Titles that Make the Job Appear to be More Prestigious

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Home > Articles > Titles that Make the Job Appear to be More Prestigious

 Titles that Make the Job Appear to be More Prestigious

Tan Chee Teik | General
February 10, 2017
​To some, job titles are less important than remuneration. To others, high-sounding job titles increase their importance and esteem in the company and in public.

IN Hong Kong’s financial district, clients have noticed that the financial institutions have given their senior people a dizzying array of job titles from managing partner, executive directors, associate directors to managing directors. The prestigious titles are for attracting senior employees to the banks or financial institutions.

Some say that calling a rat-catcher a rodent exterminator will not change the responsibilities and remuneration. It is true that calling a salesperson a sales manager will make it easier for him/her to get an appointment with the clients. Inflate the title to regional sales manager and this will produce better results although the region may only be a postal district in Singapore.

A job title is a term that merely describes the position held by an employee that can be used in the business card. A job title can describe the position level or responsibilities of the person holding the position. It is akin to ranks in the military to show that you are a commissioned or non-commissioned officer. 

In the military, ranks are of utmost importance as they show the power and responsibility of the officer holding that rank on their epaulettes or sleeves. Other job titles may reflect what the employee does on the job such as customer service officer, public relations executive, or housekeeper in a hotel.

Korean Job Titles
More than half of all Koreans have only six family names—Kim, Lee, Park, Cho, Chung, and Chang. On a business level, it is of utmost importance to get someone’s name right and know the person’s rank and job title. Name cards play an important part in overcoming the problem of similar names as they provide the company affiliation, departments, sections, titles, and so on. 

Sometimes you may receive a name card of someone whose rank is given in Korean as taewu, which means high rank or senior rank but there is little additional information. These are generally people who do not have a specific position but only designated as taewu. They are often former government bureaucrats who have joined the company but are not direct-line managers.
In South Korea, employees typically address each other by the person’s job title followed by his/her family name. The Agence-France Presse reported in April 2006 that in an effort to revamp South Korea’s authoritarian, top-down corporate culture, the country’s chaebols or conglomerates, have decided to get away from the use of job titles.

Employees are urged to drop the mention of job titles at the workplace, the same will apply to name cards. Samsung BioLogics have added “pro” (professional) or “nim” (expert) in place of existing job titles.

CJ group, a food and entertainment conglomerate, also implemented a fast-track system that prioritises performance and capability over the number of years in the company.

When exchanging business cards, South Koreans like their Japanese counterparts, pay great attention to job titles as they reflect the person’s job type, rank, experience and social status.

At the workplace in Singapore, we usually address a colleague by name rather than by designation. When I first joined the newsroom of a local daily newspaper I addressed the news editor as Mr Fong. I thought that this was proper respect as I came from the civil service where this was the norm. He reacted by saying: “Always call me Leslie.” In many commercial enterprises, the managers prefer the staff to address them by first names in an effort to get closer to the subordinates.

Organisation Chart
Human resource use job titles to categorise positions in the company. The organisation chart will show the posts, listed by job title, the reporting structure, and company management.

Employers use job titles as part of their compensation management system. Certain job titles can be tied to pay scales. Job titles can also indicate a career path at a company both by employees eligible for promotion and by managers who are evaluating candidates for employment.

These are words prefixed to a name as a form of address, such as Mr, Mrs, Ms, or Dr. Instead of Mr, sometimes we find males being addressed as Esq (esquire). This gives it more prestige but it is not commonly used in Singapore.

Esquire is a polite title appended to a man's name when no other title is used, typically in the address of a letter or other documents such as “Lee Ah Ting Esq” Historically, esquire or squire is used for a young nobleman who, in training for knighthood, acted as an attendant to a knight.

In Malaysia, honorifics such as Datuk, Datin, or Tan Sri are commonly used. Such people expect you to address them with that honorific as a sign of respect.

​Mr Tan Chee Teik is a freelance journalist. He is a regular contributor to M360 and Today’s Manager.

Copyright © 2017 Singapore Institute of Management

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