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A Manager’s Viewpoint

What’s in a name?

/ 02:32 AM November 15, 2015

We are just done with Job Evaluation (JE) in one organization.  The objectives, as usual, were to ensure internal equity of employees’ compensation and to maintain external competitiveness. Except for some hiccups in the process, the JE was almost a walk in the park.  A project working team of a few selected managers and HR head was organized to work with us as consultants to ensure transfer of knowledge and technology. A steering committee was formed composed of the CEO, COO, and another senior executive to oversee and approve the work of the project working team in every major step of the way.

The employees were formally informed of the program and its intended results with no promise of a pie in the sky to avoid any misgivings and great expectations. The CEO’s letter also requested cooperation of everybody with the consultants’ requirements. Job Analysis Questionnaire (JAQ) were accomplished by the employees and validated through interviews and observation of their work. Job Descriptions were written. Benchmark positions were selected and approved by the Steering Committee.

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The next steps proceeded smoothly. A Job Rating Plan and Job

Classification Framework were developed and approved by the Steering Committee. The real brass stacks started: rating the benchmark positions and slotting of the rest of the positions. Some variance of opinions happened along the way but given the clear guidelines that were extensively explained to them and the mandate of the Steering Committee that the final arbiters of rating jobs are the consultants, rating jobs, though usually tedious and time consuming, produced results after weeks of hard work.

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The real brainer was rationalizing the job titles. Throughout the years, after so many management changes, job titles, have proliferated like mushrooms. There were overlaps in functions, position titles do not reflect the real job contents, and depending on the exalted power of the department heads, they used high-falutin job titles to glorify the incumbents of the position.

Yes, changing the “glorified” job titles was a problem. There was stiff resistance coming from the project working team.  Changing them by the use of generic terms to rationalize the individual kingly titles was like chopping the rock of Gibraltar into separate islands. Hard bargaining balanced by diplomacy and tactfulness were employed to overcome their resistance.

Come to think about it, is glorifying or glamorizing what a person is doing not a favorite pastime of us Filipinos? We love to address a person as Atty., Dr., not only to the doctor of medicine but to a dentist, veterinarian and a Ph.D holder; judge, justice, senator, congressmen, colonel, general, even when these people have long retired from those positions, engineer including the marine or sanitary engineer, architect and so on to glorify the person. Calling him or her by honorific titles to indicate the profession he/she  represents is deemed a badge of distinction to the person concerned and his/her family.

That’s why I love to joke during my lectures that in our time, hostesses, taxi-dancers are just what they were.  Now, they have the glamorized title of guest relations officer (GRO). A janitor is now called utility man. A pimp now enjoys the title of fornicaterer. A squatter is now referred to as informal settlers.

Glamorizing titles has now come to a feverish pitch that it is the subject of satirical jokes. Let’s take a look at the table of funny but absurd job titles above.

You can hardly find a salesman job title these days. They are now called Account Executive. Reminds me when I was in the pharmaceutical industry.  Our detail men and salesmen complained that product representatives of some competitors were entertained ahead of them by the doctors because of the “higher” titles in their calling cards: account executives or product managers. We changed their job titles to be at par with our competitors.

America is not to be outdone in changing ethnic identities to be politically correct. Thus, the blacks are now called African-Americans (I thought black is beautiful), Orientals – Asian American, South Americans as Latin Americans.  By the way, Filipinos in America, ingenious as they are, have their own way of referring to ethnic groups so they won’ be offended. Some blacks already know that they are referred to by Pinoys as itim (black) or egoy. So, they are now called “itemized” – a corrupted term from the word “itim.” Hindus now know that they are called by Pinoys as Bombay. So, they are now secretly referred to as Pana, from Indian Pana. The Latinos, who are mostly Mexicans are referred to as Chicklets from the word “Chicanos.”

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Deaf people are referred to as hearing-impaired; blind persons, sight-impaired, people who cannot walk, as physically challenged. I remember driving one day in Silicon Valley and I saw a person at the middle of the road carrying a huge placard saying: “I’m residentially-challenged.  Pls. help me.” He could have scribbled “I’m homeless” and it would have more impact.  It seems euphemisms for glamorized titles have no end. I’m reminded of Manila Mayor Lacson who is known for his ascerbic language. Perhaps sick of fancy words employed by some people, he once said, “Why don’t we just call a spade a dirty shovel.”  How politicians would be called in the future, leave it to the mentally-innovative. In the meantime, they are referred to as one who shakes your hands before the elections and your confidence afterwards.

Going back to our JE Manila project, we were able to develop a salary structure based on the internal salary data and survey of comparator companies. The document on implementing guidelines, the last deliverable we committed to do was submitted. Our work as consultants self-destructed.  But the great resistance on changing their glamorized titles to more appropriate and descriptive ones still lingers in my mind. What’s in a name anyway?  Shakespeare once said:  “A rose by any name still smells sweet.”

(The author is Chairman of Change Management International, Inc., a management consultancy firm. He is past president of PMAP, past president of Society of Fellows in Personnel Management. He is currently Vice-President of ECOP and Vice-President of ECOP Institute of Productivity and Competitiveness. He is a member of the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC), Tripartite Executive Committee (TEC), representing the employer sector. He is a Commissioner of the Tripartite Voluntary Arbitration Advisory Council (TVAAC). He is co-author of the revised book of the late Perfecto Sison now entitled: “Personnel Management in the 21st Century” and author of the newly-minted book, “Human Resources Management – From the Practitioner’s Point of View.” His email address is: [email protected] gmail.com)

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