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Maryrose Solis

Free Agent, March 4ward, Rallyin, Social Innovation Academy

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Can/should companies eliminate titles in the workplace? Pros and Cons?

Share your opinion as to whether or not you're for or against titles in the workplace then list the pros and/or cons especially on how they impact, if at all, the profitability of a company.

My Pro Example:
"A company can serve to benefit from eliminating titles in the workplace because it may increase employee loyalty/retention. By removing the presence of hierarchy, employees will focus less on where "they are on the ladder or totem pole" and more on the fact they are an equal and valuable contributor to the company's sustainability. Change the perception, change the attitude and you change behavior."

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  • Feb 1 2013: The problem is not the title. The problem is the hierarchy. If there is a hierarchy, there must be a label for each position or level.

    An alternative would be a company consisting of well defined processes and employees who perform the processes that best suit their talents and skills. The hierarchy was once needed to communicate with employees, but technology has replaced that function. Someone would still have to be in charge, but the title for this processor might be coordinator.

    Replacing hierarchy in our organizations will be extremely difficult because hierarchy is an inherent aspect of how we think. Also, it is the structure of society among primates. IMO, organizations that can overcome these obstacles might be able to develop a big competitive advantage.
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    Feb 1 2013: Maryrose if you want to add more time to your topic hit "edit" and add more. Sometimes TED only gives interesting topics small amounts of time, or maybe you only gave it a day not noticing you could give it more.
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      Feb 1 2013: Thanks for the tip Greg! This newbie appreciates it!
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    Feb 1 2013: I’ve worked in large corporations, small/medium sized companies and startups. The titles I was given at each company never quite reflected what my contribution to the company. In fact, often times it became a source of contention or confusion (e.g. human resources didn’t have a pay scale or job description for it or uncertain the right department I should report). I was given a "higher title" to justify pay increases most of the time.

    Ultimately, I guess I've always had a work ethic mentality that when I choose to work for a company...it's in any capacity that's required of me to support its success. I especially didn't play the "that's not my department" logic because I prescribe to a "big picture" view. My recent experience with new companies, have made it very important to recognize that different strengths and talents are necessary at different stages and to leverage them accordingly.

    Everyone says titles don't mean much, but then again they do. It would be interesting to know if there are any medium to large companies that tried it or doing it now, successfully.
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    Jan 31 2013: Most companies are informal enough that people don't refer to their colleagues as 'manager' and 'supervisor', yet everyone is in full knowledge of the heirarchy and their place within it,
    So I don't see how forcibly removing the titles will change much. to be honest.
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    Feb 4 2013: I have seen people 'freeze' in awe about my 'title' and people 'despise' me for it immediately and this BEFORE they came to know me personally. I have seen talented people without any title and untalented people carrying one. So what are titles good for at all, but to have yet another, more official way to label people?

    Modern 'team spirit' approaches in companies usually fail badly, as the true intention for its implementation isn't meant for the benefit of the people themselves, but for the monetary benefit out of increased turn-overs. And even though often treated as such, employees aren't stupid and able to sense insincere methods and react upon it.

    The 'presence of hierarchy' is not removed by dropping 'name tags' and unapproachable superiors do not open up because their doorplates and business cards are lacking their PhD's. This is nothing but wishful thinking and 'green table meeting' results.

    The problem is rooted in 'mental states' only and invisible to the human eye. It is about the feeling of superiority about others, about the 'power of decision' about others, which opens those gaps and which no 'team spirit' training or title removal is able to bridge as long as the true intention is not honest and towards ALL people.

    For reasons which I don't quite understand, the hierarchical ladder is mainly staffed by 'technical skills' first and those people then expensively 'trained' by personal coaches and seminars to develop at least the basic interpersonal skills.

    This isn't 'just' a waste of money, but also puts the overall 'climate' of a company in jeopardy. Once the personal engagement of an employee gets destroyed, it is almost impossible to light it up again. I don't know about you, but I have seen into many dull eyes throughout my career, to many! And constantly rising workloads and profit expectations from inside and outside companies is no nurturing environment to regain any lost loyalty. It became about numbers, not people, in todays business
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      Feb 6 2013: Thanks for your thoughts. Really great stuff to ponder.
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    Feb 2 2013: Probably I'm for job titles, because when I approach an agency or business to get help, I'm often glad to know the job title of the person helping me, it helps me to know their standing in the company, helps me to know how authoritative they are, how much knowledge they have, how good their answer is for my question. Sometimes I can't get help from a first-level employee, so I ask to speak to a supervisor, but that'd be hard to do without job titles.
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      Feb 6 2013: Changing the public away from the use of titles would be difficult or very, very slow. Something to consider, however, is...if you were to ask for a supervisor for whatever reason in an escalation scenario then the person to whom you have labeled a 'first level' employee could still transfer you to someone who doesn't necessarily have the title. It could be a process by which the company knows to transfer you to escalation team to respond to these types of incidents. Now, of course, this still doesn't still address the public's comfortableness knowing they're speaking to a "manager". I'm certain it would have some correlation between issue being resolved or not.
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        Feb 7 2013: Funny, in theory it shouldn't matter whether you think you're being transferred to an "escalation team" or a "supervisor." In either case you're presumably getting someone more knowledgeable.

        However, for me hearing that word supervisor is comforting, because my time is valuable and it gives me great confidence that I'm talking to someone more knowledgeable, more time at the company, etc. Also, from time to time I've asked to talk to a supervisor's supervisor, and that starts to get difficult without job titles.
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    Feb 1 2013: The first demand every alien makes upon exiting their spaceship is. . . . "Take me to your leader." How would we know where to take them if our leader did not have a distinguishing title?
  • Feb 1 2013: Attitudinal change is a personal responsibility. Even if there were no titles, the jealous would still be jealous, the lazy would still be lazy, and those with inferiority complex would still have such. THese are issues of the mind. Titles are important to give its bearers a sense of responsiblity and to help such to function in the office.

    If people shift their focus from being the best, to being their best, then there will be so much progress and there will be peace. Because even if you are at the very top of the ladder you may still be threatened by the excellence of someone at the lower rung; becasue while you are successful, he or she is excellent.
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      Feb 1 2013: Absolutely agree and I think that's my underlying idea with this question...creating a sustainable culture or workplace model that fosters being one's best as the reward versus 'the best'. I always figure we must start somewhere in reprogramming behavior and changing a culture. It may not happen in this lifetime or ever but like to explore opportunities of making progress. :)
  • Feb 1 2013: I have worked places where some employees cared very much about their title. That could make it hard to get rid of it.
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    Feb 1 2013: I agree with Xavier that what people are called on the org chart is often not a big deal. What matters is how the organization functions, the actual patterns of communication, the way teams are formed, and that sort of thing.

    Some work environments have an allocation of work that takes advantage of people's strengths or prevents overlap in what people are doing while making sure everything gets covered, but everyone feels respected, like their ideas matter and are useful, and like the organization of effort makes good sense. Then titles don't matter.
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    Jan 31 2013: This most closely aligns with the thoughts of Karl Marx ... he thought the value of the company lies in the craftsmen ... he was certainly not a fan of management or owners. I cannot fathom any workplace being productive without some order. That order is in place by those with titles.

    Some areas would be clean and productive ... some areas would be filthy and unproductive ... all disputes would be settled in the parking lot .... come to work late ... come to work drunk ... who is to say no.

    Think I will stay with the current system and hope that is a Right To Work environment.