Professional female at work

Job title inflation won’t combat the rising cost of living

Nor does it offer much value

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
3 minute read
Professional female at work

With inflation stubbornly high, many employers are appeasing demands for salary increases by offering alternative forms of compensation.

Some bosses have chosen to offer extra leave entitlements, flexible work arrangements or one-off cash bonuses.

Others are turning to inflation of a different kind – “job title inflation”, which involves puffing up position titles to stroke egos and soften the blow of a below-average salary increase or no rise at all.

In today’s corporate world, robust job titles that include words like “director”, “executive”, “chief”, “senior”, “vice-president” and “deputy” are more than just a way to describe one’s role and responsibility.

These titles have become an indicator of status, a source of pride and – sometimes – a bargaining chip for promotions.

An employee’s title is linked to their identity and can give them credibility in the workplace.

Even outside the office, some workers manage to drop their job title into a conversation when speaking with others to obtain much sought-after gravitas.

So when there is limited room to move on remuneration, some bosses turn to hyperinflating job titles to retain existing employees and recruit new ones.

Examples of hyperinflated job titles are everywhere.

Some refer to a receptionist as a “director of first impressions”, a security guard as a “loss prevention officer”, a client services representative as a “customer happiness hero”, a cleaner as a “sanitation technician” or a social media manager as a “social media guru”.

Apart from hoping that the prestige of a better job title will compensate for lower pay, employers fatten up titles for a range of reasons.

Job title upgrades can work well with members of the general public. Those discussing their financial affairs with a “chief financial adviser” might well experience a greater level of comfort and confidence than receiving the same advice from a “financial adviser”.

And it is true that a more prestigious-sounding position title might improve someone’s prospects in the broader job market.

Doing more harm than good

Yet bloated job titles are not without issue.

Many simply do not take bloated titles seriously. Calling a person a manager or supervisor, for example, is meaningless if people in those roles do not actually manage or supervise anything but themselves.

Besides, beefed-up titles without the opportunity to develop new skills and workplace experiences can mean little when it comes to career advancement.

It is also true that giving a more prestigious job title to one employee and not another can easily spark resentment. As a case in point, labelling everyone a “partner” just to stroke someone’s ego can be offensive to those who have to work exceptionally hard to become a “real” partner.

And exaggerated job titles might thwart recruitment processes when positions seem out of reach to those with the right skills for a role with an overinflated job title.

Highfalutin job titles have been around for years though their increasing presence is not a robust solution to our current cost of living woes.

We should resist handing them out like candy and instead look to more effective ways to help employees manage inflation.