I'm looking for a word to fit the sentence:

Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing his ____?

Here are some of the words I've tried and why I don't think they quite work.

Subordinates/Underlings: sounds too negative.

Team Members: The manager is part of another team, so I want to make more of a distinction between those on his team and those he manages.

Employees/Workers: The manager is only really a step above the others, he's not the boss, so I don't consider them his employees or workers.


14 Answers 14



a group of officers assisting an officer in command of an army formation or administration headquarters. (OED)

Although the dictionary appears to restrict this particular usage to the military, it is often used in the exact context you describe.

  • 1
    Staff seems to be everyone's pick, so I might have to concede on it, but I don't know... it feels very much like 'employees' that I usually reserve for the top dogs.
    – Julia
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 4:34

Where I used to work, we called the people who reported to a manager his/her reports. This word does not have any of the negative connotations words like subordinates or underlings carry.

Oxford Dictionaries Online lists this as the meaning of the word and also gives an example.

An employee who reports to another employee
'And, I have been a better, more consistent mentor/teacher to my direct reports.'

  • 5
    I find "direct report" to be a more common noun than just "report". Indeed, your example uses that wording.
    – AndyT
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:13
  • I agree with @AndyT - the idiom "direct report" generally refers to a staff member, and it carries the specific meaning that the manager has responsibility for these staff members. In contrast, "report" by itself could be a person, but more commonly is a verbal or written summary.
    – recognizer
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:45
  • There are also indirect reports, who are the direct reports of direct reports.
    – Tragicomic
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 17:06
  • 2
    ... and dotted-line reports.
    – Drew
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 19:41
  • 1
    @Julia - I've only heard it used in highly corporate environments (i.e. what Dilbert parodies), but it's certainly understandable in less rigid contexts, too.
    – Bobson
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 20:36


adjective 1. placed in or belonging to a lower order or rank.

Sounds too negative? How about Team?

  • 8
    This doesn't really add anything in addition to what the OP posted... Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:17
  • 3
    Thank you for your comment. Your opinion has been noted.
    – DSKekaha
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:32
  • 5
    Subordinates is the correct term, though, whether the OP wants to admit it or not.
    – stannius
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 16:12

I think @mikeagg's answer of staff is the best, but I think a note on team is useful for completeness.

In a typical large organisation, a manager has two teams:

  • The team (s)he a member of, consisting of peers such as other managers
  • The team (s)he leads; i.e. the direct reports or staff


Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing his team?

is perfectly valid, even if ambiguous. In my experience the expected meaning here would be the same as staff. If one had meant the team of peers, one would more likely have said team-mates.


Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing his supervisees?

supervisee: one who is supervised, who works under a supervisor (yourdictionary.com)

It became apparent that, as a manager, Jim was very attentive to the "human" needs of his supervisees.

Alternately, consider staffer.

staffer: (AmEng) a member of a staff (Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary)

Spindler was in the middle of his last meeting, informing his staffers of his fate.

  • 2
    I'd agree with supervisees, but staffer sounds like a worse version of staff to me. The word he's looking for should indicate the group of people, not one of them singled out.
    – Mast
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 9:45

Try minions for the kicks

a follower or underling of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one.

Or more appropriately I like associates given the context you provided above:

a partner or companion in business or at work.

I also noticed you do CS + like English. Thoughts on CS in Australia? (also am from Australia, Sydney). I might do it at university next year..or after a gap year..

  • 2
    Minion is more negative than subordinates.
    – stannius
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 16:11
  • 5
    Minion makes me think of "Was it ethical for Vader to quit without informing his storm troopers?" :-)
    – Jens
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 17:12
  • 2
    Minion hey, I used to love the word but I hate those gross, little yellow things named after it, so now I want to rinse my eyes every time I see it. As for CS, it's not too bad here (Brisbane) but can feel a little...behind the times. I hear Melbourne and Sydney is pretty great for CS courses, and you can't go wrong with a degree in it. :)
    – Julia
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 4:42

What would be wrong with the words 'department', 'section', or 'team' depending upon whatever they managed was called in the first place?



a person or thing entrusted to the care of someone.
"the babysitter watched over her charges"
"the safety of my charge"

Whomever is in charge, is charged with their charge. It is a favorite of mine, to exclaim that someone else's unruly child is not my charge.

Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing his charge?


The Oxford English Dictionary defines managee as "the person who is managed". This might be an option for you; it's perfectly neutral and, as a derived term, its meaning should be very clear in your proposed context. However, it is not a particularly common way to describe people who work for managers. If it's important for your text to sound idiomatic, you may want to go with staff or one of the other proposals here.


"Subordinates" is the correct term, it is just sometimes used negatively. Being subordinate literally means "a person under the authority or control of another within an organization".

In this case, though, you could just change the sentence...

Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing those he manages?


Subordinates - very demeaning. The first part of the definition is 'slave'. How about using something more 21st century like: crew, posse, unit, staff members, or co-workers.... just because he's on a different pay scale doesn't mean he has to make his team feel like he can do the job without them.

  • 11
    Please provide some supporting evidence that "subordinates" is very demeaning or means "slaves". I am unfamiliar with that usage, and standard dictionaries disagree with you.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 22:53

I have used grunts to describe "underlings" in the past for the laughs, but that is even more negative than subordinates.

  • 1
    A relevant answer, although is very context-specific and informal. You can only use this in informal environments.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 12:04

Peons - from reading your comment about not choosing "subordinate", I know you have your reservations about the possible negative connotations of any word chosen. I definitely get that and think it is a valid concern. However, I think that it is important to note that this is all about inflection here. If you're saying the word like stone-faced inhuman robot, or you're someone whose guts are just generally despised by all, well then you may have a problem calling your workers peons. If, however, you're at all fun or lighthearted enough that those around you enjoy being around you, well then I would say you can probably crack a joke about peons without the world ending. Cheers!

  • 1
    Aiyaaah, you may as well call them proles, at that point. Definitely not formal nor businesslike. (Unlike the OP's sentence.)
    – Tom Hundt
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:01

If I use "Superior" in a sentence like that, I'll tend to use "inferior" to describe the relationship in the opposite manner. For example,

Dawn is my superior, I am her inferior.

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