What’s in a Name?

As Romeo and Julliet can attest, a name can carry more meaning than it may initially seem. This can also be the case in the workplace when it comes to titles.

A few months ago we ran a poll about which incentives are most effective and several people chose receiving a promotion in title even without a salary increase over more traditional incentives like raises and extra vacation time. It’s easy to think that it doesn’t matter what is listed on somebody’s business card as long as the rest of the work experience is positive but the fact is that it does matter to a lot of people.

The reason titles matter largely comes down to an issue of respect. Giving employees appropriate titles show that they are respected within the working group or the organization. Giving an employee a promotion in title shows that others at the organization recognize that the employee is doing a good job.

Promotions in title can be particularly useful when an organization does not have the budget for a raise in salary. While it is never a good idea to dramatically increase an employee’s responsibilities without an accompanying salary increase, a better title can help hold onto a talented employee in the short-medium term until there is more room in the budget for a raise.

Titles can also help communicate to the outside world that the employee is somebody to be taken seriously. While everybody inside an organization may know that a young employee is a talented up-and-comer, but as long as she is holding her “assistant” title it will be hard for her to impress others at a networking event or when trying to woo a new client. It will likely be helpful for the whole organization for that young employee to make new connections in the greater business world and will certainly help the employee.

Do you think that promotions in title are helpful tools in business? Or are the ineffective without money behind them?

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Michael Leiter

Dr. Michael Leiter, co-author of Banishing Burnout and The Truth about Burnout, is set to release his newest book on Work Engagement. Dr. Leiter founded the Canadian Centre for Organizational Research & Development and has researched organizational behaviour for more than two decades. He knows how to improve an organization’s bottom line (productivity and profitability by improving its top line - people. In fact, he and his co-author coined the term "work engagement" as the antithesis to burnout!

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