Management You are a beautiful snowflake

Titles are Toxic

You have a job and it has a name. A name of convenience. It exists so that when someone asks, “What do you do?” you can simply say, “I am a software engineer” rather than saying, “Well, there are these things called computers and computers run software and humans write software and I am one of those humans”.

Chances are, you also have a title. It was given to you when you first arrived at your fine company and you probably didn’t think about it. You argued for more salary or more stock, but the title was just there — Sr. Software Engineer 2. You didn’t think about where the title came from or the fact that it defined your compensation and promotion path for the duration of your stay with the company.

You didn’t think a lot about title because you didn’t really have a choice. The decision to create titles happened long before you were there, but you still need to understand why titles are toxic.

On the Origin of Titles

When a company is small, everyone does a little bit of everything, so titles make no sense. My first title at Netscape was “Bitsifter”. Sure, there were some titles, but they were titles of convenience so external parties could apply their antiquated title frameworks to folks on our team during meetings. “Oh, I see, you’re the VP of Product… how very impressive.”

The unspoken agreement was that these titles were necessary to map to a dimwitted external reality where someone would look at a business card and apply an immediate judgement on ability based on title. It’s absurd when you think about it – the fact that I’d hand you a business card that read “VP” and you’d leap to the immediate assumption: “Since his title is VP, he must be important. I should be talking to him”. I understand this is how a lot of the world works, but it’s precisely this type of reasoning that makes titles toxic. They didn’t start out toxic. They started out as a means to give folks a path towards growth.

The Leadership Path

When your company gets a little larger, when the team has been on board for more than a few years, you need to give folks a growth path. There are two paths that need definition. I’m going to define these relative to software engineering, but my gut feeling is that these paths are similar for many types of jobs.

The first track created is the lead or management track, and this shows up first organically out of necessity because there are too many of you. At 25 people you could keep everyone on the same page because each person was able to maintain state with each other person. The leadership track shows up so that communication and decisions can be sensibly organized.

This is a major development for a growing company because this might be the first title arriving. Lead or manager, whatever you call it, the question is the same: is it a job or a title? A job is a well-defined thing that has a clear and easy to understand set of responsibilities. A title often has neither.

A good way to explain this is to imagine the poor use of titles in Toxic Title Douchebag World. In this imaginary world, the first five hires after the founders have given themselves impressive sounding titles. VP of Business Development or Director of Advanced Technology. If you’re employee #34 and someone is walking around the building calling themselves the SVP of Platform Engineering, you might be in Toxic Title Douchebag World.

I’m not suggesting that this is not an accomplished person. I’m not saying that they don’t have a wealth of experience or fantastic ideas, but never in my life have I ever stared at a fancy title and immediately understood the person’s value. It took time. I spent time with those people — we debated, we discussed, we disagreed — and only then did I decide: “This guy… he really knows his stuff. I have much to learn.” In Toxic Title Douchebag World, titles are designed to document the value of an individual sans proof. They are designed to create an unnecessary social hierarchy based on ego.

When that first title shows up for your first leader, ask yourself: does this title reflect a job I consider to be real and of obvious value? If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, your titles might be toxic.

The People Path

Let’s say you’ve avoided Toxic Title Douchebag World when the leadership titles landed. Let’s make the big assumption that everyone sees leadership jobs as equivalent to any other jobs. Congratulations. There’s more opportunity for toxicity forthcoming.

The second growth path that needs to be defined is harder than the leadership path because of the inherent difficulty in defining the jobs. The forcing function for leadership was driven by a need to improve efficiency, communication, and accountability. The forcing function for the People Path is growth.

You likely didn’t define the Leadership Path out of a need to grow your people; you did it to scale your company. The fact that this new job is seen as a promotion is a happy byproduct of the job’s existence. Problem is, the majority of your company is never going to be managers, but they want to grow, too.

This is where a critical mistake is usually made. The folks who successfully landed the lead title think, “Well, when we needed leaders we called them leads, so why don’t we create new titles for folks to give them the same sense of promotion and advancement.”

