Colleague vs Coworker: A Brief Analyses Why You Need to Know the Difference!

coworker vs colleague

Work occupies an integral part of our life. We spend more than half our lives at work, and our work impacts our personal life as well. Whatever profession you might be in, working relationships or professional relationships have a significant impact on your quality of life at the workplace. People around you influence you tremendously, and therefore, taking the time to develop good professional relationships goes a long way. One of the important things to take into consideration while doing so is appropriate terminology. Oftentimes, we use the terms colleague and coworker interchangeably. This might be okay in most modern work circumstances, but some work cultures might be very particular about terminology. Therefore, we must know the difference between colleague vs coworker.

But, What is a colleague, anyway?


The term ‘colleague’ derives from the French word ‘collègue’ and dates back to the 1500s. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a colleague is ‘an associate or coworker typically in a profession or in a civil or ecclesiastical office and often of similar rank or status: a fellow worker or professional.’ This essentially means that a colleague is a person in the same profession as you, with the same rank in the professional hierarchy. 

So, What about a Coworker?

The term coworker came to be used sometime after the term colleague was popularized. The word coworker gained impetus in usage during the Industrial Revolution and generally denotes a person working in the same company or organization as yourself. Although initially used only in religious connotations, the term coworker has now expanded to include professional dynamics as well. Professional hierarchy does not really matter for calling someone a coworker, and therefore, ranks of people do not change their definition of being called a coworker.

Is your Boss a coworker?

Boss a coworker - coworker vs colleague

As defined above, a coworker is anyone who works in the same organization as yourself, regardless of the professional hierarchy. Therefore, yes, your boss can technically be called your coworker. However, it is customary to refer to your boss as your boss or as your senior in most formal settings. The term coworker in this context is not very popular and does not quite fit the professional work culture of the world today. However, depending on your organization, you could choose to refer to your boss as your coworker.

The Philosophy of Coworking 

Philosophy of coworker - colleague vs coworker

In the modern world, the philosophy of coworking has been gaining popularity. Traditional definitions of coworking mean working in a particular organization together; the new definition and practice of coworking essentially mean working from the same space. Today, many cafes, workspaces and work desks have become popular, and they allow you to work with other people and use the office supplies provided by that space. Here are some reasons why coworking can be an excellent choice for you :

  1. If you do not work in a dedicated office or practice work from home frequently, it can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance. In such scenarios, coworking spaces allow you to demarcate your work life and personal life, thereby helping you be more productive and efficient.
  2. Working alone at home can get lonely sometimes. In such cases, a coworking space where everyone does their own work, and yet keeps each other silent company can be a good choice. It allows you to experience human connection while giving you the independence to work at your own will.
  3. If you are someone who works in the freelancing industry, it can be tough to set dedicated work hours or have an office space when you are just starting out. In such times, coworking spaces can be a boon. They allow you to have the space like a personal office while at the same time giving you the freedom of mobility.

While coworking is a great tradition and philosophy, it might not apply to everyone. Therefore, it is crucial to make your own choices when it comes to such decisions.

Friendships in the Professional World

Friendship - coworker vs colleague

We often question whether our colleagues can be our friends. This depends from person to person and situation to situation. While some colleagues might progress to become friends, some might just remain colleagues, which is okay. While it is important to have cordial relationships with the people at work, you can surely take the time to choose who you decide to call your friends, and that is when your colleague might even become your best friend. 

Having a friend from the same profession and the same rank as you does have its benefits. It builds much more understanding and respect and allows you to share professional struggles and difficulties together. Therefore, go ahead and make some friends out of your colleagues!

Colleague vs Coworker

7 Reasons why you should know the Difference between a Colleague and a Coworker

Coworker and colleagues
  1. It allows you to use the correct terminology towards someone who is particular about details.
  2. Also, it prevents you from referring to someone in the wrong way.
  3. It helps you build better soft skills and shows professionalism.
  4. Further allows you to build cordial relationships at the workplace.
  5. Knowing the difference between a colleague and a coworker allows you to behave appropriately with other people at work.
  6. Conversations shape up differently when professional roles are different. Therefore, being mindful of the difference between a colleague and a coworker allows you to approach them in the right way.
  7. It builds your knowledge about the traditional corporate culture.

Good relationships at the workplace are significantly crucial to our mental wellbeing. It’s not about colleague vs coworker all the time; the truth is we are working together in the same workplace so, we must forge a bond of respect, ethics and professionalism with them. 

Also Read: Ever wondered what it would be like to have a work spouse? Read on to find out.

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