August 27, 2015 Anil Saxena

Leadership Follies – What’s In A Title?

There’s an odd trend going on in way too many companies these days: giving employees new titles – without changing much else. Time and time again, this results in all sorts of dissatisfaction, dissent, losses in productivity, and huge blows to company morale.

What are these companies doing wrong?

The typical rollout of these changes is sloppy at best.  I recently worked with a client who made some very critical mistakes. In an effort to create some leadership roles, some employees were given a new title with the word “senior” attached. There was no change in pay, and no change in responsibility or reporting structure. The change was restricted to a title only – and people hated it.

For the employees granted this “senior” distinction, there wasn’t really any incentive to be happy about the change – it came as a surprise (which means that they weren’t at all involved in the planning stages), and without an increase in wage or clout, it came off as ultimately pointless.

For the rest of the staff not given this “senior” title, the change was downright offensive. They were given no reasoning for who received the new titles and who didn’t, they weren’t warned about or walked through the process, and because there wasn’t any real structural change, not getting the new title felt like a slight.

For everyone involved, there was no clear benefit.
But here’s the real problem: these unfavorable reactions actually served to reduce productivity and company morale because these employees, whether they got the new title or not, were distracted and confused by the change. It gave them something to worry about, to be angry over. It made them reconsider their roles within the company.
And while all of this is happening, the actual work that needs to be done suffers tremendously.

In trying to establish some leadership, this company managed to undermine their own goals – and show themselves as fairly incapable leaders in the process. They learned a few valuable lessons about change:
–       It has to serve a measurable, explainable purpose
–       It can only happen successfully with the support of the employees themselves
–       Failure to recognize these necessities will almost certainly make existing problems worse
Don’t run these same risks in your business. If you’re going to implement a change, make sure it has a tangible goal behind it, and make sure you’ve got the support you need to make it stick.

Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.

Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


Cube 2.14 will increase your organizational effectiveness. We specialize in developing innovative, practical solutions to create productive workplaces that exceed goals.