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Identity Crisis: Should Employees Create Their Own Job Titles?

Identity Crisis: Should Employees Create Their Own Job Titles?
Credit: Mike Flippo/Shutterstock

If you had the opportunity, would you choose your own job title? Or would you prefer if your boss assigned one to you? According to a study published in the American Academy of Management Journal, allowing employees to create their own job titles reduces stress, burnout and overall emotional exhaustion among employees.

Self-reflective titles break down status barriers within a company, promote pride and allow employees to express their identity, according to the study. The report also noted that these titles can also be used while keeping a business's existing job title structure in place and still be effective – for example, a COO could also be called "minister of dollars and sense."

So why does the ability to create your own job title have so many positive effects on employees?

"We think the main reason is that it gives people a chance to rethink their work and what is important about it, and what they add to the work that is unique and important," said Dan Cable, professor of organizational behavior at London Business School and co-author of the report. "Then by developing their own job title, they get to inject a little bit of themselves into the title, and make it more accurate and descriptive."

Cable also noted that self-reflective job titles tend to reduce formality and hierarchy in a business, which makes people feel better and less threatened at work. It can also serve as an icebreaker in meetings with external stakeholders, Cable said.

Putting a system in place that allows employees to create their own job titles isn't just beneficial for employees – it's a great way for workplace leaders and managers to reflect on their own job titles, too. Cable said that it gives them a chance to think about how descriptive their job title is, or whether it's too generic and bureaucratic. [The 10 Fastest Growing Job Titles ]

"[Leaders] could also learn what sorts of job titles people would prefer to use, and the sort of changes that they see in the workforce and in the culture once they let people develop their own,] Cable said.

Based on the study's findings, the self-reflective title system seems to work well for existing employees. But what about new hires? How do you recruit someone for a job with an undetermined title? It may seem like a difficult task, but it's entirely possible.

Cable suggested explaining to job candidates what the job is for – as in, who is affected by the job and what results are required from it – and then asking them to reflect on what they can bring to the job that is new, unique and valuable. From there, coming up with a newcomer's job title is easy.

"[The candidate] could then think about the sort of job title that reflects these elements:  Who is affected, what results, and what do I bring to the job," Cable said.

And using self-reflective job titles can do more than just increase employee morale. Implementing this system can open the door for other workplace improvements, too.

"In addition to developing self-reflective job titles, it also would be possible to let employees sculpt their jobs," Cable said. "[For example, employees] can do more of what they do best and thrive doing, and [do less] of what they dislike or are not as good at doing."

This is more even more effective on a team level, Cable noted, since employees who prefer different parts of the work process can collaborate with others and accomplish things in a more enjoyable and effective way.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Brittney Morgan

Brittney Q. Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, as well as a graduate of Drew University, where she majored in History. Her work can be found all across the web at Apartment Therapy, HuffPost, and more. You can also find her on Twitter at @brittneyplz.

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