A ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ Boss is the Worst Kind: Study

Bad bosses are the worst, and come in all varieties. A new study suggests there’s one type so bad, you’ll feel like you’re dealing with two awful managers at the same time!

The University of Exeter has published a study suggesting bosses with a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality are indeed the worst of the worst; these supervisors make their employees especially anxious.

People would rather work for a boss who was just plain cruel all the time, this study adds. (Also contributing to the overall angst is how well coworkers get along with each other, another metric potentially damaged by a boss who doesn’t have their emotions in check.)

In addition to the love-hate feelings employees may have toward their manager, Dr. Allan Lee measured their ambivalence:

The focus is usually on trying to work out if relationships between staff and bosses are good or bad, but they can sometimes be both, and it is important to measure that. Bosses reward and punish their workers, and this has an impact on self-esteem. If their staff have to adopt different roles at different times because they have a manager who can be both nasty and nice they view him or her in an ambivalent way.

It is very negative for an employee to be ambivalent about their boss. Having a clear attitude towards them is much better for their performance. If your boss is both pleasant and unpleasant to be around it is hard to know what they think about you, and if you can’t predict how they will act. This makes it hard to trust them. This creates negative emotions and makes staff feel anxious, causing poor performance at work.

The results ring true. We often offer advice on dealing with bad bosses, and it all distills down to your relationship with them. Even if you’re not personally close with a manager, finding common ground is critical to forging a path forward.

Should a boss have dichotic messaging due to their volatile personality, the working relationship suffers. It’s hard to have a rapport with your manager if you’re not sure who you’ll get when you walk through the door in the morning.

Sadly, there’s not much that can be done about this type of boss. Until something drastic (like harassment) happens, you’re probably without recourse. If others are in the same boat you are, it may be worth approaching your boss constructively, as a group.

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