I recently saw a TV show where an executive referred to an assistant as a low-level employee.

Is it considered appropriate or derogatory?

closed as primarily opinion-based by anongoodnurse, Phil Sweet, Drew, Mari-Lou A, Dan Bron Jun 21 '16 at 13:41

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    It's probably less derogatory than many terms that might be used. Employees tend to be naturally categorized by level/status/pay grade, and some terminology will always be present to this effect. – Hot Licks Jun 18 '16 at 22:20
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    I thought it meant to be low on the org chart. – Elan Hasson Jun 18 '16 at 22:23
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    The two tend to correspond. – Hot Licks Jun 18 '16 at 22:36

Deciding, definitively, whether something "is offensive" is extremely difficult to do, since it depends so much on opinion.

Much more useful is to ask if something risks causing offence, and I would say that the phrase "low level employee" definitely risks causing offense. That is to say, some people would be offended and some wouldn't, but you don't know which of those groups the employees in question belong to.

So, given that you know that it risks causing offence, you, the writer, can decide whether it's appropriate or not. It may be appropriate if you were including yourself, for example, which might turn it into a more light-hearted statement, to reduce the risk of causing offence. Or, you might not care if you offend people. It's up to you, writer.


Beats the neck out of being called "flunky." If I were called a "low-level employé," I would not take offense, particularly if the concern for which I work were large enough to have the possibility for advancement.

I note that my response has been downvoted. I am not perturbed by that. I was asked for my opinion on a certain question. In a spirit of honesty I gave mine, with which the downvoter evidently does not agree. How wonderful it would be to live in a country run by the downvoter: I would no longer have to trouble myself to have an opinion of my own.

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    You wouldn't? I certainly would. I'd probably bridle at being called "low-level" anything, even if the label were accurate. Nonetheless, this information would probably have been better offered as a comment, because it's merely an assertion, instead of an answer, for which we prefer substantiation. – Dan Bron Jun 19 '16 at 12:01
  • I didn't downvote you, but I will remind you of my earlier comment (which the downvoter likely upvoted): you were not asked for your opinion, you were asked for an answer. As in, an objective, authoritative, sourced or argued answer. Now, sometimes, mere assertions survive - some even thrive - as answers on SE, but only in those cases where everyone agrees. I do not think you'll find everyone agrees that one would not take offense at being called a "low-level employee". – Dan Bron Jun 21 '16 at 11:44
  • @Dan Bron \\ (1.) Howdy, Dan. This discussion reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon I once saw. Scene: The owner of a firm is introducing his son to a group of his employés. Owner: "This is my son. I want him to start off at the bottom, so I'm putting him in charge of this department." (2.) I was just thinking, perhaps "entry-level" would be less abrasive or demeaning. – Senex Ægypti Parvi Jun 21 '16 at 13:05
  • Yes, "entry-level", or for more senior roles which are nevertheless "leaves" (no children) on the org chart, "individual contributor". – Dan Bron Jun 21 '16 at 14:59

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