Advice From The CIA: How To Sabotage Your Workplace

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar April 03, 2019

A new gimmick has entered the management world. It’s an old (1944) CIA manual on how to sabotage an organization’s productivity. This secret pamphlet was called “The Simple Sabotage Field Manual”. It was distributed by the Allies in WWII to guide sympathetic citizens. It gave the rebellious ones instructions on how to weaken their country by reducing productivity in the workplace.

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The pamphlet was de-classified in 2008. Since then it has penetrated the management guru world. It’s now making a comeback in presentations and publications. It is so good that we want to share it with you all.

General instructions

Some of the instructions are out-dated. But most sound surprisingly familiar. The last section, about sabotaging day-to-day business operations is spot on – and timeless.

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Let’s list our top 5 of these timeless suggestions. Check for yourself if colleagues or bosses are draining productivity in your workplace:

  • "Talk as frequently as possible and at great length". Check.
  • "Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible". Check.
  • "Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions." Check.
  • "Refer back to matters decided upon." Check.
  • "Be worried about the propriety of any decision." Double check.

Instructions for managers

Now let’s move from these general instructions to those targeted at managers and supervisors. They also sound familiar.


Here, again, are the top 5 we recognized:

  • "Misunderstand orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders." Check.
  • "In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first." Check.
  • "Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products." Check.
  • "Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done." Check.
  • "Multiply the procedure and clearances involved in issuing instructions." Double check.

Instructions for employees

The sabotage instructions for employees are even more elaborate and spot-on!


once again, here’s the top 5 we recognized:

  • "Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone." Check.
  • "Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope." Check.
  • "Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job." Check.
  • "Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can. When you go to the lavatory, spend longer time there than is necessary." Check.
  • "Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment." Double check.

The modern workplace = Simple sabotage

We have seen these behaviors in the workplace. You probably have too—maybe even this week?

How the hell can a 1944 sabotage manual, written by the secret service, be so accurate about behaviors many of us see on a daily basis at work?

We should open our eyes. We should call them out. Next time you see a colleague-cum-saboteur, show them the manual. Perhaps suggest they join the secret service?

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Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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