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Can I say that I want him to work for me in the sense that I want him to work at my company?

Does it have any negative connotations, like association with slavery or objectifying the person?

Is there a better but short way to say the same?

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3 Answers

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Once again, this depends on the context. I could see this sentence sounding just fine, or sounding a bit awkward, depending on the circumstances.

Let's say your company is about to hire a new person, and you will be that person's supervisor. A search committee is in charge of the hiring. You've looked through a stack of résumés, and brought three finalists in for interviews. One person (I'll call him Joe), has impressed everyone greatly. During a meeting to discuss the final details of the hiring, the discussion goes like this:

Committee Member: "Well what did you think of Joe?"
You: "Oh, he impressed the heck out of me. I'd love to have him work for me."

That remark shows you're enthusiastic about making him a member of your team. Assuming you're a fair boss who treats your workers with decency and respect, there's nothing negative about that statement; it conveys respect for Joe's potential.

Then again, we could change the scenario around, and a remark that sounded enthusiastic and positive can suddenly sound domineering and creepy. Assume a team of well-credentialed professionals have been hired to do some kind of work, but you like to take advantage of that, and frequently assign them menial tasks. You ask them to walk down to the company cafeteria and bring you back coffee. You give them menial secretarial work, such as asking them to retype memos for you. Another manager in your company thinks maybe you're abusing your authority, and decides to mention that to you:

Follow Manager: "Don't you think maybe you're asking your engineers to do a few things outside their job description?"
You: "What's wrong with that? I want them to work for me."

In other words, there's nothing inherently wrong with alluding to the fact that the employee works for the employer. I work for my boss, and I wouldn't be insulted if my boss said that I work for him.

If you ever say something like, "I want him to work for me," and you think it may have sounded awkward, then you can always follow that up with something like, "I think he'd do a great job," to emphasize how you meant your remark as an indication of respect for that person's abilities, potential, or work ethic, as opposed to some selfish gain.

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Thanks for the detailed answer. The context is this: another company hired a cool guy, and I say in an informal conversation (with a bit of regret and envy) «I want him to work for me». Do you think it's fine? –  R C Nov 23 '12 at 9:57
    
There is no awkwardness in the "work for me" part, but maybe "want" sounds a little off in that context. However, there's nothing wrong with: I'd like to have him work for me, or I'd love to have him work for us. Even I would want him working for me is okay, too. "I want" sounds a bit off because of the verb and its tense. –  J.R. Nov 23 '12 at 10:04
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Most of us work for someone without feeling we're slaves (well, most of the time, anyway). If you want something shorter you can say 'I want to employ him.'

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For something less formal:

I would love to have him/her "on my team."

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