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Designations matter a lot in India

April 9, 2007

Last week my cousin’s colleague resigned from his job because the top management of the company he worked for refused to change his designation. He resigned even though that he had an excellent job, good pay, a good boss, and a professional working atmosphere with growth prospects. His designation had the word ‘executive’ tagged at the end of it. Now this term is used in most companies to denote the lowest level of executive and this man had ten years work experience. He is not the only in the company with this problem ofcourse, there are others too with a similar problem and others with the tag ‘manager’ tagged at the end when they are actually doing a national level job. That is how the company, a very down to earth foreign company, functions. The management insists that designations mean nothing, that this is how it is in their parent company. Sounds cool and I am sure that in foreign countries this actually works because everyone treats the other with respect, irrespective of designation.

In India unfortunately this isn’t so. If you go to meet a client or in fact anyone, the designation on the card is all-important. That is what decides whether you will be kept waiting or not, or how you are addressed. Your competence, your manners, nothing matters as much as the designation. The person you are meeting may not always believe a self- important title, but he will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Companies wanting to cash in on this give bombastic sounding designations to their employees. Associate Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents , Heads…these terms are bandied about on cards but when one actually looks at the job profile, these guys are doing nothing much. In fact the ‘executive’ whom we shall call X, has a far better job.

The wise guys are the employers. They know how little designations mean. Yet when they hire, they often accede to the demand of a pompous designation as long as it doesn’t affect company structure.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Firestarter permalink
    March 20, 2008 4:28 pm

    Yes, designations matter a lot these days. Awarding fancy designation is now an important ploy to retain employees.

  2. Ravi permalink
    March 20, 2008 8:09 pm

    Designation does matter where hierarchy exists. If you take a IT company there isn’t much difference between a project leader and a member of a team but the same doesn’t hold in any govt organization. If I have to chose from designation or money I would go for money.

  3. axinia permalink
    March 21, 2008 5:14 pm


    what I see out here, it matters not only in India 🙂
    In Europe it matters if you are working with the clients “outside”, really important to have a solid title.

    Thanks for that perspective from Europe Axinia. – Nita

  4. jaiz permalink
    March 21, 2008 8:38 pm


    There is nothing wrong with your cousin , changing designation is a simple gesture that the company management could have given by supporting the employee , however , if the staff is not ready for the post , they can prefix senior, principal..or post-fix coordinator , supervisor etc….

    Because it is not just in the company, but also in the society, family it is of paramount importance. When people find you are an executive for ten years , it is natural for others to think that you are not growing.

    Its true , what matters is…. what is inside us and not what is outside us , in the end… designation matters… india…or other part of the world.

  5. March 22, 2008 9:16 am

    Jaiz, yes I guess you are right, the designation is a kind of support from the company. but if all companies do it, then the designations become less important! I like the idea of having unique, vague designations so that no one can figure out what you actually are! 🙂

    Ravi, that is a practical approach. It depends on company to company and in some companies there is a flatter structure.

  6. January 23, 2009 11:52 am

    Our Company had a couple of years back resorted to have a ‘flat organisation structure’ where there would be only three levels “Process Leaders”, “Process Associates” and “Process Members”. People accepted this change, though reluctantly.

    The people who fell under “Process Member” level were those who would otherwise be designated as Executives, Officers, or even Managers. There business cards were printed with their designations as “Process Members”.

    Ironically, however, those who brought in this change, i.e., the Process Leaders had their business cards printed as General Managers, Vice Presidents, Presidents, et. al. The vague reason they shouted was that they had to meet the outside world and it is sometimes difficult to make the outsiders understand the gravity of the position of a “Process Leader”.

    Then gradually a day came when everyone started using a designation of their cards with a prefix “Process Member &…”

    The point which I want to highlight from the above story is that we in India have still not and will never sacrifice our urge of “showing off”. And, one such way of doing so is through our business cards.

    Yes, designations matters to us. Because we have been accustomed to living in a society where your worth is judged from your designation. It is in our culture. Nothing wrong in it till we are living in this society.

  7. Aleksandr permalink
    April 3, 2009 3:58 pm

    In my experience, some sort of social heirarchy exists everywhere in the world. Whether it is the “who got a prettier girlfriend/wife” in socialite circles or a “what is his/her designation” in the corporate world or a classification of “cool” and “nerd” students in high school.

    In UK people would judge you largely by your education (i.e., degrees and universities) whereas in US you will find yourself judged largely by the money you make. It is just a part of our social order as human beings.

    In India such a trend might be more pronounced towards job designations since a large population and desperate competition on every sphere of life (job, marriage, etc.) might create a bigger ‘need’ for more distinctive designations than the rest of the pack.


  1. DesiPundit » Archives » The rights, the wrongs and the import of a ‘designation’

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