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The Dignity of Labour

August 19, 2010

Looking at today’s edition of the Gulf Daily News, I noticed a job advertisement posted by the British Embassy in Bahrain. They are looking for a Corporate Services Manager. Clearly the Embassy is enthusiastically adopting the latest thinking coming from London about boosting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s role as the promoter of Britain’s business interests abroad. Hiring a “Corporate Services Manager” implies that the person will be providing services to a corporation. Is that how embassies see themselves these days?

All power to them. It’s much sexier than Admin and Finance Manager or, to use older FCO-type parlance, Executive Officer, Administration and Finance.

Which reminds me of my days in Saudi Arabia working for a US company. Americans are great at making people feel good about the job they’re doing by creative title-making. So whereas in Britain we have storemen, the American equivalent would be inventory management specialist. A dustman would be a waste management specialist, and so on. In today’s warm and cuddly corporate environment,  US companies have invented ever more creative titles, such as Microsoft’s “evangelist”. The esteemed hosts of this blog, WordPress, have a team of “happiness engineers” waiting presumably to convert me from a state of unhappiness. Also known as technical support.

Which leads me to fantasise about the rebranding of other occupations. Can we expect in the future to go to church and hear a sermon from a pastoral care executive? Will Catholic missionaries refer to themselves as theological consultants? And will the next Archbishop of Canterbury be enthroned as Chief Salvation Officer?

Then there’s the medical profession. Cardiac engineers? Mind management professionals (mental nurses)? Other suggestions for job titles better reflecting our new corporate reality are welcome.

Of course, job titles can occasionally become a touch self-referential. In one GCC country I noticed a parking space reserved for a “Manager, Management Management”. If only I had a digital camera at the time.

O brave new world that has such people in it!

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