No no no no and no. To understand how this breaks down, let’s head back to Toxic Title Douchebag World.

In this world, our SVP of Talent looks at his 119 employes and 17 leads and thinks, “Well, the folks who are the most cranky are the engineers who have been here the longest, so I’ll do what I did at my former company — I’ll create titles: Associate Engineer, Engineer, Senior Engineer, Staff Engineer, and Architect.”

By themselves, these titles are not completely toxic. It’s the process by which the SVP of Talent assigns these titles. Here are a few samples of his increasingly flawed reasoning:

  • He creates a stack ranking of employees based on years of tenure and last year’s performance rating.
  • He draws lines on this list to create groups. Where does he draws these lines? Well, it’s based on his mood.
  • With this group done, he passes it on to the leads who he thinks will have good opinions about the groups, but in reality will mostly share his opinion without question.

If you don’t have blinding teeth-grinding rage after reading those three bullets, I’ll put you over the edge. This isn’t really Toxic Title Douchebag World: this is your world. This grim, poorly defined decision process has heralded the arrival of a lot of title systems that you’re living with right now.

Now, those who designed and deployed titles don’t intend to do harm. They are, hopefully, intending to build a rational system for growth, but what they don’t account for is that…

You are a Beautiful Snowflake

How do you compare two engineers with equivalent years of experience? Comparing their years on the job is an easy empirical comparison and it’s not a crazy assumption that someone with more years on the job has more refined skills. But can you quantitatively measure those skills? No.

Phil and Felix both have four years of experience. Both have worked on the same team and the same project, but Phil works so much better with people, whereas Felix is happier hiding in the shadows and working on well sequestered projects. Felix is world-class at measuring performance, whereas it appears Phil doesn’t really know how to add. However, Phil is a steady, leveling voice during times of crisis where your impression is that Felix wouldn’t mind if it all burned to the ground.

You need both of these guys, but there is no one title which describes both of them. Phil’s title should be Humble Math-Addled Keeper of the Peace whereas Felix would be The Dark Lord of Performance and Snark. Their jobs are clearly as engineers, but defining a single title is a slippery exercise in comparing two things that are incomparable.

The main problem with systems of titles is that people are erratic, chaotic messes who learn at different paces and in different ways. They can be good at or terrible at completely different things, even while doing more or less the same job. A title has no business attempting to capture the seemingly infinite ways by which individuals evolve. They are imprecise frameworks used to measure the masses. To allow leadership to bucket individuals into convenient chunks so they can award compensation and measure seniority while also serving as labels that are somehow expected to give us an idea about expected ability. This is an impossibly tall order and at the root of title toxicity.

When Felix learns that he’s a Senior Engineer and Phil is a Staff Engineer, he loses his shit. Why? Because he perceives his value as performance engineer extraordinaire as significantly more valuable than Phil’s value as a guy who just gets along with people. Titles place an absolute professional value on individuals, where the reality is that you are a collection of skills of varying ability. Some are your super power, some are your Achilles heels, and none are clearly defined by a title.

R.I.P. Business Cards, Resumes, and Titles

Business cards are dead. Yes, I feel bad when I’m at a conference and someone hands me their gorgeous business card and looks expectantly for mine. Sorry, I don’t have one. Well, I do. You’re looking at it right now. It doesn’t fit in your wallet, but it saves a little bit of a tree and has vastly more information than a business card.

Resumes, in their current form, I hope, are not far behind. It’s convenient to have a brief overview of someone’s career when we sit down to interview, but more often than not, when I’m interviewing you, I’m searching Google for more substance. Do you have any sort of digital footprint? A weblog? A GitHub repository? It’s these types of artifacts that give me the beginning of insight into who you are. It’s by no means a complete picture, but it’s far more revealing than a bunch of tweets stitched together in a resume.

Titles, I believe, are an artifact of the same age that gave us business cards and resumes. They came from a time when information was scarce. When there was no other way to discover who you were other than what you shared via a resume. Where the title of Senior Software Engineer was intended to define your entire career to date.

