We are in the midst of a reorganization. My current (soon to be former) title is simple and straightforward – Squid Manager. I had a staff of 3 reps, whom I managed along with the department.

Our company has decided to follow the model of our partner, and dissolve my department, sending my employees into other departments.

Fortunately for me, I am trained in the squid field, and will be implementing a company-wide squid experience program, which will cut across all departments, dealing with processes and procedures that the squid experience.  This will include all marketing, employee engagement programs, social media, website, yada yada.

This is (I am quoting my current boss and the President of our company today) a high-level position, that cuts across all departments.  It is considered an upward move for me and will come with a promotion.

My problem is that our HR person has come up with a title of Squid Expert.  She has removed Manager from my title.   I think it should be simply Squid Experience Manager.   She says (and is quite intractable about it) that a Manager has direct reports.  As I do not have direct reports, she is removing Manager from my title.

My current boss and the President feel like I do.  I will be implementing and managing a cross-departmental program, and that I should retain the title (at least!) of Manager.

Our HR manager falls back onto vague “legalese” when pushed.  I think this is her position, not a legal position.   

Can you help me find a leg to stand on?  It is important to me that my title show upward movement. and reflect my position correctly.   My boss and President are with me, they are convinced there will be an argument.  Help me help them.

Your HR manager is on a power trip. There is no legal requirement that someone with “manager” in their title manages other humans. Has she never heard of project managers? Heck, is she not aware that lots of HR managers don’t manage (directly) people?

So, yes, she’s off her rocker–unless (and this is a big unless) as part of your reorganization you are syncing titles with your corporate parent. Some companies have strict naming conventions and require that if, for instance, you’re a grade 12 employee and you manage people then your title begins with “manager” and if you don’t manage people then your title begins with “analyst.” If that’s the case, then she’s right to push back because the company policy is consistency across grades.

I don’t think that’s the case here, though.  I think she’s got it into her head that managers manage people and if they don’t manage people they aren’t managers. Your resume is just not important to her. After all, why does she care what job you’re able to get next? I’d like to say that recruiters would just take the time to read your accomplishments under each title, but alas, some of them won’t, so having a bad title really can affect you in your career.

But, now, some good news! The HR manager is not the boss. Who is the boss? The president, who you said agrees with you. She needs to put on her big girl panties and tell the HR manager, “I appreciate your input, but we’re going to have Jane’s title be Squid Experience Manager. Please update the system.” Because the president has that power.

Look, I’d love a world where everyone did exactly what I said. But, since not all HR people are as evil as I am, sometimes they need to be overridden. This is one of those cases. Go to the president and ask her to override.

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20 thoughts on “An HR Manager on a Power Trip

  1. A former employer had a position on this situation. You could either be a “manager” of a function only, or of a function with direct reports, and the titles were slightly different.

    If you managed a function only, your title would be, “Squid Experience Manager.”

    If you managed a function AND had direct reports, your title would be, “Manager, Squid Experience.”

    Everyone in the company knew of this subtle distinction.

    Since I suspect you will be exempt in any event, “legalese” isn’t much of a defense, and UK practices would have no affect on the FLSA standards.

    You might make the suggestion above, though it seems it would fall on deaf ears, and it doesn’t sound like they will reprint their business cards.

  2. I agree with Lindsey, our company does that too with regards to Manager before the title or Manager after depending on if you managed people or processes.

  3. The majority of my career has been spent in generalist functions. I, too, thought that certain titles like “supervisor” or “manager” had certain conventions and requirements. Turns out that unless it is a company mandate, one’s title is really not super indicative of the function. I am responsible now for compensation and that includes job descriptions. We have Brand Managers, Assistant and Associate Brand Managers, Project Managers, Program Managers, and yes, managers who have no direct reports. The idea that one must have direct reports to have the manager title is an historic convention.
    To be honest, I thought that my “dream” title of Vice Cardinal or Arch Duke of HR sounds quite lame compared to “Squid Experience Manager.” I agree with Suzanne, prevail upon your boss . . . HR is a customer-service organization. We are not the “boss” applesauce. We are just often, bossy. There is a difference.
    Now, I’m off to figure out what a Squid Experience Manager is . . .

