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Bad American bosses exposed!

The movie and book The Devil Wears Prada parodies a top legal firm.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 17:42 IST

The movie and best-selling book The Devil Wears Prada skewer a diabolical magazine editor, the popular blog Anonymous Lawyer parodies a top legal firm and a top editor dishes dirt in a behind-the-scenes book at the beauty industry.

All the dirty laundry being aired about less-than-happy workplaces might mean bullying bosses would think twice before berating their underlings. But experts and insiders say none of it will make a lick of difference.

"You have people who are ready to become self-aware and who will use these books ... and actually start to think about things they would do differently," said Judith Glaser, a workplace consultant and author. "They have to be willing."

But alas, she said, most bullying bosses and office divas won't change. Instead, they are more likely to pass off tell-alls as parody, satire and unrealistic exaggeration.

Those bosses shouldn't dismiss even the wildest tales, said Jeremy Blachman, author of Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel, which began as a blog about a fictional hiring partner at a law firm. The book is due to be published by Henry Holt and Co. in July.

Blachman said he would write over-the-top fictional stories -- one was about a company policy allowing associates to celebrate holidays "on a limited basis" -- only to learn that, no matter how tall his tale, it seemed someone had actually seen it happen.

But he said his stories would have little impact on life in a cutthroat, high-pressure firm.

"I would expect that the people who read the book and who are amused by the book aren't the people who are actually making lives miserable for attorneys," he said.

Even if they did read these books or see these movies, the worst bosses won't see themselves, said Suzanne Hansen, author of "You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again," about her job as nanny to the family of top Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz.

"When their hearts are cold like that, when it's that extreme, I don't think they change," she said. "I think it almost makes them like, 'Poor me, I have to really protect myself now because everyone's out to get me.'"


Of course, tell-alls ratting out bad bosses and exposing workplace excess are nothing new. Michael Lewis revealed the antics at powerful Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers in his 1989 book Liar's Poker, and the 1980 movie 9 to 5 featured women turning tables on their obnoxious boss.

This week sees release of The Devil Wears Prada, a movie starring Meryl Streep based on the book about the fashion world written by former Vogue magazine staffer Lauren Weisberger.

The bestseller entertained fashion insiders who widely believed the impatient, demanding editor in the fictional work was a thinly disguised version of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

"I'm sure in the 15th century, if the serfs had been able to write about the kings, it would have made for good reading," said Jean Godfrey-June, beauty editor of Lucky magazine who has written an insider's look at the beauty industry.

Her nonfiction book, entitled Free Gift With Purchase, features battling bosses -- one coined the Playboy and the other Above the Fray -- who loathed each other and terrorised hapless employees trying to please them both.

But she doesn't name names.

"I feel like your average person who is reading the book doesn't know who these people are and they don't care," she said, adding, "I didn't want it to be all about making somebody else look bad."

In fact, she said, readers may grow to like the world of beauty, as she does. "If you read the book, you're not going to buy less make-up afterward. You'll just feel better about it."