Solution Saturday: I’m a Junior Manager but Should be a Director

Dear Dan,

I hope you can help me with my question. It is related to the impact of the job titles/ levels in companies while you are negotiating. I would like to hear your comments on that.

I am a young professional working in Sales for one of the world’s biggest (Description deleted). Our focus is B2B.

I believe job titles should be the same/similar level of the person who is your counter partner.

Just imagine that you are a salesperson that has an entry level job title like junior sales manager but you are dealing with a key account, but your counter partner has a title of purchasing director.

Don’t you think that will undermine your standing with this customer?

Thank you very much in advance.

Junior Sales Manager

Dear Junior,

You might be surprised at how frequently I receive emails concerning job titles. On one hand, we’d like to say that a title doesn’t matter. However, titles impact our standing within an organization. And, as you indicate, they give an impression to people outside the company.

Your concern about the customer is important. However, this seems like a bigger issue.

Let’s not beat around the bush. I believe you’re seeking equity of treatment. Yes, customers are a factor, but not the heart of your concern. 

Status and respect matter and a title is a symbol of both.

Openness:

You wrote, “Don’t you think that will undermine your standing with this customer?” That’s a leading question. The assumed answer is, “Yes.” 

It’s obvious that you’ve made up your mind. I suggest you approach this issue with greater openness.

How might you approach this situation as a learner, not a knower?

Open questions begin with “What” and “How”. Leading questions begin with “Don’t” and “Wouldn’t”.

If you can be open to the possibility that you have room to grow, others will be less defensive and more open with you.

3 questions regarding job responsibilities:

  1. Are your job responsibilities equal with your counter partner? Do either of you have direct reports, for example?
  2. Is this key account an exception for you, but normal for your counter partner? In other words, does your counter partner handle more key accounts than you?
  3. Is the difference in title associated with performance? How do your overall numbers stack up against the performance of Directors in your organization?

If you and your counter partner are doing the exact same work, how do you navigate inequity?

Inequity:

Let’s assume that your concern about being “Junior” is legitimate. You have the same responsibilities, workload, and achievements as your counter partner, but a lower title. Let’s assume you deserve the title of Director.

Express your aspiration:

  1. Ask your boss, “How might I earn the title of Director?” But, don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t run around the office telling everyone you’re shooting for a Director’s title.
  2. Elevate your performance. Do the work of a Director. You might ask your boss, “What revenue point would earn me the title of Director?” (Be advised that there may be several factors, not simply revenue.)
  3. Don’t complain about your counter partner’s title. When you complain about your counter partner’s title you’re insulting the person who gave them the title in the first place.
  4. Document your accomplishments so you can bring them to performance conversations. Remember not to tear others down.
  5. Don’t allow disappointments to cause you to pull back. Inequity motives us to pull back. We say, “It’s not fair. I’m going to punish the organization by pulling back.” This is the worst thing to do. You won’t get ahead by pulling back.
  6. Seek new challenges and opportunities within your company.
  7. Use your accomplishments to find a new position outside your company. If you don’t earn the title you deserve, seek it somewhere else. (Just remember to keep delivering great results where you are.)

Titles:

Don’t expect to be a Director if you aren’t already doing most of the things a Director does.

Titles come to us after we do the work.

You earn a title because you’ve already demonstrated you can do the job.

Titles provide validation. They also provide more authority.  But, to earn the title you’re already fulfilling most of the position’s requirements.

Tips:

  1. Don’t minimize your counter partner in order to elevate yourself.
  2. Keep positive when things aren’t going as you wish. Successful leaders learn to practice optimism, even when taking bitter pills.
  3. Keep a gratitude journal. Keep track of the things you love about your job.
  4. Express gratitude to others.

 

Aspiration is healthy and useful. I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Dan

*I suspend my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.