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Surprisingly Relevant Tips for Sabotage

Rita J. King

Originally published by Rita J. King on LinkedIn: Surprisingly Relevant Tips for Sabotage

Looking for innovative ways to defeat an adversary? Look no further than the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, a declassified booklet created in 1944 by the precursor to the CIA, Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

This classified booklet described ways to sabotage the US’ World War II enemies. OSS Director William J. Donovan recommended that the sabotage guidance be declassified and distributed to citizens of enemy states via pamphlets and targeted broadcasts. The instructions would help ordinary citizens who disagree with their country's policies take disruptive action against their own government.

Surprisingly Relevant Sabotage Instructions

"Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant," according to the CIA. "Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined."

I'll say. When I reviewed the list, I could think of a dozen sessions with large companies in which these behaviors were exhibited--not by enemy combatants or angry citizens looking to sabotage their government, but by employees who actually receive payment for doing so. Check the list out.

Here’s a list of five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual: 

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work. 
  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one. 
  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done. 
  4. Telephone: At office, hotel and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off “accidentally,” or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again. 
  5. Transportation: Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument.

I first spotted this on Twitter, when it was shared by @alexandreafonso, who wrote: "When you realize that *all* faculty meetings follow the CIA's Sabotage Field Manual."  

Rita J. King is the co-director of Science House in Manhattan, where she specializes in aligning people, culture and business goals. Do your meetings feel like sabotage? Science House can help.