Movies often depict a glimpse into the inner workings of organizations which are complex and fascinating entities that consist of a group of people, who work together. Analyzing how the characters, as individuals and groups, interact with one another allows for an understanding of “how people think, feel and act” within an organization, also referred to as the study of organizational behaviour. The movie The Devil Wears Prada, set at Runway fashion magazine in New York City, is the story of Andrea “Andy” Sachs, an aspiring journalist who gets the job that “a million girls would kill for”.
She is hired as the second assistant to Miranda Priestly, the powerful and ruthless executive of the magazine. The job is her stepping stone into the world of publishing and if she lasts a year in the often unreasonably demanding position, it will open up the realms to the journalistic position she desires. Andrea works in collaboration with the first assistant, Emily Charlton, to quickly learn Miranda’s behaviours and preferences, so that she can try to meet expectations. This includes being at Miranda’s beck and call 24/7 and completing nearly impossible tasks with constant trepidation of the editor’s wrath.
Along the way, Andrea changes her attitude and behaviour along with her simple and plain style in order to gain acceptance, and adapt to the organization. In this paper, we will examine the organizational behaviour concepts of perception, impression management, and organizational commitment behaviours as they apply to Andrea, Miranda and Emily at Runway fashion magazine. Perception in an organizational behaviour context refers to the way in which individuals understand their environment and the processes used to come to an understanding such as interpretation of sensory impressions.
Interpretation of sensory impressions is based on a combination of social setting and actions of others as well as the attitudes, experiences and personality of the individual (Robbins & Langton, 2007). For example, attribution theory states that individuals use internal attribution or external attribution as one approach in perceiving others actions. Consistency is assumed to be internally caused because if a person acts similarly over a long period of time, the assumption that this trait is part of the person’s personality becomes easy to accept.
Distinctiveness develops from individuals having similar approaches to different circumstances an also perceived to be internally caused. On the other hand, consensus is assumed to be externally caused because other people act the same way in similar situations (Connelly, 2009). Throughout The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea is convinced that her boss, Miranda, is a heartless, merciless, stern personality based on the way Miranda reacts to a diverse range of circumstances both in her personal and professional lives. For example, Miranda is demanding when it comes to Runway Magazine tasks as well as errands she commands to satisfy her children.
Andy also overhears a conversation Miranda has with her husband and the condescending tone Miranda uses is apparent both in her work and home relationships. This is an excellent example of how Miranda’s consistency in her approach to her work and personal life shaped Andrea’s conclusions in determining that Miranda’s behaviour must be internally caused. However, as the plot develops, Miranda opens up to Andrea and shares details of her personal life. The way Miranda describes her love for her children and takes responsibility for how her divorce will affect the children allows Andrea to see a more human side of Miranda.
Through these small glimpses of Miranda’s life, Andrea begins to question whether Miranda’s approach to work is really a product of internal causations. During the final ten minutes of the movie, Andrea changes her perceptions of Miranda and leans toward the idea that perhaps it is the fashion industry that has shaped Miranda’s tough personality. While perception is the process used by individuals in an organization to understand and make sense of others’ behaviours, impression management refers to the process individuals use to control and form others’ impressions of themselves (Robbins & Langton, 2007).
Both Miranda and Emily (the first assistant) provide a clear example of how and why this is done. In Miranda’s case, she uses intimidation as a tool in establishing fear, respect and power. In the opening scene, Runway employees are seen running around in preparation for Miranda’s arrival. Once she arrives, she speaks in short commands and uses a condescending tone with all employees irrespective of their experience or seniority in her organization. “Do not bore me with your questions” was Miranda’s response when Andrea asked a follow-up question to Miranda’s instructions.
