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Q&A: We’ve discovered an employee is using a title on LinkedIn that is not the title we use at our organization. Should we say something?

It depends. There are many reasons an employee may choose to use a job title on LinkedIn that is different than their official job title with your organization. For one, employees may feel that their job title doesn’t accurately or meaningfully describe the work they are doing. A job title that makes perfect sense internally may not be easily decipherable outside the organization. Numbered titles like Administrative Assistant 1 or 2 don’t, in themselves, tell you which one is higher. Trendy titles like Brand Evangelist may get overlooked in searches.

On the flip side, you may have reasons for wanting your employees to use the title that you have chosen for their position. Likely, you put thought into the role, selecting a title that you believe best reflects the position. You may also want your employees with the same job title to appear similarly on LinkedIn to show consistency across your organization. If your employee is using a title that doesn’t reflect the work they are doing or is extremely embellished (for example, you have an accountant using the job title CFO), it may be causing confusion, both internally and externally, about who does what in your organization.

Before talking to the employee, you should decide if their title use is something that really needs to be addressed. If the title makes sense for the role and isn’t overinflated, you may not want to do anything.

If you decide to reach out to the employee, we recommend a neutral approach. Be curious with them. Mention you saw the job title they were using on LinkedIn and were wondering why they chose that title. Listen and consider their reasons. You can share with the employee that you would prefer that their job title on LinkedIn better reflect the title they have within the organization.

If you’re concerned that the use of inaccurate job titles may be widespread, we’d suggest providing guidance to all employees on how they should list their job title on LinkedIn. This way you establish a baseline and can refer to it in the future.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

Answer from Rachel, SHRM-SCP:
Rachel has a background as an HR Generalist in a variety of industries. After completing a B.A. in Psychology, she began her HR background in employee relations, staffing and payroll. During her free time, Rachel is an avid kayaker and plans to visit every National Park during her lifetime.

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