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In today's more modern companies (especially IT startups etc.) that have a flatter hierarchy, the word "boss" seems to be outdated and doesn't describe the job role of someone who takes care of a team, making sure they have everything they need, making sure they stay on target, meet deadlines, but also has a superior role (e.g. can hire and fire) etc.

I'm looking for a word for the sentence when writing a client, "I'll be coming to the meeting with my _."

  • boss: too out-dated
  • manager: a boxer has a "manager", he's not my personal manager, sounds odd, or sounds like we work in a warehouse
  • supervisor: sounds to high, as if he tells me what to do, as a child needs an "adult supervisor"
  • team-leader: sounds odd and he doesn't really "lead", sounds like the army

The best I can think of is "team manager" but if he only has two people that he takes care of, it's a bit misleading to call us a "team", plus it has the same connotation as "manager" as if I can't "manage" things by myself and need someone else to do it. And "assistant" sounds as if he follows me around gets me things I need, which also isn't the case.

What is the best word for someone who takes care of the needs of e.g. developers so that they can get their job done more efficiently but also has the ability to hire/fire and highly influence decisions on which projects they work on?

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Frankly, after reading all the answers so far, I'm in agreement with you that "team manager" sounds best. It isn't that you can't manage things by yourself, but that you will be much more effective of a developer if you spend your time actually developing things and let someone else do that managing for you. –  T.E.D. Oct 17 '11 at 14:56
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I think you're overanalyzing the connotations of words like "manager". They in no way imply you're unable to manage/run/supervise something yourself. –  onomatomaniak Oct 17 '11 at 15:05
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Flatter hierarchy sounds like an odd way to describe a style of corporate organisation which by implication has more layers than normal in the hierarchy. If every pair of people in a "teamlet" need different job titles according to relative seniority, the company hierarchy chart would surely be taller than normal. –  FumbleFingers Oct 17 '11 at 15:28
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Oh... the first few times I read the question, I thought the "flatter hierarchy" had something to do with flattery (people flatter those above them in the hierarchy); time to sleep, I guess. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Oct 17 '11 at 18:20
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It sounds like the issue is less with language and more with the situation. The word is manager, and if you can function without someone managing you that's great, but his job is still to manage you - your definition of the word you are looking for is a pretty reasonable definition of the word "manager". –  psr Oct 18 '11 at 0:02

9 Answers 9

I would suggest project manager or project leader. They suggest that this person is in charge of the work being done, not necessarily the people doing it (except with regards to the actual tasks involved in the project).

EDIT:
These terms could also suggest that you and your "boss" are actually complete equals, but that your "boss" is taking the lead on this particular project (whereas you are in charge of other ventures, where this "boss" would submit to your authority on related matters).

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"Project manager" is the go-to term at my workplace. –  Jeremy Oct 17 '11 at 16:00
    
OP: "making sure they stay on target, meet deadlines, but also has a superior role (e.g. can hire and fire) etc." ~~~ Answer: "These terms could also suggest that you and your "boss" are actually complete equals..." He and his boss are not complete equals. His boss can fire him, he cannot fire his boss. –  sequoia mcdowell Oct 18 '11 at 13:27

What about coordinator (or project coordinator)?

It seems to encompass both the "takes care of needs" job description and the person's ability to hire/fire.

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Combining with other recommendations: team coordinator –  earlNameless Oct 17 '11 at 20:05

EDIT: I don't think my answer here is correct; I'm leaving it because some people voted for it.

It sounds like you really don't want to call this person your boss, manager, lead, or supervisor. With this in mind, might I suggest Senior Engineer/Project Manager/etc.? This phrasing does not specifically state that the person is your superior in a hierarchy, but it does suggest seniority. I think whomever you're meeting will understand your meaning when you say "I'll be bringing the Senior Developer on the project with me to the meeting."

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"Team Lead" has the the advantage of communicating legitimate authority while also specifying that the leader is part of the team that he leads.

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To me "Team Lead" emphasises the control aspect, which he seems to be attempting to deemphasise. –  T.E.D. Oct 17 '11 at 14:50
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@T.E.D., you're right. He also didn't like the "Team Leader" moniker, so "Team Lead" is not much different. I would suggest "Team Facilitator." –  Andrew Neely Oct 17 '11 at 15:09
    
Dunno. I'm a "software lead," which in my company means that I have responsibility without power. –  Gnawme Oct 18 '11 at 17:14

Without reference to their specific job function or functions, the terms Principal or Lead are useful descriptions for someone who is the primary point of contact, the key decision-maker, the executive director or producer. For more specific roles in an organisation, it can be paired with a function or activity, for example Principal Investigator, Lead Developer and Lead Creative.

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I've changed my mind. The problem here is not with the common, available words (boss, manager, supervisor, etc.); the problem seems to be that you don't like those words. My feeling is that your question is akin to asking "What do I call a long, thin, vertical, slatted wooden structure about four feet high that separates my yard from my neighbor's- but I don't want to call it a fence." Well, be that as it may, it is a fence, and the person who, as you put it:

  1. takes care of a team
  2. makes sure they stay on target & meet deadlines [supervise & direct work]
  3. has a superior role
  4. can hire and fire

is those employees' boss. If you want to use a euphemistic title like "team leader" or "coördinator" that's acceptable these days, but it can be misleading. People may consider it disingenuous (clients or employees), and it may confuse people about the nature of the relationship between you and your supervisor.

Many businesses use such newspeak. For example, Target calls all of its employees "team members" (and its customers "guests"). Does this mean that the "team members" have any rights an "employee" doesn't, that they are compensated differently from an "employee," or that they can't be fired by a "team leader"? No, no, and no. It's purely euphemistic (and meaningless), and I'd wager it's met with eye-rolling by a good portion of the "team members," as it assumes they are not very clever and easily fooled.

A thought experiment: What do you do when someone is talking to your "team leader" and they say they'd like to see the supervisor? Then you'd have to tell them plainly what we're working so hard to avoid: "The team leader is the supervisor."

So in short you can call the manager "team leader," "coördinator" or just "bro," if you prefer, but an accurate, widely understood English word for his/her position is "manager," "supervisor," or "boss."

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A term that has been used in "flat" organizations, is "upline," or "upleg." And if you really want to get "computerish," "uplink," or "upnode."

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But the organizational structure is not flat (despite the wording of the question). –  Charles Oct 17 '11 at 18:04

Immediate superior ?
Team/Section/Dept./Squad/Unit/Division leader/manager/head/supervisor ?
Chief ?
Prime ?
Lead hand ?

There are loads of alternatives,
but I'm kind of viewing it the same way as @sequoia mcdowell,
they all pretty much amount to the same thing, and giving it alternative "labels" may not be helping the client (customer, guest, end-user, recipient etc. :D)

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Unlike some of the responses prior, I think we can transcend the old way of thinking and CREATE a different name for that position. Words go into the left brain and become the experience that the receiver of has with those words. May be good, may be horrible.

I think in order to shed the mechanical feeling of the title, it is company specific. In one project where we had a lot of strong egos, I used assigned the "Shift Manager" the euphemistic title of "Leading Host." The name screams I do the same work but I may have a little more knowledge so ask away. Instead of: I babysit these guys and make sure they are on time. (This was for a temporary movie theater).

My two cents.

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