One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing someone refer to his employees as possessions. President Obama is one of the greatest culprits. “My team, my Secretary of Defense, my this and my that,” he says.

This is a kid's book by Patricia Marx, illustrations by the talented Roz Chast, who has created New Yorker cartoons for decades

We do not own the people who work for us. We may pay their salaries, but they do jobs in return. They are flesh and blood, not decorative accessories for our living rooms.

I guess there are times when saying “my” is appropriate, such as in “my husband, my daughter, my teacher and my boss.” I’m not wild, though, when someone says “my attorney” (sounds so pretentious), but “my doctor” and “my hairstylist” seem fine.

I think we need to think before we use the word “my.” A young man recently–and officiously– referred to the two people who report to his girlfriend as “her staff.” The girlfriend is all of 23. When I had a staff of 200, I referred to them as ” the editors and the salespeople,” not “my staff.”

Don’t you think it’s much classier to refer to Bill Gates as “The Secretary of Defense,” rather than “My Secretary of Defense?”


0 Responses to “My-my!”

  1. Ashanta Smith says:

    Robert, Not Bill

  2. Susan says:

    I’m late to this little discussion but I take issue with Lisa, above. A President chooses a political appointee & in that sense he or she is working for the President. If that person’s performance does not please whoever is President, they are gone. It is so annoying to see people take issue with something that everyone else has always said…I wonder if Linda had a problem with this during Republican administrations.

  3. Lisa says:

    Geri-you are right to be irritated. The people working for the federal government are not employees of Barack Obama. They work for the people of the United States and it would have been more appropriate to have referred to each one with “the” not “my”- especially in recognizing a job well done. Unfortunately, this is all too typical of Mr. Obama, just another subtle attempt at taking credit for something he didn’t actually do.

  4. Kate Line Snider says:

    It’s easier to say “my attorney”, especially in a divorce case, than to go into a long rigmarole about who represents who. My employees? Sure. Paid with my money!

    My husband? He better be mine, and nobody else’s. My children? My grandchildren ? You bet they’re mine. Their father-grandfather ( my ex) is dead. He’s not anyone else’s ex; nobody but me gave birth to his children, and the second wife, the widow, is HIS.My debt on his account….? Mine. On and on…

    You’re smart and savvy enough to have a blazing career and have all that staff, and you’re making an issue of THIS?? My, my, what NONSENSE!!!!

    • Geri says:

      Hi Kate,

      didn’t mean to make an issue. just sharing a pet peeve.


      • Kate Line Snider says:


      • Kate Line Snider says:

        Some people- especially young people- like to feel important so if this girl wants to call 2 gofers “my staff”, it’s okay by me!

  5. Duchesse says:

    People also say “my country”, “my rabbi”,”my supermarket” and “even ‘Make my day'”. “My” also implies association or familiarity.

    “My” can denote either ownership or familiarity, and therein lies the potential for offense, as you have taken. When I say “my hairdresser” I certainly do not mean to infer that I own him. When I say “my hair”, I do in fact mean ownership.

    When I said “my team”, didn’t intend possession, only association, and I regret that someone might take it that way. Each team member referred to me as “my manager”. Should I have been annoyed that they “thought they owned me”?

    Re your comment about the girlfriend “all of 23” with two staff members: If they report to her in the organizational structure and she has managerial responsibility (hiring, directing their work, assessing their performance), they are indeed her staff, regardless of her age. Some women are given that level of responsibility at 23.

  6. Holly says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Well said.

    • Geri says:

      Thank you so much Holly.



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