As we’re moving into a more millennial-dominated workspace, we are coming to see dramatic changes in the way we approach corporate functioning and hierarchy, especially with respect to the assignment of corporate titles. For the simplicity of definition, corporate titles can be understood as signifiers of difference in seniority, and domain of work responsibilities and specialization in a corporate space; for example: when one hears the term Chief Executive Officer, they can interpret the said individual’s role and position in the firm.
These corporate titles have been in use in the corporate space for decades now for the simple reason that they are known to establish different levels of the organizational structure, while communicating the work flow clearly. However, it is being increasingly brought to surface that the use of these titles represents a lack of empathy. These titles are reflective of rigidity of structure, which tends to reduce individuals to their titles and bind them in a hierarchical order. Corporate titles also tend to belittle the collective efforts of the team, whereas the credit and benefit is limited to those in the titled positions, thus draining employees of their motivation to contribute and do better in the corporate structure.
Let’s take the example of one of the most influential companies of all time, Amazon, which is known by its CEO, who also happens to be one of the richest people in the world. Imagine how it would be like being an employee working under him, seeing him grow and achieve great heights and tremendous wealth, while your contributions stay limited to work experience on platforms such as LinkedIn. Depending on your sense of security about your worth and your need for validation, such an organizational structure holds the potential to affect you in various ways.
With a larger percentage of millennials and Gen-Z individuals joining the workforce, the predominance of corporate titles has become a cause for change. There is a need for more transparency, better communication and provision of deserving employees with appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation for their contributions. This change should also look to incorporate a critical introspection of the architecture of their titles and if it lays down the groundwork for the employees in a way which is beneficial to the company, as well as rewarding for the employee themselves.
A suitable and healthy alternative to the assignment of corporate titles could be assigning titles not to individuals, but to teams. That way, there wouldn’t be a Chief Executive Officer, but a Chief Executive Team, so to say, which would be composed of the most hardworking employees, selected over a rigorous procedure for relatively temporary tenure, to ensure equal opportunities to every employee. This would not only enhance the level of empathy towards the position but also motivate employees to strive towards growth and improvement.
Several up and coming firms have been going around this traditional ‘big- firm’ practice for transforming the way they handle the nomenclature of the human capital in their system hierarchy and to overcome the underlying issues of less transparency, insufficient or improper acknowledgement of contributions as well as, inefficient interactions within the organization.
What is your opinion about corporate titles? Are they a well-preserved trend or simply a passé?
We are indeed seeing a lot of changes in the way we think about corporate titles. In general, the use of titles is an important way for companies to communicate their hierarchy and structure. But it’s also been criticized for being too rigid and alienating.
I read a while ago that some companies try to find new ways to communicate their hierarchy without using titles at all. For example, one company used colour-coded shirts instead of names on employee badges so that people could tell who was higher up in the organization just by looking at them!