The Title Inflation Trap

Beth Miller |

My work over the years has been with both large and small companies. And one of the problems that smaller companies often have is giving an employee a title bigger than their actual responsibilities.

Just recently I was having a discussion with the president of an insurance company. The company had created their first IT position last year and they hired someone to come in to support their users and install a new computer system. The President decided to give this person the title of IT Director because he thought it would help stroke the ego of the employee and sweeten the employment offer.  Generally, business owners think that upping a title doesn’t cost money and it doesn’t in the short term. I actually did the same thing when I was operating a company back in the 90s.

Yet title inflation causes problems down the road.  In this specific instance, the employee after a year came back to the President saying that he was being underpaid significantly compared to other IT Directors and thus wanted a raise.

During our discussion I inquired more about what the employee was responsible for and what he had accomplished, and it became very clear that his role was no where near a true IT director. So now a year later, the President has to have a difficult conversation with the employee about the gap between the title and responsibilities he has and the actual job requirements of a true IT Director.

So if you find yourself in a position where you want to give someone an “important” title but the job doesn’t fit the title, think twice. And if you do think, that because of external reasons, you need to have the big important titles, have the conversation upfront with the person that is getting an inflated title.  Show them exactly what the gaps are between the two titles and create a plan to get them up to the performance of that position over time. 

Once you have had the conversation and developed the plan, make sure that the development plan is progressing by having periodic development reviews so the employee understands their progress.

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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