Have you ever heard a supervisor or manager tell you that about a hurt employee? Hopefully, you are aware they are telling the truth. When it comes to emotional intelligence you just can’t fix stupid, just like that supervisor has shown. They are emotionally ignorant. They have made a conscious choice to blame a worker for a problem they know exists and choose to not fix. That is a complete lack of empathy.

The word empathy usually invokes the thoughts of professionals and people who demonstrate an outward appearance of care and compassion. I think of doctors, psychologists, volunteers, clergy, teachers, etc. The truth is to be an effective leader EQ is as important as IQ if not slightly more important. In a leadership position, it is not about how much you know but how much you can help empower and equip others to accomplish a common goal.

Earlier in my career, I met a supervisor that told me as part of an accident investigation. “You can’t fix stupid.” I wish at the time that I had the insight that I do now. Honestly, though, I probably handled it better back then than I would now. At that time, I focused on the items that were in the supervisor’s control. I asked questions about maintenance work orders. I walked around with him and pointed out areas that needed repair. Certainly, he walked with me begrudgingly. I was not beyond the idea of taking him by the hand or sliding my arm around his elbow and gently escorting him. I think he knew that and chose to voluntarily walk rather than be led.

I was not going to change his mind about people. I was able to show that he would be accountable to his area and to assure that items were repaired and that he followed our policies. He was as emotionally adept as he was ever going to be. He was happy in his state of lack of empathy. As you can imagine, he was not an effective leader. He ran average shifts. He did not innovate. He did not inspire any level of greatness in his team. As the organization evolved, he chose not to. Thus, he was ultimately left behind and felt it.

In Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence, he states, “(those) who know and manage their own feelings well, and who read and deal effectively with other people’s feelings—are at an advantage in any domain of life.” Building empathy for those around you and in essence in the workplace creates a means of better understanding the most complex and most important part of any organization, its people. So when it comes to stupid, it’s probably best not to announce one’s faults and inability to fix them.