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When you contact organization units like a department, an agency, etc., there is usually a main person whom you should contact. He/she is also the main responsible person for critical problems. Should we call him/her person in charge? Is there a simple word for that?

And, is following right?

  • Who is the person in charge of this department?
  • To contact the person in charge of that department, dial 234 567.
  • Do you know that department's person in charge?

P.S. The problem behind: It's used in a data table, a column "PersonInCharge" seems too complicated, though. And, the manager or the supervisor may be someone else, so I'm not likely to use them as well.

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In my department it's "Mike". – icabod Jul 1 '11 at 10:28
The first two usages are right, but not "Do you know that department's person in charge?". – jaybee Jul 1 '11 at 12:17
In the 80's it was "Charles". – ewall Jul 1 '11 at 15:41
Everyone knows it's Tony Danza – Neil G Jul 1 '11 at 18:44
HMFIC would fit nicely at the head of a column. – Callithumpian Jul 1 '11 at 19:29

11 Answers 11

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In the context of a department or realm of work, I would use manager, as in:

Is the manager of this department in today?

In the context of an individual I would probably use supervisor, although manager would work as well:

May I speak with your supervisor please?

If you are talking about a specific task rather than a department, you might use the phrase in charge like this:

Who is in charge of restocking the snack cupboard?

Lastly the verb head up can also be useful in contexts of projects or teams:

Who is heading up the backup team?
Who is heading up the security audit?

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In any given organisation it might cause serious ructions if a potentially 'demarcatory' word like manager ended up being applied to people who just happened to be in charge of some insignificant subdivision for which that term wasn't normally used. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '11 at 22:13
@Fumble: Two of the three examples given were questions and I think it's a fair word to use as part of a question. If it comes out in the answer that there isn't a "manager" per-se but there is something else, then so be it and you'll learn what word they do use on the spot. – Caleb Jul 2 '11 at 14:00
Well I voted to close anyway, so you can see where I'm coming from. My point was simply that if a bog-standard report were to be produced from OP's database, using fieldnames as column headings, someone might well be miffed whatever 'job-title' sort of word was used. – FumbleFingers Jul 2 '11 at 20:58
@FumbleFingers I'd tell them to go get a life and stop being so delicate. Time should not be invested in hypothetically appeasing these people. – George Reith Mar 19 '14 at 7:28

In earlier times you would use the word Manager

Can I speak to the manager?

Nowadays with so many titles and since you do not know the specific one that applies in that area (eg: Administrator, Supervisor, Boss etc) , it is getting popular to use "person in charge" as in the examples you have used.

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Manager is still viable, and I would say preferred. – Robusto Jul 1 '11 at 12:11

I can think of two simple words: head and leader.


  • Who is the head [of the department] here?
  • Do you know the department's leader?
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+1, For "Head". – Alain Pannetier Φ Jul 1 '11 at 14:52

I would use superior.

Can I speak to your superior?

It can work for anyone who is above someone else, even if it's not a managerial position.

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Your question contains a good answer, in my view. "Responsible" fits the bill perfectly.


Who is responsible for this department?

Who is responsible for bug reports?

Who is responsible for fixing burst pipes?

"Responsible" doesn't necessarily imply "in charge" or "superior", even though it will often be the same thing.

I think your column name could just be "Responsible", or "ResponsibleUser" or whatever fits your naming structure.

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The details of your question convey that you are looking for something specific, since you did not approve of manager or supervisor.

You said:

"person whom you should contact...."

"also the main responsible person for critical problems...."

This means that you are not talking about the person in authority, you are talking about a [Contact] or [EmergencyContact]

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The main person you should contact is possibly just the contact, or could be the liaison. Could also just be the boss.

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If you go to a Francophone country and ask for the chef or a Spanish-speaking country and ask for el jefe, the chief of the business or restaurant will respond (one would hope without a cleaver).

When I lived in French-speaking West Africa, I would address any gendarme as chef. He would usually crack a smile, as I had also planted the notion that I was not a tourist. It took a year of speaking French before I realized that the chef in a restaurant was the chief of the restaurant, and that chief had a broad applicability.

As I was building a house, I would visit every day during construction. The phrase that I learned to request the foreman was el jefe. Here is the same word in Spanish.

If you asked for the chief you would probably get the right person, although in the English-speaking world this might sound out-of-place. If you asked for the chef, you would probably get the right person in a restaurant, but a puzzled look if the hearer were not a fan of Hell's Kitchen.

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In English - in England at least - asking for "The boss" will usually get you what you need in the above situations. Whilst it's not necessarily the actual title of whoever you want, it colloquially describes them. I don't know, though, how well it translates to international Englishes - I'd guess it would work in America at least. – Seej Dec 12 '14 at 12:46

Team Leader is another term that I hear used more often. You could always plump for good ol' "gaffer" if it comes down to it.

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Manager is perfectly suitable as someone who is responsible for running the shots. Line manager can be used to denote the next hierarchical step.

The issue you are encountering is that different organisations like to use different words, in some fields other words are more standard. It does not detract from the fact that a supervisor is indeed a manager. The word just focuses on a different aspect of the individual's responsibility.

If you want my advice, call it whatever you call it within your organisation. This is just a database field name, no one has to see it apart from the developers, heck, you could build in aliases with multiple names if you want people to run direct queries against it.

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I like the word Commander. It's just so epic.

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protected by tchrist Aug 13 '14 at 14:34

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