I have been trying to share MT methods and recommendations with my extremely large, globally dispersed organization via internal blogs.  Every time I write "directs" people jump on me for calling employees something that they view as offensive.  This almost always gets us off-topic.  How can I address this effectively so that reasonable people know I'm not being offensive when I use the term and we can get back to the effective management techniques I'm advocating for?  Thanks for the help :)

Kevin1's picture

Hi AprilFrench

Have you asked them what term they would prefer?  Perhaps they have a perfectly reasonable and usable alternative.

'Direct' is less common where I'm from and I'm more likely to use 'team member' and save using 'direct' or 'direct report' when I am specifically, and only, talking about a 1 level relationship and not the extended relationship.

Kind regards



Aprilfrench's picture

I'll ask them what they'd prefer next time it happens.  I think they'd rather I say "employee" but when I use "direct" I'm almost always referring to the supervisOR/supervisEE relationship.

sitbonzo's picture

My Staff, one of my personal hates. I work WITH people and I have colleagues. I will never refer to a member of my team as Direct or saff. eugh.

US41's picture

I refer to the people who work for me as team members, team mates, or coworkers.

I do not like the pyramid org chart for my team. I view myself as being at the same level as everyone else, but I have a different job, and my job is assigning work, helping out randomly, raising things up to higher management, getting help, and ensuring that everyone is able to carry their fair share and perform at their best. That might mean I am giving feedback, removing someone from the team, adding someone to the team, requiring training, etc. 

None of that puts me above those people. It sort of puts me below them. So I don't call them my directs these days. 

mrreliable's picture

It's all warm and fuzzy to say, "I'm just one of the gang," but if you listen to a few of the podcasts, you'll hear the phrase, "When you're speaking with a direct, you have 'I'm your boss and I can fire you' tatooed to your forehead."

Anyone who's been part of a competitive sports team knows the coach is not "on the same level" as the players. What the coach says goes, including enforcing standards and benching players if they don't live up to those standards. There's no closer analogy to a business manager than a sports coach or manager, and the goal is the same. Help the players, or team members, be as successful as humanly possible.

It's not a matter of being "better" than the team members. If the coach was a better player, he or she would be playing the game, not coaching. It is a matter of being in authority. If you don't have someone in authority, your team is not going to be successful.

I see nothing negative in the term "direct." To be honest, I see any offense taken as someone looking for an excuse to be offended. Why is it offensive? Because it infers that one person is in charge and has authority over other people? That's the reality.

I'll use my brother as an example. He was born with cerebral palsey. He got so sick and tired of people being condescending about how they referred to people with disabilities. Way back in the early days, he was "lame," then, "crippled," then "handicapped," then "disabled," then "special." They kept changing the term to make themselves feel better. Each and every term had the exact same negative connotion. Go figure. He looked at it as condescension, and I agreed with him. You can't make the reality go away by trying to put a touchy-feely term on it.

I have no problem with calling employees "team members," in fact that's what I call mine. I do have a problem with trying to pretend that there shouldn't be any chain of command or authority structure in a business organization. The word "directs" is a shorthand version of "direct reports," which accurately describes reality.

Which is the real issue? The word? Or the reality?

CarlCoach's picture

Thank you for your reply This is a very important topic for all owners of companies and for me in particular.