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There is an upcoming social event organized by my employer where friends and family will be invited.

The company is a fairly small company in the UK and I will inevitably need to introduce my family to my boss, the CTO, who is immediately below the managing director.

I'm not sure whether to introduce him as "Simon, my boss", which seems to have all the negative associations with the word "boss" and will start the interaction on a bad note, "Simon, the CTO of Acme Ltd", which sounds a bit dry and too formal, or just "Simon, another colleague of mine", which might irritate him since it ignores his well earned professional position, especially coming from an arrogant graduate.

We are on friendly terms and regularly talk about our personal lives, so I don't want to be too formal while at the same time not be too informal and disrespectful.

And of course, the culture in the UK may be different to that of elsewhere, although other perspectives would be useful.

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    I personally don't see a negative connotation from the word "boss". – David K Aug 24 '15 at 14:43
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    How would you reword "This is Simon, the CTO" without using CTO? For example, "This is Simon. He's in charge of technology descisions at the company." By translating CTO to Plain English you will sound less formal without ignoring his position and responsibilities. – Brandin Aug 24 '15 at 15:50
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    all the negative associations with the word "boss" -- that's what you get for complaining to your family and friends about your boss all those times. – Steve Jessop Aug 24 '15 at 19:08
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    You should also not call him Simon unless his name is actually Simon. – Graham Borland Aug 24 '15 at 20:30
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    For a certain kind of software startup, he might well prefer to be introduced as the Chief Wizard, or even Head Orangutan... – Benubird Aug 25 '15 at 9:15
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I think you are overthinking this.

"Simon, my boss" is fine. If you dislike "boss" you can try "manager" instead. If you use "CTO" be prepared to explain what that means to people unfamiliar with the term and then you might have an awkward conversation. "Boss" doesn't have a negative connotation to most people.

But if you are really worried about this, why not ask your boss himself? Most people probably won't care and at an informal event might even prefer to ignore titles/etc.

Alternatively, you could just explain to your family who Simon is and then introduce him as Simon. How you interact with him (and vice versa) will set the tone much more than whether you call him "boss" or "CTO" or "manager."

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    This, plus your family will pick up more from your attitude to Simon and his attitude to you, than they will from the word "boss". – Hazel Aug 24 '15 at 14:45
  • @Hazel good point, I added that too :) – enderland Aug 24 '15 at 14:46
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    Your alternative is what I do. You're not making introductions to the general public; you're introducing people you already know to other people you already know. My family already knows the names of my manager, team lead, and key coworkers; introducing those people by name works fine. For a high-level person like Simon I'd probably add "our CTO" anyway, out of respect to him even if my family already knows that. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '15 at 15:40
  • "I think you are overthinking this." Absolutely. And in vogue lately! – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 24 '15 at 21:45
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"Simon, our CTO" would be better than any of your suggestions.

Enderland is probably right that you're overthinking this; that said, in for a penny, in for a pound.

The word "our" is more personal than the word "the" (Simon is not a fax machine) and has the added benefit of communicating that you identify comfortably as part of the team at Acme. Your discomfort with "boss" might have a lot to do with attaching "my" in front—after all, wouldn't everyone love to get to be the boss, at least sometimes? I suspect the negative connotation has more to do with the trope of people complaining about their own bosses than with the word itself.

Now, you wouldn't say "Simon, our boss" unless Simon were everyone's boss, so if we assume that "our" is a good word to convey an inclusive relationship with Simon then "CTO" is the most direct way to contextualize that relationship. Casual introductions are all about lubricating the conversation with social context. "Colleague" gives minimal context, leading to awkward, rote questions like, "So, what do you do at Acme?"

"Simon, my boss" leads the conversation toward the subject of Simon's supervisory relationship with you. Who cares about that? Do you want your family to talk with Simon about your most recent performance evaluation? Rather, lead the conversation toward the subject of what Simon does for the company by identifying him as CTO. It also boosts Simon's esteem and credibility, which can't hurt.

If you're not sure the person to whom you're making the introduction will parse "CTO" then say the individual words: "Simon, our Chief Technical Officer." If that's still too much jargon, then do as Brandin suggests and describe Simon's role in simpler terms:

For example, "This is Simon. He's in charge of technology decisions at the company." By translating CTO to Plain English you will sound less formal without ignoring his position and responsibilities.

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The general rule of thumb is to introduce the lesser to the greater. So, in this case, the introductions would go, "Simon, this is my sister Melanie. Melanie, this is Simon, our Chief Technology Officer."

This of course assumes that you are on first name terms with your CTO. If you are not, then the generally acceptable form would be to refer to him as "Mr Smith, our Chief Technology Officer."

Expanding his title, from CTO to Chief Technology Officer, is for the benefit of those who may not know what a CTO is. Not everyone does, you know.

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  • Good advice. This link has some other good examples of how order of introduction works. – Lilienthal Aug 24 '15 at 20:39
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    No no no no no. Your family is more important than your boss. And if Simon doesn't realise that, you need a new boss. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 24 '15 at 21:46
  • re CTO IME it's not that common in the UK either. I'm a little surprised the OP used it. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 24 '15 at 21:47
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    This is less a "general rule of thumb" than a particular ritual of formal etiquette. Personally, I don't find such rules particularly valuable in most contemporary settings; they tend not to be evidence-based, but to rely on antiquated notions of what is "proper" for and among certain groups of people. – Air Aug 24 '15 at 21:54

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