Dan Cable, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, says that while he doesn’t necessarily think that having a title like ‘imagineer’ will make engineers at Walt Disney any more creative, he does believe a linguistic twist can provoke some healthy engagement and introspection.
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“If you can get individuals to think about how they add unique value to a company, then just a word or two can serve as a constant reminder to them: you are necessary, you are valuable, you have a purpose,” he says.
By hiring, say, ‘inner guests’ instead of employees, “it’s possible you could attract a different sort of person and get them thinking certain thoughts even before they join the company,” says Cable. His research shows that, beyond making a splash in recruiting, creative job titles can be important vehicles for both reducing stress and energising workers.
Branding the workplace
The trend towards manipulating workplace language and ethos is largely driven by millennials, who, research shows, seek a greater purpose out of work than their predecessors. Outright word bans and suggested terms take this to the next level.
Company-wide bans have usually dealt with words or phrases that could bring negative associations to a brand. Documents released in 2014 as part of a General Motors' settlement with the US government revealed that the company had coached engineers to avoid 69 incendiary words and phrases, including ‘defect,’ ‘flawed’ and ‘death trap.’
And according to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal, which assessed confidential training manuals and a recording of store meetings, Apple coached workers at its retail stores to avoid words like ‘unfortunately,’. Instead, Apple’s ‘geniuses’ were told to say ‘as it turns out’ to sound less negative when an issue arose.