Why you should allow employees to invent their own job titles

There’s no difference between a sales rep and a sales Jedi—except one likes her job more

Illustration of janitor replacing the title on his door with Arch-Bishop of Sanitation Enterprises

(Kagan McLeod)

Allowing employees to make their own job titles could be good for workers’ well-being. According to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, self-appointed job titles could reduce “emotional exhaustion” among stressed-out employees.

The study, which was published in the Academy of Management Journal, focused on the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Midwest chapter, where employees were allowed to come up with their own job titles. The researchers wanted to see what effect, if any, the change in job titles had on employee well-being, especially because these individuals are working in emotionally-taxing jobs.

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The study’s authors found that customized job titles can help workers express their own identity and personality in ways that increase “self-verification” and “psychological safety,” and therefore help reduce emotional exhaustion. Translation: employees who decide their own titles are more likely to feel confident about their ability to do their jobs and less likely to suffer burnout. And as a retention strategy, a new title is way cheaper than a raise. There may be no functional difference between a sales rep and a sales Jedi—except one likes her job more.

Some potential names to update your LinkedIn profile:

Original Title New & Improved Title
Receptionist Director of first impressions
Marketer Evangelist
Business development Opportunity Creator
Public relations Buzz Ambassador
Web designer Front-end ninja
Sales manager Sales Jedi
Sandwich maker Sandwich artist