What is a name?
A name according to the song sung by Julie Andrews in the hit film version of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music is just some thing we use to identify ourselves.
Joan Armatrading the prominent 1980’s singer songwriter had a hit album and single called Me Myself I, which explored the same theme of identity.
But for most people the name that they call themselves was not actually chosen by us, but by their parents, sometimes even before they were born.
The decisions that parents make can have implications for their child throughout the whole of their lives. This is a theme that is explored in the play What’s in a Name? which is currently touring the UK starring Joe Thomas who is a familiar face to fans of the hit TV series The Inbetweeners, Fresh Meat and White Gold star.
What’s in a name?
In the play Joe Thomas plays Vincent an expectant father who attends a family dinner party at which he announces the name that he has decided to bestow upon his currently unborn child.
Although written as a comedy What’s in a Name offers both the cast and the audience the opportunity to explore their reactions, expectations and prejudices that the choice that Vincent has announced.
Impressions, expectations and stereotypes
Names can create impressions of the type of person that holds them, or their family background.
If you are named after someone there is a role model that you can try to live up to.
Other people may have expectations of you because of your name, which may be completely irrational or simply based on their prejudices and stereotypes.
A quick poll around the Work Work Work office identified that boys called Alex, or Jack were bound to be cool, and great sportsmen, but a Nigel is probably going to be happier sitting at a computer.
There is no one on the team called Alex, Jack or Nigel.
Job Title – just another name
At work we all have two names. There is the name that we bring to work, the one that our parents gave us. There is also the name that our employer bestows upon us, our job title.
Job titles can generate patterns of behaviour in the person who holds them, as much as they create expectations of how someone with a job title should behave in the people who work with them.
Why are they so important?
There are two aspects to both personal and workplace names.
For both there is what the name tells us about ourselves and there is what it tells other people about us.
What the job title says to you
Throughout a career job titles are important because they denote the level of success that we have achieved. The progress we have made in our careers.
Martin told us that when he started work, he was told it would be at least two years before he could be promoted. But he achieved it in just 18 months. He sat in the same place in the open plan office and to the outsider much of his work did not change, but the level of decision making he was involved in was higher because he had the higher-level job title. He got the promotion because he had proved to his manager and his colleagues that he was capable of being successful in a higher role.
Later in his career he was frustrated to be told that he was worthy of being promoted but couldn’t be because he had to report to someone on that grade who had been promoted beyond their competence. The result was that he would have to wait for that person to leave before he could be promoted.
What the job title tells other people about you
For many people being able to tell other people what their job title is, and the reactions of those people is important. This is because job titles are an easy way to describe to someone else what we do and how important we are.
We would never boast about how big our salary is but telling someone what our job title is can be a polite way of creating an expectation of how much we must be earning.
Times of trouble
Job titles can also be useful for other people when they have a problem, the person they are talking to is not empowered to say yes or to resolve the problem so they want to talk to the person who has the job title that is empowered to make the decision that will make the problem go away.
When the job title isn’t right
When the work you are doing is not reflected in your job title it can be extremely demoralising, to the extent that you may start disliking a job that you had previously considered to be ideal for you, so what can you do about it.
In a structured organisation
If the organisation that you work in has a formal job grading structure and pay scales it should be relatively easy to request that the tasks you are doing and the level of decision-making you are involved in is assessed against those standards.
If you work in an organisation which does not have a structured way of looking at jobs, then you will have to create your own justification.
- List what you actually do, not what a job description says that you do.
- Describe the complexity of the tasks you are involved in and how this has changed since you started the role
- Describe the decision-making that you are responsible for and how this has changed since your started in the role
- Analyse what you do against other jobs in the organisation, remembering that you may not have complete access to information about everything that people in similar looking jobs actually do.
- Compare the activities and decision-making that you are involved in with what you see advertised in for roles in other companies, and what those roles are called.
At the end of the day your job title will not make people respect you or admire you. You gain respect and admiration by delivering results. If you act and perform like the best people will assume that you have the job title and treat you like the person with that title.
What it says on your business card isn’t as important as what your behaviour and results say.
What’s in a Name?
What’s in a Name? starring Joe Thomas is currently on tour across the UK until 26th October 2019.
For more information please visit ATG Tickets.
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