September 6, 2007


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Crazy Bosses, by Stanley Bing (HarperCollins, 2007, 260 pages)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons

The first half of Crazy Bosses wanders in circles, but the second half makes up for it with a comforting, sometimes funny, sometimes enlightening taxonomy of the most powerful people in your neighborhood.

Comforting because it’s good to know you’re not imagining things, and because he offers tips on working with, against, or around crazy bosses as needed.

It works just as well for understanding crazy parents, crazy professors — anybody who’s crazy and has some power over you.

Perhaps you’ll see yourself in these pages — Bing claims to see himself — but the severely personality-disordered rarely do. They’re in there; they just don’t see it.

Bing’s taxonomy (which doesn’t exactly mesh with recognized psychiatric standards) comprises five main types: the Bully, the Paranoid, the Narcissist, the Wimp and the Disaster Hunter. To each he assigns a level of contagion (worst for the bully, least for the narcissist and disaster hunter) and a level of difficulty (worst for the bully and disaster hunter, least for the wimp unless you are one too). For each he offers real-life anecdotes and closes with a list of tactics you can try. Gauged against my own real-life experience, I think he’s on to something; can’t vouch for all of it, but I recognized some truths in these pages.

Although the bulk of the book is not exactly good news, especially the part about how the people in power tend to be the craziest people (crazy meaning not psychotic but, well, belonging to one of those five types), it ends on an upbeat note of hope.

Better to head straight for Part Two, and later skim through the repetitive, vague Part One.

Stanley Bing, whose real name isn’t Stanley Bing and who works for a huge corporation, is also the author of What Would Machiavelli Do?, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy and other books filed under “business/humor.” He wrote the original Crazy Bosses 15 years ago when he was slightly less crazy and less bossy; this is an updated version. B — Lisa Parsons