This is one of those frustrating articles where I gnash my teeth furiously about a problem, but don’t offer a concrete solution because I haven’t solved for this problem and I’m wondering if anyone else has. I believe there is a glimmer of a good idea regarding gauging and annoucing ability in ideas like Open Badges but the burden of progress is a two-way street.

For a leader of humans, it’s your responsibility to push your folks into uncomfortable situations where they’ll learn, document, and recognize their accomplishments, and help them recover from the failures as quickly as possible.

For the individual, it’s about continually finding new jobs. In my career, I’ve been a student, a QA engineer, an engineer, a manager, and a writer. Each job is a path I’ve chosen. I’ve had much support along the way, but, more importantly, I’ve never been content to be complacent, nor ever believed there weren’t more jobs to be discovered, and always knowing that I’m more than a title.

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37 Responses

  1. Your example of Phil and Felix are well taken and make sense and I agree 100% (years ago actually) that Biz Cards and Resumes/CVs are archaic and very much not all that valuable, if valuable at all.

    The titles bit is hard. I can’t imagine someone in an organization of 50 or 5,000 people not having some sort of label that distinguishes themselves from everyone else. We humans like to categorize and label, thus helping us make sense of the highly complex world. Removing titles altogether seems to introduce a bit of chaos internally and then externally when meeting folks from other businesses. How do you recommend resolving this?

    Philosophically, flat orgs are awesome, but in practice how do you scale that at large orgs and how do business coexist with a lack of consistent taxonomy for whom does what?

  2. We have titles at Mozilla, but they’re mostly bits of wit like “Angle-bracket Coordinator”. Right below them in the company phonebook is a much more prominent field called “What I Work On”. The paragraph or two there is how I really make sure I’ve found the right person.

  3. We recently printed new business cards for every person in our business, sans titles. Name, contact info, big branding header, that’s it.

    When introduced personally, I generally give myself the title of “Chief Troublemaker”.

  4. Marshall 11 years ago

    At three of my last four jobs, (stretching back almost 20 years) my business card has had the title “Bad Influence”.

  5. Eugene Kim 11 years ago

    I think your actual issue is with suffixes and prefixes to titles, not the titles themselves, and I agree.

    Titles are a layer of abstraction that covers the minimum set of responsibilities an individual is assigned. They are like superclasses and each individual is a subclass that may inherit from multiple superclasses. They provide a common interface for interaction, especially when one does not have access to the inner properties of another. And how convenient, this is useful precisely for use-cases like resumes for job applications! Of course it is the interviewer’s job to practice due diligence and dig further to get to know one better, but given 100 GitHub repositories and 100 resumes to go through, I’d take the resumes any day.

    Titles, business cards, and resumes are useful for what they are. They provide a glimpse into a person roughly in scale with the amount of physical space they occupy when written out on paper in 12pt Helvetica.

    TL;DR: Keep the function, lose the ego.

    – Eugene Kim, Supreme Leader of My House, Son of My Father, Grandson of My Grandfather, First Chairman of My Dining Table, Supreme Commander of My Car, and presidium member of the Kim Family.

  6. Senior Engineer 11 years ago

    You touch on a related issue — what does “advancement” (my scare quotes) look like for engineers, assuming they stay with the team/company as they advance?

    To phrase it another way: for an engineer, how can growth be measured? It’s easy to put (probably just as meaningless) numbers on the growth of a manager, e.g. by counting the size of the organisation reporting to them. Counting that way, one level up the management chain is roughly an order of magnitude bigger job. How can Felix, or Phil, show to their management counterparts that they’ve achieved a comparable level of growth?

    I thought you were going to answer this in your final paragraph, “for an individual …”, but you gave a list of jobs: “First I could code. Then I could also test. Then I could also design. Then I could also fix the coffee machine when it made those funny noises.” That feels like linear growth, compared to exponential.

