Better Job Titles: Research suggests job titles not only boost self-confidence but also help improve mental and social well-being.
Besides, job titles also affect an employee’s performance.
However, the recent inflation trend in job titles is something that is ringing alarm bells globally.
So, what does it mean? Or, more importantly, do job titles really reflect work satisfaction?
Keep reading to find out.
Inflation In Job Titles
According to a report, the ratio of managers in the retail sector earning less than £400 per week increased from 37% in the 2000s to 60% in 2012.
Clearly, there is a screaming concern in this report – what do job titles have to offer, apart from financial rewards?
First of all, there is social recognition.
As the Nobel Laureate John Harsanyi once said, “social status, apart from economic reward, seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force.”
Since a powerful job title signifies social status, it should not come as a surprise that many workers aspire for them. Perhaps, often without the salary appraisals.
For example, the title of a “vice president” at some bank can trigger high recognition in public, bringing in respect for the bearer.
Title And Human Behavior
It is noteworthy here that fancy titles don’t always reflect status. Sometimes, a fancy title may only be created to influence human behavior.
For example, Disneyland employees are not called staff but instead cast members, as pointed out by Susan Fenters Lerch, the former CEO of Make-A-Wish Foundation, after attending a conference in 2013.
Upon returning to the office, she asked her employees to create their own “fun” job titles. Of course, the new titles were used as an alias for their official ones, but the initiative helped create a unique identity for them in the organization.
In fact, surprisingly, she titled herself as “fairy godmother of wishes.” The COO of the organization also chose a fun title – “minister of dollars and sense.”
The whole point of this exercise was to reduce emotional exhaustion for workers. And it did help them cope with their emotional challenges as a result.
Subsequently, work satisfaction levels improved on various grounds for the employees and volunteers. (We’ll come to it in the next section.) The results were supported by research from behavior experts at the University of Pennsylvania and the London Business School.
One of the researchers, Daniel Cable explained that co-workers started viewing each other as a human, and not just job colleagues. He adds, the workers reported lower levels of emotional exhaustion after a few weeks. And he even verified the results – an 11% drop in reported burnout.
Later, the team also tested their findings in a hospital, where similar results were observed. For example, an infectious disease specialist called himself “germ slayer,” while an X-ray technician chose the title “bone seeker.”
Similarly, health professionals going for unique recognitions such as a Nurse Health Coach Certification or something similar says they find it more convincing to go to work with their new titles and recognitions.
Clearly, the job titles are closely related to emotional wellbeing. Indeed, they do reflect an employee’s identity. However, the identity can be a reason for concern long before someone applies for and takes up a job.
A perfect example here would be how the social media company “Buffer” increased females on their technical team. Back in 2015, when the company realized they didn’t have any technical women on the team, they chose to replace the job title. Instead of “hacker,” it now said “developer.”
And, as a result, the number of female applicants increased impressively. Two years later, the team had 11.5% females on their technical team.
Title And Work Satisfaction
Better titles accentuate a sense of achievement. Typically, a senior-sounding title can encourage an employee to act more responsibly. And as a result, they may feel happier coming to work every day.
According to Jeffrey Lucas, a sociology professor, high-status job titles can also affect an employee’s tenure at a company. For instance, a high-performing employee seeks recognition. And offering them a high-status job title can stop them from leaving.
Jeffrey conducted two separate experiments in 1999, more than two decades ago. His conclusions, however, still stand strong.
He says workers with important titles display more satisfaction and commitment. He also adds that important-sounding job titles make them perform better and lowers their turnover intentions.
It is also noteworthy that, according to Jeffrey, fancy titles are not likely to have many positive consequences. On the other hand, people actually perceive job titles as serious social status indicators.
Another study from UC Berkeley carried out in 2013 reports high-authority position holders can recover from mild rejections more quickly.
For the study, doctoral student Maya Kuehn assigned roles to the participants. Some were given low-level positions, while others were given high-level positions.
On being told that they were not invited to an office gathering, the responses for both groups varied.
While the junior position holders reported feeling hurt, the senior position holders tried finding other ways to bond with colleagues.
Holacracy VS Hierarchy
Another interesting area to study is hierarchy and holacracy and how do they affect employees.
Studies reveal that job titles following a flat structure can boost self-esteem for already deferential people in an organization.
In contrast, a hierarchical structure may sometimes have a negative influence on individual personalities.
According to a founder of a software company, readjusting the traditional hierarchy has helped him to a great extent. His employees can maintain their autonomy and still manage critical tasks while being titled similar to each other.
The approach in the latter case is known as holacracy, which goes beyond the typical hierarchical structure. Perhaps, the company structure is quite popular and has been adopted by thousands of small and medium scale businesses.
In holacracy, rather than one job description fitting all, every individual identifies their own roles and responsibilities. And the job descriptions are updated regularly.
Whether holacracy or hierarchy, the titles still influence personal behavior and reflect their satisfaction with a job profile.
Irrespective of the financial rewards that come with a job title, the workers perform better and are less likely to leave. As a result, companies and organizations can retain talent without compromising too much on the financial front.