The late great comedian George Carlin was an expert at dissecting various types of human behavior and idiosyncrasies and making them laughable. George’s special talent was to enlighten us and help us see what we’d overlooked during the course of our busy lives.
Perhaps the best example of this is embodied in George’s classic routine on “Euphemisms”.
George understood the power of words and knew how they could be used to alter perceptions, gain influence and communicate ideas. He also knew words could just be gobbledygook and doublespeak. I’ve noticed how some job titles have begun to fall into that second less desirable category.
I have to catch myself when someone tries to impress me with their new “trendy” job title. I know they want me to be wowed when they announce they are the “Director of First Impressions”, “Marketing Czar” or even “Drain Surgeon”. These offbeat titles to some degree reflect the popularity of personal branding. (See my recent post which discusses personal branding). If you’re one who enjoys perusing ridiculous job titles I’ve included a link to 20 of them.
Of course the latest trend in job titles is to make them sound unique and memorable. But often these titles come across as self-absorbed and ambiguous extensions of our personality. Technology companies for some reason seem to be particularly fond of using this type of job title. Some companies may not offer great pay. Instead they will offer you a heady job title that gives others the impression you are a top earner. Apple probably did as much as any to encourage this trend by dubbing their tech support team members “Geniuses”. By the way, if you’re a true genius is it really necessary to tell everyone you are?
This obviously begs the question as to whether job titles are as relevant as they used to be. In bygone days the language used to describe a particular position within a company was pretty clear and straight forward. Traditional job titles communicate both the job function and the level within the organization. Of course C-level positions are a notable exception since their functions by definition are exclusive within the company. I say traditional job titles are still quite useful. They serve as a valuable guide to navigating a sometimes complex and confusing work environment. But wait, there may be more changes on the horizon.
I don’t think one-upsmanship in the area of job titles will abate anytime soon. I believe one day we may see acronym-like titles such as RSICOPS (“Rocket Scientist In Charge Of Propulsion Systems”) or even CCABW (“Chief Cook And Bottle Washer”). We’ll all be left wondering what those acronyms mean until they gain acceptance and become part of our pop culture vernacular. That’s probably not going to happen overnight. But we have acronyms for just about everything else in our lives so why not job titles?
GEP (“Grand Exalted Poobah”) is a title I’ve admired for many years although I admit I’ve never been inclined to use it. It’s use originates with the 1885 comedic opera “The Mikado” by Gilbert & Sullivan but it’s also been used in various television shows like “the Flintstones“, “Happy Days“ and others. I think many who use odd job titles would admit to a guilty pleasure in using them. If that satisfies their personal need for this type of recognition then so be it.
However, any job title we use will not make our work any better nor disguise who we really are. I guess we can peacefully coexist with the trendy job title, but wouldn’t it be nice if we admit that we really don’t need them?