The word “employee” has its roots in “plicare,” to bend or ply. As in, you must bend to my will.
- Collaborator? Too much baggage (blame it on WWII movies).
- Member? What is this, a club?
- Team member? Meh…
- Teammate? OK for a sports team, I guess.
- Player? May work in some contexts, but not in general.
- Crew? Kinda cool. That’s what Decurion calls its employees.
- Associate? Noncommittal (“we are not really in a relationship, just dating regularly”).
- Colleague? Used at The Morning Star Company, a billion-dollar company that’s completely self-managed.
Our solution is to refer to ourselves as “Nearsoftians” or just plain “people.” Other companies use similar terms (e.g., Zapponians at Zappos).
Nevertheless, I wish there was a more general alternative for “employee.”
And, BTW, I am not the only one that thinks that “employee” is the dirtiest word in the corporate lexicon.