To make her intimidating delivery more effective, Miranda does not make eye contact with her subordinates nor does she use common courtesy such as please and thank you. If Miranda feels that her above mentioned intimidation tactics have not worked, she takes to the ultimate intimidation levels with threats of dismissal. Because Emily is not the “Miranda Priesely” and does not have the power to exert intimidation tactics, Emily gains her respect and power through self-promotion and exemplification. Self-promotion are used by individuals who seem to be viewed as competent and important members of the organization (Connelly, 2009).
For example, Emily explains that Andrea’s job is “just” to get coffee whilst Emily’s duties are much more important such as managing Miranda’s schedules, appointments, expenses and traveling with Miranda to Paris. Emily also points out that she is entitled to 20 minutes of lunch whilst Andrea is only allowed 15. Self-Promotion and exemplification go hand in hand because both methods try to achieve similar goals. Exemplification is used by individuals who want to be viewed as dedicated to their jobs (Connelly, 2009).
In Emily’s attempts to do just that, upon Andreas return from running errands for Miranda, Emily tells her to “hurry up and settle because I have to pee. ” Andrea asks “you haven’t peed since I left? ” to which Emily replies “I’ve been manning the desk haven’t I. ” Organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) refers to “discretionary behaviour that isn’t part of an employee’s formal job requirements” (Robbins & Langton, 2007). This behaviour is entirely up to the employee and undertaken with the intent to help the organization (Connelly, 2009).
Andrea Sachs is an individual who exemplifies organizational citizenship behaviours as displayed through her loyal boosterism and personal industry. An employee’s dedication to the organization can often be gauged by what they say about their job and the company in a occupationally-neutral context. Loyal boosterism refers to promotion of the organizational image to outsiders (Moorman & Blakely, 1995). It includes defending the organization when other employees or outsiders criticize it, as well as, actively promoting the organization’s products and services (Connelly, 2009).
Andrea face negative backlash from family and friends as a result of the strenuous and time-consuming demands of her job. She was constantly on call and had to drop plans at a moment’s notice or turned down invitations to go for a drink or to hang out, whenever her boss, Miranda summoned or demanded something. Despite, this when faced with dissatisfaction from her dad at the fact she should be pursuing real journalism, she stated, “but I love it there and at least I write emails”. Furthermore, upon criticism of Runway as being inconsequential, Andrea quickly defends the organization stating that “Runway is more than just fancy purses… . Loyal boosterism is not part of an employee’s formal job description by any means and yet Andrea displays a commitment and organizational citizenship through her rebuttals to criticisms. Organizational citizenship behaviour can also be displayed through personal industry, which refers to performance of specific tasks above and beyond the call of duty (Moorman & Blakely, 1995). An individual, who demonstrates personal industry rarely misses work, adheres to deadlines, performs their duties with few errors and exceeds the expectations (Connelly, 2009).
In The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda sometimes expected the completion of nearly impossible tasks, such as when the editor demanded that Andrea obtain the next unpublished Harry Potter manuscript for her daughters. After some initial hesitation at the sense that Miranda was setting her up for failure and trying to force her to quit, Andrea buckled down and set about the task. She not only managed to do what was necessary to get the transcripts, but had the copies rebound with cover art so that Miranda’s daughters wouldn’t get the sense they were reading manuscripts.
In addition, Andrea had two copies delivered to the girls in time to read on their train trip to grandma’s house and made an extra copy for Miranda, “just in case”. The situation is a great example of Andrea taking a seemingly impossible situation and transformed it into an opportunity to showcase personal industry. In conclusion, The Devil Wears Prada is a prime example of a movie that examines the multifaceted interactions of a group of people, who work together within the organization of Runway fashion magazine. Through their nteractions with each other and how they think, feel and act, the characters demonstrate the complexities of organizational behaviour (Connelly, 2009). As the movie progresses and the characters develop; they forge colourful relationships, while trying to delicately balance expectations and perceptions. Furthermore, they display an intense dedication to their jobs and the organization which shapes their attitudes and behaviours. Organizational behaviour is important to the understanding of the inner workings of an organizations and how employees and management perceive, manage and respond to one another.