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Conventional ビジネスマナー tells us that ご苦労様 is used by superiors to subordinates and お疲れ様 used by everyone, and this is backed up all over the internet and stated on some questions here, like this.

But it seems that this isn't always such an ironclad rule. For example there is this question on here that shows that the power relationship might not necessarily as strong as people say, and this site in particular has a question along similar lines and one (very lengthy) answer saying that, on the contrary, ご苦労様 should be used toward superiors because it has a stronger nuance of thankfulness for work, citing examples from politicians and other uses that emphasize the role of the person rather than their rank, and that it may be changing such that it is appropriate to use it outside of the context of rank.

In modern usage would it be a faux pas to say ご苦労様 to a superior or to someone you don't know? Do native speakers really feel that ご苦労様 is more thankful?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Jake Adelstein wrote last year on Twitter that in Yakuza's world, お疲れ様 is almost prohibited and everybody use ご苦労様 or ご苦労さん. I did not find everything but I found few tweets.

Lesson of the day for young yakuza: To the boss, ご苦労様 (go-kuro-sama) never "go-kuro-san" and never, never "お疲れ様" (o-tsukare-sama).

He also said something specific for the journalism industry.

I was taught as a journalist at a Japanese paper that we said, "お疲れ様" to the boss and ご苦労様 to those below us, but never ご苦労様 to the boss.

At the end, he rejoins you saying ご苦労様 is better saying

Personally, I think ご苦労様"/Thank you for your hard work" beats お疲れ様" (Thank you, you must be beat). So to everyone working today: ご苦労様!

The guy is native level but he works as a journalist mostly on Yakuza stuff his whole career so it is a specific point of view.

In my case, I work in a IT company and everyone use お疲れ(様/さん) and it would be rude to use ご苦労(様/さん) for upper/same/lower level.

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