“My boss is a bastard, he’s never satisfied. I end up being yelled at for the smallest things!”

“Arghhh… my boss is such a bitch, she micro-manages every little thing I do!”

“Look out! The jerk is on the move…” As they scramble on their egg shells to get out of the path of destruction.

The Bastard Boss Syndrome

It’s not a real syndrome but it may as well be because everyone has experienced working for a boss from hell.

Employees do not leave companies, they leave managers. Employees are powerless to do anything and company management are either the problem or part of the problem because they do not know how to get the best performance and leadership from those who are, ironically, in management positions. It’s costing companies millions.

Bastard Bosses* don’t start out as bastards. They start out as employees. They’re promoted because their qualifications, skills and work performance demonstrate they can take on more responsibilities, however now their job is very different. They have to manage the vastly different human dynamics of personality, emotion, productivity, personal interests and relationships on top of the demands of their projects, budgets, stakeholder requirements and ever-looming deadlines, and so forth.

Over time, and successive promotions, this person experiences more and more pressure to perform as a leader without the core competencies to do it. 

Fast forward years and that pressure gradually turns into a sense of anxiety and fear. This person secretly wonders when they’re going to get found out. Their self-worth is linked to their job title and the pay cheque that goes with it. That anxiety turns into frustration and then anger. It shows up in high-stress instances where performance is measured and there’s a possibility of being found out for the fraud that they believe they are.

With that fear comes the natural reaction to protect ourselves at all costs and so the Bastard Boss is born.

How the Bastard Boss becomes a Transformational Leader

Early in my hospitality career, I was the Bastard Boss, or rather I was a supervisor, well on my way to Bastard Bosshood. Yep. True story. I didn’t have a coach or a mentor but I did have a strong desire to be liked. Not that I knew it then but I was also blessed with the innate skill of self-awareness found in emotional intelligence (EQ).

It took me a great deal of self-reflection and awareness to ask the confrontational questions needed to change myself: Why am I hated so much? What am I doing wrong?

It took years. I kept moving jobs until I finally came across the work of Daniel Goleman and Emotional Intelligence. I taught myself how to treat people differently. I learned the hard way how to be a Transformational Leader. I don’t recommend the path I took. It’s long, it’s painful, it has no support, no measurable outcomes and no accountability.

Years later, karma kicked my ass with a Bastard Boss of my own. It was then that I realised that people who end up as a Bastard Boss need help.

Bastard Boss: The Low EQ Leader!

I sought out a way to make the greatest impact. I am now qualified as an Emotional Intelligence Leadership Coach, a Master Practitioner of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), and a Master Hypnotherapist, specialising in emotional intelligence and transformational leadership. What I love most about what I do is the significant improvement I enable in people’s lives. Do not under-estimate the power of giving a shit (aka being compassionate).

So let’s start by not thinking of these people as bastards. Let’s instead recognise they lack emotional intelligence. Let us also recognise them for the leaders they already are, and henceforth know them as Low EQ Leaders.

Support Your Low EQ Leaders

The greatest impact a company, and therefore you the Managing Director, CEO or Board member can do is seek to support your management team to increase their aptitude in emotional intelligence.

I know it seems counter-intuitive to help someone who is seemingly difficult to get along with but think about it, most people – sociopaths & true narcissists aside – do not go out of their way to be hard to work with. They don’t want to be hated. They don’t want to be angry, stressed or frustrated.

They want to trust and be trusted. They want collaboration, innovative thinking and an outstanding performance from themselves and from their teams. They want to succeed.

Low EQ Leaders rarely know they have low emotional intelligence. If they do, they don’t know how to improve.

This usually leads to a limiting belief they have about their capacity to change. Which ultimately stems from their belief in themselves and their own self-worth. Oftentimes this is buried deep in the unconscious mind making self-awareness even more difficult.

Again, fear sets in. This time, it’s a fear of rejection. It’s a deep-rooted fear of vulnerability. At the core of a Low EQ Leader is someone who needs to project that they’re powerful when they deep down they don’t believe they have any power at all. Remember the axiom, ‘fake it until you make it’? Well Low EQ Leaders take this to the extreme.

