This is the Real Difference Between a Colleague and a Coworker

Coworkers Talking

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
July 19, 2024 at 4:44PM UTC

Often, we use the words “colleague” and “coworker”  interchangeably. But is there a difference between the two words and, if so, what is the main difference between a colleague and coworker, after all?

The necessary between a colleague and a coworker is that, first, a colleague is a person in your agency with whom you work and who is largely equal to you, whereas a co-worker is a person in your agency with whom you don't necessarily directly work, and they may also be superior or lower to you in rank.

Here's everything you need to know about the differences between colleagues and coworkers.

What is a colleague?

A colleague is someone at your place of employment with whom you work. This person may be on your team in your department, and you may rely on them getting their work done in order to get your work done, or vice versa. 

What is a coworker?

A coworker is someone at your place of employment with whom you don't necessarily directly work. This person may be another employee at your company with whom you never have to cross paths or communicate. Their work is not directly dependent on yours, and your work is not directly dependent on their work — though, of course, all employees in a company are working toward a larger common goal.

6 examples of colleagues and coworkers

Here are six examples of colleagues and coworkers in six different fields to help you understand their differences. While there may be some overlap depending on specific circumstances, these are general examples of colleagues and coworkers in different industries.

1. Journalism

Colleague: If you're a journalist, your colleague might be a co-reporter or editor on a story you're developing. This person has been helping you to cover the same story or to edit the story.
Coworker: If you're a journalist, your coworker might be an employee of the same media company who works on the advertisement sales side. You don't directly work with them, as they work in another department, but you both work for the same company. 

2. Developing

Colleague: If you work as a front-end developer, your colleague might be a back-end developer, as you both have to work together to build the same website or app.
Coworker: If you work as a front-end developer, your coworker might be a content copywriter. They may be employed by the same client or company, working for the same website you're building, but you don't necessarily need to work with them in order to do your job.

3. Teaching

Colleague: If you're a teacher, your colleague might be a co-teacher who helps you to plan lessons for and teach the same class.
Coworker: If you're a teacher, your coworker might be another teacher in another grade, teaching another subject. While you both work for the same school, you don't have to necessarily cross paths or do any work together in order to do your job.

4. Healthcare

Colleague: If you're a doctor, your colleague might be your nurse or helps you to care for patients.
Coworker: If you're a doctor, your coworker might be another doctor who works for the same healthcare institution but who does not care for the same patients as you.

5. Design

Colleague: If you work in design, your colleague might be someone who is also a designer. Perhaps you are planning the architecture of a park, for example, while your colleague is in charge of planning the greenery design, working as a landscape architect.
Coworker: If you work in design and your job is to create logos for clients, your coworker might be someone who is in charge of writing content for that client, for example. You don't need to work together to create the logo (in theory, though the logo is probably going to be largely dependent on the content).

6. Sales

Colleague: If you work in sales, your colleague might be someone else on your sales team who is helping you to achieve a shared sales goal for the team.
Coworker: If you work in sales, your coworker might be someone who is in charge of customer services. While you sell your product or client to services, the customer services work with existing customers. There may be some overlap in communication with customers but, ultimately, your focus is on procuring new customers and their focus is on retaining current customers.
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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for working collaboratively with colleagues? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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