Is Your Boss Sabotaging Your Company With Spy Tactics?

In 1944, our government published a classified field manual for spies outlining ways to sabotage the companies of our nation’s enemies. Unfortunately, to many in the corporate world, many of these tactics could look strangely familiar.


Before there was a CIA, there was the OSS, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. It employed some of our nation’s best spies, often tasked with dangerous missions behind enemy lines where the slightest misstep could easily mean the difference between life and its alternative.

One common mission assigned to agents of the OSS was that of infiltrating the corporations of enemy nations and wreaking havoc on productivity. To help guide them in this task was the aptly named Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF) published in 1944.

Today that field manual is declassified, and anyone with a web browser can view it online — including your boss.

In fact, if you’ve ever had a bad boss, the methods our spies used to sabotage the corporations of our enemies might seem eerily — or hilariously — familiar. Here are a few of the best:

11a1 – Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

11a2 – Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

11a3 – When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible – never less than five.

11a4 – Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

11a5 – Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

11a6 – Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

11a7 – Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

11b1 – Demand written orders.

11b2 – “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

11b7 – Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.

11b9 – When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.

11b10 – To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

11b11 – Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

11b12 – Multiply paperwork in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.

11b13 – Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, paychecks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

11b14 – Apply all regulations to the last letter.

And one of my favorite things to have ever read in a government-published field manual:

11c7 – Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

Of course, the OSS had spies in nonmanagement roles as well. Here are a few of the things they were directed to do:

11d1 – Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

11d2 – Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.

11d5 – Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.

11d6 – Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

11d7 – Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.

12a – Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.

12c – Act stupid.

12d – Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.

From your experience in the workforce, can you offer any additional strategies to foul up productivity? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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