Organization Studies’s Updates

The Case For Letting Employees Choose Their Own Job Titles

Image courtesy of MorgueFile / Puravida | Article Link | by Eric Jaffe

It's not unusual these days to see people with unusual job titles. There's a Director of Chaos at Berkshire Hathaway and a Director of First Impressions at the reception desk of many companies. Google has a Captain of Moonshots. Some employees at IBM call themselves Data Detectives, and a former marketing team member at Quicken Loans held the title Revenue Raiser.* Disney refers to some of its workers as Cast Members.

Such quirky, often customized job titles might seem pretty meaningless--a throwaway perk for low-level employees or an official expression of arrogance for top ones. But in certain situations they might do an awful lot of good for worker well-being. A new study of self-appointed job titles, published in the August issue of the Academy of Management Journal, suggests they can reduce emotional exhaustion among stressed-out employees.

The research, led by management scholar Adam Grant of Wharton, focused on the Midwest chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The people working there have a grueling, heart-wrenching job to say the least: many of the families place unrealistic expectations on the foundation; many of the kids don't live to see their wish fulfilled. As one employee told Grant and collaborators, "It can take a toll emotionally to see this daily."

A few years ago, during a trip to Disneyland, some Make-A-Wish executives learned about the "cast members" job titles and decided to let their employees invent titles, too.