Monday, May 7, 2012
Are Job Titles a waste of time? Generations are divided
In my Human Communications course, which I teach ever semester at UAHuntsville, even summers, we discuss different types of Power and my Millennials all love this lesson and are fascinated by it. They especially when I talk about the differences in how different generations respond to different types of power. In the next few days I will do a series on the different types of power and how the generations respond to those types of Power, so stay tuned!
Legitimate Power - Legitimate Power is power that comes from title. For example: CEO, Dr., Parent, Wife even. Its that base-level defer that you have to give to other people because of the title. Little things like where they sit in a meeting, what their business cards say, oh, and yeah, how much money they make. It's not always representative of peoples talent, ability to lead, etc.
Boomers seem to give significant weight to Legitimate Power. They've worked to get that title and the hefty salary that may accompany it, and they want all of their children to have titles as well. (Part of why they've sent them all to college?) They also are hesitant to give titles away because they recognize the change in people that often accompanies a change in title and they don't want anybody "challenging" their control. For many Boomers their title defines who they are. Don't believe me? Go to a party. After you exchange names Boomers will most always ask you what you do next.
GenXers seem to be mixed on how they feel about Legitimate Power. They don't oppose hierarchy or job titles, but primarily because titles often have a dollar amount attached to it. "Achiever" GenXers want their title more than the average GenXers obviously, but again, its usually so they can buy more of the techno-toys they want and go more of the vacations they'd like. Many GenXers created their own companies and leave everybody on equal footings. Nobody has titles, they do just do their jobs and when they rock at their jobs they get raises. Just like that. GenXers can and will work within the established order, but they're fully aware of the fact that some people are just people, not jobs and that there are tons of idiots with VP and CEO titles.They're more inclined to challenge people regardless of title, but realize that currently title wins on most decisions.
Millennials think that job titles are a waste of time. They think they are unfair power-play that does not reward real talent and keeps people from being their best in their jobs. Because they're lower on the totem poll they're forced to go through insane red-tape and run up suggestions through a broken hierarchy. They honestly see no reason why they can't go into the CEO's office and tell them what their idea is. To them the CEO should care about the idea, not who brought it to them, so the idea that because you've been around for longer and been promoted to "management" is beyond stupid to them. Their hierarchy was broken when their parents all decided to be FRIENDS with them, most have "Friended" teachers and bosses. They don't care about your rank, they care about what value you bring to the table. To them if you're not the sharpest you don't belong in that decision making place, regardless of the fact you've been their for 40 years. To them, your 40 years means you're not up to date on whats new, relevant, and worth pursuing. Your job title doesn't impress them and if you don't have a college degree, well, no title can fix that in their eyes.
So you can see how this potentially is causing problems in the workplace. I maintain that two things influence all of communication. 1)culture and 2) power. We have a double whammy here then because the three different cultures all want power and perceive it in different ways. So what can be done? Well, as I tell my students, knowledge is power. Being able to identify when someone is responding differently than you and WHY can help you realize people are not just being jerks, but doing something inherent to them. That opens up a path to conversation instead of an emotional reaction. Being able to see why the Millennial thinks its ok to "barge into your office" SHOULD help you see that it is not an issue of disrespect, but a want to better the company. Therefore you share the same vision.
So do Job Titles matter? Well, for now, yes. And we all need to work within the situation we are presented, but knowing more about how different generations RESPOND to power will help give you communication power! Good luck!