Corporate hierarchies are out. Organizations are flatter than ever. Entrepreneurialism is the new best practice. The newest college grads are railing against the establishment, saying they don’t want to “pay their dues” in order to climb the corporate ladder rung by rung, and that they want to do meaningful work right away. And the business world is listening to them. It seems as if the entry-level grunt is a thing of the past.
Given these changes, the tendency is to think that titles, even when you’re working within the context of a large organization, don’t really matter so much anymore. I myself believed this, until a few years ago when I received a promotion to vice president. I had been doing the work associated with this role for quite a while, so when I started using the new title, it was really more of a formality.
But subtly, little things around the office began to change. I noticed that more people actually answered the phone when I called, instead of letting me go straight into voicemail. Executives would communicate with me themselves instead of sending their assistants to find me. I started getting to sit in on planning meetings no one had considered inviting me to before. And when I’d walk into my colleagues’ cube area, someone would jokingly say, “okay, everyone, back to work, the boss is here.”
It then occurred to me that a title like vice president still carries a great deal of weight. Despite what we might like to think, people have a certain perception of us, and treat us a certain way, based on our level. No matter how much we know and contribute, to some extent our value and importance will always be tied to our rank – a rank which is sometimes well-deserved, and sometimes not so well-deserved. In much of today’s business world, a higher title means not only more money and a bigger office, but the ability and influence to get your job done more efficiently, and with less agida.
So next time you’re thinking of blowing off your performance review because you can’t see the point in advancing to the next level, maybe try looking a bit harder. The point is there.
Alexandra Levit is a Partner at PeopleResults and is passionate about helping people and organizations succeed in the evolving workplace. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alevit.