“Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!”
This well-known ditty, sung by the seven dwarves as they happily make their way into the diamond mines for a day of labor, is an iconic moment in the Disney animated movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” But despite this cheery work moment, does the movie negatively influence the way children view work?
A new study by the Academy of Management found an overwhelming number of animated Disney movies portray managers, leaders, and everyday work life in a negative fashion. The authors believe the influence of Disney films likely shapes the way children view the working world long before they enter the workforce.
The study published by the Academy of Management Learning & Education, “Organizational Readiness: Culturally Mediated Learning through Disney Animation,” was written by professors Martyn Griffin of Leeds University, Mark Learmonth of Durham University, and Nick Piper of Leeds University. Drawing from the findings, the coauthors conclude Disney animations are likely to significantly shape children’s learning about organizations. An overwhelming number of the films carried several negative workplace-related themes. These themes can drive young employees, especially in their first jobs, to have negative ideas about the workplace.
The authors analyzed 56 feature-length animated films, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 to “Moana” in 2016. They then identified which workplace-related themes were portrayed by each film.
The themes included:
- Subjection to dangerous, dirty or unfulfilling work
- Manipulation and/or deception by managers or overseers
- Staying positive in the face of adversity and abuse
- Being rescued and returned to a non-working environment
- Leaving unrewarding work and renewing identity in a new working role
“Our research suggests one of the most powerful cultural influences in western society, Disney animated films, have created negative views about workplace managers among generations of children for nearly 80 years,” said Griffin. “While common knowledge might suggest new entrants to the workforce are blank slates ready to be molded by their organizations, our research shows managers and organizations will need to take into account the ideas about organizational life that began as soon as they were old enough to watch their first Disney movie.”
The research can be found in the March issue of the Academy of Management Learning & Education.