Safety Job Titles Don’t Matter, It Can Even Hold You Back
On paper, job titles may look important as it is usually seen as an indicator of position and salary. But believe me when I say that titles don’t matter.
This may come as a surprise to you. So, let’s talk about this in detail as well as how we can leverage this information to our advantage.
Why Safety Job Titles Don’t Matter
To answer this directly, titles don’t matter because it’s all made up. Yes, you heard that right. Companies have the power to freely create job titles.
This is why when you start looking for a new job, you’ll find different titles although having the same job description and responsibilities. In fact, those in the human resource department can alter the names of job titles if needed. For example, when sidestepping certain labor laws or avoiding giving certain benefits.
So, if titles are made up then they don’t matter. Then what does? Your value. This is reflected in the job description and job responsibilities. These are the things that really matter. That is why it is important to make sure that you’ve read these carefully because unethical companies exploit this. For example, they might give a title of a safety specialist but the description and responsibilities are those of a manager.
Working Beyond the Safety Job Title
Sometimes we are unaware that job titles hold us back. We reason that we don’t need to do certain tasks because it is not part of our responsibilities and we are not paid to do it. And that is fine.
However, if you want to quickly move up the career ladder, it is necessary to work beyond the title, to work beyond your responsibilities. Because believe me or not, your management team notices if you are exerting effort beyond what you can do.
But, even though they notice your efforts, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll reward you for it with a promotion or an increase. Either way, what matters is that working beyond further builds your value. It further improves your management and leadership skills. This will gives you leverage to negotiate for better pay and benefits in the future. And if they don’t, you can always find a new company where they’ll appreciate your value.
I know you’re wondering what I think the various job titles in safety should be. And, of course, I have an opinion, But that’s just it – it’s my opinion and matters to the same extent as those leaders brainstorming titles when hiring their next safety leader.
So stop getting stuck on job titles, take on responsibility, and consistently strive to be better than they expect.
Why Job Titles Are Not As Important As You Think
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] One of the top questions I receive is Brye, I'm a such and such safety specialist, safety coordinator, safety manager. What exactly should I be responsible for? But here's the thing, whatever your title is, doesn't matter. Titles are actually a construct, and letting your title determine your value is backwards.
So let's dive deeper into this.
Hey there, Safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast, I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 years, Safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.
At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management, support,
[00:01:00] and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader. You're in the right place.
Let's get to it.
Hello! Hello, Hello, my safety friends. How are you today? Now, before I get into today's episode, I just wanna do a little hurricane talk because I know that you know that I'm in Florida . So what happened this week with the hurricane was devastating. Here's the thing, like I've lived in Florida since 89, so like over 30 years, and I've been exposed to many, many hurricanes, and we kind of like know the path that they're gonna take.
Like we know how unpredictable they are, but the news just kind of makes them, you know, Oh, this is gonna be so terrible all the time. Like it's this crying wolf thing almost, right? Where they are always like, this is gonna
[00:02:00] be awful and awful and awful. And then when it hits, it's like nothing. So, When this was coming, that's kind of how I was thinking.
I was like, This is gonna be bad. Hopefully it slows down before it hits the coast. I personally really thought that it was going to hit more towards the panhandle. I remember sitting on a plane on Saturday telling the person next to me who was going to vacation at Disney that, Hey, you got nothing to worry about.
It's gonna hit the panhandle. And it literally turned, And then I even said to her, I was like, Well, you're so far inland, even with Disney, that if it does hit the Tampa area, you should still be okay because you're so far inland. And now I just feel awful. It's like every so often the world needs to remind us that, you know, awful things happen and awful things can happen, and we always should keep our guard up.
And I just feel terrible for the people in those areas. I know that they
[00:03:00] will recover because we, Floridians are resilient and we have been through lots of hurricanes and lots of recoveries and our building codes have improved and all of those things. So I think it's terrible. I know as of last count there was 80 deaths and it's just awful.
Now, how am I doing while I live? Just like I told the lady on the plane so far inland that hurricanes do not really bother me. I get some trees down and I may lose power. In this case, it missed me completely. My only effect was I lost internet for a couple of days, but I have a backup internet, so that wasn't a problem.
But what was surprising to me was that my daughter who just moved to Orlando, her entire neighborhood flooded. Now she's okay. She was home with me and her apartment is okay, and her parking garage is okay. So she didn't have any negative effects from it. But what it was this
[00:04:00] reminder of is that even when you're as far inland as Orlando, which was extremely far inland for this storm, you could still get devastating effects.
As of last night, there was still standing water in most of the parking lots and apartment buildings around where she lives. So it just kind of reminded me like I know where I personally live is a flooding area and we've had like so much rain lately. I think that the water just doesn't know where to go.
Everything is already soaked up. So maybe that's why there's all this standing water everywhere, but it put me in my place. Let me just say that. So Ian, I heard the message and you put me in my place, but just so you guys know, if you are wondering. I'm perfectly fine. I lost an internet for a few days and that was okay, and things could have been much worse, and my thoughts are just with all those people down south.
