Importance of Job Title in People Happiness


I was watching Game of Thrones the other night, the episode (from season 3) where Daenerys, the Princess of House Targaryen, assembles the officers for her Unsullied army. She learns that their names were given to them as slaves to remind them of their standing, so she suggested that they should change their names: „From this day forward, you will choose your own names. /…/ Throw away your old names. Choose the name your parents gave you or any other. A name that gives you pride“. Though the army decided to keep their old names because they believed that these are lucky names, it made me think about the importance of names and titles and influence that they have on people.

The title, including your job title, is a headline. We use them on LinkedIn or other Social Media sites to show who we are.

The title has also another role to play. We know that the right headline on your story matters. In case it is either intriguing, exciting, or similar, then you will get more clicks than you would get with an average headline. That is how the Media works today. But the same applies to the world of HR. The headline of job advert matters as well. My personal experience has shown me that in case the headline of your advert is different then it gets more attraction and clicks and candidates that it would get if it would be just a blank job title.

Job titles are status symbols. With the right title, you can motivate your people, and the wrong one could be demotivating. I have seen tears in people’s eyes and disappointment when they learn about their new job title after structural changes. And I have seen a smile and pride on people faces when they get promoted and have a fancy new title that they can use to show off.

People want to feel proud of their work and title is one of those things that plays an important role here. In ISS Estonia we, for instance, do not call our frontline employees who are providing cleaning service to our customers’ sites, ’cleaners’ – which is really often the title for people doing similar jobs. We call them ’cleaning service provider’ (puhastusteenindaja in Estonian). We call them that way because we want them, as well our customers, partners and other employees to understand, that they are not just cleaners, they are service providers. But we are not pioneers in here. For instance, according to this HBR article, Disney calls its theme park workers “cast members” and its engineers and multimedia experts “imagineers.” Subway’s line workers are “sandwich artists.” At some companies, receptionists are “directors of first impressions” and PR people are “brand evangelists.”

Make-A-Wish Foundation (a non-profit organization founded in the United States that arranges experiences described as “wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions) stepped on step further in here. Their CEO invited employees to create fun titles to supplement their official ones. “Although we were skeptical in the beginning, our firsthand observations and in-depth interviews made us wonder whether there are real psychological benefits to retitling work,” Cable said. Employees described how their new and improved titles made their jobs more meaningful and helped them cope with the emotional challenges of serving families with sick or dying children. The researchers concluded that the initiative reduced stress by helping people focus on the more purposeful aspects of their jobs.

So ask from your people what kind of job title do they want or prefer, it doesn’t cost you much (to be honest, it probably won’t cost you anything), but will help you to make your people happy 🙂

Let me know, what is your experience with job titles?

Sources used in this post:

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