Follow TV Tropes



Go To

Great news, Page! I'm giving you a Promotion! Your new title is Trope Page, as opposed to your old role of Blank Page. Now the pay's the same and there are no perks, but you will be expected to keep discussions, indexes, and a good example list. It's a new responsibility. Keep at it and you may get moved up later, but for now you need to put in the extra time, this is great opportunity for you!

There are a great many names for this: in Real Life and in fictional office settings they call it being a Team Leader. In the military they call it a Brevet or acting rank, you get the authority and whatnot of the promotion, but not the money. Happened a lot in Real Life in the American Civil War and the World Wars and still happens to this day to an extent if a unit is short on personnel.

Think of it as the opposite of being Kicked Upstairs, you stay right where you are but do more work without getting paid extra for it! Oh and I need you to file these examples too.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga  

  • In Bleach, whenever Captains are killed, discharged, or go missing, their spots are temporarily held by the next-highest ranking member, usually a Lieutenant (also translated as Assistant Captain). Acting Captains have to handle all of the duties of the old Captains but with no extra pay and no official command authority. This is mostly because of the weight the title "Captain" holds: they aren't just leaders, but effectively a walking WMD.

     Fan Works 

  • In Chengar Qordath's Winningverse, this happens to Shining Armor in the aftermath of the changeling wedding invasion. He is removed from being Captain of the Guard (his dream job)through no real fault of his own, and shunted sideways into a new role. While the role isn't a dead-end job by a long shot, it's not what he wanted to do. And when the realization really sets in on the day he finally moves all of his stuff out of his office, it only kicks off the slew of bad news he gets that day.
  • "Kim Possible: The Next Generation" opens with Kim Possible an ensign in Security on the Enterprise-D (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in line for promotion to lieutenant, which she receives during a subsequent investigation into an attack on a space station. However, when she takes an unofficial trip to a planet hostile to the Federation to follow up on a clue, Admiral Nechayev declares that Kim must be demoted back to ensign to appease the planet's government (the alternative being to discharge her from Starfleet and send her back for punishment). Captain Picard accepts this order, but finds a way around it by transferring Kim to the command division and giving her the role of the captain's aide de comp, which leaves her officially still an ensign but with greater responsibilities and prestige.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • An almost example appears in an opening scene of the film Scorched: a long-time employee of the bank is promoted to Assistant Manager, receiving a vast list of new responsibilities... and a 55 cents an hour raise.


