Posted by Kevin Dowling on Aug 28, 2018 10:52:55 AM

I recently encountered a bit of a discussion on a colleagues LinkedIn account. He had posted a link an article that addressed how a manager should interact with their employees. What was interesting was that the discussion below the link was far more interesting than anything on the article itself.

It meandered between two folks, both apparently quite senior in their respective companies. Both having a civil discussion around what the best way to name someone who reports into you should be. Ultimately it came down, in my mind, to a double quandary: you need to address that the people reporting into you are somehow below your rank, and thus you command their respect & that you also need to be inclusive of all types of people.

"Direct report," "subordinate," "employee," all came up among other suggestions.

I chimed in and stopped the discussion dead. I'm not braggi... I am bragging. It was a ridiculous conversation with a really simple answer. The people reporting into you can be titled: "colleagues."

No modern company, especially in tech, requires militaristic top-down views on corporate hierarchy. Not these days when autonomy & transparency are key tenets of most modern businesses. Moreover, no modern company should demand that their management layer is respected. That's earned just as much as the respect from the management is earned by the "subordinates." And finally, from my view, everyone in an organisation are working towards some common goal. But they're doing different jobs. Management is just a different job that requires different skills and viewpoints to someone who's doing individual contributor work. As a leader, I absolutely know that I'm the worst person to do the IC role. I can help because I have experience there, sure, but they're better at the day-to-day than I am! Much in the way that (hopefully!) they're not that interested in taking my job & that I'm better at keeping that birds eye view than they are.

The long & short of this weird story is this: if you're in a position where you have someone reporting into you, they're your colleague. Not your property. And certainly not someone that must respect you because they're below you in some sort of military-style hierarchy.