What is the best word to refer to the person that I (directly) supervise, in the context of a corporate workplace? The closest I can think of is employee, but that doesn't directly convey a direct supervisor relationship.

Other options I can think of are apprentice (usually used to refer exclusively to someone who is still learning where I come from), underling (patronizing), and worker (again not specific).

For example when describing a project:

My employee designed the front-end of the system while I worked on the critical business logic.
  • 6
    The workers being supervised don't have a role of being supervised, unlike the supervisor whose role is that of supervision. That's why it's difficult to find an opposite for supervisor.
    – Chris
    Dec 15 '12 at 0:12
  • 6
    Well, I suppose if underling is too "patronizing," that would rule out minion...
    – J.R.
    Dec 15 '12 at 1:35
  • 3
    @J.R.: And most likely hireling, lackey, menial, retainer, dogsbody, skivvy, gofer and all the other ways your boss actually refers to you when he's talking to other bosses. Dec 15 '12 at 1:40
  • 1
    Could you provide more context? Your options suggest a work environment. Dec 15 '12 at 2:43
  • 5
    Isn't subordinate the word?
    – Mohit
    Dec 15 '12 at 3:48

10 Answers 10


direct-report is often used.

I'm having a meeting on Tuesday for all my direct reports.


From Merriam-Webster, a supervisee is a person being supervised. The word has over 600,000 google hits, so it isn't really outdated.

  • 1
    IMHO this sounds definitely too old-fashioned for the indicated context. In a reference I would use the person's (first) name or refer to "my direct report", if necessary.
    – Drux
    Dec 15 '12 at 17:08
  • Do you work in IT (as in "my supervisee designed the front-end of the system ...")? I think the term may serve better in other contexts, but of course there may not be a definite "best" (counted or weighed :) answer.
    – Drux
    Dec 16 '12 at 10:58

What about 'subordinate'? Perhaps a tinge too militaristic, but it is very close in my mind.

  • Subordinate is anyone falling below the supervisor in the hierarchy; the OP is asking for those being directly supervised.
    – Jim
    Dec 15 '12 at 4:20
  • 5
    Not a word, but a phrase immediate subordinate comes to mind!
    – Mohit
    Dec 15 '12 at 5:13
  • @Jim, good point. Perhaps someone with Greek or Latin fluency can make up a word for us with the precise meaning OP intended. Dec 15 '12 at 16:53

Specific context is important because amongst my friends there are the following supervisor/supervised relationships:

Team Lead / Team Member

Office Manager / Staff Member

Manager / Direct Report

Unit Coordinator / Unit Staff Member


Someone who is in charge of others has charges:

charge n
5. One that is entrusted to another's care or management:

  • I imagine in practice most people speak of my staff if they really are "in charge". But OP's supervise implies a somewhat looser relationship - maybe little more than mentor/mentoree, where it would still be credible for the mentor to speak of his charge. Dec 15 '12 at 1:36
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    All OP's examples are from the workplace: employee, apprentice, underling, worker, I'm not convinced charge is what he's looking for.
    – Jim
    Dec 15 '12 at 4:19
  • This doesn't sound like an employee but more like a ward or foster child.
    – Mitch
    Dec 15 '12 at 21:49

Words not yet mentioned include aide (“An assistant”) and assistant (“A person who assists or helps someone else”). For example, “My assistant designed the front-end of the system.”

Serf (“(strategy games) A worker unit”), slave, and servant also have not been mentioned, but perhaps are no more acceptable than minion, hireling, lackey, menial, retainer, dogsbody, skivvy, gofer mentioned in comments.


When speaking of my direct reports I use the term "staff". When speaking to my direct reports I use the term "team" or more specifically "team member". During annual reviews of direct reports I may reference my relationship to them as I'm their "supervisory support".

Avoid the term "subordinate" as that can have a "less than" connotation.


When I hire people, I call them my workers.


subordinate or supervisee. I would try those


Sometimes,it depends on the context. If you are presenting your subordinate to someone outside the business, i.e., a client or competitor the most magnanimous way is to say, "This is my associate." (Makes both of you look good)

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