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Can A Job Title Change Your Behavior?

Do impressive-sounding, inspirational job titles make us feel better about ourselves? Can they change our behavior? Research suggests that job titles have the power to improve our well-being and sense of control, and shield us from feeling socially snubbed. They might even encourage us to apply for a job in the first place.

Since a powerful-sounding job title can signify social status, it’s not surprising workers aspire to them. But a fancy title isn’t always about status. Simply making a title more fun can influence behavior. After attending a conference at Disneyland and upon discovering that employees there were called “cast members,” Susan Fenters Lerch felt inspired.

The former CEO of Make-A-Wish Foundation returned to her office and told employees they could create their own “fun” job title, in addition to their official one, to reflect “their most important roles and identities in the organization.”

Researchers interviewed these employees a year and a half after Lerch’s decision. They found that their “self-reflective” job titles reduced workers’ emotional exhaustion, helped them cope with emotional challenges, and let them affirm their identity at work. Researcher Daniel Cable said, “The titles opened the door for colleagues to view one another as human beings, not merely job-holders.”

Researchers have also found that giving an employee a more senior-sounding title can make them act more responsibly by making them feel happier at work. Sociology professor Jeffrey Lucas found that giving high-performing employees a high-status job title could stop them from leaving. He carried out two experiments and discovered that workers with important-sounding job titles “displayed greater satisfaction, commitment, and performance and lower turnover intentions” than those who didn’t.

“However, as far as job titles go, it's important that people actually perceive the titles as conferring status. In other words, fancy titles that people perceive as being nothing more than just that would be unlikely to have positive consequences.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

This attitude could apply to valuing church staff, elected church officers, and volunteers. Do we follow Paul’s example in giving affirming titles those who serve with us? He publicly appreciated them and called them “fellow workers,” “beloved brothers,” “faithful ministers,” and “true partners” (Phil. 4:3; Col 4:7).

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