Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

The Jekyll and Hyde manager

with 4 comments

Marty was in the server room, working with the consultant from Guaranteed Uptime, when Rob burst in. “Marty, I want you to go over to Jan’s desk right away,” he said. “She’s having trouble with the CMS again.”

“OK Rob, just as soon as I finish here.”

“No!  You’ll need to go right away. If she doesn’t get looked after she’ll complain direct to Max. Then he’ll raise a stink about how inefficient IT is.” Rob’s tone was such that even the consultant looked up in askance.

Marty had been through this before. “Yeah Rob, give me five minutes. We’re almost done here.”

“You’d better get down there soon,” he said. Then , turning abruptly, he stomped off slamming the door on his way out.

The consultant looked at Marty, eyebrows raised.

“Don’t ask”, said Marty,  and continued with his work.

Less than five minutes later…

“Uh oh,” said Marty sotto voce, as he heard Rob crash in again.

“I thought I told you to go over to Jan. Drop what you’re doing and go…NOW!”

Marty shook his head, and turning to the consultant he said, “I’ll be back in five.” He brushed past Rob and walked out.


The next day, word of Rob’s tantrum got around within the team. Regardless of the urgency of Jan’s problem, the consensus was that Rob’s behaviour was not acceptable. Yet, everyone knew that nothing would change. Rob had joined the company just under a year ago, and had been anxious to make a mark from day one.  Obviously he’d succeeded, because although his team didn’t think much of him, senior management seemed to have a different view…


“Hi Max. Everything OK? Anything we can do for you?” asked Rob in a tone of faux sincerity. He’d spied Max entering the IT area and had rushed out to greet him.

“No. It’s all good. You’ve been looking after us very well. Jan mentioned that you sorted out some problems for her double quick yesterday.”  He took Rob aside. “Look,” he said, “you’ve been doing a fine job since you took over. It’s been noticed, and even talked about at the recent board meeting. Well done, and keep it going.”

Max’s words sounded like an endorsement to Rob.  “After all,” he thought, “if management likes what I’m doing, I must be doing a good job.”


Jekyll and Hyde and managers such as Rob are a fact of corporate life. They are easily recognised by the two faces they present at work – Jekyll to those who they report to and Hyde to those who report to them. Such behaviour enables them to get ahead in the short run but, because they ruin their work relationships in the process, they often lose out in the longer term. 

There is another way, of course. That is to get ahead by doing things right.  The two are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what Jekyll and Hyde managers may think. It is possible to advance and treat everyone, regardless of their position,  with respect and consideration. If done this way, one will advance and also retain the loyalty of those who one may depend on in the future.

Written by K

August 5, 2008 at 6:54 am

4 Responses

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  1. As long as top managements reward such behaviour, it is unlikely that we will see the end of such Jekyll and Hyde managers.


    Ravin Kurian

    August 6, 2008 at 12:09 am

  2. Ravin,

    You raise a very good point – one that I believe ties in with organisational culture. In an open culture, where people are empowered to make decisions that affect them and credit given to those who really deserve it, Jekyll and Hyde behaviour will not take one very far.

    Further, regardless of organisational culture, there are actually two related issues here. They are:

    1. Getting the best from people who one works with.

    2. Getting ahead.

    Jekyll and Hyde managers may well achieve the second, but will find it very hard to do the first unless they modify their behaviour.

    Thanks again for your comments – and I hope to see you here again soon!





    August 6, 2008 at 7:26 am

  3. I like this article because it recognises the type of mindset that some managers seem to have in the workplace. It is usually the mid-level managers or the ones that only have a limited amount of power on the overall scale of things that are prone to occasional outbursts like the one highlighted here. They are desperate to make a mark and not be seen as complacent by those above them in the hierarchy, which is actually perfectly understandable, but it is the way they go about it that is wrong.

    Managers like Rob will be found almost in every big organisation or company where there is constant scrutiny on performance. This causes them to feel insecure and even the most power hungry manager will feel threatened by knowing that they are being monitored. With insecurity and the desire for power comes panic and then you see employees that are under their direct authority being roasted for the smallest of mistakes – or what is seen to be a mistake. It makes them feel good about themselves knowing that they have exerted their power and command over what they see as the solution to a problem. Then when they realise that they have overreacted towards an employee they feel even more vulnerable because they know that they can be in deep trouble with HR for mismanagement. This will be alleviated by a token gesture like the one Rob made and trying to smooth things over with the employees involved. It is a form of Jekyll and Hyde superficial management which demonstrates a lack of professionalism and poor interpersonal skills.

    A couple of the managers that I have come across have used this method and it is actually a form of bullying in the workplace. They will be nice as pie one minute and then treat you like dirt the next even if you have done nothing obviously wrong. The better managers will normally realise that this is not the correct way to motivate their staff and will progress far more in their fields.



    March 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    • Hi Simon,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You’re right about Jekyll/Hyde behaviour being particularly common amongst ambitious middle managers. Although they may get some mileage out of it initially, such behaviour ends up being counterproductive even for them. In this connection, I think managers need to keep in mind Joel Spolsky’s comment about management (at its best) being a support function.





      March 8, 2012 at 7:50 am

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