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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Are you a victim of job title inflation?

Roll up Roll up, get in line - We're approaching the time of year where large corporates with toxic cultures do their yearly staff retention tactic (January).



It often coincides with employees returning from their holidays and realising they're working for an organisation (and leadership) that don't genuinely care about them:


Everyone gets a promotion! (or at least the one's we're worried will leave).


EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies.


Manager – Fantastic work. I’m going to promote you to Junior Executive Manager of Data and Digital Consulting.

Employee – Wow, is that higher than Junior Assistant Manager of Data, and Accounts?

Manager – Yes, of course it is.

Employee – Oh wow, thank you. I’m going to call my Mum right now. She’ll be so proud.


Job title inflation happens for reasons that are perfectly understandable. When money is tight a bump up in title is a way of recognising your efforts cheaply. A more prestigious sounding role isn’t just a nice bauble, it might add to someone’s appeal in the wider job market. (The Economist, 9 December 2022).


A report hit our desks last week.


Extensive research by the Maryland and Delaware Enterprise University Partnership (MADEUP) has found indisputable evidence that many employers engage in the dubious practice of Job Title Inflation.


Their objective?

  • To avoid giving their hard working, dedicated and loyal staff a pay rise, the suspicion is that some employers are giving individuals a fancy job title instead – and leaving it at that.

Job title inflation is the increasing number and size of grandiose job titles in organisations, without a corresponding increase in pay or an increased importance of the job. (Wikipedia)


What next?


Escalating price inflation – and now job title inflation.


Unbelievable.


There is also a hint that, as the ‘war for talent’ hots up – job title inflation is a deliberate strategy used by some companies to make roles look more attractive.

But there could be other reasons (as pointed out in the report).

  • It has been found, for example, that prospects thinking of doing business with a company are more likely to attend a meeting if someone with an important sounding job title contacts them.

  • And some commentators believe it’s down to generational factors. (While boomers are / were happy to wait 10-years for a promotion, youngster employees have different expectations.)

Take your pick.


But whatever the reasons, the practice can cause confusion (and disappointment) for staff and successful job applicants (and recruiters.)


Sadly, the MADEUP report highlights numerous instances of job title inflation they found in extensive field research – which shows exactly how widespread the practice is.


So, here are some of our favourite job titles listed in the report – and what the job really is.


(We have no doubt you have your own great examples to add to the list.)

  • Media Distribution Manager – Paper Boy

  • Talent Delivery Specialist – Recruitment Consultant

  • Director of First Impressions – Receptionist

  • Lobby Ambassador – Porter

  • Revenue Protection Officer – Ticket Collector

  • Director of Space Exploration – The Office Facilities Manager

  • Sandwich Artist – Someone who (actually does) work at Subway

  • Digital Overlord – The Website Manager

  • Retail Jedi – A Shop Assistant

  • Director of Storytelling – Someone involved with developing company mission or vision statements

  • Chief Happiness Officer – Any person all the staff laugh at

  • Senior Executive Vice President – A job title that wouldn’t exist if there weren’t so many Vice Presidents

  • Assistant Vice President – The trainee who joined the company from university three months ago

  • Associate Vice President – Someone who has just mastered the alphabet

  • Content Marketing Manager – Someone who works in marketing and is quite happy

  • Global Marketing Director – Someone does a bit of marketing in the company – and once attended a course about social media

  • Universe Marketing Director – Someone the Global Marketing Director reports to

  • Meta Mate – A job title given by Facebook (Meta) to employees, to reflect the ethos of teamwork and friendship across the entire organisation. (Given that they are about to make 10,000 of their Mates redundant, there is a certain irony.) Who would do that to their mates?

  • Partner – A job title Starbucks gives it’s employees to reflect that they will share in the company’s success. (Although one might question who they want their partners to be partners with given the headline in ‘The Guardian’ on 25 August 2022 – ‘Starbucks creating ‘culture of fear’ as it fires dozens involved in unions.’)

And we have absolutely no idea what Chief Evangelists, Brand Ambassadors, Change Agents, Directors of Purpose, Director of Innovation, or the Chief Twit actually do.


The lesson from all this?


Next time one of your team resigns, in an effort to keep them, why not promote them to Senior Executive Vice President and Assistant Head of Operations?

It’s worth a try.


Now, of course, and in the spirit of Christmas fun, the MADEUP report is, in fact, made up – just to help get a point across. Sorry.

But, then again, there’s a serious side to all this.

  • ‘Proper’ research regularly shows that the proportion of women and people in minority groups who apply for jobs reduces as the job sounds more senior.

  • So, say ‘hello’ to bumped up job titles – and say ‘goodbye’ to your diversity strategy.


Have a fantastic Christmas from all the team at EGM.


And we would love to hear the examples of inflated job titles you have come across – it would be great if you can add them to the LinkedIn comments section.


Note – the idea of MADEUP came from an article in ‘The Economist in March 2022. Some of the job titles are taken from an article in ‘The Economist’ of 9 December 2022.





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