Workplace Culture

Job Titles Won’t Bring Your Workers Happiness, but a Wonderful Workplace Will

By James Tehrani

Aug. 7, 2014

Harpo Marx would have made a good chief happiness officer. Honk, honk.

Today’s odd job titles take the cake.

From chief baking officer to the wizard of light bulb moments to bad-ass rock star code ninja, some people feel the need to express their creativity with the words that go under their names on their business cards and LinkedIn profiles. And, if you ask me, unless you’re a missionary, the word evangelist probably shouldn’t be a part of your job title.

I’m all for originality, but when it comes to titles, I prefer the tried and true offerings that have permeated the workplace for decades. Full disclosure: We editors get a good giggle when we come across one of these peculiar job titles in the copy we’re reading, and don’t think we keep these jim-dandys to ourselves in the newsroom. No siree, Bob. They get passed around like a box of Godiva chocolates. Sous chef expediting wizard anyone?

Sure I thought it was a real hoot when I learned years ago that Jerry Yang was the chief yahoo at Yahoo and that Jeff Taylor was the chief monster at Monster, but have titles like CEO, CFO, COO and CHRO become passé? Come to think of it, anyone can be a chief executive officer — especially in a company with one employee — but how many CHOs do you know?

Of course I’m talking about chief hugs officers. These folks aren’t a dime a dozen, but they aim to make the juice worth the squeeze for their workers and clients. Let’s hug it out? I think human resources might have a problem with that concept.

There’s also another kind of CHO out there. With apologies to Pharrell Williams, it doesn’t make me feel like a room without a roof. Of course, I’m talking about chief happiness officers.

Call me old-fashioned, but unless you’re a “shiny, happy” person like, ahem, Michael Stype, or a glowering, horn-honking Harpo Marx, calling yourself a “chief happiness officer” is a stretch in my book. OK Snoopy gets a pass, too.

Not to pick on those happy-go-lucky folks whose goal is to bring about happiness at work, but true happiness comes from organizations doing right by their employees. Not even Googler Chade-Meng Tan would disagree with that. At least I think …

You want happy workers? Give them what they want: a culture where creativity is encouraged and pass-the-buck is discouraged, flexibility to manage business life and home life, good benefits like a retirement plan with auto-rebalancing and a few plum perks — discounted movie tickets anyone? — couldn’t hurt either.

With those tenets in place, you won’t need funky job titles like “happiness hero” to get employees engaged. Happiness on the job is a chief motivator on its own.

Oh by the way, I’ve decided to forgo my title as assistant managing editor for something that’s better-suited for my skill set and personality. Just call me the lynx of lexicon.

James Tehrani is the director of content strategy at FlexJobs.

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