Considering Ethics & Leadership


An Organizational Analysis on Monsters Inc.

Organizational communication is essential to success. As a vitally fundamental element for success, I think that organizational communication is a culmination of skillfully mindful interactions and critical discourses, which are required to effectively lead a group toward achieving a mission or a set of principle objectives. As an example, Monsters Inc., an animated comedy produced by Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Studios, demonstrates important aspects of organization communication. Following the lives of two employees in the city of Monstropolis, James P. “Sully” Sullivan and Mike Wazowski, Monsters Inc. is a story about an organization, generating the city’s power by scaring children. However, when an employee makes one mistake, the entire organization is faced with the crisis of a child contamination entering the monster world that blows up into a huge scandal as soon as the CDA, the Children Detection Agency, tracks the child invasion back to the scare factory. Lastly, Sully and Mike make an ethical decision to help save the child by returning her home instead of turning her in, impacting the reputation of the factory due to being the company’s top scare team and main public image. Further within several conversations, particularly between Sully and the factory’s CEO, Waternoose, the story also reveals that the company is not reaching their quotas due to the lack of “scare”, or city power, which subsequently reflects negatively on the company because they are not capable of achieving their mission of obtaining the city’s main source of power. As the story unfolds, Monsters Inc. illustrates what could happen and how an organization leads, manages and deals with conflict, including not reaching company quotas and facing massive company scandals. Because of Sully’s and Mike’s choice in doing the right thing for the little girl that enters Monstropolis, they involve themselves in the “kid-tastrophic” issue, facing organizational dilemmas of ethics, which ultimately connects this entertaining family film to organizational communication.

As an example of organizational communication playing a role in the film, ethics, the set of rules and responsibilities of good morality that guides our behavior, plays a tremendous part in the characterization of the two protagonists Sully and Mike, the factory CEO Waternoose and the antagonist, Randall Boggs (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 47). Sully, who seems to be the one with the most integrity, selflessly puts the organization first, his team second and then himself. However, as soon as the company crisis occurs, Sully takes a step back from his job and instead of doing things right according to company codes of conduct, out of integrity and good ethics, he takes a turn to do the right thing to save the child (Drucker). Like Sully, Mike also has a fairly good judgment on his ethics; still, Mike is a prime example of the work-life conflict because of his personal relationships with Sully, his best friend, and Celia, his girlfriend who works as the front desk agent of the scare factory. Consistently throughout the film, Mike makes decisions between what is better for the organization versus what is best for his personal life. CEO Waternoose, unlike the two protagonists, is completely vested in the company since his family has been running the factory for three generations, giving him a sense of skin-in-the-game. Because of his investment in the organization, Waternoose lacks a sense of good ethics and shows throughout the film that he would do anything to prevent losing the company. Lastly, Randall Boggs, as the villain, clearly lacks any decent ethic in every choice he makes, choosing to act only in the best interest of himself.

In addition to ethics supporting the characterization within Monsters Inc., the many organizations exemplify their use of teams, a group of employees from different areas of specializations within the organization to efficiently maximize the cross-functional exchange of information (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 211). For instance, when the company scandal arises with the child, the CDA immediately and collectively takes action. The CDA forces a city lockdown, tracks the child back to the scare factory, interrogates CEO Waternoose, investigates the factory and ultimately helps Sully and Mike return the child back to the human world. As seen during the city lockdown, the CDA makes no exceptions, working as a team and sticking to their mission of finding the child. Within the factory, the scare teams act as another example of teamwork. Set up as an autocratic bureaucracy because of the dangerous work, the scare teams have their clear roles and clear job responsibilities. Split in twos, one member of the scare team is responsible for scaring the children and the other is responsible for supporting the one in charge of scaring children by supplying doors (to get to children), filling up scare tanks (where they store the scare power) and filing paperwork after the day is through. Without the constrictive regulations of the teams, dangerous issues such as the child invasion would occur, which is shown when Randall works by himself to increase his numbers in order to become the top scare monster.

