Thursday, June 5, 2014

Readers Write In: Job Title Deflation Goes Flat in China

From an HR  Executive at a US MNC: I am writing for an opinion about titles in China.  We want to standardize job titles across the corporation.  For example, the majority of roles will be changed from “General Manager” of a Sales Function to “Director” and from “President” to “Vice President, Region” (China, Japan, etc…).   My question is will it be ok to proceed this way in Asia or will it create such a negative perception  that it may not be worth proceeding?

I asked a few experienced China managers your question.  Everyone agrees that in China, titles and job scope (size of P & L, number of reports, title of the boss, titles of the peers) are very important.  The two title changes you describe: “General Manager” to “Director” and “President” to “Vice President” will create uproar!

The biggest issue is that customers may not understand the change. They will not understand why someone’s title would be downgraded and, since they like to deal with senior people, they might even be offended. Titles are also very important for Chinese Government officials who, at certain levels, may be pleased to deal with a “President” but not with a re-titled “Vice-President.”

Another issue is that your employees’ families may perceive they are being demoted and will want to know why they screwed up in their jobs.  Employees may start looking for new jobs with more senior titles.

Is there a possibility your company can “grandfather” the executives who currently hold these titles? Then you could give the new titles to the employees who succeed them in the roles.

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