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Forbes had a funny post earlier this year about the silly job titles that some top executives now carry. These include Chief Listening Officer (Kodak), Chief Listener (Dell), Chief People Officer (Microsoft), Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, Chief Quality and Product Integrity Officer (all at Coca-Cola). Please understand I’m not commenting on the skills and competencies of the individuals who hold these titles, only in the silliness of the titles themselves.
The Forbes article quoted Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks, in saying: “It is all corporate Kindergarten playtime title-making . . . It’s a puppet show.” According to Stevens, having “Chief” in the title is merely for show. “These people have absolutely no power . . . Most of these vanity titles don’t even report to the CEO.”
Here’s the bottom line: “The only C’s with ‘real’ power are the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and, occasionally, Chief Operating Officer” (Forbes).
Similarly, Josh Dreller wrote in a blog post about the most meaningless job titles on LinkedIn. As his post showed, title inflation is not unique to top executives. Instead, it’s an epidemic that is spreading to every level, in every company. On LinkedIn, Josh came across various silly titles, such as “Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern”, “The Social Media Badass”, “Chief Thought Provoker”, “Chief People Herder”, and “Digital Marketing Magician.”
I love what Robbin Block (an author and a radio host who commented on Josh’s post) said:
“It’s getting ridiculous to the extreme. A label can be useful, but not if it’s completely fabricated . . . Titles actually used to mean something and indicated a person’s expertise and experience.”
Although Robbin was referring to marketing titles, I think this is certainly applicable in every industry.
All silliness aside, a job title is important for several reasons. I/O psychology professor Michael Aamodt (2010) explained that an accurate job title does the following:
- It describes the nature of the job.
- It aids in employee selection and recruitment (by indicating the nature of the job, thus helping an organization match potential applicants with the requirements for the job).
- It provides employees with some form of identity.
- It affects perceptions of the status and worth of a job.
Aamodt, M. G. (2010). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Dreller, J. (2012, July 31). The most meaningless job titles on LinkedIn. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=32359
Goudreau, J. (2012, January 10). C Is For Silly: The New C-Suite Titles. Retrieved from www.forbes.com