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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The elephant referred to in this title of this witty, subversive, and joyfully manipulative little book is your boss, the powerful but lumbering and self-involved authority figure that Fortune columnist Stanley Bing believes is comfortably ensconced in your company's corner office. Bing begins his manual on the care and feeding of these "business elephants" with the admonition that people don't get to choose their bosses; like the weather or gravity, bosses exist as laws of nature that exceed the control of the mere mortal mosquitoes that hover about them. If you can't pick your boss, you must then learn to do the second-best thing, which Bing defines as coping with, mollifying, and perhaps even taming the beast to whom your fortunes are tied. And just how is that feat to be managed? What Bing offers is a tongue-in-cheek version of Zen thought that resembles nothing so much as the philosophy Machiavelli would have come up with if he'd meditated under the banyan tree in place of Buddha. Consider this quote from early in the book: "Zen will enable you to take an object of enormous weight and size and mold it in your grasp like a ball of Silly Putty. For senior management is, in truth, the silliest putty of them all." This book is filled with similar comments as well as phony pie charts, chapters with such titles such as "The Six-Petaled Flower of Bogus Atonement," and bar graphs that document the relative inappropriateness of uttering certain words at important meetings ("budget shortfall" is the most heinous topic you can broach, with "earwax" a not too distant second). Without too much effort, Bing manages to skewer new age truisms, PowerPoint presentations, and business culture in general. But beneath the fun, there's a real message here -- your boss matters, and you'd better learn how to deal with that.
Throwing the Elephant is likely to become the kind of book that people start reading because it makes them laugh and end up giving to their friends because there's so much to learn from it. While it's a little lopsided to see the boss/employee dynamic as exclusively a power-based relationship, there's still a lot of wisdom about corporate life packed into Bing's petite book, which, like the "Dilbert" cartoons, succeeds in suggesting aspects of workplace culture that almost everyone can relate to. Now, of course, someone needs to write a book for the elephants, telling them how to deal with those pesky mosquitoes who keep buzzing around them, clamoring for attention and drinking up their lifeblood. (Sunil Sharma)