Please imagine a company in which the manager is a manager only by name/job position, does nothing and no work, or somehow has delegated the most part of his actions to his underling David who is responsible for everything. David is a very capable and trustworthy person and this is why the manager has trusted him.

How would a native speaker say this surely awkward translation? Is there an idiom for the bold parts of my sentence?

  • He is (nominally/ by name/position) the manager. Everything is in David's hands.
  • it could be "honorary", but that would specifically mean it was meant to honour the person holding the title. – WRX Feb 2 '17 at 15:08
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    How about figurehead? A nominal leader or head without real power. – user42526 Feb 2 '17 at 15:15
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    a slacker? I am researching but not finding a word. Do you need it to sound positive? How about "He's a cardboard cut-out type of an employee."? – WRX Feb 2 '17 at 15:35
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    Okay, I see what you are saying. So are you wanting to be rude/sharp and clever or polite but tell the truth? – WRX Feb 2 '17 at 23:04
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    My answer below would be political. You know better than to say the thing, but you still need to share the info. If we were to be impolite/impolitic. You could say the boss is a slacker/full of hot-air/ worthless/a place-holder/ useless and so on. I'd just say, "David runs the place and Boss does nothing." There are probably better choices, but it's not something I can answer. – WRX Feb 5 '17 at 16:10

How about turning it around? "Frankly/ In reality, David manages the department, no matter what title he holds." This is a slightly more polite way of saying that the person with the manager title is not in charge and David is. There would be other ways to word that, but that's the gist of it.

  • I guess "David runs the place / everything" is the best choice as you mentioned above. Thank you @Willow Rex again. But just let me ask it too! What about: "...actually David is in the driver's seat."? I'm sure I have seen this saying at least in AmE in similar contexts. – A-friend Feb 5 '17 at 22:54
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    @A-friend I think most of us would understand that, but in business I have always found that joking with anyone you do not know well generally falls flat. I remember making a joke about Canadians saying "Sorry!" when we bump into inanimate objects and having the fellow Canadian look at me blankly. They were either not very smart or did not joke at work... and of course it was the latter. People at work can be tools until they get to know you. :wink: – WRX Feb 5 '17 at 23:45
  • So, if I know that individual well, it seems that it can work naturally and without making a laughter feeling in the listener. Right? @Willow Rex – A-friend Feb 6 '17 at 0:51
  • @A-friend you got it right... – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 1:01

You could say the person is the manager in name only, although it might be understood to mean that he was the puppet of another person, not that he had delegated responsibility.

  • Another good answer @TRomano. Thank you. Just what about the second part? In such a situation I'd better say: "Everything is in David's hands" or "David runs everything" etc? – A-friend Feb 2 '17 at 22:20
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    There are dozens of ways of saying that David is running things, but you would have to be clearer in your question about what sort of tone or register you're trying to achieve. Casual? Neutral statement of fact? Sarcasm directed towards the nominal boss? Praise of David? etc etc. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 2 '17 at 23:15
  • Everything is clear now. Thank you very much for pointing out @TRomano. I had to define it. What we say depending on the tone and where we put the stress on the sentence can differ. It can indicate that "David is a very capable person (as a sarcasm for belittling the responsible guy and praising David)" or " neutral (meaning that although both can be capable, but everything is in under the David's supervision". – A-friend Feb 5 '17 at 9:59
  • He is manager in name (only), but David is de facto manager/but David is manager in all but name. You can also say "He is nominally the manager, but ...............". – Khan Jan 22 '18 at 17:54

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