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ARTICLE: - The Smile Factory: Work at Disneyland

SLIDE 1>
DISNEYLAND AS AN ORGANISATION
• Weber’s Bureaucracy as a means of Organization
– Hierarchy of Authority (e.g. Social Order )
– System of rules (e.g. Control, Resistance, Emotional Labour)
o When an individual’s specific job skill is differentiated, he will find himself at the top of the
hierarchy. Social order can be seen on pg 61 last paragraph. We can also say that the
higher level an individual is being placed at, the more loyal and predictable he/she is to
the organization. In the context of “Work at Disneyland”, we see that the employees at the
lower level of the hierarchy are the ones who most provide for the organization’s day to
day business operations.

o Weber’s Bureaucracy as a means of organization is seen in this context where there are
specific rules and regulations set for the employees to follow. This acts as a form of
control which then leads to resistance and cause emotional labor to the employee
working in the organization.

SLIDE 2 with details>


Key Elements:
• Written Rights and Responsibilities
o Refer page 60 bottom of the page – article mentioned the training manual where there
are formal and informal codes of conduct. Refer to page 65, 4th paragraph on “paid
employment…” to page 66 where we see that employees go through rigorous training for
their job. From their knowledge of Disney, the technicalities of the job, to the words that
can be said and cannot be said (the model answers).

• Hierarchical Order of Authority


o Employees differentiate themselves into groups – e.g : those acting as Disney characters
are different from those working as the shop floor assistants. Refer to page 61 last
paragraph on author’s loose approximation of the rank ordering among the groups.
(Points 1-5)

• Formal Appointment/ Promotion


o Most employees were allocated to their jobs based on the management’s own discretion.
(Refer to page 59 last paragraph on the criteria of employee selection and page 62, 3 rd
paragraph on the hiring decision)
o The article also mentioned that job rotations are not encouraged. (refer to page 63
paragraph 4 – 1st sentence) although there are exceptions. As the author quoted: “once a
sweeper always a sweeper” it seems promotion opportunities are for the lucky few.

• Expert/ Technical Training


o The University of Disneyland provides apprenticeship training programs for the students
and employees are required to go through this 40 hrs of training sessions before being
allowed to work in Disneyland. This is very crucial for the smooth operation of
Disneyland. (Refer page 65, 4th paragraph)

• Fixed Monetary Salaries


o Depending on the job that one is doing, one enjoys that level’s range of monetary
benefits but interestingly, the social benefits that come from those at the perceived higher
level of work are also deemed as important and envied and sought after by those at the
perceived lower levels.

• Separation of Office and Person


o Disneyland’s employees are identified into their job’s role and soon lost their personal
identities as they become more engrossed into their Disney ‘character’. E.g.: after
working hours, employees continued to role play with fellow working partners, even
speaking in the same manner like the character they represent at work. (Refer page 65,
1st paragraph’s 4th line)

SLIDE 3>
• Taylorism structure
- Specific work processes & work flows.
o Every job has a certain set of procedures to follow and the work processes are the same.
E.g. Ride operator’s job scope is to operate the rides and to have no interactions at all
with the guests at the park. Any misunderstandings or customer service issues during the
rides has to be dealt with by the area supervisors – who are specially trained for this
purpose as well.

SLIDE 4>
KEY ISSUES WITH EMPLOYMENT
• HR Management
o The HR Management is strict and they judge you accordingly in their own opinion to how
you present yourself at the interview. Say for e.g. an individual with special talent in
acting may appear nervous during the interview and be deemed by the HR Manager as
inadequate for an acting role in Disneyland; and latter was placed as sweeper in one of
the attractions.

• Employment Criteria
Full vs. Part Timer Workers
o Full timers usually are more loyal and receptive to changes. Part-timers (seasonal
employees) have no loyalties as they come and go. E.g. Recruitment for Part-timers at
Disneyland during Peak Season are usually the highest.

