Oh wow, you’re the CEO!? SENIOR Vice President, you must be really important!
Titles Influence Actions
Think about this. If you automatically attribute certain rights and privileges to a certain “class” of titles, your interactions with those people are artificially influenced right out of the gate. In addition, if you attribute a level of superiority with certain titles and YOU have one of those titles, that can influence the way you interact with other people as well.
I was talking with someone recently about an issue at their company. They said that they thought that they had a fine solution, but they didn’t feel comfortable sharing it because they’re not “a director”. Please!!! That kind of stuff drives me nuts. As I shared with him my feelings about that kind of thinking, it became clear that he had gotten the “who are you to suggest something to me?” treatment from people in his company before, which sadly prevents him now from speaking up.
Knowing that certain kinds of titles influence the way people act, why do we still insist on having those types of titles within our organizations? Don’t we want every person within our organization to feel like they can disagree with anyone, and that their ideas are as important as anyone else’s? Don’t we want people to gain respect and admiration based solely on their contributions and character, not an artificial label?
So what’s your title? Do you think people would address you differently if your title were something “less important”?
Time For A New Approach
Why not revisit the way you assign titles? Do you need them at all? Maybe each person in your company can make up their own title? Maybe your title is based on the department you work in, and is the same as everyone else in the department? Maybe a title has clear objective accomplishments that need to be met in order to attain it, yet it’s not tied to any rigid management hierarchy?
In the end, it comes down to the culture and management structure of your organization. Unfortunately, some companies want titles to keep people in a box. Other companies have traditional titles, but they have such a strong culture of equality and value for each individual that titles may not have much of an effect on the way people treat one another. In the end, titles alone will obviously not solve the problem of overly hierarchical and bureaucratic management, but they can play a role in breaking down those barriers.