"Just get this done and don't talk to me about it anymore."
"I'm not sure you heard me correctly. I don't care about your personal problems."
"The next time I see you, I hope you have that report on my desk."
"Why do we keep people like you around here anyway? Do what I tell you or else."
See a pattern here? These statements are a sign or a low emotional intelligence. This is a boss who is not picking up on nonverbal cues. He or she is unconcerned about variables like an employee being sick or overworked, about issues at home, or a personal crisis. The radar for these signals is broken or missing.
In a meeting, this is the boss who talks constantly and never listens. When everyone in the room is rolling their eyes, leaning back in their chair and not paying attention, or has a clueless attitude about a project to the point where you wonder which planet they come from originally, this is the boss who keeps pounding on the table, pointing at the Keynote presentation, and yelling. They do a lot of yelling.
With such a low Emotional Intelligence (or EQ), this boss is trying to get people to do things by talking louder, but they miss social cues like frustration, passivity, and even outright hostility. It's not your job to help this ill-equipped manager figure out how to lead with some form of empathy. It's not your job to explain why Betty in accounting is arriving late everyday due to a recent death in the family, or that the project has stalled out because one of the team members has daycare issues.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive things beyond the words on the page and the facts presented on a spreadsheet. It's an awareness about the unseen and unheard intangibles, the things that require extra patience, perception...and a personality. It's being able to tune in to the fact that someone is having a bad day or is not that pleased with how the office dynamics are playing out.
Yet, there are bosses who are totally and completely at a loss about this topic.
When the boss has a low EQ, how should you react? You could ignore the problem and hope it goes away--even though that rarely works. You could confront the boss, which will be perceived as threatening and not respectful. You could find a new boss.
Yet, there is a different way to handle this.
My advice is to be the person who does have high emotional intelligence. You're not "saving" the boss or compensating for an obvious weakness. Instead, you're doing what you should do to help your own teams function properly, you're demonstrating what EQ even looks like, and you're acting instead of reacting.
Doing what you think is right is empowering for a few reasons. You can't control what other people do or say. However, you can control your own actions. When you view EQ as a problem in the office, it can create stress and frustration for everyone. When you view EQ as something you can control in yourself, it means you can use it as a tool to do good and a tool to demonstrate what works.
Here's an example, Let's say the boss enters a meeting and starts talking. There's a confrontation with one of your colleagues who who is trying to explain why there are project delays because a few of the people on the team have been out sick. The boss doesn't care about personal issues. However, you do care about personal issues. Later that day, you could approach that colleague and express empathy about the project, ask about what is happening, and even offer to fill in where you can. This is not compensating. You're being perceptive, you're looking out for the team, and you're doing what needs to be done as someone with a high EQ.
I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating. You have to do what you think is right. It's not your job to fill in or compensate for anyone in the office who is underperforming, even if that person is the boss. Sometimes, the weakness you see in others should be a reminder to do what is right. And, there are times when a weakness in someone else is a reminder that you have the same weakness.
If EQ is one of your specialties, use it. Maybe the boss will finally notice. Maybe not.