Staff Handbook (Codes of conduct and appearance)


o Specific rules and regulations to follow to uphold the corporate image for specific jobs
(Refer page 67, 2nd paragraph)

Language & Behaviour


o Language: e.g ‘customer’ = ‘guest’ ; ‘rides’ = ‘attractions’ ; ‘accidents’ = ‘incidents’ ;
‘amusement centre’ = ‘park’ ; ‘policemen’ = ‘security hosts’.
o Behaviour: The animated workforce are eager to greet guests and attempts to meet or
exceed guests’ expectations.
(Detailed examples can be located at page 60- 2nd paragraph on the rules on employees’
appearance and page 62 last sentence of the 1st paragraph on the restrictions of behaviour)

Apprenticeship Program (Details at Page 65, 4th paragraph)

Inflexible movement across job


o In Disneyland, it was not encouraged to move across different jobs, probably due to the
intensive training supervisor has placed in each individual. Alternately we can also look at
it in another manner whereby too much flexibility may cause confusions to individuals in
terms of job roles and may also cause more burdens to HR trainers to conduct more
training sessions on these employees to perfect their roles.

• Authority/Power/Control
o There was a certain authority, power and control that the HR management dept. can
exercise on these employees.

• Resistances & Emotional Labor


o Different forms of employee resistances were surfacing as well as emotional labour that
employees had to accept.

SLIDE 5 with details>


DISNEYLAND AS A WORKPLACE
• “ The Happiest Place on Earth” self-proclaimed*
o What do most of us view Disneyland as? (A place basking in sunshine and ringing with
laughter!) But the author described Disneyland as a ‘self-proclaimed’ happiest place on
earth. (page 58, 3rd paragraph 1st sentence) We see from the article many examples of
how people working in Disneyland ‘’suffers.

• “Once a sweeper, always a sweeper” – Job Discriminations


o From the day someone applies a job – he would be already ‘categorised’ according to his
age, race & appearance – into a job the management thinks he is suitable for. Once
employed, he faced strict training on conduct and appearance upkeeping – there is a lost
of identity.

• Supervisors vs. Rides Operator


– Resistances tricks (Break schedules)
– Controlled Supervisions
– Encourage workers to work cohesively

o As per the author, ride operators felt so restrictive that they will think of inventive ways to
have more breaks and will envy teams who have laxed supervisors who gave longer
breaks. (Refer page 63, 2nd paragraph last sentence) And there were such strict
supervision of conduct as it was said by the author that supervisors hide in the bushes to
catch any misconduct. (Refer page 68, 3rd paragraph 1st sentence & page 69, 1st
paragraph’s 9th line) But with such close supervisions, it drew the team members more
closely & cohesively together as they ‘look out for one another’. (Refer page 69, 1st
paragraph last sentence) However, for those ride operators who tell tales to the
supervisors, the author reassured the reader that offenders will be ostracized by the team
members. As per the author, being ‘ostracised’ in Disneyland works in Disneyland
because being accepted as a team member is necessary on and off duty. (Refer page 69,
2nd paragraph’s 13th line)

• Emotional Labour (Revengeful Instincts)


o The author also showed how employees of Disneyland vent their frustrations at work by
‘punishing’ customers who made their job more demanding as it is. Refer page 71, last
paragraph on some of the ways employees deploy discreetly to the “little criminals of
Disneyland” (e.g.: “seatbelt slap” and “break-up-the-party”)

• Fusion of Work and Play


– During working hours
– After working hours
o During working hours, employees were told repeatedly that if they are happy and cheerful
at work, so too will the guest at play. Thus employees naturally engaged into a ‘happy
and fun-loving’ attitude at work and the same attitude usually also continued after work.
(which usually is partying with fellow team members late into the night and, mentioned
above, the role playing of their characters & talk even after duty)

SLIDE 6>
Author’s Conclusion
• 4 Key Features
- Socialization
o Socialization, though costly is most effective in penetrating into the individual’s
unconscious thought and behavior. In the article, we read that there were employees
who felt bad for the possibility of making customers feel slightly unhappy at
Disneyland, or not living up to Walt Disney’s expectations. Employees turnover were
more at the ‘lower-levels’ (e.g. food and concession domains) and loyalty were more
secured at the higher level jobs, like the people playing the characters.