        1. Awesome.

          I wish my official title had been Data queen, as I had have had lots of data titles.

          HRIS Metrics Specialst,
          Supervisor, HR Sytems, Programs and Administration
          Manager, HR Domestic Data

          See? Boring? I love Data Queen.

  4. I work for a federal employer and we have some employees who have run into this dilemma in a reorganization as well. Our titles (things like manager, supervisor, coordinator) are derived from standardized company-wide definitions that fit in a hierarchy. A supervisor has direct reports but no budgetary responsibilities or managerial power. A manager has direct reports (often supervisors) and looks after a budget/manages a department.
    So, reading this, I just felt like you’re getting tied up in the name. They likely invented the “expert” title for your unique situation and threw it in the hierarchy above “manager”. Title changes in our organization are directly tied with pay bands, so the more you push back about being a manager in our organization the more likely we would be to ask for a job evaluation and constructive demotion to suit the title change. I not the boss but I do represent the employer and sometimes there are standardized processes that affect more than just you- don’t make yourself a troublemaker.

    1. But the HR person in this situation isn’t representing the employer–the employer wants the title the OP wants.

      1. In our organization, often the manager pushes back against HR without understanding that we’re issuing policy. I’ve had many managers say, “My new employee is a Recreation Supervisor!” and we respond back with, “Did you just pick that name out of thin air? Because according to what you’ve presented us in the job description, they’re actually a Recreation Leader. And the Supervisor promotion comes with an additional $3/hour.”
        It just sounds exactly like situations I’ve experienced in the past. It’s an organizational issue in that everyone operates in silo – so our managers aren’t properly trained on HR function or kept up-to-date on changes. We’re very strong on our chain of command – it sounds like this manager hasn’t spoken to his chain and clarified why their new employee is being titled that way.

  5. I have worked for traditional corporate public companies mostly and pretty much everyone is a “Manager”. The title means nothing. People that actually manager people though are typically called Senior Managers. I assume, however, that Squid Manager doesn’t involve anything with the sea creature, correct?

  6. Once upon a time I worked at a company at which the new CEO declared that Managers could not report to Senior Managers, and Directors could not report to Senior Directors. He left alone the structure that ordinary VPs could report to Senior VP who, in turn, could report to Executive VPs.

    The Finance department complied with the directive by demoting some Directors to Senior Manager, and demoting some Senior Managers to Manager.

    The HR department complied by promoting some Senior Directors to VP and some Senior Managers to Director. Since the HR staff were keepers of the job rating system that “justified” the job grade in the hierarchy of all jobs, they were able to game the system in their favor. The concept of equity was somehow never under consideration.

  7. I manage a ton of people, and yet (bizarrely) my title is equivalent to ‘Squid Experience Advisor’…

  8. Or, ask for “director” as suggested above, or “Squid Experience Program Coordinator” which will nicely convey the cross-company expertise level of it and doesn’t contain manager anywhere… 🙂

    1. In one company I worked for coordinators were all non-exempt admin type employees. So, to me, that conveys a huge demotion.

      But, that’s just because titles are not the same across all companies and recruiters shouldn’t pay a heck of a lot of attention to them.

  9. I had a similar experience with a hotel I worked for. It was a huge 750 room hotel, with 12 departments and 100,000 sq feet of meeting space. But H/R said, I had no direct reports so they only gave me the title of “IT Technician.” I could not have manager since I had no direct reports and I could not have director, since IT was not a department.

    Fair enough, the job was good, pay was good, but when the hotel parent company closed the place, it was rough looking for another job with that title, as it implies I was very low level which was not the case.

    Almost all my interviews consisted of potential employers waning to know why I was paid so much for a “technician” job. In fact I quickly learned when I applied or sent resumes out to to put “IT” and leave off the “technician” part.

    So I would say definitely fight for a title, to a degree, you wouldn’t want to lose your job over it.

  10. I had a last boss lady my same age on a power trip. She waited the first chance to get me out. I’m am here to say na na na boo boo! I found another job. I hope Karma goes back to you 50 x’s worse for playing with my life. B.i.tch.

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