Sometimes the thesaurus offers unspeakable truths

What options remain when your esteemed colleagues defy (prudent) description?

What options remain when your esteemed colleagues defy (prudent) description?

Among the tasks here at Ragan Communications are the writing and editing of newsletters for managers. Most of the material is advisory in nature—tips and how-to articles, tactics and potential pitfalls.

Generally, the reader is a middle manager who seeks timely help in performing his tasks—chief among which is motivating and overseeing his employees.

The sheer volume of the headlines and body copy requires variations in language, notably other terms for “employees.” We use “workers,” “team,” “staff/staffers,” and “group.” A lot.

Less often we might go with “colleagues” or “co-workers,” both of which have a peer connotation that some managers might not want to entertain.

So what alternatives are there?

We consulted the trusty thesaurus for help in finding other designations.

Deputies or assistants: These are rather title-specific, so they don’t quite work in a generic sense.

Charges: That suggests a batch of toddlers handed off to a nanny. Unless Mary Poppins is your reader, that probably won’t work, either.

Sycophants, toadies, boot-lickers (and other more descriptive terms that decorum precludes): These probably apply to only a select, self-appointed few. And the less said about them, the better.

Subordinates: A bit demeaning

Underlings and inferiors: Worse still.

Minions, lackeys, peons, flunkies: Oh, a manager might think that way, but if he or she were to actually have that in print on his desk where someone might see it, we’re entering Captain Bligh territory.

Vassals, serfs, chattels: Don’t even go there. Don’t. Even. Go. There.

Knaves, pages, varlets. See previous entry.

Hmmmm. Maybe “colleagues” isn’t so bad after all. Suggestions, anyone?

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.