The Boss Bully: Who Becomes a Target? “The Devil Wears Prada” Gives Some Clues
The film, “The Devil Wears Prada,” was a box office smash in 2006 and also holds some lessons for anyone having to deal with a boss bully. Starring Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the haughty editor of a fashion magazine, and Ann Hathaway as Andy Sachs, her obedient assistant, the film highlights the behaviors of a boss bully and provides some answers to the question, “Who do bullies target?”
Sachs is competent and confident in the film’s early scenes, but she quickly dissolves into a “lap dog” when confronted with her the magisterial bullying demands of her boss bully and the first assistant. She fetches the coffee, only to be told:
“Pour it out. I don’t want it.”
She works late, because Priestly expects her to, and she accedes to everything asked of her, including giving up her personal life. Priestly never thanks Sachs for her effort or recognizes her ability. Instead, she deliberately and knowingly criticizes her assistant’s appearance and performance at every turn.
Like many targets, Sachs possesses two characteristics:
• She has a desire to cooperate, and
• She has a non-confronting interpersonal style.
While these characteristics may signal a quiet confidence, the bully sees these as evidence that the target will be easy to control and unlikely to fight back.
If targets find themselves in this position, they have to educate themselves about the ways of a boss bully and take control. The sincerely self-confident person sheds his/her reticence, hopefully early on, and stands up to the bully.
Some 30 to 40 percent, in fact–remain targets, however. They continue their self-defeating behavior, unable to stand their ground because the bully has opened a wound inflicted earlier in life.
The boss bully’s biggest weapon is the target’s denial, the person who says, “I should be better. I have to try harder.”
Bully bosses always undermine their targets, no matter how hard the target tries. Once the target identifies the bully for what she is, however, the target can begin to assert her own power. Sometimes, the bully will back away and move on to an easier target. And that’s true whether you are acting in a Hollywood movie, or working in an office.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free At Work