Corporate Title Inflation

I have a friend who was once in a situation where she was offered a position that was, in this particular company, several rungs lower down the corporate ranking system compared to where she was at that time. Without going into comparisons and details about the job scope, it is suffice to say that she felt it felt like “a step back” compared to her job scope at that time. So she mentioned to the interviewer saying that she was presently only one step away from this “Senior Position” at her present job, while the job being offered was three steps away from a similar “Senior Position” title.

Then, the interviewer countered with the fact that such Senior Position titles were inflated – especially in the financial services and institutions that she was in at that time. He said, “Everybody’s a Senior Position in such institutions and organisations.”

Of course, now that I am in such a financial services institution, I am a little aghast at that thought. I can’t be sure to say that such corporate titles are inflated – but even if they were, I think it was important to note also what role my friend presently played in her organisation and the responsibility entrusted. To me, I think one’s functional role and scope of responsibility should have more bearing than mere titles (in fact, there is a recent book that talks about eschewing titles).

At the same time, I think one must take into sober account where one truly is in the scheme of things when it comes to one’s career. Perhaps my friend would not have imagined a position as a Senior Person straightaway – perhaps she was willing to make a lateral move or be bumped down a notch in exchange for a larger role and a clear opportunity to make up for lost ground quickly. But I think asking her to “swallow” a position that sets her back “three paces” compared to just “one” is a little much, don’t you think?

Anyway, curious about this, I went ahead to research more about this issue and came up with a fascinating article courtesy of Knowledge@Wharton via the Financial Times: Chief Receptionist Officer? Title Inflation Hits the C-Suite.

Of interest to note (from the article):

  • Job title inflations may be the result of the movement towards the flattening of an organisation’s structure.
  • Promoting one’s job title is far easier and cheaper for the organisation that giving them a raise.
  • Companies may give “chief-” titles to particular functions to signal its importance to the organisation.
  • Job title inflation has more impact for retention of performing staff – promoting them to a higher title indicates their importance to the organisation.

All of this, of course, has implications for one’s personal brand.

What do you think? Are job titles inflated? Are there any industries notorious for job inflation? How are hiring managers supposed to sort out the gold from the dross?

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