  • Brevet ranks turn up a lot in The X-Wing Series.
    • In particular, it seems to be a New Republic Starfighter tradition that new squadron commanders are given the rank of Brevet Captain. It's kind of a sore point for Donos that he never actually made captain because his whole squadron was wiped out except him. There's also the one time Piggy made himself an Acting (Naval) Captain (because he took over an enemy warship on his own). He's later informed that this self-bestowed promotion could be made real with a little paperwork, though decides not to go through with it since it would mean having to transfer out of a fighter cockpit.
  • There is a Wayside School story in which one kid is picked as Class President. Much jubilation on the part of said student until he learns that the exalted post of Class President entails turning off the lights at the end of class.
    • Although in this case, the one day he is sick and isn't in class, the entire day is wasted as the teacher "can't teach without light" and the class president is the only one able to turn on the lights.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Johnny is chosen as a Cadet Leader, which just means he has additional responsibility for his fellow cadets. Unfortunately he lets the position to go his head, and winds up court-martialled and nearly booted out of the service entirely.
    • A similar thing happened in the movie, but it wasn't the character's fault.
    • Later in the novel, when Johnny attends Officer Candidate School, much is made of the fact that he and the other cadets are "promoted" to "temporary third lieutenant" before being assigned to a unit for field training - the rank places them officially within the command structure, yet simultaneously ensures that no one will mistake them for real, fully trained officers.
  • This happened to the main character in the Sten novels by Chris Bunch. He's given cadet rank (eventually up to becoming a company commander), but among other things, he's responsible for discipline across the entire company, and isn't very good at it. Eventually he's given command during an exercise against an overwhelming enemy, fails spectacularly, and is kicked out of training because of it.
  • In The Cloakmaster Cycle Teldin at one point "promoted" trooper Gomja to sergeant, even though Teldin himself wasn't currently on any service, has no official status other than "farmer" and was but a mule skinner in the army before retirement. Unusual in that this helped. The "promotion" forced a young and completely dependent on the orders Giff to think for himself, and even unlocked his tactical thinking to the dangerous level: for Giff being a Space Marine is the only understandable way of life and the only subject of their education. It's unclear whether Teldin did it on purpose or just to make him feel better, but Hilarity Ensues.
  • Guido and Nunzio infiltrated the Possiltum army in M.Y.T.H. Inc. in Action Guido was promoted to "Acting Squad Leader" while in boot camp — which meant "playin' sheepdog" for the rest of his squad, and nothing more.
  • In The Dresden Files Harry repeatedly grants higher and higher ranks to the pixie Toot-Toot. Harry thinks it's just stroking Toot's ego, but Toot takes it seriously, so with each promotion he recruits more and more pixies to follow him. When Harry finally calls on the "'Za Lord's Guard" for help, he's quite surprised at how many of them there are. It also seems to be physically affecting Toot, who is much, much larger than he was in the first book, as a side effect of the oft-repeated axiom that names have power. Though that may just be the pizza.
  • Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) introduces his aide as "Gunner First Class Ferik Jurgen", despite there being only one class of gunner (but given how high on the chain of command the people he introduces them to are, they don't know that).
    • In The Traitor's Hand, he suggests that Jenit Sulla be breveted to captain until they see if she's worthy (better than a full promotion, as if she'd screwed up the demotion would have showed up on her record). It certainly seems to have worked, as she ends up becoming the first Lady General, the highest rank in the Imperial Guard.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, captain Kel Cheris is breveted to a general when she's put in charge of the operation to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles, but the formation instinct (the Kel brainwashing that makes them obey the chain of command) doesn't read her as one, meaning she has to win over her rather unimpressed subordiantes the hard way.
  • Played for laughs in Moving Pictures - CMOT Dibbler creates SO MANY different Vice Presidents, that there is essentially one for almost everything possible in Holy Wood - and the spontaneous creation of Vice Presidents is then used as a measurement system for how well a click is going at any given moment.

