The Florence Pugh guide to handling work drama like a pro

Florence Pugh | Soho House

The star has demonstrated an impressive level of self-prepossessing elegance in the midst of the ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ storm. Herewith, the lessons to apply to your own day-to-day

Wednesday 7 September   By Sagal Mohammad

The feud surrounding the cast of Don’t Worry Darling has dominated pop culture this week, with Florence Pugh, Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles and Chris Pine at the center of it. 

The cast of the psychological thriller– Wilde’s anticipated directorial follow-up to Booksmart and originally billed as one of the most exciting box office releases of the year – have given us more drama off-screen than they did when the cameras were rolling, with rumors of on-set disputes, secret love affairs and alleged spitting (did Harry really do that?). But it’s the tension between Pugh and Wilde in particular that has dominated the narrative. The Little Women star skipped the promotional press conference at Venice Film Festival last weekend, confirming the bad blood between them. 

The two reportedly fell out after Pugh grew frustrated at Wilde. Firstly, for hiring Shia Labeouf as her co-star (he was replaced by Harry Styles after Pugh made it clear she wasn’t comfortable working with the actor, infamously accused of sexual and domestic abuse by ex-girlfriend FKA twigs). Then, for neglecting her duties to direct Pugh on set; allegedly prioritising her romantic relationship with Styles – a whole other can of worms, full of speculations around a love triangle between Styles, Wilde and her long-term ex and co-parenting partner, Jason Sudeikis. 

In the months since filming wrapped in February, fans noticed Pugh had been noticeably quiet around the project, barely promoting it in the press and on social media. Wilde, on the other hand, dedicated an entire post to Pugh’s brilliance in the movie. The former didn’t respond, nor did she acknowledge it publicly. At Don’t Worry Darling’s world premiere at Venice last weekend, Pugh was absent from all press interviews with the cast – once again, breathing life into speculation that there was truth in all the hearsay. 

There is, however, a lesson to be learnt from the way Pugh has conducted herself through the scandal. By attending only the red carpet and film screening – to which she showed up in a killer Maison Valentino gown – she opted out of engaging in what would have been an incredibly awkward on-the-record interaction. 

The ‘revenge’ dress spoke for itself. As did Pugh’s decision. She managed to stay graceful, rise above the drama and fulfill her professional duty to show up without the fake smiles and false friendship narratives that engaging in a press conference with the cast would have required. In my opinion, the whole affair is a prime example of how to keep your cool in a work crisis – and stand your ground without compromising your integrity. 

But how exactly does one adopt this Florence Pugh-esque approach into their own work life? Business psychologist and expert on such things, Dannielle Haig, breaks it down.

Don’t fight fire with fire
‘Fight fire with water. If someone is being angry, aggressive, or passive aggressive towards you, it seems natural to retaliate in the same way. It might make you feel better in the immediate instance; however, you may regret it later. Staying cool and controlling your emotions is a better solution. Remember that fighting fire with fire creates more fire.’

Walk away 
‘Or in Pugh’s case, avoid situations that’ll trigger you. If someone is really frustrating you or making you feel upset or hurt, remove yourself from that space. Allow yourself the time to calm down. If your fight or flight mode has been activated and you find yourself getting hot and bothered, and your heart rate is spiking, going for a walk will help calm you down and finish your stress cycle. This will allow you to think logically rather than emotionally and you can re-enter the scenario or conversation from a calm and logical place.’

Create a healthy (and safe) outlet for yourself 
‘When we’re clashing with someone else, we want to have our voice and standpoint heard, but sometimes that isn’t good in the long run for our work relationships or careers. I suggest writing down all the things you’d love to say – the swearing, ranting, screaming; all the snide comments you’d love to say. This will be incredibly cathartic but not impact your career. Once you’ve got it all out on paper or a Word doc, you can then respond in a way that is professional and to your benefit.’

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