As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of job titles. Yes, I know we all need some kind of label to remind us and other people what it is we do, but all too often they lead to division, confusion and resentment. I’ve been at companies that are so title driven that seeing a VP speak to a Manager would be as likely as Julius Caesar having a cigarette break with the village leper. But since we all need a job title then simple, clear and direct should be the order of the day. But there isn’t very much in life that IS simple and clear anymore, and there’s been a rash of emerging weird and wonderful digital job titles that I think need to go. So at the risk of alienating half of my social group (I might have 3 very angry people on my hands), here’s my list of pet job title hates.
- Chief Innovation Officer. Real innovators are actually busy – you know – building innovative products rather than feeling the need to label themselves as such. Roles that include the word “innovation” are usually created by companies who have no real track record in innovation, but are desperate to convince their shareholders/board/fellow executives/friends otherwise. Many large companies have come to embrace this role, with often mixed results. Here’s one that falls in the not-so-well side of “mixed results”.
- Chief Experience Officer. This is another corporate wet dream of a job title and is usually adopted by companies who want to sound a little bit edgy, but not so crazy as to ditch their suit jackets for corporate head-shot photos. Simply changing the “e” from “executive” to “experience” doesn’t automatically make your company customer focused. Building good products irrespective of job title does that.
- Anything with the word “evangelist” in it. A company that can afford to create a job title with the word “evangelist” in it clearly has too much money and should be returning some it to shareholders or investors. This job title could be replaced with “Spends all week speaking at conferences talking about how great and responsible our brand is”. There are some struggling companies I know who actually might benefit from an evangelist, but the type who appears on TV and fleeces old people out of their hard-earned savings. Perhaps this could be the new way of raising corporate finance
- Engagement/Delivery Management. This is kind of like describing a cashier at Burger King as a Senior Sales Consultant. It’s fluffy, grandiose language that only contributes to the fuzzy vocabulary and buzz-word laden landscape of Corporate America (although this tends to be an agency title). An engagement/delivery management role is very similar to an account/project manager, which is a job title that actually makes sense. If job titles like this are not clear to people who work in the digital space, then imagine how confusing they sound to people who don’t. Without wishing to sound overly cynical, perhaps that’s the point…..
- Webmaster. Sounding like a character from the series of He-Man cartoons, this does still exist and conjures up images of a socially reclusive individual huddled in a cramped office in front of 17 monitors. There are very few professional fields that have the audacity to include the word “master” in their world of job titles, with the exception of circus performers (Ringmaster) and chess players (Grandmaster). But since working in digital often involves constantly placing your head in the jaws of a lion in an attempt to escape perpetual check-mate, this might not be such bad company for this job title to keep!