Not all is lost when you’re the manager of a Low EQ Leader. Here’s what you can do:

Start with Compassion

Observe the person. How much do you really know about them? It’s likely you know very little and what you do know will be what the Low EQ Leader wants you to see. The reality of this person’s life is going to be very different from what you have been lead to believe, which is why it’s essential that you start with compassion.

Being compassionate does not negate the ineffective things they do or say. The position of compassion allows the perspective that there are two sides to every person – what you see externally and what you don’t see internally. Appreciating that perspective you’re more readily able to appreciate they need support.

Learn their Side of the Story

One of the first things I am acutely aware of when I start working with a Low EQ Leader is that they don’t know how negatively they’re impacting others. When I dig deeper I come to learn just how much my clients have gone through in their life and just how many of these negative significant emotional events remain unresolved.

Unresolved significant emotional events have repercussions on everything a person experiences in their everyday life – only it’s all happening in the unconscious mind. One of the assumptions that NLP makes is that people have all the resources they need to succeed. Additionally, there are no non-resourceful people, only non-resourceful states.

This means that a Low EQ Leader has the resources they need but they also have non-resourceful states (emotions) that prevent them from succeeding.

With the tools of NLP Therapy, I help the Low EQ Leader gain access to their unconscious mind and learn how to utilise the resources they already have to heal from past negative experiences.

Ask: What Drives Them?

In my last full time job, the Directors were happy to support me when I first started studying my Graduate Certificate of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Over time though, I learned they just wanted someone to do the job. Sadly, many companies are of the belief that it’s too expensive to invest in their employee’s interests.

Your employees have underlying motivations, things that are important to them that make them happy. If you can help your teams to incorporate these motivations into the company it is a guaranteed win for all.

Overall morale, culture, and alignment with company values all increase. Performance and productivity will increase. The sales and profit of the organisation will increase.

Teams are more dynamic. They work more collaboratively. They communicate more effectively.

As individuals, they work harder, smarter and faster. They care more.

When you have employees who are aligned in the right role for their values and their motivations, you have employees who are invested in the company. Most of the time an employee doesn’t want to leave their job, they just want to be happy and to have the company see them as people, not an Employee ID number.

A NLP associate friend of mine is a general manager of an international company in the construction industry. She told me how, despite the high powered role that she’s thoroughly enjoyed for the past 15 years, her loving family, and healthy income, she was still deeply unhappy. She wasn’t doing what she was passionate about.

She’s now bringing her passion for Leading Leaders into her organisation and building her coaching business on the side. She was able to achieve this by negotiating the terms of change with her Managing Director. Everyone is benefiting.

From my experience, a Low EQ Leader is a person who currently isn’t able to include their motivations or passions in their work. Enable this and you’ll be amazed at how quickly things improve.

Seek Outside Support

From the Low EQ Leader’s perspective, the company and all of its employees and stakeholders are part of the same story, therefore they’re a part of the cause of the way that person thinks and behaves.

If anyone inside the company were to tell this person they have low emotional intelligence it’s going to ignite the person’s fear faculty and produce a primal instinct of fight or flight. More often than not you’re going to get a fight. Remember what I said earlier about fear and fraud? This is where it’ll play out.

As their boss and the representative of the organisation, you first need to ask: Is this employee worth keeping? Are they an asset to the organisation? Is their performance and skill what your organisation needs? If the answer is no, well, you now know they need to go.

Do the math. Is it more expensive to keep them or cheaper and better for the organisation in the long run to replace them? Make sure you factor in the trickle-down effect in their teams, suppliers, partners and other stakeholders.

More often than not, your answer, especially when multiplied over the whole company, is going to be yes. It is simply cheaper to keep them on the team, especially when you factor in the time and additional expense replacing them would cost the organisation.

For a fraction of the cost, you can invest in increasing their performance and sense of well being at the same time.

The measurable, assessment-based Emotional Intelligence Leadership Coaching program I’ve created specifically for Low EQ Leaders ticks the boxes of values alignment, emotional well being, emotional intelligence education and learning how to lead with positive influence.

In a supportive, collaborative approach, I work with the company to work with the person to guarantee a win-win for all. I am in service of the Low EQ Leader, my goal is for them to be a Transformational Leader who educates and inspires others in their teams.

I firmly believe Low EQ Leaders can become Transformational Leaders with the right support, compassion and coaching.

*The term ‘Bastard Boss’ is gender-neutral.