Silly Job Titles Are Not Funny

[NOTE: This post was updated February 2021 for freshness & clarity.]

In a Forbes article, Goudreau (2012) wrote about silly job titles that some top executives hold (e.g., Chief Listening Officer). A related listing on Forbes showed other silly titles, such as Chief Internet Evangelist, Chief Observance Officer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and Chief Happiness Officer (Forbes, 2012).

Please understand that I am not commenting on the skills and competencies of the individuals who hold these titles, only in the silliness of the titles.

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.”

Traditionally, the C-suite or C-level officers with actual authority or power include only a handful of top leaders: Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Title inflation is not unique to just top executives. It’s an epidemic that has spread and continues spreading to various levels in a company. An Internet search reveals other silly job titles, including Chief Thought Provoker, Chief People Herder, Chief Flavor Officer, and Paranoid In Chief.

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.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Advisor & Consultant

References

Aamodt, M. G. (2010). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (6th ed.). Wadsworth.

Forbes. (2012, January 9). The New C-Suite Titles. https://www.forbes.com/pictures/54f4e71bda47a54de8245a13/the-new-c-suite-titles/?sh=8c053513e945

Goudreau, J. (2012, January 10). C Is For Silly: The New C-Suite Titles. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/01/10/c-is-for-silly-the-new-c-suite-titles/