When were you last conned by a job title?

Have you ever bought a book based on its cover and ended up with a disappointing read? Perhaps you have chosen a bottle of wine with an attractive label only to regret your purchase after the first sip.

“Fake it until you make it” is a dangerous strategy – especially when it comes to titles on business cards. Most people take it for granted that what they see printed on a business card is true. The reality is that false titles can be preceded by false certificates, resumes and references.

Two medical cases are examples of this. Dr Jayant Patel claimed false qualifications to become registered as a doctor in Queensland. He was sentenced to seven years’ jail after an enquiry into botched operations at Bundaberg Base Hospital. Raffaele di Paolo was also jailed after he practised as a gynaecologist in Melbourne for 10 years despite not being qualified.

And in an engineering case, Gerald Shirtcliff, who supervised the construction of a building in Christchurch in which 115 people died during an earthquake, used a stolen identity and falsified credentials to become registered as an engineer.

Assumptions vs reality

If you see a title on a business card that says “branch manager”, you make the reasonable assumption that the person manages the branch of whatever business is printed on the card. The problem arises when the person does not have the competency, experience or qualifications for the title. They get credit from the people they deal with for a capability they do not have.

Worse, the person can delude themselves into thinking they have the necessary skills because they believe the title on their card. This is outlined by the research of Dan Ariely in his book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.

Often, the person whose name is on the card doesn’t create the problem – it is the business owner, who believes putting the title “manager” under a person’s name on the organisational chart bestows them with instant management skills.

The virtual arena abounds with many of these impostors – virtual CEO, CFO and CIO are ones I have seen lately. Ultimately, we must walk the talk and deliver on our slogans and titles.

When putting titles on org charts, business cards and email signatures, ensure you:

  • Keep the person’s position description up to date.
  • Provide any training needed to make them competent.
  • Put their position title on the card.
  • Add any words that better describe what the person does for the outside world.

If you need help ensuring your staff’s skills match their job titles, email me at bryan@bryanworn.com.

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