THE BLOG
07/19/2016 03:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are Job Titles Important?

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Photo Credit: HubSpot | Canva

Think about your job title for a moment. Are the words in it really important to you? If you were honest with yourself, you would probably say yes, my title is important. I think we all want a title that speaks of our knowledge, expertise and success. Our culture places incredible value on fancy, professional titles. We get jobs based on our previous titles and even our compensation is increased because of them. People tend to place us on a pedestal because of our titles too. The combination of words that appear on our business card can provide power for us as we communicate with others.

Now let's look at this from another angle. Are the words in your title important to the company? I also think the company would say they are important. This happens because of how most companies operate - with a top-down management approach. After all, someone has to have a big fancy title right and manage right?

Performance
Okay, so where am I going with this you might ask? Great question. Here's my point. Does it really matter what our title is? Do we perform better because our business card has the word Senior Vice President or Director preceding the other words on the card? Hmm. What if our business card didn't have those fancy hierarchical words at all? Will you instantly become not productive or valuable? Some companies refrain from having titles at all, this is becoming more common, especially in the start-up world.

Ideas
What about this? In the interest of implementing great ideas to push the company forward, where do the great ideas typically come from? Be honest folks, because the truth might hurt a little here. Think of a few answers that come to mind. I am going to take a wild guess and say the best ideas at most companies come from the people in the trench, not the management team. Yes, I am even saying this as an executive. The trench is where all the action happens and where the fireworks go off in the brains of the employees who see opportunities for new ideas and even innovation.

No Job Titles
Not long ago I was reading an INC. magazine article (yes, a magazine). I came across an article talking about this very same topic. The article was titled, Why There Are No Job Titles At My Company?, by Jeff Singer. A company called CloudFlare has decided to not issue any titles that speak of hierarchy. Wow... that's bold - I love it!

Checking egos at the door ensures that the quality of an idea - not a person's rank - always wins. - INC. Magazine

Employee Value is More Important Than Titles
How many times have the employees come up with a brilliant idea and that idea was not considered a good one? Management failed to see the value of it for various reasons. The idea was probably not recognized as valuable because it came from an employee and not management. Folks, this happens everywhere, all the time. I believe CloudFlare has decided to do something about it. They see the employee and their ideas as more valuable than the big title on their business card. Brilliant.

Most Companies Have It Backwards
Ideas supposedly come from the top down... or at least the management thinks they do. In essence, most good ideas come from those that are up to their eyeballs in the work every day and see a better way to get things done. If you're in the trench like most people, you probably agree. In my opinion, some of the best ideas come from the bottom up, not from the top down.
Sometimes the most innovative ideas are from the least likely employees who you would never have thought were thinking about how to solve complex business problems.

...organizations need to better understand the sources of innovation. One key but often overlooked source is a company's employee base.
- IVEYBusinessJournal

Most of us have experienced this style of corporate management and it may not have given us warm fuzzies. When the best idea in the company doesn't get recognized because management didn't think of it, that's just downright bad business. If you're experiencing this where you are, it might be time to move on. If you're management and you see this, it may be time for a culture change. Maybe you should start talking to your non-management staff to look for ways to change the culture.