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BRUTAL BOSSES by Harvey A. Hornstein

BRUTAL BOSSES

And Their Prey

By Harvey A. Hornstein

Pub Date: March 5th, 1996
ISBN: 1-57322-020-5
Publisher: Riverhead

 An awesomely aggrieved tract on the perceived problem of gratuitously swinish superiors, which reveals far more about its author (A Knight in Shining Armor, 1991, etc.) than about the amorphous wrongs he purports to address. Offering only anecdotal evidence drawn largely from the work of other scholars and the business press, Hornstein (Psychology/Teachers College, Columbia Univ.) reaches the seemingly obvious conclusion that bosses who mistreat subordinates are a menace both to their victims and to a socioeconomic order whose vigor depends on productivity. In a format featuring checklists like the ``Eight Daily Sins'' (including coercion, cruelty, deceit), he attempts to put errant executives in a variety of pigeonholes, e.g., blamers, dehumanizers, manipulators, and rationalizers. With but passing acknowledgment of the fact that the workplace has become a more demanding venue as corporate America faces up to global competition, the author examines the many ways in which employees may be oppressed (or imagine themselves to be). Cases in point range from public scoldings through do-better lectures dispatched via E-mail, intimidation, electronic surveillance, and sexual harassment. Reviewed as well are the possible consequences of abuse: on-the-job violence, sub-par performance, and error-inducing anxiety. Toward the close of his whiny screed, Hornstein discloses that at age 14 he worked as a delivery boy for a shopkeeper who persisted in referring to him as ``dreck'' (Yiddish for trash). Earlier, the author recalled that his mother-in-law had been persecuted, probably on religious grounds, by a large communications company during the 1930s. In this personally pained context, he closes by offering innocuous tips for dealing with insufferable superiors and encouraging community sanctions to discourage, even outlaw, barbarous behavior within organizations. An us-against-them exercise in pop anti-authoritarian sociology that, for all its lack of analytic depth and other deficiencies, could strike responsive chords among latter-day malcontents.