Once upon a time…clerks and administrators worked in their offices. The doorman waited by the door and the receptionist sat at the front desk. Lunch was prepared by a kitchen hand or the chef himself. Afterwards, the dishwasher would cleanup the mess. Then, behind the restaurant, the garbage man would pick up the trash. Looking for an adequate job was quite easy. One just had to open the daily newspaper to the classifieds and look for a job as a housekeeper and there it was. Today, the world is much more complicated.
Today… New tasks require new job titles. To respond to every post and comment, no matter how stupid, there is a new profession: social media manager. But there are also more traditional professions that “upgraded” their job titles. Today, there are C-level executives, vice presidents, and consultants working at headquarters. A first impression manager waits for you at the door and your lunch is prepared by a sandwich artist. Afterwards, an underwater ceramic technician takes care of the after sales activity. At the end, an environmental maintenance officer takes care of the rest. Oh, you have a question about your travel expenses? Well don’t go to the HR department, they only hang out with the HR business partners who deal with really important strategic questions like: What job titles people should get…
Bullshit job titles – Why are they needed (or not)?
After scientists have solved the problem of why leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller (see Ig Nobel Prize 2012), scientists have traced back the roots of job title inflation (Martinz et al., 2008). Here are three hypotheses about the “I AM SOOOO IMPORTANT” job title phenomenon:
- The self-fulfilling prophecy: If you “upgrade” an employee to a management position, maybe they will start to act like one.
- The principle of cooperation: If you pimp an employee’s job title and give them a business card the size of a poster, maybe they will repay you with higher performance (this is much cheaper than offering them a raise).
- Self-, and other, deception: The basic idea of job titles was to give people, both inside and outside of the company, a clue about an employee’s qualifications and responsibility. This idea is absurd in times of job title inflation. Nevertheless, the employee feels good in being called a manager or official. And customers feel better talking to a manger instead of an assistant. Do you care? Well then, everybody is happy.