pull rank

to show authority


pull rank = seine Autorität spielen lassen; Jdn. seinen Rang spüren lassen [deutlich machen, dass man eine höhere Stellung hat]



“5 Things To Do If You’re Tempted To PULL RANK - one of the most common — and most damaging — trust-busters in the workplace.”

Rodger Dean Duncan - Forbes Magazine

PULLING RANK - From corporate ladders to military chains of command, formal caste systems to playground pecking orders, humans are particularly sensitive to social status. And we display our rank in all sorts of ways, even without realizing it - through our posture, vocal pitch, and patterns of eye contact.”

BBC World Service - Deeply Human Series 2. Episode 8 of 12. Why do we form social hierarchies?

Did you

pull rank

- to use one’s superior rank to gain an advantage

- to use one’s high position in a society, organization, group, etc., to order someone to do something or to get special treatment or privileges

- to use the power that your position gives you over someone in order to make them do what you want

The American Heritage Dictionary / Merriam-Webster / The Cambridge Dictionary


The idiom “pull rank” was first seen in 1919, presumably borrowed from the military. In the military, men and women of higher rank give orders to men and women of lower rank. It is assumed that when men returned to civilian life after serving in World War I they brought some of their military jargon with them, including “pull rank”.


- to close ranks = Unite in order to defend common interests. This originates from the military command to “close ranks”, instructing a group of soldiers to come closer together in a line.

- to break ranks = The opposite of “close ranks”, this means to separate from a group, as in a line of soldiers. Idiomatically, it means to abandon solidarity with a group, a common belief, or a common interest.

- the rank and file = The ordinary members of an organisation as opposed to its leaders. In the military enlisted men march in ranks (side by side) and files (one behind another), whereas officers march outside these formations. The phrase is often used in conjunction with workers' unions (The union’s rank and file voted to strike beginning at midnight).


- throw one’s weight around, to abuse one’s power

act the tin god, be a tough guy, be in the driver’s seat (in the saddle), boss about (around), breathe down someone’s neck, bring force (pressure) to bear on (upon), bring to heel, browbeat (into), bully (into), call the shots (the tune), captain, command, compel, dictate (to), dominate, domineer (over), dragoon (into), exert force (influence) on, give orders (to), hold a gun to someone’s head, hold sway over, impose one’s will on, keep under thumb, lay down the law, lord it over, make things hot for someone, menace, oppress, order (about, around), play the heavy with, PULL RANK, push (about, around), put heat on, put pressure (screws, squeeze) on, put the frighteners on, put the wind up, put through the wringer, railroad (into), ramrod, ride roughshod over, rule despotically, rule over (the roost, with an iron hand, with a rod of iron), run the show (things), shotgun, steamroll (into), strong-arm, subjugate, subordinate, tell someone what to do, throw one’s weight about, turn on the heat, turn the screw(s) on, twist someone’s arm, walk all over, whip around

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“The best leaders generally don’t need to PULL RANK to achieve their objectives. There are usually softer, more diplomatic options.”

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Paul Smith, IBAN: DE75 7316 0000 0002 5477 40

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