  7. The business card also serves the role of “remember me”. When someone looks at you expecting a card, they’re expecting a token to aid their own memory about “that really interesting guy who’s name, along with the dozen others I met earlier, escapes me”. Do note that this function does not require a toxic title.

    By eschewing business cards, you’ve lost an important bit of functionality, and made the other person work harder to meaningfully remember you — which means fewer actually will.

    (And while some will say their phone can now fulfill that role, trading business cards is quicker and easier in the moment of introduction.)

  8. Grouping/titling can certainly be harmful if done badly, but lest anyone forget, there is always the ultimate ranking mechanism – a little thing called Salary. There’s no way to disguise employee valuation, nor should there be, not in a company of grownups. As for the notion of a public footprint replacing the résumé, I don’t think so. It is perfectly valid to abstain from social networking and community programming while pursuing excellence in private.

  9. Jeremiah 11 years ago

    I have to agree with others who have defended business cards. The value is not in the title printed under your name; it’s in the physical reality of the card. You’re giving the other person a token of your existence and of your awesomeness; they redeem the token when they use the email or phone number printed on it to get in touch with you later. (Which means that maybe you could have business cards without titles—sort of like the social calling cards people used in the nineteenth century.)

  10. For a while, when I was doing porting/debugging work at a three-person company, I used the title “bounty hunter”, since I hunt down bugs (posted as wanted), kill them, and collect bounty. On my actual resume, it says something more conventional.

    When I converted from contractor to full time employee at my current company, I was given the title of senior software engineer. If they had not given that to me right off the bat, I would’ve negotiated for the “senior” part. Not for a pay raise or different job responsibility, but for being able to legitimately put it on my resume when I look for my next job, whenever that might be.

    In a way, I think the job title is for people not completely familiar with your domain. I’ve had interview conversations where it’s like “okay, so this was the resume that was for recruiter and HR. But let’s talk about what I REALLY did in the previous jobs and my area of expertise in words that we would both understand right away that HR doesn’t.”

  11. Sascha 11 years ago

    Business cards are a mnemonic. I need you to hand me a business card because there are 500 guys and 10 women at this tech conference and all you guys look alike in my memory. I also don’t memorize your web site when I meet you.

    This is a super post though. I grew up in corp America and it’s the cognitive dissonance required for titles, pigeonholing and promotion tracks that keeps me happily consulting on my own these days.

  12. Interesting article. In my offline life I have to give business cards or I will get the line “Whose nephew are you?”. I guess I look younger than most of the folks I do business and they think I am a college student. It’s different when I go to tech meetups though. I say upfront that I don’t give biz cards. They have to look me up on twitter right on the spot.

  13. My general approach to the people-path problem is to avoid solving it with titles, with a cultural emphasis on “you have to get to know me to understand my place in the organization”. So people get titles that describe the role, and most people in a given role have the exact same title (e.g. “Software Engineer”). Then a few have prefixes for major sub-divisions of that role, like “Junior” for interns and fresh-from-college (who need more hands-on support that most other people) and “Lead” for the one person on each team whose is responsible for catalyzing decisions. No other prefixes.

  14. My problem is that I do not wish to be identified via the internet. I have made a careful effort to not be available to employers in that way. Of course, I do not work directly in computers, and I can understand that it might be slightly different in that industry. Nonetheless, I do worry that with this shift in emphasis will lead to people like myself having trouble getting work, because businesses want more than the resume that I give them, they want access to my life.

  15. As discussed, titles serve several functions, some better than others.

    Value shorthand:

    Titles can be a shorthand for the company value of an employee, to internal and external audiences. Particularly, the title succinctly seeks to convey area of expertise and degree of expertise. (Important because it implies expectations and has bearing on the behavior of second parties.) The difficulty is that most have multiple areas of expertise of varying degree.

    So we could start by replacing titles with a list of prior roles (and projects) performed (where each role represents a set of responsibilities, more specialized the large the organization is).

