Your title doth protest too much

Job titles can be misleading. Especially because they are created in the silo of each organization. I came to learn this having many titles while my responsibilities did not shift. It would happen that too many people shared the title and we were asked to differentiate ourselves with new names. This became a very creative process and at times a politically delicate one.

Every organization has their own vocabulary. This unique terminology was born out of necessity due to growth. We grow so fast and start throwing titles out like a short order cook at a breakfast joint. The problem is that when someone new joins the organization, they need a lesson in the company nomenclature. At times, it can be like learning a new language.

Since I am a big fan of teamwork and the sharing of ideas, I am not a fan of “sink or swim.” I want everyone to succeed. You cannot succeed if you don’t know what the heck your co-workers are talking about.

I find myself asking people for definitions when I am being asked for advice or to solve a problem. I will ask, “what does that word mean to you?”, “what are your expectations?” I do not make assumptions on your needs until we speak the same language. Titles also fall into this category. I will always ask for a definition of the title and what the expectations are for this role. It is never a good idea to assume we speak the same language and have the same ideas surrounding common sense.

“Common sense” is a phrase I am not a big fan of. It is a costly phrase that can lead to mistakes. Common sense is organic. It evolves from personal experiences and not exactly from shared experiences. If you rely that your common sense and my common sense are aligned, you are setting yourself up for failure. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. 

It would be ideal if industries, companies, and teams agree on nomenclature but it does not always happen (when did you last update your style guide?). It is great when you can rely on such things by getting people to agree on a glossary. This is a difficult task and there is no job function designed to do this. We are going to have to assign that role to ourselves and begin with our own teams.

It is safe to assume that we don’t speak the same language. To assess needs, I rely on questions geared to understanding your background, goals, and process. I learn to speak your language and voilà, successful communication. It is magical.

I believe that it is equally important to make sure you are understood for whatever your job function. Shame on you for thinking that everyone who received your request will know what action is required. If I don’t know that you “got it,” I am not doing my job.  There is no role in any organization where this does not apply.

Where this applies to titles specifically, is when we are wrong in our assumptions of what this person is responsible for.  This is especially true for titles like Producer, Project Manager, and Content Manager. Each of these titles usually refer to someone who connects the dots and helps to move projects forward but they don’t tell us much in relation to if the position is technical or creative. As of late, I am finding that it is helpful to have a foothold in both arenas but it is still important to clarify what the expectations are for your role and how you compliment the rest of the team in your organization.

Of course, there are some straight forward titles such as Digital Asset Manager, Engineer, Developer, and System Administrator. However, these titles don’t shed insight to priorities or process. It is always helpful to understand how all roles came to be and what problems they were designed to solve.

Once we finally speak the same language or find common ground for “common sense” then we will have achieved communication nirvana. Until then, let’s agree that we may disagree. I personally hate the statement “agree to disagree” because we haven’t come to any agreement. We remain stagnant in our ability to innovate and progress. It pains me to refer to this, but perhaps if we rephrase the phrase, we can improve our communication with one another. I refuse to accept that we will never come to an agreement and until we achieve perfect communication, let us agree to understand our coworkers, customers, and our audience. We can start with titles. 














Erica HaimsComment