- Work Culture
o The Disney work culture left little room for individual experimentation. Everything in
Disneyland is of a standard – from its architecture, its merchandise and even the
‘feel’. The job scopes are standardized and laden with rules which make it simple for
supervisors to choose from a wide list of regulations to discredit or dismiss a member
of the team. Everybody feels someone higher up is watching over their every moves.

- Emotion Management
o As the employee goes into his job, he will have to handle the pressure of group
conformity in working within his team and other teams. Interestingly, they are also
trained to a level of self-awareness and will feel guilty when they are too tired to
smile. There is a certain degree of self-motivation that keeps each individual’s
behavior in check. There is a certain subtle influence everyday, pressurizing
employees that sooner or later, they went ‘auto-pilot’, ‘robotic’ and ‘cannot feel a
thing’ – a passive form of resistance to the routine work that they are doing.

- Sustained Results
o Bringing the above 3 points together, it is hard to sustain the result. But we see that in
Disneyland, there are trainers who set a good example and role model to new-
comers as these trainers had gone through the same routine work and can
understand how to ‘do the talk’ and convince trainees what works best. As
Disneyland values training and retraining and succeeded in a certain degree of
making it work, the author concluded that here is a work culture worthy of its name.

LAST SLIDES>
Critical Thinking (Open questions for discussion in class)

• Why do you think that there are ex-employees who still choose to return to work in
Disneyland?
- as far as we read from the article, there are part-timers who really like the work culture
and the close bond they established working in Disneyland that they do not mind coming
back. Also, there is a social status badge associated with working in Disneyland. (Like
working in GUCCI vs. working in Giordano)

• Do you think age discrimination is really prevalent in the context?


- As per the article, to a certain degree we can say yes. (Refer page 59 last paragraph)
But reader must remember that author is writing from his experience as a ride operator in
the late 1960s and we cannot proof that there are age discrimination in the other
departments of Disneyland. E.g.: The person acting as ‘Alice’ in “Alice in the Wonderland”
cannot be ALICE for more than 10 years as she would have naturally grown out of the
age suitable to be ‘Alice’.)

• If you were the manager of Disneyland, how would you manage the staff’s different
attitudes?
- Basically, we will follow the rules already set by the management as it is easier and
‘correct’. The main aim is to maintain the positive image Disneyland represents. We will
also seek to understand the requirements of the staff and explain to them the job
requirements and do role-playing with employees to allow them to experience the level of
customer experience/ satisfaction employees are portraying to the guests. We may also
seek periodic peer evaluations, organise periodic team building campaigns to motivate
staff and to provide more feedback sessions.

• Do you think Bureaucracy works in Disneyland?


- Yes, maintaining a standard is required to make Disneyland run as it is – especially with
its overseas branches and many diversified business. It is necessary to maintain one
standard form of operations so that internationally people can associate the organization
as one.

• How do you think Wilfred Bion’s theory on Groups is true to the article? (Lec 6 – slide 10
as illustrated below)
- Wilfred Bion’s theory on groups:
> Individual psychology affected the group psychology, and in reverse group
psychology affected the individual one.
> The rational working of the group and its task performance was profoundly
affected by the emotions and irrational feelings of its members.
> The full potential of the group could be realized only when this fact was
recognized and dealt with.

- In short, from the article, we see that the rider operators worked in a group as they look
after each other’s backs from the watchful eyes of the supervisor) and built a
cohesiveness among themselves. Team members were afraid of being ostracized and
deemed the team’s bond as too important to be broken.

• How biased do you think the article was?


- Author was sacked from Disneyland for a ‘Mickey Mouse offence’ which might explain
his sometimes harsh comments in the article. (refer point 3 of last page of the article’s
notes) However, the author also made a balance by pointing out the importance of the
way Disneyland works that brings about its continuous success in the business.

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