If John is my supervisor, then which one of the following statements sounds more natural or correct?

a. I'm one of John's direct reports.

b. I'm one of John's subordinates.

Do these two words mean the same thing?


  • In the US, (b) is the more natural-sounding option. More informally, you can also say, "I work for John." – J.R. Feb 10 '15 at 23:35
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    They are not quite the same thing. Everybody who works in the department John runs is his subordinate; but only those who rank immediately beneath John are 'direct reports', the ones who report directly to John rather than to some intermediary. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 10 '15 at 23:45

I suppose this depends on the specific business environment, but in my experience:

a. I'm one of John's direct reports.

means John is my immediate higher level boss, and directly responsible for your performance and work direction.

b. I'm one of John's subordinates.

means your position (say on an organizational chart) is below John. But it could be more than one level below John, and you might report directly to someone else.

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“Direct reports” is one of those phrases that sound strange when introduced, gain popularity over time, and eventually replace the original phrase "direct subordinates".

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