Forget the Fancy Job Titles

Employees walking around with titles like “chief happiness officer” and “product evangelist” are expected to be exuberant, enthusiastic proponents of a company’s internal and external brand.

And they could very well be crazy about the companies they work for. But they might not be so keen on such creative, “non-traditional” job titles, which a fair number of workers apparently don’t find all that endearing or even accurate.

A quarter of employees, to be exact, don’t care for using exotic monikers to describe their positions, according to a new survey from Spherion Staffing.

The Atlanta-based recruiting and staffing provider’s most recent WorkSphere survey found that 25 percent of employees consider “non-traditional” job titles unprofessional, and are against the idea of being christened with one. Nearly as many (23 percent) feel that flowery designations don’t capture what they actually do in their jobs. That said, 14 percent of employees who favor more tried-and-true titles believe they too could use improvement, saying that labels such as “project manager” and “specialist” are too vague.

Overall, 42 percent of workers said their current titles—be they old-fashioned or more “outside the box”—don’t really reflect their roles and responsibilities.

Regardless of what appears on their business cards, an overwhelming majority of employees expressed confidence in their ability to describe their jobs in a way that’s easy to understand. Eighty-nine percent of those polled said they would have no issues delivering an “elevator speech” that highlights their duties.

Those that don’t have such an easy time encapsulating what they do every day might struggle with summing up the complexities of their roles. Close to one-third (31 percent) of employees polled said their job or industry is too specialized to easily explain to a layperson. Twenty-nine percent said they try to avoid using work jargon in everyday conversation.

According to the survey, employees struggling to articulate their responsibilities may be making things harder than they have to be. Overall, 53 percent indicated they give different accounts of their jobs, depending on the audience. In addition, 11 percent said they sometimes lie about what they do for a living.

Whatever they tell others about their vocation, “employees take great pride in their job titles, and in some cases, a title that is considered limiting or hard to describe can significantly impact their job satisfaction,” says Sandy Mazur, Spherion division president, in a statement.

Faced with growing pressure to recruit and retain top workers, “reexamining how different titles are perceived and applied can make a big difference in building morale,” says Mazur, “and positioning a company as a favorable place to work.”