5 at 7:44
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    If you're unhappy with his title, make yours "Chairman of the Board", and then ask your CEO if job titles matter. – MineR Apr 5 at 13:54
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What we tried: Talked to the CEO about it.

Result: He want's to address it after an important project is finished to not ruin the "drive" so close to the the deadline.

That's it, you took it all the way up to your CEO, and if your CEO is not bothered now, you really cannot do anything about this.

As your capacity as a lead:

  • you spotted the issue
  • you discussed about the issue with the concerned employee
  • you escalated to the CEO

I'd say, you have done your job well. Nothing more is expected of you, as of now.

One small additional thing you can consider doing, along-with the CEO, you can also make the HR aware of the situation. Other than that, as mentioned by CEO, you need to "wait" till your CEO wants to make progress on this.


That said:

How can I address this without undercutting but rather supporting the new lead and resolve it without firing people?

I'd say, this is reason enough to fire people. If, after making a mistake and given a chance to correct oneself, they refuse to listen, I'd say, it's straightway

  • non-compliance with company policies
  • insubordination

which are reason enough to get rid of them.

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    @KMSTR See, you tried what's in your capacity, and when that failed, you escalated it to higher management. You've done your job. Now, how to deal with this scenario, is up to the CEO. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 5 at 6:05
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    I am in higher management now, it will come back to me eventually. I wouldn't post it here if it was "done". – KMSTR Apr 5 at 6:07
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    @KMSTR You went to the top. The top guy doesn't want to do anything about it now. Maybe he'll do something about it later, and you can suggest that you do a title/org refresh after the project is completed (as is the CEO's stated desire). For right now, the only smart move is to deal with it and move on. If it bothers you to the point of distraction, you might want to consider a change of teams/job. – Malisbad Apr 5 at 6:10
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    I am the lead of the entire division, I can't change my job because of one issue... – KMSTR Apr 5 at 6:16
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    @KMSTR You can't do anything more on this issue. You talked to him, he refused, you can't force him. You ask for a plan/solution, there's none. There are no tricks to make him do what you want him to, it's up to him to follow a very simple and very reasonable request. There's nothing more to it. Hopefully when the CEO approaches him in a couple of weeks, he will comply. If he refuses, that's on him. If you (or your CEO) are ready to fire him over this, tell him though. Let him know how serious it is and what's at stake if he doesn't comply. That might work. – MlleMei Apr 5 at 9:59
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A team member gave himself a new job title in his mail signature and asked for new business cards.

What you have here is a team member using someone else's title in his email signature and asking for updated business cards to reflect that stolen title. While I agree that is definitely issue, but it seems too granular for a CEO to care about. I am not surprised by the CEO's answer, because a CEO is more concerned with overall company strategy and vision and not so much on problematic individual contributors.

How can I address this without undercutting but rather supporting the new lead and resolve it without firing people?

I would announce the new Team Lead's title change formally in an email to the organization and/or company and support that by bringing up the Team Lead's new position in meetings. Essentially, make it clear who is the actual Team Lead. I also recommend declining impostor's request for new business cards with the false title.

Document each time you asked the impostor to cease representing himself with the false title and decision making ability. Just make it as awkward as possible for the impostor to keep this up and any reasonable person should stop or leave the company of their own will. But if the impostor continues doing these things, I would have no choice but to fire impostor.

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    Nowhere does the question say the employee calls himself the team lead. He takes a title he sees more fitting. OP is the team lead, so I doubt that he has taken that title. It's more likely that the employee calls himself a "Software Architect" or "Technical Evangelist" or "Senior Software Developer", when formally his title is "Software Developer". – Alexander Apr 5 at 6:48
  • @Alexander, not currently, OP is not the team lead anymore, but he wants to support the new team lead in this issue. – user92505 Apr 5 at 7:01

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