You may be a 16-year-old working your first job, or you may be 64-year-old preparing to retire. Either way, it’s likely you’ve faced a situation that had you re-examine your beliefs and personal integrity.
Shannon Sullivan landed an internship with the esteemed Disney College Program, which allows students to network with industry leaders, develop relevant industry skills, such as teamwork and communication, and participate in educational opportunities.
Just a month after a 2-year-old boy was killed by an alligator at a Disney resort, Sullivan noticed a sign encouraging Disney employees working in Frontierland to say that there have not been any alligators spotted, should any park guest inquire.
The sign read:
“If a Guest asks if we have gators in the water around Tom Sawyer’s Island (or any other bodies of water), the correct and appropriate response is, “Not that we know of, but if we see one, we will call Pest Management to have it removed.” Please do not say we have seen them before. We do not want our Guests to be afraid while walking around Frontierland. As a reminder, this is a serious matter. Please do not make jokes with our Guests about this.“
Sullivan, who has a 2-year-old little brother herself, was offended by the misleading signage and used Twitter to share the signage in a post. She was later confronted by her manager who fired her and had her escorted out of the park, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Her Twitter post attracted past park goers to share their wildlife experiences within the Disney parks, some posts even acknowledged the presence of alligators. “At this point, it became my morals and my integrity and what I believe in,” Sullivan told the Orlando Sentinel. “I thought if I lose my job because of that, it’s worth it to me.”
Disney spoke out and said the sign wasn’t company sanctioned, and it was removed immediately.
There is a happy ending to this internship fairytale! Despite Shannon initially being fired from the internship, Magic Kingdom Vice President, Dan Cockerell, visited Sullivan and offered her internship back, which she accepted.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, especially when you are at the bottom of the totem pole. Whether you are a CEO or a summer intern, you have the responsibility to be transparent with all stakeholders involved. Ultimately, Sullivan’s bravery and integrity may have saved future park guests from being misguided about possible roaming wildlife. Whether the risk is great or small, it’s up to all of us to protect each other and the general public.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
— Ashley Metivier
Activities Coordinator, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)