In their new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, Robert M. Galford and Cary Greene, examine the "Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” a guide published by the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) in 1944 to assist European spies undermine the Axis powers from within.
Galford and Greene examine eight techniques outlined in the field manual that are eerily similar to what often goes on in workplaces today.
Here are the eight tactics the OSS recommended for tripping up an Axis agency from the inside:
- Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions.
- Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
- 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.
- Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
- Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.
- Refer back to a matter decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
- Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
- Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
In my nearly three decades of work in a variety of fields, I have seen these strategies deployed with frightening regularity.
My own additions to the list would include:
- Run meetings and training sessions with PowerPoint decks consisting of dozens of text-filled slides. If possible, read directly from your slides.
- Assemble meeting agendas in reverse order of importance, thus placing the most important item last and ensuring that if the meeting is running late, the agenda cannot be cut short.
- At the beginning of every meeting, require grown adults to review (and if possible read aloud) a set of norms - a list of ways that reasonable adults behave decently - thus treating your meeting attendees like poorly behaved children.
- Assign seats in meetings and training sessions, thus reinforcing the idea that you view your meeting attendees like poorly behaved children. Infantilizing your subordinates is a highly effective means of generating discord. Do so whenever possible.
- Open meetings with meaningless "get to know you" activities. Activities that include sticking post-it notes onto colleagues' backs, tossing playground balls to one another, and scavenger hunts are especially destructive to both productivity and morale.
- When responding to email, use "reply all" whenever possible. Add unnecessary people to email distribution lists whenever possible.
- Before sending an email to subordinates, ask yourself: Could I include this relatively simple piece of information on the agenda of my next meeting, thus prolonging that meeting? If the answer is yes - and it almost always is - delete the email and add the information as an agenda item.
- Never allow a string of emails to end. Always reply - regardless of the finality of the last email, with anodyne phrases like "Thank you" and "Sounds good" and "I understand." Every additional email sent amounts to productivity lost.
Have any items that you would like to recommend be added to the list? Please let me know.