Okay, so onto our topic, today, What I wanna talk about is something that is
[00:05:00] often misunderstood and that is job titles. Sometimes these are seen as like a fixed thing that should be consistent across all companies and all organizations. You know, if you are a safety director at one location, it should mean the same thing if you're a safety director at another location.
That is not true, and I think that the confusion comes from the fact that many people work their way up into safety. And they're not coming into safety with a business or an HR background. So if you actually went to college for business, or if you've ever worked in HR, or maybe if you went to college for safety, I'm not really sure if they really teach this in safety degrees.
In fact, I'm almost sure that they don't. It's more business degrees. But if you went to college for business, you kind of understand some of the background of
[00:06:00] job titles. And especially if you've ever worked in hr, cuz I know like some safety managers come from an HR background as well where safety was part of their job and then they switched and just made it their full time job.
So let me tell you a truth that you need to understand and that is job titles don't matter. What matters is the value that you provide the company. So the only time that your job title actually matters is when there are these corporate or business rules attached to that job title that give you extra benefits.
And even then I've seen them kind of go back on what those benefits should be. And I'll explain that in a little bit, but like I've actually seen a company say, Well, if you're a director, let's say you get these benefits, but then they make safety a director, and then they don't get those benefits. So the job title doesn't matter because the business or the company or the corporation can do whatever they want when it comes to job titles.
[00:07:00] So let's talk about where they come from. And why I say job titles are construct is that they are 100% made up. Literally. Like I have been in rooms with corporate officers where they are literally asking, what do we call this role? And then everybody just kind of brainstorms ideas. So they always start with a job description.
This is why your job description matters so much of exactly what they want the job to do. And then they go, Okay, what do we call this role? So let me ask you. If job titles are made up, then that has to mean they don't matter. Right. I mean, I remember working for a place where the job title they gave me was risk Manager, and then the job I did was environmental health and safety, actually environmental health, safety and transportation, plus some security. So when I hear the term risk
[00:08:00] manager, I generally think finance or healthcare, but this was the title that they gave me. So what I want you to realize is that the title itself doesn't matter. It's the job description that matters and the responsibilities that they give you that matters. So why are there so many different job descriptions other than the fact that they are made up?
And it's because every business calls things differently. Some people call it environmental health and safety. Some people call it environmental occupational health and safety. That's a new one I've seen recently. I've seen Safety and health officer. I've seen Health and Safety officer. I have seen specialist coordinator, manager, supervisor, director, VP.
Every business calls things a different name and, and different leaders come from different backgrounds, so that way they have their own verbiage for the role.
[00:09:00] And I will never forget, I was, I was applying for jobs and I saw this job for a WHS. And WHS the shorthand that I have always used for a warehouse.
And so I'm looking at it and the job title is WHS Supervisor, and I'm like, Oh, they need a warehouse supervisor. And I cannot remember what the W standard for in that title, but it probably took me several times of seeing this. And I was like, Why is this coming up when I'm searching for safety director roles?
And it took me a moment, and in one time I was so curious. I just clicked on it and I realized, Oh, it's a safety position. So companies just come up with their own titles and their own verbiage. Now, another reason why you might see this is that I have also seen companies change their titles to sidestep their benefits as well as regulations.
So directors not getting the director's stock options. I've actually seen that and I've
[00:10:00] also seen them change titles so that way they're not forced to rehire laid off workers. So in our labor laws, if you get laid off for a job, they cannot rehire for that same job without offering it to you first. So instead they just change the job and say, Oh no, it's a new job.
So that way I don't have to offer it to the laid off workers. So a little sneaky, but I've definitely seen lots and lots of companies do that. Now another thing that I've seen is that companies will purposely give a lower job title. So they may give the title of specialist, but then give the responsibilities that are similar to a manager's role, and this allows them to lower the salary based on this statistics for a specialist role.
So basically they would be paying a lower salary because when you go to salary.com or Glassdoor,
[00:11:00] or you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and all of that, it's a lower salary where a manager's role is a much higher salary, as is a director's role if you do those same job searches. So they say, Oh, well, let's call it a W H S, which I still can't remember what that stood.
And that way you can give it this lower salary. So I do wanna caution you against that. Like if you feel like this is what your company is doing and that they're using your job title to limit your salary, your benefits, that's an issue. I personally like to work for ethical companies, and that is an unethical practice and a warning sign.
So, for example, a grocery store recently changed hands, so it was owned by one group and now it's owned by another group. And the new management team at this grocery store, and I know this cuz I know some workers there have reduced the hours. So that way when it
[00:12:00] comes time to do insurance renewals, there's going to be a whole group of people that they don't have to provide health insurance for.
And the way health insurance works for those who have never had an HR background is that you have to work an average of so many hours a week. I believe it is over 29 hours a week on average. And then if the company offers health insurance benefits, they have to offer it to you. So back in my hotel management days and I had to actually purchase health insurance for my employees.
