4 ways to secretly teach your boss to become more emotionally intelligent

Sometimes it isn’t someone’s fault that they are a bad boss. Here’s how you can manage up.

4 ways to secretly teach your boss to become more emotionally intelligent
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Bad bosses come in all shapes and sizes. There are the ones that are downright bullies, not caring if they lose their temper, talk down to, and hurt the feelings of those that report to them. Then there are the egotists that believe they are smarter than everyone else and have no need to listen to or take feedback from those they are supposed to serve. In between are the micromanagers, the ones that are unaware, unable to make decisions, or the bosses who take credit for the work of others.


Chances are that we have had one of these bosses in our working lives. The question is, “What do we do about it?” If we have compelling reasons to stick around and believe there is a possibility that we can help our boss make some needed changes, there are actions we can take that may help.

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Here are four things you can do to secretly help your boss become more emotionally intelligent:

1. Try not to take it personally

Unless he or she is a total jerk or psychopath, chances are your boss is not deliberately setting out to make your life miserable. You are just part of the circumstances that your boss feels they are in, and part of what they see as the solution. Try to have empathy and imagine what pressures they may be facing from their superiors, or other factors in their lives that may be making life difficult for them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt will help keep you from getting caught up in negative feelings and draining your energy that could be used more productively.

2. Find out what they care about

People have the greatest motivation to change if they see a direct benefit to something they desire and are working toward achieving. What keeps them up at night or stresses them out the most? If you can find this out and offer to help, it will build rapport and a relationship. Your only hope of influencing your boss will be to get yourself in a place where they trust you and see value in what you are offering. Find out what their greatest pressure points are, and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Asking them what they would like more of and/or less of in the workplace is a great starting place.

Related: Six emotionally intelligent habits to make work less lonely


3. Demonstrate what you would like more of from your boss

Talk to your colleagues and see if they have any insights or ideas on how to make the relationship between you or your boss better. Avoid people who only want to complain and are not interested in solutions. Have they noticed times when your boss is in a better mood? Are there times they are doing or saying something that you see as positive? Set up scenarios to demonstrate the behavior that you would like to see when your boss is around.

For example, at staff meetings, have people praise each other and show appreciation for the efforts they have made. Acknowledge your colleagues and give them credit for a job well done in front of your boss. If your boss lacks empathy, make a point of showing empathy to others in the organization who have suffered through illness, loss of loved ones, relationships, and other areas.

Related: The 2,000-year-old origins of EQ and how it became a crucial job skill

Discuss books, articles on emotional intelligence, and suggest speakers for upcoming conferences or staff development. Talk about people who your boss looks up to in terms of their high emotional intelligence qualities.

4. Reward the positive efforts that you notice

If you catch your boss doing something positive, something that you appreciate, make sure you let them know. Reinforce anything they do that you would like them to do more of. If you see any changes toward the better, let your boss know that it was noticed and appreciated. Not everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated in the same way. Knowing as much as possible about your boss will help you determine what kind of appreciation will have the greatest impact.


About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to