What shall I call myself today?
Over the years I’ve had many nicknames. Some deserved, and some not. In a past life I was known as the Rottweiler of the office. Once I got my teeth into a case I was unlikely to let go. I was quite proud of that one. In another role I was known as the grim reaper due to the number of people I had to make redundant. I wasn’t so keen on that. After all, I was only doing my job and it wasn’t my fault that the company was in that situation. Mind you, it did give me an excuse to change my ring tone to the death march, which caused much amusement when my phone went off (by accident, honest!) in the middle of a directors meeting!
My parents once publicly titled me the number one trouble maker. If you know me, you may think they may have had a point! I have no doubt that my ex calls me many (unprintable!) things, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.
When I’m out networking, I hate referring to myself as a solicitor, as it’s boring and you can visibly see people’s eyes glazing over. So I often refer to myself as a professional drinker, which always gets a laugh. Sometimes I whisper conspiratorially how I’m a gatecrasher, and please don’t tell anyone. You can always tell if I’ve had too much to drink, as I’ll start saying I’m a pole dancer, which has occasionally got me in to hot water when people have spotted things that could pass as poles at the venue and asked for a demonstration!
All joking aside, your working name or job title can have significant consequences. For example, I was once recruiting a new secretary, with the job description requiring that the successful candidate needed to have typing and shorthand skills (goes to show how long ago that was!). I received several calls from people objecting, on the basis that it discriminated against men, particularly those keen to start a legal career and seeing this as a good way in to a law firm. Of course, I pointed out that anyone can learn how to type and take shorthand, and the fact that the men in question felt uncomfortable going to courses full of women was not my problem.
So what about a job title that includes the word “junior” in it. Could that be seen as demeaning to someone who feels that they have a reasonable amount of experience. Or someone defined as being an assistant, which suggests that all they do is help someone else, when, in fact they are capable of doing the job themselves. I know that more senior staff think that the younger members of the team can be a bit over sensitive (and they may have a point) but if you want to nurture and develop your staff (not to mention avoid a potential Tribunal claim for perceived discrimination) then considering what you call people can save you time and money in the long run.
My advice would be to consider what job titles you have for your staff, and consider if they are still appropriate from both a legal and a commercial view. If they are no longer fit for purpose in a very fast changing world, consider what changes you can make. Whilst it might not protect you from a claim, it could show that you are a considerate and contentious employer, and that any errors that have been made in employment terms are purely accidental.
Of course, I’m not so sensitive – I don’t really care what you call me, so long as you call! If you’re calling to invite me out for a drink, so much the better.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Always answering your call.