What’s all the fuss about?

A week or so ago, I had a LinkedIn (minor) hissy fit about the use of post-nominals…

First off, what are they, and what do they mean? A Google search confirms that “Post-nominal initials or titles or are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a particular position, qualification, accreditation, office or honour.” They mean that the person using them has been awarded academic or civic recognition for their achievements. They are the equivalent of that little “brave” sticker that you might get from the dentist or a nurse when you’re under 10 – except these are for grown-ups.

In the UK, post-nominals are widely used to indicate academic qualifications, honours, and professional memberships. The use of post-nominals is particularly common in formal settings, such as official documents, invitations, and business cards.

However, it is generally considered offensive in the UK to use post-nominals that you have not earned or to use post-nominals that are not recognised by relevant institutions or authorities. This is because the use of such post-nominals can be seen as misleading, fraudulent, or misrepresenting oneself.

So why do some people do it?

There could be various reasons why someone may choose to pretend that they have post-nominals that they have not earned. Here are some possible explanations:

Insecurity: Some people may feel insecure about their achievements or qualifications and may therefore feel the need to exaggerate their credentials to gain recognition or respect from others.

Deception: Others may intentionally use post-nominals they have not earned to deceive others into believing they have a certain level of expertise or qualifications. This could be to gain an advantage in a job application, for example.

Ignorance: Some people may not fully understand the significance of post-nominals and may use them incorrectly without realising the potential consequences of their actions.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to remember that misrepresenting oneself by using post-nominals that have not been earned can be offensive and misleading. It is always better to be honest about one’s qualifications and achievements and to avoid using post-nominals that do not accurately reflect one’s credentials.

What are the consequences of using post-nominals fraudulently?

The first consequence is the person’s ethics and honesty are automatically called to question. Although it is not a criminal offence in the UK to use post-nominals that a person has not earned, it is a civil offence, they could potentially face legal consequences such as being sued for misrepresentation or fraud.

Additionally, professional bodies and organizations in the UK may have their codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures for members who use post-nominals inappropriately or deceptively. These bodies may have the power to revoke professional licenses or memberships if someone is found to have used post-nominals inappropriately.

For me, it is that as well as the whole dishonesty thing, it concerns me that the person committing fraud is potentially practising without the expected credentials and the harm that can do to a trusting client. So while it might seem like an innocent exaggeration of your skills and abilities there could be unseen hurt done to unsuspecting clients.

As practitioners, we need to be protective of our clients and we need to call out the inappropriate use of post-nominals as the fraud that it is!