     Live-Action TV  

  • The Office.
    • In the British version, Tim perfectly describes "Team Leader" as "a title someone's given you to get you to do something they don't want to do, for free."
    • The American version has Dwight getting promoted by Michael from Assistant to the Regional Manager to Assistant Regional Manager. It's an unofficial promotion without any perks. Also, when Dwight thinks he will become the manager, he holds interviews for his "Number Two Man". He then appoints Andy as the Number Two "for political reasons" and Pam as his secret actual Number Two before he finds out that no one is getting promoted.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun, "Dick Strikes Out":
    Dick Solomon: I'm sorry, there is simply no room in the budget for raises. But I can go you one better: promotions! Sally, you are now Senior Security Officer.
    Sally Solomon: That'll look good on the old resume.
    Dick Solomon: Tommy, you are now Senior Information Officer.
    Tommy Solomon: It's about time.
    [everybody is quiet for a moment]
    Harry Solomon: What about me?
    Dick Solomon: Harry, you are now... Harold.
    Harry Solomon: Champagne for everyone!
  • Andor: The Imperial Captain Vanis Tigo asks to be made Prefect, even though it comes with no increase in pay or power to him.
  • Happy Days: Richie Cunningham was made group leader (or whatever the precise title was) of his ROTC unit in high school, which Ralph and Potsie took as permission to goof off.
  • In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Mary is first hired, Lou offers her a choice of Assistant Director or Secretary. She, of course, chooses Assistant Director. When she meets and talks to Murray, she finds out that the Secretary job pays more.
  • On Newsradio Dave promoted Matthew to the position of coordinating producer. He takes his job very seriously but of course nobody takes him seriously. Dave admits it's a useless title with no real power and Matthew asks if Dave is going to make him Queen of England.
    Dave Nelson: I was thinking Marquis de la Supply Closet.
  • Frontline: When Mike demands more responsibility on the program, the executive producer grants him the meaningless title of 'International Story Coordinator': a position that involves faxing a list of the day's stories to their sister network in the UK so they can pick up any stories they want to run. Mike still manages to screw this up.
  • Sgt. Sid Gormley in Blue Bloods. Originally the supervisor of the 54th Precinct detectives (and Danny's boss), he impresses Frank with his candor and concern for the rank-and-file cops. Frank then informs Gormley that he's making him Dino Arbogast's replacement as Frank's liaison to the regular cops. However, since the NYPD regulations require that the Chief of Department to be at least a captain, Frank instead creates the position of the Special Assistant to the Commissioner, which has the same duties and authority but not the rank and privileges that go with it. He does, later, receive a promotion to Lieutenant, but this is mostly still in effect, particularly when Gormley has to interface with senior police officers who outrank him.
  • In The Wire, towards the end of the Major Crimes Unit's investigation into the Barksdale Organization, Herc and Carver take the Sergeant's test. Carver is promoted to Sergeant, though it's heavily implied that his promotion is only because he was feeding inside information to Burrell, as Carver scored worse than Herc. When Cedric Daniels reforms the MCU in season 2 to investigate Frank Sobotka, Carver is brought back into the detail at Herc's request. Daniels' only condition is that Carver won't be treated as a sergeant in the detail, because of Carver's spying for Burrell during the previous detail. Herc and Carver end up having the lowest status in the detail, which is brought home to them when they are asked to install an air conditioner in the home of a judge approving the detail's wiretaps. The final straw for Herc and Carver is when they're left out in the rain waiting for Nick Sobotka to return home, unaware that he's turned himself in. Herc convinces Carver that they will never be respected in Daniels' unit. Angered by the menial work given to him, Carver tells Daniels that he wishes to leave the unit. Daniels attempts to convince them to stay, pointing out that surveillance is part of the job. However, Carver refuses to be placated, and seeing that Major Colvin in the Western District has an opening for a DEU (Drug Enforcement Unit) sergeant, transfers out of the MCU, feeling that at least Colvin will recognize Carver's rank. He ends up taking Herc with him as well, Herc also having no interest in doing menial surveillance work for Daniels.
  • In an episode of Criminal Minds, Hotch's sister-in-law tells him she's going to have to put her father in a nursing home because she's unable to care for him. The father suspects Hotch is responsible for it (and already blames Hotch for the death of his daughter/Hotch's wife). In the end, the sister-in-law reveals she's recently received a promotion at work and can use the extra money to hire a part-time nurse to help her out and keep him at home. Then the father-in-law reveals to Hotch that, despite his worsening dementia, he remembers his daughter telling him previously that the promotion only came with a new title, not a raise, allowing him to figure out that Hotch was providing the extra money but allowing his sister-in-law to look like the savior.
  • The Brittas Empire: In the episode "Laura's Leaving", Brittas ends up firing Carole. However, he's convinced by Laura to not only rehire her, but to promote her to "manageress of the staff crèche". It's implied that the only difference between this job and the previous job Carole held (receptionist) is that she gets to keep her children behind the desk.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Team Leaders are a source of humour in Dilbert. e.g.,
    PHB: Congratulations Ted! I've appointed you senior Vice-Duke of all Engineering!
    Ted: Can I order business cards?
    PHB: No. You're only a vice duke.
    • This is Played With frequently in Dilbert, including everything from long, overblown titles like "Supreme Commander of Cubicle S700R!" to "Not only will you not get raises, you'll also not get promotions! Oh, and you'll all be named Beverly."

