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How to Handle a Jekyll & Hyde Boss

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A Jekyll and Hyde boss can leave you scratching your head -- if you’re lucky. In some cases, this type of manager could cause your stress levels to spike and ultimately affect your health. Instead of worrying about whether the next report you submit is going to set him off again, spend some time analyzing what's happening whenever Mr. Hyde emerges. If you can figure out the causes behind the negativity, you might be able to find ways to handle the situation. In effect, you will learn how to manage your manager.

Look for Patterns

A specific time of day, person, activity or event may trigger the change in behavior. Maybe your boss dreads certain types of meetings, or a particular colleague has a tendency to get under his skin. Maybe he erupts whenever his own boss comes down on him. Pay attention to his reactions to a variety of scenarios. By understanding the situation, you can learn when to expect an eruption. Knowing what to expect might even help you find ways to prevent the eruption from happening.

Know Your Value

Don’t let Mr. Hyde’s appearances take away from your own sense of self-worth. If he insults your work or integrity, don’t take it personally. A boss in this situation could very well be lashing out at something that has nothing to do with you. Be thick-skinned. Be the professional your boss is failing to be. Keep a positive attitude and continue to do the good job you know you can do. Don’t feed his bad behavior with bad behavior of your own.

Lead By Example

Titles don’t create leaders. Leadership happens when others find someone they want to follow. Create followers by behaving professionally at all times -- particularly when interacting with Mr. Hyde. Be the person everyone wants to emulate, the one person in the office Mr. Hyde can’t rattle. Don’t argue for the sake of arguing and don’t complain about him behind his back. Be the bigger person and walk away. If he can’t rattle you, he loses some of his power. When more people in the office follow your behavior than his, a stronger culture will begin to develop.

Encourage Dr. Jekyll

While defusing Mr. Hyde’s outbursts with professionalism, use the same tactic to feed Dr. Jekyll’s positive behaviors. Try to lighten the mood in the office. Keep discussions optimistic and offer to assist with assignments or projects. Find out what the boss values in the workplace and in your work particularly and build from that. Wherever your objectives link with his, keep him informed of progress with regular status updates to show him you want to do what you can to help him achieve his goals. This approach could encourage the boss to reveal a key trigger to the Mr. Hyde transformation and provide you with an opportunity to help him address the situation.


A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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