'Stroke their ego'

We've had an employee make a complaint about several things and one of those things is her supervisor told her "that sometimes you have to stroke their ego" when talking about an employee that she reprimanded and then complained on her. I just wanted your opinions about that phrase. A few people here feel that there is nothing wrong with using it, but I personally feel it isn't appropriate. What do you all think?


  • 2 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • from your description, I'm not entirely sure of the context that the phrase was used in. However, a supervisor that wants to tell an employee to have better interpersonal skills should always use professional language. This reminds me of a case I had where the supervisor told the employee "the only thing I want to hear from you is two lips smacking" (In other words, you should Kiss my ____). While it didn't violate the law, and probably didn't even violate company policy, it was unprofessional and angered and offended the employee. Although I don't think "stroke their ego" is particularily offensive, it is not particularily professional, either. It is not a huge deal, but you may want to caution the supervisor to try to use professional language.

  • Standing alone, the phrase seems pretty innocuous. If that's all someone ever
    said or did, I wouldn't think it would be a problem and certainly wouldn't rise
    to the level of sexual harassment. If other things are going on or being said
    that could be considered inappropriate, then the phrase would obviously not be
    standing alone, and it could be a problem. However, if someone has said that it
    is offensive, then it's probably worth telling the person who said it that
    someone else has found it offensive and it would be better if he or she no
    longer used that phrase. I would be inclined not to make a big deal out of it,
    unless it's only part of the picture as noted above. As a general rule, though,
    if someone complains, the complaint should be addressed. Please let me know if
    we need to talk further.

    John Phillips
    Miller & Martin
    Editor, Tennessee Employment Law Letter

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