Working with an Unempathetic Boss

An unempathetic boss is one lacking in emotional intelligence. What’s emotional intelligence? As defined by Psychology Today, the term “refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Essentially, an unempathetic boss doesn’t understand what other people are feeling. Not all unempathetic bosses are the same. Some are excited for their jobs but unable to realize their decisions are wildly unpopular, while others keep to a hands-off approach and expect employees to complete goals regardless of their home situation. In extreme circumstances, this can result in a boss who cares about employee performance over employee wellbeing.

It can be difficult to work with a manager who doesn’t understand their employees, since they may be less than willing to allow employees time to spend with their families or understand how a death in the family or sick relative might affect employee work performance. This can result in a tense work atmosphere. However, there are a few things you can do to cope.

  1. Be an Empathetic Person

If you notice individuals in your workplace feeling down and your boss neglects to acknowledge it, you can ask them what’s wrong. If they’re missing work due to a personal issue, you can even offer to fill in. Essentially, if your boss’s lack of emotional intelligence is causing problems or your team, it’s to your benefit to help. You aren’t doing it to help your boss—you’re doing it to be proactive.

Focusing on your own emotional intelligence and what you can do is much more helpful than fretting over how your boss’s lack of empathy is ruining the workplace.

  1. Be Direct

Unempathetic leaders are not necessarily bad people. They just lack the ability to clearly understand why people feel the way they do, and how those feelings might affect their job. That means you might need to make situations a bit clearer for them.

For instance, if they aren’t recognizing emotional cues, define the emotion. If you’re struggling because of a sick family member, tell them about your situation. Let them know the basics of how it is affecting your mood and work. A good manager, even one lacking in empathy, should be able to understand when the facts are laid out.

  1. Find a New Job

As we mentioned, some unempathetic leaders just lack a skill and can understand when provided with a bit of clarity. However, if your unempathetic boss is making every day stressful, it might be time to look for a new job.

During your interviews, ask questions to make sure you don’t end up with another unempathetic boss. Ask about whether employees have flexible work schedules, what achieving goals looks like, and whether there are teambuilding events.

Have you ever worked for an unempathetic boss? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below!

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