The scourge of job inflation

W.hen If you walk into an unfamiliar office and meet the people who work there, you will almost certainly approach the person sitting behind the large desk. You may think that you are trying to talk to the receptionist. But in some buildings you’ll end up dealing with much grander figures, such as Ambassador Robbie.

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If that feels silly, take a deep breath. Today, many companies are hiring a “first impression director.” This job includes greeting all visitors at the front desk as if they were meeting a receptionist. A Hudson Yards development in midtown Manhattan advertises that candidates for one position are expected to “curate the experience” for visitors if they have questions. You may think you are asking someone where the restroom is. In fact, you are having an experience with a Brand Ambassador.

Title inflation happens for perfectly understandable reasons. When money is tight, a bump in title is a cheap way to acknowledge someone’s efforts. It could increase someone’s attractiveness in the wider job market. If your job lacks prestige, changing your name can reduce stigma and show your employer that you take your position seriously. Also, if the position is outward-facing, the weight of the title may encourage some clients to actively participate in meetings.

But title inflation also poses a problem. The results may be laughable. A “sanitary technician” must have a passion for cleaning. A “sandwich artist” doesn’t have to be an art enthusiast. Also, once inflation occurs, it becomes difficult to contain it. Robbie If her ambassador is on vacation, you can meet Robbie’s Chargé d’Affaires immediately. Director of Last Impressions instead of Undertaker.

Inflated title currency quickly loses value. A senior vice president is someone in middle management. Assistant Chancellor of the University He graduated three years. The vice president has just mastered the alphabet. More and more words need to be added to imply seniority. “Senior vice president” is a title that doesn’t exist without a bunch of vice presidents under it. Whether you’re a Chief Evangelist, Storytelling Director or Chief Innovation Officer, you need to summon the absurdity to stand out from the crowd.

There are bigger costs than comedy and chaos. When he hands a high-priced title to one person, it can easily spark resentment among the rest of the team. Also, exaggerated job titles can have a negative impact on the hiring process. Her datapeople, a software company, analyzed tech hiring in the US and found that as jobs get older, the percentage of women in the applicant pool declines. Exaggerated titles can alienate good candidates.

Title inflation is most associated with specific jobs. But there is a lesser-noted type of naming inflation that seeks to rebrand entire categories of people. But many businesses aren’t happy to take people’s cash. They want to build meaningful relationships.

Some companies use the exaggerated title of “guest” instead to avoid sounding too transactional. But when you’re standing in the checkout line at Target, words that mean anything at a Disney resort sound very strange. People are trying to move away as efficiently as possible instead of settling into their own life time. “Member” is also a bogus word. No one is wondering if their application to pay Amazon for free shipping annual membership fees will be rejected.

The worst offense in this category is the label employers put on their staff. It is a common tactic to refer to people as “colleagues” or “members of his team” instead of “staff” or “employees”. People who work in Walmart stores are known as “associates.” Starbucks baristas are called “partners”. “We are all partners in our shared success,” the company’s website explains. Tech companies give their employees cute names. When Facebook rebranded as Meta, the company’s employees announced that they would henceforth be known as “Metamates.”

The intent behind these sorts of words is clear here as well. It’s about creating a sense of shared effort and hiding the cold reality of corporate hierarchies. But this façade is much easier to maintain when things are going well. Starbucks does not want its partners to form unions outside of itself. Some title inflation is allowed. But just like the real thing, it can easily get out of control.

Read more from management and work columnist Bartleby:
The unsolved problem of hybrid work (December 1st)
How to do a dismissal correctly (November 24th)
Management lessons learned from the next World Cup winner (November 17th)

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