    How do we convey degree of expertise? Perhaps with weighted peer ranking, because this carries the most authority and authenticity. Rather than interpreting the scores on a curve, they can be calculated cumulatively with time decay. Yes, you might end up with 90% being “staff”. Who cares? It shouldn’t be about relative value, but absolute value. Also, more important roles would have a higher multiplier, individuals with high scores can also be rewarded with greater discretion in choosing their next assignment, and individuals can also weight their own score by self-perceived level of certainty.

    “I’m Bob. I’m a Senior, and was Front End Engineer on XYZ Project. Before that, I was Project Manager on ABC.”


    Titles as a framework for growth just seems wrong. Companies should not do this and should make it clear that they do not do this at time of hire, so as not to hire those preoccupied by titles. Growth is a matter of experience, knowledge, challenges overcome, relationships built and strengthened. Title changes are a distraction.

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting viewpoints.

  16. I used to label myself “Product Architect” because of a Heroku job offer (no longer on their website) that corresponded quite well to a large part of what I did. But being part of the technical team of an early stage startup (

  17. Oops, HTML formating broke my previous comment, let’s try again…

    I used to label myself “Product Architect” because of a Heroku job offer (no longer on their website) that corresponded quite well to a large part of what I did. But being part of the technical team of an early stage startup (less than 10 people) really means doing all sorts of things.

    I could say I am a jack of all trades or a “generalist”, but I prefer to say I’m a hacker. Because I am, and probably always will be, no matter the job I will be doing.

  18. True story – I’ completed Sally’s (not her real name) performance review. She’s done well, she gets a raise at the upper end of the range given that year, but I have to tell her that I can’t change her job title as she requests Result – some evidence of pleasure at the raise, but also disgruntlement with job title thing. With time disgruntlement smoulders and grows, leading to some poor behaviours. Effect of raise passes quickly.

    Next year same person, review again good (poor behaviours were reigned in) Unfortunately,, business has not been good and all raises significantly reduced including Sally’s. However, because of a re-org I tell Sally that she can now use the pre-fix Senior. Result – ecstatic reaction, boost in feelings of pride and confidence which is sustained right through the following year.

    I don’t give this example to deny the points made; I felt unsure about the motivational message Sally’s story gives. I have seen overuse of inflated titles lead to the kind of nonsense you describe and a farcical plundering of the thesaurus in a decreasingly ineffective attempt to aggrandise individual roles, but there’s no denying the positive effect we saw with Sally. It’s a tricky problem.

  19. I remember one place I worked for gave every sales guy “VP” in their title because apparently a lot of banks and credit unions wouldn’t even talk to a sales guy unless they had a big title.

  20. Arun Saha 11 years ago

    What is the actual problem?

    a) Having titles, or

    b) Wrongful association of titles

    I personally consider no problem in having titles as long as they are fairly allocated. Sounds like a oxymoron, huh?

    Why I consider titles, when fairly allocated, is good:

    1) It maps the skill, experience, and contribution level from in-house to external world.

    2) Progression of title captures the progression of the professional

    3) It is a factor (currency) in the resume when one need to shop for jobs

    4) It is a way to recognize and reward one’s contributions.

    Another issue is the diverse title mapping. Different organizations tend to have different number of levels making the whole thing messy. For example, company A may have 15 titles for individual contributors whereas company B may have only 6. When some body moves from A to B or vice-versa, what is the ideal mapping?

  21. Krumpet 11 years ago

    After reading this, I threw every business card I ever collected into the recycling bin.

  22. I worked at a large company which had titles of Junior Programmer, Programmer and Senior Programmer. It was a young industry and they soon realised that people who get 2 promotions in 3 years need to see a longer ladder ahead of them if they’re to stay at the company. So they invented a new title Principal Programmer. I expect they will concoct new titles with even more grandiose superlatives as the need arises.

  23. Merus 11 years ago

    Game company Valve famously has no titles, except for one person, who is the Vice President of Marketing solely because he’s the guy who deals with outside partners and they found the outside partners freak out if they’re talking to Just Some Guy from Valve Software.

