How justifiable is it to use the term “subordinate” at work place?

Have you ever come across the term “subordinate” at work place? Many a time, I find senior colleagues using the word subordinate to refer to juniors colleagues. Every time I come across a situation like this, I question myself how justifiable it is to use the term subordinate to refer to someone who is junior to you.

The word “subordinate” does exist in the so called “corporate dictionary”; so what’s wrong in using this word? Although we can’t deny the existence of this word in the dictionary and its meaning, it is inappropriate to use this word at work place to refer to fellow colleagues.

Again, I pause and think. Who is the writer of this dictionary? Aren’t we ourselves are the writers of the same? Well, when we call someone “subordinate”, it demeans one’s contribution indicating that he/she is a less important or less value drive resource to an organization. The word has a negative connotation which only a handful of people can understand. Subordinate has a Latin origin; it consists of sub (under) + ordain, meaning placed in an inferior rank. It means “placed in a lower order” or “made subject to someone”. But, at work place, no one is actually “subject to someone” or and no role is less important. Rather everyone is a valued employee and each employee’s contribution is as important as that of his/her senior.

Along with subordinate, there are a number of alternative terms such as such as juniors, team, team members,employees,staff teammates, assistants, associates etc. But, why do we choose to use  “subordinate”? Is it our love for power that calling someone subordinate, I can elevate myself to the “master position”? Or is it our lack of understanding and inability to look beyond the denotation and understand  the connotations of the word “subordinate”? Or, are we the propagators of the colonized mindset and fond of the master-slave relationship?

Well, having read and researched a lot on terms like “subordinate” ” other” ” slave” “objectification ” and many more such terms , probably I become too conscious and critical about when somebody uses terms like “subordinate” or “working under me” to refer to fellow/junior colleagues. Still I remember, how  I dared to oppose one of my senior colleagues who addressed us as “subordinates”.

I know my post may sound offensive to many…but! If we look at the etymology of “subordinate” word and understand its connotations, definitely we would refrain ourselves form using this word at workplace. And, it is 21st century and we address everyone by name!


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