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How Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cause employee turnover

Most people are familiar with the story by Robert Louis Stevenson about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story involves a man who could be both very good and very bad. I have found most organizations have a supervisor, manager or executive who is a Jekyll/Hyde. Mostly they are calm, rational, easy to work for and productive until Mr. Hyde arrives. You know you have a Jekyll/Hyde when an employee says they “love Supervisor A, but he has his moments”.

It is when these moments happen and Mr. Hyde shows up with a verbal and/or physical outburst. These outbursts can be classified by several criteria describing the eruptions:

  1. The frequency
  2. Severity  
  3. Length of time and
  4. Post outburst

Clearly the more frequent the outbursts, the higher the impact on how your employees. This will lead to a greater chance the employees will tire of it and leave. The employees will look to upper management to “do something, anything” to make it better. The employees don’t care if he gets fired, transferred, demoted or trained. They just want it better and quickly.

We have all seen how a high level of verbal abuse and threatening behavior will lead to employees walking off the job. In the case where an employee literally feels in danger – they should leave. I have seen cases where it took the employees walking off the job to force upper management to step in.

How long the tirade lasts will also greatly affect how employees respond. If it is a word or two and the employees see it as a moment of frustration, then most employees will quickly overlook it. However, I have known many managers where it will last all day. “Don’t bother trying to talk to Mr. X today – it is having one of his bad days”.

The post outburst generally falls into really good or really bad. The really good ones are the managers who go back to the employees and sincerely apologize without being forced to. I have had employees tell me that Supervisor A will “lose it” once in a while but he always comes back and gives a heartfelt apology. The bad post outburst is when the supervisor blames the employees and somehow wants everyone to see the supervisor as the victim. The turnover in this department will be out of control.   

Lastly, how the four criteria work together will make the situation exponentially worse.

This issue is always worse than upper management thinks it is. How can we help?