  24. Larry Lumsden 11 years ago

    As a company grows, role descriptions are useful for knowing who’s who, whereas titles tend to be used for rewards & recognition and serve no other function.

    So if I know that someone’s role is “Web Site Usability Specialist” or “Software Developer, Photo Editing product” I have a starting idea for what they do and why I might contact them.

    If someone’s title is “Principal Developer” I know they’re probably well-paid and once did something useful in the opinion of someone else. I probably haven’t learned anything useful.

    In my teams we refer only to roles and I titles. But if someone has a title on his business card it’s very difficult for you, and perhaps a slap in the face for them, to try to take it away…

    Good article.

  25. Jason Baker 11 years ago

    Fully agree that having a title-based culture is a bad idea. The funniest part about it all is that these systems usually end up running contrary to their stated purpose. They end up entrenching the powers-that-be and create a barrier to everyone else’s advancement.

    Plus, research has shown that even the most benign title increases can make otherwise nice people turn evil.

    However, I’m not convinced that titles in and of themselves are inherently toxic. I mean, a title is just a piece of data, and potentially a very powerful piece of data. The fact that it exists says nothing. What you have to look at is what the data is telling you. And if you take this piece of data away, it will just be replaced by another piece of data that does the same thing.

    Think about it this way. Rather than saying “This person is a senior developer. They are more competent than junior developers.”, you should say “This person is a senior developer. They possess characteristics that the company wishes to reward, and people who have these characteristics will advance here.”

    If you look at it this way, you can learn a lot about a company by looking at how they treat titles. Do they give anyone and everyone a fancy title? It’s probably a touchey-feely type of place that wants everyone to be happy. Do they disbelieve in titles altogether? Look for another status symbol, likely a more clever one.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that you can learn a lot by who isn’t getting promoted, and how they treat these people. Are they shoveled in a corner and ignored? Or are their views integrated into the greater whole?

  26. Dave Cottlehuber 11 years ago

    While I really like the article, and in fact most of the ones on your blog, I’d like it even more if you could try to use non-gender specific pronouns in future. It’s unfair to assume that all VPs of OverEntitledness are actually men.

    Many of the best people I’ve worked with are women, and I’m sure the same goes for you too. If we want to make tech more open to people, we need to reflect that in our writing, our speaking, and our hiring.

    With a slight twist you can easily use “theirs, they” in almost all sentences.

    Thanks for writing!

  27. It’s really a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  28. I don’t have any management experience, so forgive my naivety, but as one of the wrenches in the toolbox, if we’re not talking about different levels of responsibility or different spheres of influence, we already have appropriate titles. They’re called names.

    Are you currently screwed? You don’t need a Staff Engineer, you need Phil, and it’s the manager’s job to recognize and appreciate that.

    I aspire to be like Phil, and I’ve had enough stupid (not to mention long) titles to drive me up the wall. You know what actually makes me feel valued? When another manager has a problem and asks for me by name because I have a reputation within the organization of getting stuff done.

    If I leave the organization and someone says “we need a new Staff Engineer”, that would make me feel awful.

  29. Which is why my LinkedIn profile just says “imagination. possibility. reality.”

  30. The article echoes much of what I have thought and tried to do personally in my chosen profession.

    Architecture has a title problem. The term, Architect, is protected by law in many states and it implies certain criteria: minimum 5 years of higher education + degree, 3 years of documented internship under a licensed Architect, and 7 (+1 for CA) licensing exams before you can legally put “Architect” after your name…anywhere. These leaves anyone else involved in the profession, short of full completion of the above criteria, as an Intern. Yes, that is the official title of a person fresh from university as well as the title of the matriculated professional with 20 years and 6 completed exams on their resume. The oft used interim titles of Job Manager, Project Manager, Job Captain, and Designer leave much to be desired and give little information to the receiver mostly due to the relative project type/size/complexity of the projects undertaken by the titled. Not to mention the recent preponderance of the term architect being used in the technology field with no legal recrimination. I can recall the last time I conducted and internet job search for “architect” positions; the vast majority were not solicitations for an Architect.

