Tuesday 2 August 2016

How to Spot an Office Saboteur, According to the CIA

The Strategic Services Unit - an American intelligence agency that was folded into the nascent CIA after World War II -  produced a number of field manuals, as these kind of organisations are prone to do.  One of them, Field Manual no. 3, deals with what's called "Simple Sabotage", a way for "citizen-saboteurs" to damage the war effort of an enemy without having to blow up bridges, demolish railway tunnels, or perform any of the commando-style activities that make for a great rainy Sunday afternoon film.

There's plenty of interesting stuff about how to damage, disable, and otherwise ruin machinery of various kinds, how to set fires, how to sabotage fuel, and generally annoy the mechanical industrial efforts of an enemy.  I've linked to a declassified PDF of the manual above if you're interested in that sort of thing, but I'm going to focus on what the manual describes as the second type of simple sabotage, which:

.....requires no destructive tools whatsoever and produces physical damage, if any, by highly indirect means. It is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit. Making a faulty decision may be simply a matter of placing tools in one spot instead of another.  A non-cooperative attitude may involve nothing more than creating an unpleasant situation among one's fellow workers, engaging in bickerings, or displaying surliness and stupidity.

This type of activity, sometimes referred to as the "human clement," is frequently responsible for accidents, delays, and general obstruction even under normal conditions. The potential saboteur should discover what types of decisions and non-cooperation are normally routine in his kind of work and should then devise his sabotage so as to enlarge that "margin for error."

This type of sabotage focuses on getting people, rather than machinery, to run inefficiently and slowly. What's telling is that 70+ years ago the kinds of behaviours described were well-understood as being destructive, damaging and otherwise antithetical to a well-run, productive office, and yet you still find people engaging in these behaviours well into the 21st century.

The PDF is a scanned version of a type-written 20 page manual, and it can be a bit hard to read at points, so I've transcribed the relevant sections below (having removed a few that refer to dealing with the Gestapo because it's 2016).  So without further ado, let's see if anyone you know is an office saboteur, according to the CIA:

(11) General Interference with Organizations and "Production

  (a) Organizations and Conferences

  1. Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision,
  7. Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
  8. Be worried about the propriety any decision - raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
 (b) Managers and Supervisors
  1. Demand written orders.
  2. "Misunderstand" orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.
  3. Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don't deliver it until it is completely ready.
  4. Don't order new working' materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that  the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
  5. Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don't get them argue about
    it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.
  6. In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
  7. Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
  8. Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.
  9. When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
  10. 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.
  11. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done. 
  12. Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files. 
  13. Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do. 
  14. Apply all regulations to the last letter.

(c) Office Workers

  1. Make mistakes in quantities of material when you' are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
  2. Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
  3. Misfile essential documents.
  4. In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.
  5. Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.
  6. Hold up mail until the next collection.
  7. Spread disturbing rumours that sound like inside dope.

(d) Employees

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Even it you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.
  4. Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.
  5. 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.
  6. Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skilful worker.
  7. 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.
  8. If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.
  9. Misroute materials.
  10. Mix good parts with unusable scrap and rejected parts.

(12) General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion
  1. Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
  2. Report imaginary danger
  3. Act stupid.
  4. Be as irritable and, quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble
  5. Misunderstand all sorts of regulations concerning such matters as rationing, transportation,
  6. traffic regulations.
  7. Complain against ersatz materials.
  8. Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks.


So there we are, office sabotage 101. There are a grand total of 47 possibilities there, and by my reckoning I've seen people do at least 22 of them.  Can anyone out there beat that score?  

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