Do employees need job titles?  Are titles outdated?  Do titles encourage internal competition and stifle cooperation?  Do they disrupt productivity and innovation?  Are they limiting or confining or do they help clarify roles and responsibilities?  A hundred people would probably have a hundred different opinions.  There are countless articles on this topic by seemingly well-informed writers – some in favor and some strongly opposed.  With all the conflicting advice, how to decide what to do?

For many years, I resisted giving titles to our engineers, citing Jim Collins’ book Good to Great that “no one should have a title unless the outside world demanded a title” – and because I feared potential negative consequences like with the guy in this cartoon.  But, I’ve recently realized that the lack of titles (accompanied by clearly defined qualifications and expectations) can make it difficult for an ambitious engineer to gauge where she is on her career path and to see her potential for advancement within the company.

Structural engineering is a team sport, and I worry that an engineer who is given a title may feel as if I’ve just drawn a boundary around what they can or can’t do.  Yet, the last thing I want is for someone to feel like they have to leave us in order to reach their career goals.

So, everyone gets a title.  Good move?  Time will tell.

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