Why Are Job Titles So Important to People?
In the fewest words possible, job titles allow others to know what you do, what you’re responsible for, and what status you’ve achieved. Job titles can also influence your future career, as they indicate to others where you sit in the organization’s hierarchy, suggesting both the credibility and authority you wield.
Practically speaking, others use job titles to make decisions about you. Consider this: If you were seeking to improve your tennis game, who would you rather work with: a Tennis Instructor, a Tennis Pro, or a Tennis Performance Coach? Titles influence how we judge and are judged by others.
As significant as these optics are, the power of job titles goes way beyond the practical implications of evaluation. Job titles are so important to people that they frequently turn down jobs because of the title that comes with them. They are hugely symbolic in ways that baffle leaders who miss the allusive meanings they carry for team members.
Job titles are deeply intertwined with personal identity. They reflect prestige and respect. People find self-worth in job titles and pride in the titles they achieve. Not surprisingly, job titles are a valued currency in high demand in all organizations and workplaces. They offer an intangible reward that the best leaders use to attract talent, motivate performance, and gain commitment to an expanded role. Rewarding team members with new job titles is something good leaders do frequently, updating titles to match new responsibilities, and to solidify performance expectations. Allowing new team members to craft a role and a title to match has become increasingly popular as a way to entice new talent to join a team.
Most job titles cost very little but carry an oversized value. The next time you hear the question “What’s in a title?” remember the answer is just about everything. Job titles express a fundamental truth about people. The labels we apply to ourselves work to shape the view we have of ourselves.