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What's in a Name? Why Employees Hate Their Job Titles

What's in a Name? Why Employees Hate Their Job Titles
Credit: Gajus/Shutterstock

A job title like "chief happiness officer" sounds fun and playful, but it may actually make workers unhappy with their professional positioning.

According to a survey by Spherion Staffing Services and Research Now, 25 percent of workers consider non-traditional job titles unprofessional and are against the idea of having one. Another 23 percent agreed that these types of titles don't accurately capture what the job entails.

Even without the creative titles, there is still room for improvement as far as job titles are concerned. The Spherion survey found that nearly 42 percent of respondents feel their job title doesn't reflect their true roles and responsibilities, and 14 percent consider traditional job titles such as "project manager" or "specialist" too generic.

"Employees take great pride in their job titles, and in some cases, a title that is considered limiting or hard to describe can significantly impact their job satisfaction," Sandy Mazur, Spherion division president, said in a statement.

Despite their general unhappiness with job titles, most employees feel confident in their ability to describe their job in a way others can easily understand. The survey revealed that if put on the spot, 89 percent of respondents would have no problem delivering an "elevator speech" that highlights their responsibilities. When workers do struggle to articulate their jobs, survey respondents said it is often because they consider their responsibilities too complex for those outside the industry to comprehend. [See Related Story: Identity Crisis: Should Employees Create Their Own Job Titles?]

The Spherion survey uncovered several other insights into how employees perceive their roles:

Employees shape their own stories. Twenty-seven percent of workers feel their professional and personal networks would find their job boring if they accurately described it. Older workers (ages 45 and up) feel more comfortable outlining the full scope of their professional responsibilities to others, but younger workers (ages 18 to 34) feel pressure to "dumb down" their daily tasks to help others understand. The Spherion survey suggests that employees might actually make it harder on themselves to explain their jobs: 53 percent of workers give different accounts to different audiences, while another 11 percent say they occasionally lie about what they do for a living.

Pop culture perceptions matter. Just over 30 percent of workers feel that pop culture significantly shapes others' perceptions of their job, as friends and family may equate them with someone they've seen in mainstream media. Workers 18 to 34 tend to find greater merit in these comparisons than older workers, with 45 percent of survey respondents in this age range agreeing with pop culture perceptions.

Creativity and culture don't tell the whole story. Younger workers (18 to 34) tend to believe creative job titles showcase their company's creativity and culture, but 45 percent of workers from the same age range also feel that their job title does not accurately summarize what they do.

So how can employers make workers value their job titles and responsibilities? According to Spherion, the best thing you can do is find out how they feel now.

"As businesses face greater pressure to retain and recruit top workers, re-examining how different titles are perceived and applied can make a big difference in building morale and positioning a company as a favorable place to work," Mazur said.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.