In a recent article on the BBC website it was argued that giving employees impressively sounding job titles can make a difference to their attitude towards work, making them better motivated, happier within themselves, and generally less stressed. It transpired that even without increase in pay or improved conditions, workers responded positively after being given the title ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’ etc. Similar effects were realised when staff were encouraged to invent titles for themselves to express how they perceived their jobs.
I appreciate that such articles reflect fairly isolated anecdotal cases with limited research or extensive long-term studies that can be referenced to prove positive lasting effects. Having said that, what if such practices induce positive benefits for a limited period of time that last long enough to allow us to assume a positive frame of mind to re-assess our work environment, redefine our relationships and in some cases, revise our career objectives and find better alternatives? Surly, that’s not a bad outcome.
In support of the above concept, I have some anecdotes from personal experience, including one from the animal world, that I would like to share to see if I can persuade you to try out a new job title.
A few months ago, a small marketing firm bid for a project at my company. The two partners came to discuss their bid and handed us their very artistically designed business cards. Their titles were: “The Creative One” and “The One That Does the Talking”. We spent a few minutes discussing their titles, which helped break the ice before we got down to business. These two titles could have been used by Mr Rolls and Mr Royce Regrettably, they did not win the contract but not, I hasten to add, because of their amusing and original titles.
A couple of years ago, I was in the USA on a business trip visiting a company which provided training services. I presented myself to the infectiously cheerful lady at the front desk of the company offices who had the delightful title of: “Vice President of First Impressions”. Now, there is a title that absolutely lifts anyone’s tail!
Speaking of tails, if you’ve ever watched a reality programme called “The Dog Whisperer” starring Caesar Milan, you would be familiar with the miraculous things this gentleman is able to do to rehabilitate aggressive, out of control, undomesticated, or traumatised dogs to becoming the model pooches we all wish to have as our best friends.
In one episode, the dog whisperer is called in to a family home where they had recently adopted an abandoned dog who was, to put it mildly, very depressed. The dog cowers in a corner of the house looking dejected, frightened and miserable, where no amount of cajoling would entice him to cheer up and integrate with his new family. Clearly, the family was concerned and Caesar Milan was their last hope.
Caesar walks in and observes the dog for a while; there was little for him to observe as the poor animal confined himself to a corner of the room and did not move. Caesar then suggests that everyone, including the reluctant dog, goes out for a walk. As they begin their walk, Caesar falls back behind and observes the family on their walk and notes that the dog was still nervous of everything that went on around him from pedestrians, to other dogs, cars, cyclists etc.
A few minutes later, Caesar was ready to go in to action and moves to apply his remedy. He catches up with the family, takes control of the dog’s lead with one hand and with the other, reaches down for the dog’s tail, which is firmly nestling between his legs and lifts it up in the air as high as it could go without causing the dog discomfort. Within a few seconds, the dog’s demeanour begins to change, his head lifts up, his walk turns in to canter and his entire body is filled with energy! Caesar Milan explains that a dog’s mood is reflected in the state of its tale. When he is frightened or feeling threatened, the tail tucks between the legs (hence the expression of someone skulking away with his tail between his legs). Conversely, when a dog is proud, confident or happy, his tail automatically lifts up. By using reverse canine psychology, Caesar Milan convinced the dog that since his tail is up in the air, albeit with external help, then he must be in a good mood. So, the dog, slowly but surely, changes its demeanour. With subsequent repeated practice by the family, the dog was rehabilitated within a couple of weeks.
Back to the human world and job titles. It is not that far off the dog’s tail concept. For us to have funky, senior or happy sounding titles, we might, just might, feel better about things in general, for long enough to assume the necessary positive attitude to do something more permanent about our less than satisfactory circumstances.
Here are some examples that might help:
If the job title is say: “Office Junior”, this does not fill anyone with pride and motivation. However, without changing the job contents, a new title might be: “Corporate Coordinator”, then this grand sounding title must surely put springs in anyone’s heels.
If you are a “Bookkeeper” irrespective of how thin or fat these books are, no one at a social gathering is going to ask you to tell them more about your duties. But if you are to be called: “Fiscal Comptroller” no doubt you will draw attention to yourself. Be sure to spell it with the grand-sounding “p” in the middle and not with a boring “n” letter.
Another example: if you work in any type of retail shop you may be called the generic “Shopkeeper” or worse “Shop Assistant” then a more uplifting title would be: “Commodities Negotiator”.
Finally, if you are employed to run a hot-dog stand then a fitting title would be “Principal Nutritionist” because there is only one of you at the kiosk so, you are the principal person there.
So, go on, campaign to have your job title changed to Corporate Poet; Chief Refreshments Officer; Principal Co-workers Problem Listener; Senior Joke Appreciator; Director of Birthday Celebrations; or whatever else you think best describes you. Me? I am thinking of taking up the title of Chief Prose Architect!