When leaving before a senior colleague does, people say お先に失礼します, and the senior employee responds お疲れ様でした or ご苦労様でした. お疲れ様でした is also usually said when a colleague of the same seniority is leaving.

However, お疲れ様でした seems like something to say to someone of equal or lower seniority while ご苦労様でした is for someone with lower seniority. It feels awkward (only my opinion, but please feel free to correct if this is a wrong notion) to say お疲れ様でした to someone of higher ranking.

If a senior colleague is leaving, what is the best thing to say?

1 Answer 1


According to デジタル大辞泉, the Agency for Cultural Affairs (文化庁) conducted a study on this topic and found that 69.2% of people used お疲れ様 to someone of a higher rank vs. 15.1% for ご苦労様. To someone of a lower rank, 53.4% used お疲れ様, vs. 36.1% for ご苦労様.

So I would conclude from this that it is safe to use お疲れ様 to someone of a higher rank, whereas ご苦労様 should probably be avoided. お疲れ様 seems to be used more in either case anyway.

  • 1
    Thanks for this! Now I can say it without fear of being rude. :D Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 6:00

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