When ever my boss talks to my team or introduce my team to a third, he refer us as "employees", But I feel it irritating when called as "employee" instead of "team". I feel like he is treating us in a substandard way.

Is he doing correctly.

Statements like "Employees, lets eat together today.", "Photoshop all my employees in a single photo."

  • 4
    Is English your boss's native language? Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 10:46
  • 8
    I think we need some context here. In which country is this taking place? Is the native language being used? Are all the parties involved native speakers? This feels like a misunderstanding.
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 10:53
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    I feel like if that's your biggest problem with your boss, you're a lucky guy. Also, while working with people from different cultures you should have more tolerance towards them. It might be the person doesn't know how this is coming across.
    – BigMadAndy
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 11:36
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    Is he calling you/them "Mitarbeiter"? Because that has a double meaning of both employees and colleagues.
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 13:58
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    Eine solche Frage kann man nicht einfach von Deutsch in Englisch übersetzen und dann eine vernünftige Antwort erwarten. Was genau sagt der Chef auf Deutsch?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 14:30

4 Answers 4


If that's your greatest concern at the office, I'd seriously consider trying to become a lifer.

There is nothing unprofessional or improper about referring to employees as employees. "Team" is just a term that popped up as an management tool to "make employees feel more empowered".

Quit getting offended at nothing or that attitude will bleed out, and you'll eventually get your wish and hear the word "team", but in the phrase "You're not a team player".

Enjoy the job and ignore the small stuff.

  • It's not neutral and not very proper. I don't address you as "son" although you are somebody's son. In the same way, if it's not my employer speaking (a manager is usually not the employer), it's not okay to address me as "employee". It's almost like impersonating a higher authority. I wonder if this manager addresses CEO in the same way. In Germany a CEO is also an employee, theoretically.
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 17:19
  • @kubanczyk Yes, and I would know nothing about Germany, nicht vahr? Arbeiter und arbeiterin are common addresses in Germany. Calling people employees may just be a mistranslation, but thanks for telling a German all about germany. Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 0:27

It's not substandard, it's technically correct. What he does is remind you of your employer-employee relationship and the hierarchy that goes with it. It would be wise for him to try and make you forget that, for example by employing the use of the word team but he's not really being unfair with you.

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    Whether it's technically correct depends on whether the boss is really the owner or just a team leader. If they are just a team leader, they are also an "employee" and they have no "their employees" (as in "my employees"). Yes, it's hair-splitting. But so is the question.
    – BigMadAndy
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 11:39
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    Yes, psychologically he shouldn't be reminding you that you are spending your best years selling yourself short making someone else money.
    – Tombo
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 13:41
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    @BigMadAndy in german he still could use "Mitarbeiter" which translates to both co-worker and employee. Also, etiquette aside, if he wants to run his company with strict hierarchy or discipline he is free (as an owner/upper manager) to call them "employees"...."give me 20, maggot!" Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 11:37
  • @BigMadAndy would you have been OK with "employees who report to me" in lieu of "my employees?"
    – dwizum
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 17:37

This sounds like a misunderstanding.

If he speaks in english as a native german it is his misunderstanding, if he speaks in german it's probably yours.

Referring to people as "Mitarbeiter" literally translated means co-worker but can also mean employee, especially if introducing to a third party who knows he is the owner or upper management.

The literal translation of employee would be "Angestellte(r)".

I doubt that's how he addresses you personally as it does convey the hierarchy and is, while technically correct, somewhat misplaced or rude.

It is however absolutely acceptable to introduce you to a third party this way, provided he is the owner or upper management.

If he is a new business owner he could express his pride this way.

In germany, addressing an employee directly is usually done formally using the last name and putting "Frau" or "Herr" in front of it.

Lately, especially in young companies your first name is used in an informal way of addressing one.


"Team" is one of the sports metaphors that seem to have crept into BusinessSpeak, and is something that some people find more annoying than the descriptive term "employees" - it may be that your boss is one of those people. This question depends a lot on personal preference, so in that respect good practice will depend on the local and company culture.

Either way, while your second example sounds reasonable, I would find it odd for someone to use it as a form of address. Either "Employees, let's eat together today" or "Team, let's eat together today" would sound [to me, at least] like a manager who was trying too hard.

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    It's not a "metaphor". The word "team" means "group of people working together". It's not exclusive to sports. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 16:59
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    @Acccumulation - or "a set of draught animals" if we're picking definitions. In my lifetime (UK based), it's gone from being exclusive to sports to supposedly trendy management speak. That doesn't make it a definitive definition, but it does make it a valid one. Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 10:20

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