…So a while back I read a solid piece from Tim Sackett on job titles here. In it, he talks about how organizations sometimes kill the attractiveness of otherwise awesome positions by doing things like putting “Jr.” in the front of titles (or “I”, “II”, “III” etc. on the back). The idea is that no one wants to be, say, a “Junior HR Manager” or an “Accountant II”, so why not just call the positions “HR Manager” and “Accountant”?

Sackett makes the argument that companies do things like this because Managers often can’t handle the responsibility of having their entire population in one job band. The thinking goes that when given the rope to utilize the entirety of a range, managers will overpay talent relative to their skill set.

…I think that what Sackett is describing would/does happen in some cases, but in my experience most Managers are responsible in the way they manage comp – particularly if salary increases have multiple layers of approval and they are given clearly defined guidelines. Furthermore, positions with the same job title don’t necessarily have to have the same job band (which is often behind the scenes).

Instead, most of the time I think title mismanagement as described in Sackett’s post is a product of organizations with too many layers utilizing title bumps as a form of recognition. And doing this isn’t in and of itself a bad thing – after all, giving someone a bigger job title is a great way to recognize talent in a way that doesn’t cost a thing to the Company. Furthermore, there needs to be a layering of titles in order to communicate the level someone is at (e.g. not everyone can be a Director).

With all that said, the big issue here comes when an organization has job titles that don’t align with the market equivalent of the work being done. This practice is sometimes (though not always) a close cousin of the much more sinister choice to pay less than the market rate for a job. Doing the former doesn’t carry with it the same consequences as doing the latter (because while people leave companies all the time for pay reasons, almost no one leaves a company just because of job title), but it can nevertheless be a huge miss. Ultimately, poor title management can lead to lowered employee engagement internally and kill recruiting efforts for positions posted externally. And this is a pet peeve of mine because title mismanagement should theoretically never happen because it should be such an easy thing to get right. If your employee would be an Engineer if he/she were working anywhere else, call him/her an Engineer at your company as well. End of story, right?

^Just my 2 cents. As always, please share your thoughts (letting me know what if anything I got wrong) in the comments section below.