What’s in a name? Quite a bit as it turns out. Just ask Romeo and Juliette…

One of the first things you often get asked when you meet someone new is ‘who are you and what do you do?’ And in response, we offer up two labels, our name and job title, both of which we probably had little or no input in creating.

And yet, like it or not, people use this scant information to quickly generate a mental picture of you, make judgements around what you’re all about – and also what they can expect from you.

Now, you can of course change your birth name by deed poll if it really bothers you, or you just fancy adding some pizazz into your life – I believe that ‘Bacon Double Cheeseburger’ has previously been reported as being one of the more adventurous name changes on record! But surely there’s not a lot you do about your job title, especially if it’s been bestowed upon you by your employer? And why would you bother, even if you could.

Well, you may have noticed a growing trend for more ‘out there’ job titles. Increasingly, job adverts are no longer calling for Assistants, Executives or Managers, instead they’re scouting for ‘Ninjas’, ‘Jedis’ and ‘Rockstars’. Perhaps you’ve written this trend off as Millennial nonsense, but remember, this is what they said about avocados, and look where we are with that one.

So, according to Dan Cable, professor of organisational behaviour at the London Business School, it can also make good business sense to give employees more say over their own job titles. “When employees find personalised ways that their jobs can add more to internal and external clients, it ignites them. It builds their enthusiasm, engagement and sense of purpose. As individuals change the boundaries of their jobs around their strengths, it affects the way they define themselves as workers,” Cable says.

The language your company uses in its job titles can even convey important messages around your company culture and employer brand, setting you apart from the competition and attracting the right talent with the right ‘fit’ to your business. Avoiding costly recruitment fails and tapping into prospective employees at an emotional level while giving a stronger sense of job purpose. A win for both employee retention and employee engagement KPIs.

In short, a job title can potentially affect how you feel about what you do at work, who you do it for, the way others perceive you and also the company you work for. That’s quite a powerful label. So it’s worth giving yours some consideration.

But before you start tinkering with job generators, Googling holocracy in the workplace or getting up close and personal with the Thesaurus, a couple of quick words of caution…

Humans are pack animals and status matters – we like to know where we stand in the pecking order and our self-esteem is boosted by job titles that reflect our higher standing in our organisations. When you take away constructs that reinforce these things, it can leave some employees to feel disengaged and dissatisfied.

Could it hinder your job-hunting efforts? if your job title doesn’t effectively help recruiters to quickly get to grips with your professional experience you could find yourself passed over for someone with a traditional self-explanatory – if rather dull – title.

Likewise, if you’re a recruiter trying to attract top talent, a quirky job title might see your role overlooked. Are people really searching for Rockstar vacancies on Glassdoor? Potentially not. Well, not yet anyway!

Like with all good things (chocolate and wine immediately spring to mind) it probably comes down to moderation. Giving employees some leeway over how they construct their title and role descriptions can engender a deeper connection to what they do and why it matters. Or by getting a little creative with the language you use in recruitment campaigns you can reinforce brand values and attract the right people to your team. Conscious consideration needs to be given before mixing things up with a ‘Guru’ here and a ‘Maestro’ there, and only then if that’s really the right approach for you or your company.

Anyway, that’s just the humble opinion of this ‘Guardian of Customer Happiness’
(aka Pistachio Account Manager), thanks for reading!

To see what else we have on our minds at Pistachio, visit the rest of our ‘Thoughts’ here.