Office-Politics lessons from "The Devil Wears Prada"
Think you have the world’s worst boss? How does your boss measure up against the Boss-from-Hell?
By Franke James, MFA
The Devil Wears Prada will no doubt fuel some hot, haute water-cooler chat. Based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger, the film is a wickedly funny tale about working for a boss who is a tyrant (rumor has it that the book was inspired by Weisberger's stint at Vogue Magazine working for Anna Wintour). Meryl Streep stars as Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of Runway Magazine. Think Cruella de Ville with Medusa eyes. While the movie is an entertaining romp about the travails of working for a tyrannical boss, it raises some important questions: If you work for a Boss-from-Hell how do you cope? Is your boss a Boss-from-Hell?
Is your boss bullying you or simply delivering a tough-love message? Are you a victim or just paying your dues?
Does your boss thrive on chaos?
Does your boss make impossible demands?
Does your boss play the office politics game
1. Is your boss a Boss-from-Hell?
Miranda quickly established her role as the ‘Master’ over her ‘Slave’ employees. She lived, ate, and breathed her career. Work and life had merged into one unified and indivisible whole. She expected everyone to have the same devotion to Runway Magazine. Employees time with family and friends was an expendable commodity, a frill. Miranda refused to address her new assistant Andy (Anne Hathaway) by her proper name, and substituted the name of her other assistant. She demanded that Andy be on call 24/7 (without adequate compensation) She gave a long list of demands without allowing any questions and expected employees to know the details of each task, but did not provide any training. She sent Andy on multiple errands, without clear instructions, and an impossibly short time-frame under threat of being fired if she did not deliver. She insulted her intelligence and mocked her style of dress, publicly and privately She forbade any employees from riding in the elevator with her, which further underlined a Master/Slave relationship. While some of these incidents, if taken alone, could be dismissed as ‘minor irritations’, collectively they amounted to psychological warfare. All of these ‘power-plays’ shared one thing in common: a lack of respect by the boss for the employee. How to cope: Stand up for yourself
You have to stand up for yourself to get what you want with a Boss-from-Hell. Remember that they are more concerned about themselves than you. They are the 'center of the universe'. So don’t take it personally that your boss can’t remember your name, or won’t take the time to delegate tasks properly. Your best strategy is to be quietly persistent and firm. Repeat back what tasks have been requested, and the expected timeline. If the boss is too impatient to listen, then send them a summary email or memo, before and after the task. Document everything. 2. Is your boss bullying you or simply delivering a tough-love message? No one likes to be ‘dressed-down’, especially in public. Miranda routinely demeaned Andy in front of the other employees by calling her insulting names, mocking her style of dress, her level of intelligence, and her ability to handle the job. The funny thing was that there was a grain of truth to Miranda’s criticisms. You can’t expect to work for a fashion magazine if you don’t know the product. The belligerent delivery was inexcusable but the underlying truth was that Andy was ignorant of fashion and she would not survive without changing, learning and growing. Miranda’s criticisms (but not her bullying tactics) could be viewed positively as a tough-love approach. How to cope: Share the company values (or exit)
Miranda was setting up a challenge to Andy and every employee: conform to my standards or you are fired! This is not as unreasonable or evil as it appears at first glance. It raises a question that every employee should ask...
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