Beware of how you issue job titles

Sep 20 2006 by Dan Bobinski Print This Article

It was with great interest that I read about the survey by UK recruitment firm Imprint Search & Selection regarding people foregoing pay raises to get better job titles. As one who has been burned more than once by swollen egos in my employee ranks, lately I've grown somewhat cautious of issuing any titles whatsoever.

At issue is the danger of someone letting their title go to their head. Such was the case in my business this past year when a person with the title of "operations manager" decided that some of the duties assigned her were too clerical for her liking. As a manager, she didn't feel she should have to do themódespite them being part of her job duties from day one.

I was really scratching my head on that one. In fact, I felt this turning her nose up at clerical work was the height of snobbery. She was a highly competent employee - superior attention to detail, phenomenal stick-to-it-iveness. I recall being dumbstruck by her attitude.

In a relatively small company, everyone does whatever it takes. The toilets need to be cleaned? I don't mind. The floors need to be vacuumed? I'll do it.

It would be quite easy for me to act high and mighty: I hold the title of President. But we're not so big that we have people who work only in one department and no other. I was sad to see that employee resign--she was valuable. But more than a little part of me was glad to see that attitude walk out the door.

Sadly, I've experienced this same title snobbery before. A few years ago an employee wanted the title of "director." Never one to care much about titles so long as the work got done, I said, "sure." But it wasn't too long before she, too, was turning up her nose at work she felt was beneath her.

I'm looking at this as "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Having now learned my lesson, the titles of manager, supervisor, and director are officially hard to come by. People wanting those titles are going to have to earn them. Day-to-day business operations have to occur, but they'll quickly fall apart if all I have is people with fancy titles who want to start at the top and work their way up.