Colleague vs. Coworker: What’s the Difference?
Published March 18, 2021
Can a colleague be referred to as a coworker? People frequently interchange these two terms when they are referring to either one of the two. The similarity in the terms Colleague and Coworker makes it confusing to use correctly. While the two give the same idea regarding their meaning in professions and employment status, there is an astounding difference that not all people know. In this article, let us discuss and finally settle the comparison between colleague vs. coworker.
How Are They the Same?
Lots of people have mistaken colleagues and coworkers to mean the same thing. While it may not be proper to refer to one employee as both a coworker and a colleague, it is understandable how the two are often mistaken for each other. A colleague and a coworker share a similarity in that they work in a single organization or company. A school janitor and a school principal are coworkers but not colleagues, but a gym teacher and a mathematics teacher are. The confusion comes from having both employees work in the same place, just with different jobs and titles.
How Are They Different?
To simply put it, a colleague is an employee who works under the same company as another with whom they directly handle tasks together. Colleagues are the people that work in the same department in an organization or a company. These are people with an equal ranking in terms of their position in their place of employment. A person may belong in a team of people who work on the same task, and those people are colleagues.
On the other hand, a coworker is also someone who works under the same company or organization but does not belong in the same department. They may be someone with a higher or lower position in the company. They may also be employees who work under the same organization but belong in a different team or department. Unlike colleagues, coworkers do not necessarily work with each other but work under the same place of employment.
To explain it further, let’s discuss a sample scenario where a restaurant manager and a waitress are coworkers, but they are not colleagues. The two are coworkers as they work in the same restaurant, but they are not colleagues as the manager has a relatively higher ranking than the waitress. A possible colleague for a waitress is another waitress/waiter in the same restaurant. We can see this scenario take place in different workplaces and professions.
- Law Firm
An attorney who works in a law firm may be colleagues with a fellow attorney working on the same case. These colleagues may work on investigating and helping the same client with whatever case they may have. Coworkers in a law firm may be the security guarding the main entrance or the secretary in charge of filing papers and an attorney that works for the company. While they do not work with each other on cases, they are employees of the same law firm.
Possible colleagues in a hospital are surgeons who work together to help a patient, such as two cardiothoracic surgeons asking each other for a consult. In some instances, the two surgeons must work on one patient to help them recover, such as in severe traumatic cases such as a car crash. A patient may have several damages that require the attention of more than one surgeon. A coworker of a surgeon at a hospital may be a chief of surgery, an ambulance driver of the same hospital, and a receptionist that handles all paperwork and calls.
Working in the business industry requires a lot of planning and strategy. A group of people working on the same project to bring success to a company’s business is a group of colleagues. These are businessmen and marketing experts who formulate a plan that will bring their company to the top. Their coworkers may be the receptionist working at the customer service desk or the secretary handling all incoming calls and scheduling meetings.
Colleagues who work in a school may be the administrations’ team that keeps the school together. These consist of the principal, dean heads, vice principals, and the like. Their coworkers are the teachers, professors, security guards, school bus drivers, janitors, and janitresses. These are all people that are employees of the same school.
Working as an architect means dealing with clients about their desired design and plans for their home, business stands, etc. An architect may work with engineers and other architects in designing homes or infrastructures, and these workers are considered colleagues. The team of architects and engineers works together to give the client what they want. Coworkers of these said employees are the construction workers who do the physical work in the building.
There is a lot of difference between a colleague and a coworker, but it is sometimes hard for people to tell which is which. It is normal to have the two terms interchanged from time to time, but their differences and similarities make a difference. Having the knowledge and ability to tell the difference between a colleague and a coworker helps avoid miscommunications. Using the proper term to refer to another individual is essential, especially when addressing matters with someone. This goes to show that knowing the difference between colleague vs. coworker is vital to our knowledge.