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Hung Up On Job Titles

Which would you chose, better wages or a better job title?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

Not long ago I went to the drive-thru window at our local bank to make a deposit. I was dutifully greeted by the attendent who I had chatted with before on numerous occasions. On this particular visit, the attendant, who I judged to be in her mid-twenties, was delighted to inform me she was now the "Head Cashier." I congratulated her on the promotion, finished my business and departed. Over the next several weeks though, whenever I visited the bank, she made a point of letting me know she was the "Head Cashier" with an air of boasting about her. I presume she did this with all of her customers, that I wasn't just being singled out. She had even gone so far as to etch a new name plate with her title boldly printed on it. It was important to her that the bank's customers recognize her authority. Frankly, I just wanted to process my transactions and go about my business. Although I initially commended her on the promotion, I really couldn't have cared less.

I find job titles in business to be rather amusing. Originally, a job title was intended to denote the type of work a person performed, e.g., doctor, baker, banker, etc. Over the years though some rather avant-garde job titles have emerged which are intended to impress others. For example, we use "Software Engineer" as opposed to a mere "Programmer"; "Human Resources" as opposed to "Personnel"; "Branding" as opposed to "Advertising," a "Mixologist" as opposed to a "Bartender," etc. For some reason, the Information Technology field has more than its share of cryptic titles, for example: "New Metrics Analyst," "Content Engineer," "E-mail Channel Specialist," "Metamediary CEO," "Chief Knowledge Officer," and "Chief Internet Officer." I even ran into one entitled, "Webmistress Extraordinaire" (I think this last one is related to "Domestic Goddess").

If you can't invent a fancy new title, simply modify an old one by delineating the level of skill or experience required to perform it, such as junior or senior. For example, banks make extensive use of "Vice Presidents," a much coveted title. Yet there are many permeations of it, such as Junior VP, Associate VP, Senior VP, Managing VP, Executive VP, etc. Banks make extensive use of such titles as opposed to paying a decent salary. Nonetheless, some people believe meaningless job titles are more important and will help them secure a better job in the future.

Even in nonprofit organizations, titles become rather important to people. I have seen people boast they were President of their Homeowner Association, VP of Membership for clubs, and Secretary or Treasurer of other groups. They relish such titles as it denotes they are a person of authority and should be taken seriously. Now I will admit such titles are important to define areas of responsibility, but there is little point in having such titles if you do not perform anything in return. Such meaningless job titles ultimately demean the office you hold and the organization you are supposed to be serving.

As for me, job titles tell me a lot about a person's ego and his/her insecurities, particularly if they boast about it, such as the "Head Cashier." In reality, most people are less interested in the job title you hold and more interested if you can perform the work advertised.

Executives couldn't care less about job titles. To illustrate, I remember an instance where an Information Technology Manager was given an assignment to complete an important high profile project for his company. Needing programmers for the project, he sought permission from the executive committee to hire some more. In the end, the committee granted his request and told him he could hire as many people as he wanted, and give them any job title they desired, but when the project was completed, fire them all. It might have seemed cruel, but at least they got an impressive job title to post on their resumes.

As for me, if the choice is between a fancy new job title or better wages, you can keep the job title. I know who I am, what I am capable of doing, and am certainly not hung up on job titles.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12:30-3:00pm ET), and KGAB-AM 650 "The Morning Zone" with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays. 6:00-10:00am MST). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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