     Tabletop Games  

  • In Paranoia most Troubleshooter missions require the group to choose a team leader (or have one chosen for them). The members had to follow the leader's orders, and the leader was responsible for successful completion of the mission. As most missions are impossible, and half the team is likely to try and sabotage it anyway in favor of personal goals, it really is a bad, BAD job. The team leader badge is a bulls-eye. ("Your badge depicts you as the centre of your team, with your expertise and knowledge radiating as inspiration to all." Uh huh.)
    • And being made a Troubleshooter in the first place exponentially decreases your expected lifespan. Enjoy your Red-clearance perks (such as they are) while you can.
    • Troubleshooters occasionally receive brevet promotion (see the Real Life section) to a higher clearance, often solely for one particular purpose that The Computer has actually managed to recognize the need for.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Certain devil forms are really big, really strong, and really, really stupid. Since your place in the hierarchy of Baator is determined by how many souls you've brought in, and you don't get credit for just killing people, getting put in one of these forms is not productive to advancing up the ranks. Baatezu call strong forms that stall your advancement "lateral demotions".


  • In The Matchmaker, and its musical adaptation Hello, Dolly!, Vandergelder announces that he's going to promote his assistant Cornelius to chief clerk, and brushes Cornelius off when he points out that he was the chief clerk already. After he leaves Cornelius says sourly that if he does a very good job, maybe in a decade he'll be promoted to chief clerk again.

     Video Games  

  • Commander Shepard starts Mass Effect as a Lieutenant Commander of the Alliance Navy, and also gains Spectre status from the Council. Come the third game, the Alliance recommissions Shepard, but two returning squad members (and, with the right background, his/her own mother) either match or outrank him/her, and s/he gets the widespread duty of conducting centuries-in-the-making diplomacy with every race in the Milky Way and finding as many war assets as s/he can. By the end, s/he is essentially, along with Admiral Hackett, the leader of the alliance.
  • Subcommander Kaol, the CO of Dyson Joint Command in Star Trek Online, is an O-5 pay grade with a job that ought to be at least a subadmiral II's (O-8) billet. Ostensibly this is because the Romulan Republic is barely a year old and is short on flag officers, but that doesn't explain why they couldn't have just promoted him.


  • Schlock Mercenary: The titular character Schlock is undercover as a janitor during the Barsoom Circus story, and his abilities gets him hired in the security team. Except he has to continue the janitor job as a (recursive) cover.

     Western Animation  

  • From Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law:
    Phil Ken Sebben: You know what that means?
    Harvey Birdman: Promotions?
    Birdman: And raises?
    Birdman: Promotions?
  • On Futurama, Professor Farnsworth makes Fry Executive Delivery Boy, then admits to the others that it's a meaningless title given to make Fry feel better (he really wanted Fry back after they all realized how much they needed Fry to make working there bearable). At that point the show's Executive Producers titles appear on screen.
  • In one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, Private demands a promotion. After a rigorous test, he gets promoted to... Private, First Class. They still call him Private; First Class is implied.
  • In the The Loud House episode Intern for the Worse, Flip, the shady gas station owner that both Lincoln and Clyde get to work for, keeps making up new job titles and promotions in order to trick the boys into working harder. However,they donít actually get more authority around the store because of it and still have to do the same work.
  • Spongebob Squarepants did this in the episode "Squid's Day Off". After Mr. Krabs is sent to the hospital, he puts Squidward in charge. Since it was a slow day and there are no customers at all, Squidward takes the opportunity to skip work by promoting SpongeBob to run the cash register AND make the Krabby Patties at the same time, so he could leave the restaurant for some "errands". Ultimately subverted because the Krusty Krab's sign reads Closed and Squidward's anxiety of SpongeBob possibly messing up on his own ruined the whole point of the ruse.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Carl is promoted from unpaid intern at the OWCA to paid intern at the OWCA. His boss makes it clear that said promotion is just a title, and they still won't be paying him, but he's happy anyway. The only thing heíll probably get is more respect. By the Distant Finale ďAct Your AgeĒ, Carl has been fully hired into the organization, which means he does get paid that time around.

