Gaurav Mantri's Personal Blog.

Works With Me or Works For Me?

Question: If you’re a supervisor (read Boss), how do you describe your your relationship with your subordinates: Is it “They Work With Me” or is it “They Work For Me”? Also if you’re the subordinate, “Do You Work With Your Boss” or “Do You Work For Your Boss”?

I’ve come across these two phrases many times and I must say the occurrence of the latter (works for me) is much more than the former (works with me). There’s only a minor difference of one preposition between two phrases (For and With) but I think the impact is huge.

Firstly, I think using the phrase “Works For Me” is wrong because in my opinion you and your subordinates work for the company. Yes, it’s true that as a supervisor you set out the tasks for your subordinates but at the end, these tasks are to achieve organizational goals and not personal goals. It the company who is responsible for yours and your subordinates pay checks. If I have a butler or a driver at home (I wish I did Smile), then yes it’s OK to say that those guys work for me but I’m not sure if the same logic can be applied in an organizational setting.

Secondly and it’s more of a psychological thing than anything else. I feel that when you say somebody works for you, you’ve created a hierarchy (which is there, don’t get me wrong) and somehow created a notion that you’re superior than your subordinates (which you may be, after all you’re their supervisor Smile) but by saying these words you have unknowingly created some distance between you and your subordinates. “Works for me” somehow gives an indication that you as a supervisor in some shape of form own your subordinate. They are there to cater to your whims.

To me, the correct phrase to denote this relationship would be “Reports To Me”.

What do you think? Do let me know your thoughts by providing comments below.

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