This is my “Colleague”

Fuzion gang

At what point did we end up being work “colleagues“?

I must admit that it never sits well with me when I hear the word “colleague” being used during introductions of co-workers at meetings or functions.

Is it just me or am I the only one who thinks it is the worst, dispassionate, unfeeling way to introduce someone you work with?

When I the hear the words being used I automatically think that we just “work together” and that’s about as far as any bond goes – maybe I am over analysing it but I feel it lacks emotion, depth and personally it leaves me cold.

In some organisations maybe that is the reality (I’ve worked in places like that!) but at best the “introduction” words used should convey something positive that reflects the spirit of the organisation.

So … What is the right language to describe someone you work with?

Fuzion team

The one that works best for me when I really think about it is the description “team-mate” – after all, we are on the same team, fighting for the same cause, we don’t have to particularly like each other (it obviously helps that you do like and respect who you work with) but we do wear the same jersey and the word does have a strong positive association to it.

It still feels strange to use the description as it seems to be reserved for a sporting context but even on websites and on credentials documents we often see the words “our team” being used and you see people say things like “our dedicated team will look after you” ..

… we don’t normally see a section describing the personnel as “colleagues“, but I guess you will often see in emails “one of my colleagues will contact you” … awful, maybe I am wrong?

If you use the right words it can be a powerful way in describing what kind of organisation you are.

Is it just me? .. how do you describe the people you work with?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

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16 Responses to “This is my “Colleague””

  1. Robert Kelly Says:

    Hi Greg, nice article. I have a bit to go yet. I keep referring to the “girls” or “lads” in the office. I mean it affectionately (and my team mates don’t mind) but it probably doesn’t come across well. I’m working on improving my terminology.
    Robert Kelly

    • Greg Canty Says:

      I love “one of the lads” …. it sounds like a crew that work together and like it!

    • Lynn Krenz Says:

      No offense to you Robert, but I am 52 years old and really don’t appreciate being referred to as “one of the girls in the office”. I’ve worked really hard to earn my age and stripes that come with it. I have teammates for my immediate department and colleagues for the remainder of the organization.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        Hi Lynn,

        I think you have solved my dilemma …. “teammates” for your close team and “colleagues” for the other co-workers , well done!

  2. Tom Moriarty Says:

    Hi Greg, I’m afraid I don’t agree. Colleague conveys the relationship accurately, like “Wife”, “Husband”, “Father” etc. do in other contexts. If you want to convey additional information, I suggest you qualify the noun, for example you could say “Friend and colleague” or “Close colleague”. In a small company “Team mate” may work well, but in a larger company it is confusing: A small number of people within a larger company are often formed into a team for a specific purpose: I might want to introduce you to my colleague and team-mate on the OptoLock team, and to a second colleague who is on the Gigabit team, which makes them a colleague but not a team-mate. Tom

  3. Peadar Gill Says:

    I’d lean towards the “colleague” reference. When a person is on the bottom of the pile it can be very off-putting to hear executive level people calling you a team-mate when they don’e even know your name.

    “Colleague” is impersonal enough and generic enough to cover all, IMO.

  4. Susie Hemsworth (@archiTecTsTable) Says:

    Hi Greg,
    I must agree with Tom, Colleague is a clear term, Team-mate is for peolpe that you play a sport with. I currently find the term partner very confusing, I’m never quite sure if the relationship between “partner” is business partners or life partners or both.

  5. mytutoringspace Says:

    I am in Academics- (my tutoringspace.wordpress.com)- and the term (colleague) quite appropriately describes the many people I work with- including the students and their families whom I involve with curriculum planning.
    As in other areas, separate fields of work have their own vocabulary- when instructing adults in Business English, terms like, co-worker, team-player, associate …have connotations beyond the dictionary description- think, coach, teacher, professor, advisor, mentor and all that each word might suggest.
    “we work together” is clear if in fact people do, sometimes people are simply at a space together which is not quite the same thing. I might add “we work together” if a project were happening and indeed “we” were working on it. As here- we are all on this thread; thanks Greg for starting it. I am new to Twitter and am going to post your website/question- let us know how others respond.

  6. John Leahy Says:

    Greg,
    It’s just you man (oops, I need to be careful what I call you buddy (oops I did it again mate (oops there I go again auld stock (oops ………
    Yours ??????ly
    Oh hell I give up

  7. Julie Baker Says:

    Funny, I have four ‘partners’ on my ‘team’ and had a similar question, only have been introducing them as my ‘partner’ and having to correct myself and say ‘business partner’ … so colleague would actually work better for me! Or Associate, as the last entry suggested. I do consider my ‘colleagues’ as my team and speak of them as such on my website and in marketing materials, because we definitely work as a team; however, to introduce as a teammate throws an athletic connotation into the mix, so I am not a fan. I do appreciate the thread, as I needed the alternate language myself! :O) Have a nice day!

  8. Colm Says:

    Food for thought.
    Thanks Greg

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