A while back I wrote a post about killing off job titles. I think they’re a waste of time and contribute nothing to our productivity, creativity or happiness at work. In fact, job titles can be the source of a lot of disputes and bickering in the workplace.
Matt Cardwell of Quicken Loans (a home loan lender based in the US) read this and liked it so much that he decided to issue a fatwa on job titles in his department. Here he explains why:
We never used to have titles on the Marketing Team at Quicken Loans because we always prided ourselves as having a marked anti-corporate and non-hierarchical culture. Actually, we did have titles, but everyone was called a “Marketing Manager.” So it was kind of a forced equality and no one EVER even talked about titles. But as the team grew from a few dozen people to over fifty, HR decided we needed some “consistency”, especially for purposes of external salary comping. So against our better judgment we relented and started creating a bunch of silly titles like: Marketing Coordinator, Marketing Program Manager, Project Manager, Jr. Project Manager, Sr. Project Manager, etc.
Well, it only took about 12 months for our brilliant decision to come back and bite us in the ass. Needless to say, it created all kinds of unnecessary noise within the team as people started to grumble about why a person who had only been here for 12 months just got promoted to Sr. Project Manager when another person who had been here for three years was still a Project Manager. I got so fed up with the divisiveness of it all that I just decided to banish titles altogether yesterday morning. So I went looking for some inspiration and Googled “job titles” or something to that effect and found your blog post from December. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for. So I dropped it into an email, added my two cents and started a revolt. Initially it was just within my 20 person eCommerce Marketing team, but it snowballed over the course of the afternoon to include most of the broader marketing team.
That is music to my ears and in response to Matt’s challenge, people got very creative. Here are some of the new titles:
- Royal Storyteller & Propaganda Minister
- Supreme Challenger of the Status Quo & Wicked Web Site Innovator
- Mastermind of Possibilities, Visual Linguist, and Czar of the High Fiber Revolution
- Pixelardo da Vinci
You can see more titles in my previous post on this.
How did Matt inspire people to do this? Here’s the email he sent out:
Okay, team, so I want each one of you to take 15 minutes today to really think hard about what YOU DO and what MAKES YOU HAPPY at work and create a title for yourself that expresses who you are and your impact on the business and your team mates. Forget about what Salary.com or some HR person said your title is or should be. Forget about what you get paid, how many years of experience you have, or what other people’s “titles” are in comparison to you. Tell us WHAT YOU DO and make that your new “title”.
As of this morning, traditional titles on the Website Marketing Team are DEAD. D-E-A-D. Somehow over the past year people have become WAY too caught up in who has what title. So we’re going to end the madness today.
If this scares you, makes you feel like we’ve taken something away or makes you wonder how your resume will look without that title-that-really- never-does-justice-to-you-and-your-talents-anyway, ask yourself when was the last time someone called you by your title? When was the last time Todd Lunsford or Bill Emerson or Dan Gilbert called you by your title? Worried about how this might impact future compensation? Don’t. Numbers and money follow, they do not lead. Kick ass at whatever you do, and the wealth will eventually flow to you. I’ve seen it happen again and again in my career … and especially here.
If you are concerned about someone not recognizing how important you are because you no longer have a standard title, then here’s your chance to create a title for yourself that will convey exactly how important you are. And because you are creating it, it will be all yours. No one else will have that title. Think of the conversations your new title will start with complete strangers. Think of the opportunities it can create for you in terms of expressing who you are, not what someone CALLS you.
“But what if I don’t like my description in three months …” you ask? What if what I do CHANGES? Well, then you can change your description. It’s that simple. No one ever stays the same … we are all growing … so let your “title” do the same when it’s time.
Here’s your chance. You have until the end of the day to let us all know who you are. Have fun, be creative, be humorous, but above all, be real and true. Remember, this will be on your e-mail signature, so please be aware of that.
I can’t wait to see what all of you come up with.
DEATH TO TITLES!
Idea Salesman, Energy Focuser and People Unleasher
eCommerce Marketing Team
My title challenges your title to a duel. I predict a draw. – Me
I had to know more, so I emailed Matt with a few follow-up questions, and here’s an update from him on the fatwa on job titles:
You had a couple of questions around the titles Fatwa from your previous e-mail. One question was about whether we had abolished titles company-wide. So far only the Web Marketing Team and the Idea Lab (our creative team – basically an in-house agency for our advertising production) took up my challenge. Not surprisingly, the team that actually got the title “promotions” that started this whole thing opted not to join us in our little revolution. I threw the challenge out to them, but I haven’t really seen anyone take up the torch.
I do know that our CMO, Todd Lunsford was extremely supportive of the no-title revolution. As I mentioned, we really only started using titles recently for comping purposes. But even there, they are generally not very useful for the more specialized people on my team (usability pros, search engine optimizers, etc), because until very recently, Salary.com didn’t make distinctions between interactive marketers (which are in high demand) and traditional marketers. As an organization, we’ve been pretty ambivalent about titles. Most of our Sr. Leadership Team and many of our team members simply have no title on their email signature, or just identify themselves with their team. For example: Joe Smith, Web Marketing Team
So I think this will still spread … we won a couple battles, but we still have a war going on. It will come. And I’ll keep preaching.
This is fantastic! I’m adding Quicken Loans to my list of “Companies that get it.” And I’m not alone – they recently placed second in Fortune Magazine’s Best Company to Work list, one behind Google.
What’s your take? Is your workplace ready to issue its own fatwa on job titles? Or do you see some value in having a “real” title on your business card? Please write a comment, I’d really like to know.