Another case of organizational communication in this film is the varying management and leadership styles. CEO Waternoose, who exemplifies the classical management style of autocracy, utilizing the chain-of-command, and consistently dividing the line between management and employees. Moreover, CEO Waternoose also seems to follow the ideals of trait leadership, a mode of leadership based on innate characteristics, believing that only monsters who are “confident, tenacious, tough and intimidating” can be good scarers. In contrast, Sully, who later succeeds Waternoose in running the factory, democratically and charismatically leads his team and the organization, always taking everyone’s ideas and opinions into consideration. Through his human resources management style, Sully demonstrates his use of servant leadership, a style of leading that prioritizes service, by putting not only his employees and the organization first, but also giving priority to the external climate of the organization including the children they affect and the impact they have on the city. Further, Sully also demonstrates a transformational leadership, which is another form of leadership that focuses on the vision of needed change. Shown in the film, when Sully takes charge of the factory, leading the organization into a huge structural change in the way they work, instead of scaring, they make children laugh. In addition to the leadership styles of Waternoose and Sully, Roz, who is a secretary at the factory, but in reality, is the secret undercover leader of the CDA, exhibits an autocratic management style similar to the way Waternoose runs his organization. However, unlike Waternoose, Roz utilizes situational leadership, performing different forms of leadership depending on the situation. For instance, when we first meet Roz, who works behind a desk as a secretary, she sticks to the rules, criticizing Mike for not correctly filing his paperwork. While she works as a secretary, she directs the CDA into investigating the factory and locking the city down, which secretly displays her autocratic leadership by making quick decisions to efficiently fulfill undercover organizational mission of finding the child. However, on the other hand, at the end of the film, Roz helps Sully and Mike return the child back home. Rather than following the regulations of the CDA, she listens to the perspective of Sully and Mike and creates a compromise by allowing them to return the girl to the human world, but shredding the door so she could never come back. By doing so, Roz shows her capability of changing her management style from classical management to a more human resource-styled management (Eisenberg, Goodall Trethewey 250-51).

Revisiting Sully’s transformational leadership within the organization, Sully, after succeeding Waternoose, drives the factory toward a major change, displaying an aspect of organizational communication known as total quality management, which is the structural approach of organizational management that focuses on improving an organization’s products or services (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 291). Because children were gradually not getting scared anymore, Sully wanted to find a better way of obtaining power for the city. Through his experience with taking care of the alien child that invaded Monstropolis, Sully learned that making children laugh was three more times powerful than scaring them. Further, Sully implemented this idea into the factory by changing the work, removing scarers and replacing them with comedians.

From ethical dilemmas and company scandals to varied forms of teamwork, management and leadership, Monsters Inc. demonstrates both good and bad execution of organizational communication. Through this film, we learn that organizational communication is integral to organizational success in fulfilling any mission. Without the skillful interactions or critical discourses, an organization would lack the capability of effectively leading their company, group or team toward achieving any mission or goal. We learn that with the proper methods of leadership, teamwork and management, a company can thrive, just like the scare factory had under the management of Sully, by the end of the film. Still, ultimately, Monsters Inc. teaches us much more than what successfully executed organizational communication looks like. Though this animation is simply regarded as some Disney children’s film, Monsters Inc. highlights one of the most significant aspects of organizational communications: ethics and integrity. As ethics walk on a fine line, Monsters Inc. exhibits how we should do our best to do things right for the organization. Still, through Sully’s and Mike’s valiant acts of saving the child, we learn that though we may want to do things right for the organization, we should also critically consume knowledge, use moral judgment and keep a mindful perspective on the situation to always do the right thing. Ws should strive to keep this balance because doing things right allows the organization to prosper; nevertheless doing the right thing for the people and the environment is just as essential and necessary because without the people, the society, the culture and the surrounding environment, we simply would have no purpose and no need for an organization. As ethics plays the role of a common theme that runs across leadership, management and teamwork, the film inspires me to wonder: would an organization be anything without having a group to lead?


Drucker, Peter F., The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential

Writings on Management. 2008. Print.

Eisenberg, Eric M., Goodall Jr., H.L., Trethewey, Angela. Organizational Communication:

Balancing Creativity and Constraint. Bedford Books. 2009. Print.

Monsters Inc. Dir. Pete Docter. Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. 2001. Film.