Titleitus - Is this “disease” affecting your company?

Disease/ a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant
Title/ a name that describes someone’s status, position or job
Titleitus/ an attitude or behaviour adopted according to a job title that causes disorder in a company structure

What’s the problem?

Based on approaching 40 years’ experience of observing attitudes and behaviours associated with job titles, Titleitus appears to be common in a number of companies. This article explores the huge problems it can cause, particularly for SMEs, identifies four root causes and suggests three solutions that will improve both productivity and profitability.

You will recognise the symptoms of Titleitus; a promotion followed by a sudden change of attitude and behaviour according to the title which stems from a conscious or subconscious feeling of, “Phew I’ve made it; I don’t have to do that anymore. I can kick back a little and not have to work quite as hard”. It applies to two types in particular:

  • The assumptive Manager who thinks “It’s the team who’s supposed to do the work now, not me; my job is just to manage”
  • Wrong. The company not only expects you to do the old job but also the new job as well. Your workload will significantly increase, not decrease! Due in most cases to a lack of formal management training, you won’t have the “tools to do the job” in terms of how to coach, manage or motivate your team.
    The consequences of this are a) your workload is massive b) everyone keeps coming you for answers and c) you keep having to play hero and personally make up for team underperformance (which secretly, you enjoy because you’re good at it and like the recognition).
  • The idealistic Director or Chief whatever who feels “I’ve arrived now” and thinks the job is all about directing others and strategizing all day. (Hence the expression, “Too many chiefs and not enough indians”).
  • Wrong. It’s no good adopting an attitude of SER (it’s someone else’s responsibility) when problems inevitably arise. You failed to recognise that to be able to step back, you need a really effective Manager if you’re not going to do that job anymore – assuming you actually engaged in day-to-day management activity in the first place!
    Otherwise, keeping people focused, motivated and delivering on time and on budget simply won’t happen.


So, what are the root causes of Titleitus?


1.Indiscriminate Use of Job Titles
It’s not uncommon for companies to create important-sounding job titles to retain key employees. However, what the company actually wants is for the person to carry on as before, just wearing a different badge. Of course, they will never say that.

Once this trend has started, the number and range of creative job titles seems to multiple rapidly. However, the consequences are an increasingly small pool of people left to actually do the work that’s required!

2.Inappropriate Job Titles
Titleitus can also affect employees at any level who have been given a job title different to the intended purpose of the job.

For example, Director when what you actually want is a Manager. Manager when what you actually want is a Supervisor or Team Leader. Account Manager or Territory Manager when what you actually want is a Sales Person. Client Administrator when you actually want Customer Service & Support. Etc.

3.No Job Description
It’s astonishing the number of key people who are promoted, given a new job title but NOT given an up-to-date job description setting out their key areas of responsibility, necessary activities and required results.

It’s as if the company thought “Well they know what they should be doing”. This may also be due to feeling that it’s a bit uncomfortable to discuss a job description with a Director, for example. No surprise then that, left open to interpretation, differences of opinion arise later and frustrations grow.

4.No Training
Imagine sitting on a plane waiting to take off for a long-overdue holiday. The pilot welcomes you over the PA system then says, “Don’t worry; although I haven’t actually been trained as a pilot, I’m sure I’ll pick it up as I go along”.

Clearly, that would be scary and frankly ridiculous – however, it accurately represents what’s happening in many companies because our on-going survey reveals that most managers have never been formally trained as managers!

Without clear guidance in what to think, say or do as a manager or an opportunity to learn the full range of tips and techniques available, it’s no surprise there are more than a few “crashes”. It also indicates the root cause of retention issues highlighted by the quote, “People leave managers, not companies”.

Here are 3 tips to avoid these problems:


  • Match the job title to the job you expect the person to do
  • Make sure the activities you expect to be undertaken are clearly set out in an up-to-date job description which are discussed and agreed prior to appointment – irrespective of the seniority of the position
  • Provide your management team with the “tools to do the job” through formal training – or retrospectively provide them with an “MOT and Service”

With over 40 years’ experience of helping companies to achieve measurable improvement in business, team and individual performance, you can trust Auricas to support your business growth. Save yourself time and money and get the latest information about our wide range of consultancy and training options: https://www.auricas.com/services/

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