     Real Life  

  • Truth in television with military brevet ranks; promotions given authorizing officers to claim the title and responsibility of a promotion, without the actual pay.
    • The U.S. Navy has a similar example. Come the end of every twice-a-year promotion cycle, those who have been advanced are all allowed to put on their new rank insignia at the same time once the results come out. This is called "being frocked", as in the priestly insignia. While for all intents and purposes the promoted member is considered to be his new rank, he does not actually get paid for it until officially promoted, which happens in a staggered schedule that goes on for up to three months beyond the frocking date, and is arranged in order of overall grade during the promotion evaluation and testing. On top of that, only the enlisted personnel are subject to this; Navy officers are promoted on a normal you-wear-it, you're-paid-for-it schedule. Other military branches think this is quite strange, to which the many sailors can only glumly nod their heads and agree.
      • What's worse, in the off chance that someone happens to be demoted while frocked, the demotion is based on their actual, not frocked, rank. So in effect, a demotion of one pay grade results in a two-step loss.
    • On a smaller scale, when you are merely given extra responsibilities but not the extra rank or pay, it is often referred to as An Opportunity To Excel.
    • Brevet ranks are also sometimes dragged out when someone is In Command Now, especially if filling in for a mid-rank officer who was killed. The theory here is that since the soldier isn't technically a lieutenant/captain/whatever, if the new position doesn't work out they can be put back without actually being demoted.
    • It also is used to keep a coherent rank structure when a military unit is temporarily but significantly expanded, with the breveted soldiers being returned to their official rank after the enlarged unit is reduced to its original size. For example, George Armstrong Custer is often remembered as General Custer despite dying as a Lt Colonel, because he was breveted to Major General during the Civil War, was returned to his permanent rank of Captain after the war ended, and then started working his way back up the ranks again.
  • When Wil Wheaton voiced his dissatisfaction with his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the producers tried to talk him into staying by offering a promotion for his character.
  • Among Disney cast members, there is a position known as the "team coordinator." The position entails a metric butt-load of new responsibility and the authority to actually give directions to your team members, but you are not considered part of the supervisory staff, and you'd better believe there isn't any additional money involved. Oh, and if one of your team members happens to actually work for a different department (for example, you work front of the house in a restaurant and some of your co-workers are cooks)? Yeah, they can ignore you with impunity if they wanted to.
  • One thing unique to the NYPD is a job position known as a "Detective-Specialist", and it was created because of this trope. In the 1980s, many NYPD detectives resented that some police officers, such as those assigned to security details for the mayor, the police commissioner and other senior city officials, were being granted the rank of Detective in order to give them increased pay and status, but were not being assigned to investigative duties. The NYPD pacified the situation by creating the rank of "Detective-Specialist". This title is now given to police officers who have been placed in specialized units because they possess a unique or esoteric skill the department needs, e.g., crime-scene technician, sharpshooter, bomb technician, scuba instructor, helicopter instructor, sketch artist, etc. Like Detective-Investigators, Detective-Specialists start at third level pay grade and can be promoted to second- or first-grade status.
  • In most police departments, Detectives may get increased pay and different duties compared to patrol officers, but they're both still at the same level in the chain of command. Basically, senior detectives can give directions to junior detectives in their own squads, but not even the most senior detective can lawfully issue orders to even a junior patrol officer. Detectives still fall under the "chain of command" of the supervisory ranks from Sergeant on upward. Still, both Detectives, and regular Officers, are eligible to take promotional civil service exams for entry into the supervisory ranks. There are rare exceptions to this: for example, in the LAPD, where the Detective Bureau is part of the Office of Special Operations, detectives are considered specialists, and therefore are seen as separate from the uniformed line of command. The senior-most detective is therefore permitted to take charge of an incident when it is necessary for investigative purposes, superseding the chain-of-command of other higher-ranking officers in attendance.
  • This is one possible sign of an impending layoff or closure, usually after someone fairly important to the company resigns (because s/he knows what's coming), and they need to find someone to fill that role, but can't afford to hire new people.
  • Rising through the ranks of an MLM company. Sure, you may be referred to as a Super Duper Double Diamond, but your responsibilities haven't changed since you first signed on. (And you still have to answer to your upline.)