What’s your fancy job title?

After the acquisition, I was sitting in a meeting with HR who gave me the run-down of my new contract, policies, the new benefits – and my new title. I got the longest title in the entire team. Here it is:

Associate CRM Marketing Programs Manager

Wonder what that means? I’ll tell you: nothing.

There is probably nothing less important in a startup then titles. In fact, I’d argue that titles contribute to a lot of the bad in large corporations.

Relatively in the beginning of my journey at Podio, there was this big tech conference in Germany called Cebit. Podio was invited to a panel but neither our co-founders nor CEO could go. So they asked me whether I wanted to go. I’d sit on a panel with the general manager EMEA of Yammer, some VP at Moxie Software, and some other important people judging from their titles. I was doing business development back then. Comment from my CEO was simply:

‘At Podio you don’t need a big title to do big things’

This definitely stuck with me and I recently remembered it again when I felt weird to put a title onto my linkedin profile.

Here’s why I think titles specifically in startups are bad:
– they can limit you
– they become a false goal and means of motivation
– they create hierarchies
– they might cause jealousy
– they erect and keep separations existent
– they can give wrong impressions
– they can be an excuse to not make important decisions

It can of course be argued that titles serve a number of important functions in big companies for orientation, hierarchy, coordination, and power distribution.

However, they can lead people to establish a wrong value set. What’s the meaning of a promotion to a manager title when you are neither managing anyone nor having more responsibility? Instead at looking at what people contribute and the value they create, the focus is shifted to the title. Titles for the sake of titles. Promotions for the sake of promotions is probably a closely related topic.

So, the next time you look for acknowledgement of your work – instead of more money and a higher title, what would really make you happy?

Btw: The only title that matters and that no one can ever take away is no real title: (co)founder


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