Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is your boss wimpy, bully, paranoid, narcissist or disaster hunter?

By Michelle Singletary
Article Last Updated: 07/07/2007 02:45:28 PM MDT

I once had a boss who could put my stomach in knots just by walking past my desk. This person was so scary that today, decades later, I get chills thinking about her reign of terror.

Such management by fear is not uncommon in the business world, writes Stanley Bing in his revised book "Crazy Bosses." Unlike many business books, this one needs no subtitle.

"After nearly 6,000 years of evidence on the subject, one thing stands clear: the people who end up as leaders in any organization, large or small, are often the craziest guys around," Bing writes.

In "Crazy Bosses" (Collins Publishing, $21.95), Bing uses corporate history, his own experience and that of others to put to rest a question you may ask yourself every day as you walk into work: "Am I crazy?" Nope, it's more likely your boss, Bing writes.

Bing is the pseudonym for Gil Schwartz, executive vice president of corporate communications at CBS. So he can write with authority on corporate leadership. "Crazy Bosses" is both entertaining and therapeutic.

Bing identifies five types of crazy bosses. There's the bully boss.

"I begin with the bully not because he is special - but because he is common, ubiquitous throughout all organizations large and small, private and public sector, domestic and international, successful and unsuccessful, found in every ethnic persuasion and religious denomination," he writes.

"Let there be no mistake, however," he says. "Women are no slouches in this department. In fact, I believe the female bully is perhaps the hardest to deal with of all, at least for any man who had a mother who scared him."

Perhaps your boss is the paranoid type. "The politics of the workplace function to heighten paranoia in even normal people, and the damaged, friable crazy boss is ill equipped to establish any kind of equilibrium," Bing writes.

The narcissist boss takes self-love to a place no one should go. "Behind the narcissist's self-absorption is not only a frosted head. There is meanness, too," says Bing. "For some reason, neurotic obsession with oneself puts a nasty edge on many people."

Woe to the worker who has a wimpy boss. Such a manager often hides under paperwork. He or she also is fond of meetings - long ones. The wimpy boss also will abandon support of an underling if upper management comes attacking.

Finally there is the disaster hunter. This type of boss doesn't listen to reason. Instead, he or she will pursue inadvisable strategies, from bad acquisitions to outrageous sexual liaisons without heeding warnings.

Of course your boss could be a hybrid exhibiting characteristics from more than one group.

Contact Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071 or