    Perhaps, in our special little world, an expansion of titles could be useful or at the very least more nuanced in description. Personally, I hate ’em. I would rather have no title than call myself a designer. I would rather be a Project Architect than a Project Manager. Alas, that is not the way the profession runs.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. TL:DR.

    Thoughts on expanding titles versus contracting?

  31. > titles were necessary to map to a dimwitted external reality where someone would look at a business card and apply an immediate judgement on ability based on title

    When I joined company X it was as a contract “Technical Writer”. Then they hired me in as an FTE “Technical Writer. Over the next two years I did a lot less writing and a lot more wiki support and app development., Every time I would ask “can we change my title to reflect what I actually do?” and my manager and HR said “Oh, don’t worry about it, no one really looks at the title.”

    Then my manager was laid off and I got a new manager. I kept doing what I did. And a year later my manager said “you don;t write enough. You do too much support and app development. You are a Tech Writer and must Find Things To Write.”

    I found another manager. We worked on changing my job title. Now I was a “Web Developer”. ALl went well until…

    My manager resigned and the team reorged and, based on my title, I was dropped into a backend development team. I still did (front end) wiki support and app development.

    My new manager said “your job title is Web Developer”. My team is developers. You can become a back end developer or you can leave.

    Three months later they “eliminated” my position.

    You bet titles are toxic.

  32. Michael Griffith 11 years ago

    There is this thing called Linkedin where you can give yourself any title you like and your boss can’t do anything about it.


    Michael Griffith

    VP, Master of time, space and dimension

  33. Doug Whitmore 11 years ago

    I lost it when you said “A Beautiful Snowflake”

    I will now use that as my title, as it is the most appropriate for me.

  34. Greg Barwis 11 years ago

    I agree wholeheartedly with the article, but titles do serve the particularly useful purpose of adding credibility or influence when dealing with external partners or service providers (as mentioned in a few other comments).

    “Hi, I’m some guy from ” tends to face a steeper uphill escalation fight than “Hi, I’m the VP of Operations from “, even with external companies where there is an established business relationship.

  35. not john 11 years ago

    Thoughtful article written from an idealist point of view with appropriate nods to practicality. You could have excavated the depths of nuance, but you left that as an exercise for the reader. Well done.

    Comments: I read many years ago that some employees want pay or time off as a reward, others want public recognition. Paul’s “Sally” is clearly the latter and her boss did not know her well enough to recognize that.

    Mike McG’s recommendation to not hire those preoccupied by titles may work in some situations, but probably not most. From a practical financial point of view, it costs the company nothing to let someone have a high falutin title if that’s what floats their boat.

    Having said that, a guy who was hired a few years before me (with more or less my same background) insisted on starting a a higher rank. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually, the powers that be granted an exception – bigger title, $6000 less/yr. He would have gotten the title after 1 year anyway. I wouldn’t have hired the guy – he lacked judgment.

    Finally, I don’t use a resume. I dig until I find the right folks to talk to, secure their support, then have them tell HR what to do. Then they tell me which key words to put on the resume.

  36. not John 11 years ago

    And another thing…

    Often, titles are used as a polite conversation starter. “What do you do for a living?” According to HR I am an engineer, but that is far from the truth, so I say “industrial incident investigator” then have to explain, but at least it is honest.

    One of my college professors claimed that at social events, he could be standing next to someone who was introduced as the Senior US Senator , but when he said he was an astronomer, everyone else in the room was forgotten. People love astronomy.

  37. David Mallory 7 years ago

    Titles are Toxic???

    1. Titles can be toxic when the title does not fit the position or functions being carried out.

    2. Titles can be good because in a strange way titles make people make people feel good about what they do for work and they can tell people about their title which defines their job function.

    3. Titles are a way to recognize the efforts of an individual or team for their impact to the organization.

    4. Titles show value and the importance of an individual to the organization.