We also had the rule that like 75% had to participate in the health insurance plan, which is why companies end up offering it at a lower cost. So that way they get more people to sign up that if you don't get like a certain percentage to actually sign up or say that they're not even eligible because they have plans elsewhere.
Then you can't offer health insurance or you can't get that group health insurance benefit. So what this grocery store was doing was
[00:13:00] basically saying this large group of people aren't even eligible for health insurance because they don't work over 29 hours a week. And at first you might think, Well, that's their choice, right?
They're an employer and it's the labor issue. Maybe there isn't enough work to provide these people more than 29 hours a week, but unfortunately, a memo was accidentally released that said, Do not allow people to work over 29 hours. We don't wanna have to provide health insurance. So stuff like that signals that they just don't care about their staff and instead of sitting there fighting them on that, just go like, Okay, it's time to move on.
Let me find a better company to work for. Or accept the fact that you're working for, you know, a company that doesn't care about their employees or uses unethical practices. So what I want you to get out of today's episode is that I don't want you to let your job title guide your work because of all of these things, because it is made up because companies do whatever they're used to and whatever their
[00:14:00] verbiage is, because they might have unethical practices or maybe they're trying to sidestep some rules.
I don't want your job title to be the guide for what your work is. Because I've seen people in the specialist role try to stay in their lane, right? They, Oh, I'm just a specialist. I'm only going to do what a specialist should do, which is where I think those questions that people ask me come from. And I feel like this attitude is an attempt to like to show the man that they get what they pay for.
But it never works out in the safety specialist favor or coordinator, or whatever the position is. It never works out in your favor. You're never showing the man. All you are is hurting yourself. There is a book by Cal Newport, and I'll link it in the show notes called Be So Good That They Can't Ignore You and this is what I want you to do instead.
Instead of like complaining that, hey, they're not paying me enough. My job title's not
[00:15:00] enough. You know that's on you. You accepted it. If you don't like it, then start looking elsewhere. Don't quit your job until you have another one , but start looking elsewhere if you're not happy about that aspect of. Or take on the attitude of, I'm gonna be so good that they can't ignore it, and I'm going to prove my worth.
So that way I can negotiate a raise or promotion. Because if you're staying in your lane, all you are is demonstrating to them that you're not a leader and that you are the type of person that only does what you're told. And this is okay if that's what you wanna do. If you have no aspirations to move up or move over or make more money and you're really happy at what you're doing.
Like I used to say, I'm gonna retire one day and become a receptionist because I love doing all the receptionist duties in that way. I don't have to take on responsibility. That's okay. If that's where you are in your career, that's okay. But if you're doing this
[00:16:00] because you wanna prove a point to them, it's gonna backfire on you.
So instead, Prove to them you're worth and your value, and likely, regardless of your job title, you have the same goals and responsibilities that somebody in a higher job title has. Especially if you're a team of one. So what I want you to think about yourself, if you're a team of one, right, and you have a job title of safety manager, specialist or coordinator, and you are the only one doing safety, you are the Chief Safety Officer, my friend.
Act like it. You take on the responsibilities of it. Don't let the fact that your title is not Chief Safety Officer hold you back and always go a little bit outside of your job description. Push yourself and learn how to do the tasks and to make the points and speak the way that you should outside of your job description.
[00:17:00] This is how you grow as a leader, stretching yourself and working those leadership muscles. So I remember my boss telling me one time that something I was doing and asking was none of my business or not my job when I stepped out of my lane and what this did, instead of knocking me down, which is what I believe she was trying to do, it forced me to improve my argument of why I should be involved.
It allowed me to demonstrate my worth. And leadership will always recognize when you're going above and beyond and when you are putting the organization first, even if they don't recognize it with a better title or salary, you are still a better leader for it, which makes you more marketable in the job market, right?
And makes it so that way you can get that next role and step up the ladder if that's what you wanted to do.
[00:18:00] Now I know what you're wondering, what I think the various job titles and safety should be. And of course I definitely have my opinions because I'm an opinionated person, but that's just it. It's my opinion.
It's probably made up in my head as well, just from my experiences, and it matters to the same extent as those leaders who were brainstorming a title when they were hiring their next safety leader. Your job title doesn't matter, so stop getting stuck on what your job title is and instead, take responsibility and consistently strive to be better than they expect you to be.
Alrighty, my safety friend. I will talk to you next week, and you have an amazing day.
Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is
[00:19:00] my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.
Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next students only live session.
Bye for now.
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Highlights From This Episode:
- Why Your Safety Job Title Doesn’t Matter
- How to Show the Value You Provide to the Company
- The Job Description and the Responsibilities Matters More than Your Title
- Different Leaders Come from Different Backgrounds and Have Their Own Verbiage
- Why Companies Give Lower Titles
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Even if they don’t recognize you with a better title or salary, I want you always to remember that you’re a better leader. No titles can define how great you are with your work.
And I want to hear your thoughts about this episode. Please share them in the comment below.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.