Last updated: Corporate life: The CIA manual on how to sabotage an organization

Corporate life: The CIA manual on how to sabotage an organization


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In 1944, the CIA created a field guide detailing how to sabotage an organization. Titled “Simple Sabotage Field Manual”, it was distributed to workers in foreign countries who were interested in quietly upending efforts against the United States amid World War II. In the guide, the CIA hypothesized that productivity and morale could be subverted with “purposeful stupidity.”

Despite page two clearly stating, “The contents of this Manual should be carefully controlled and should not be allowed to come into unauthorized hands,” anyone who has ever worked anywhere might read it and wonder if their company were under attack from internal saboteurs.

Declassified in 2008, the guide is chock-full of ways to destabilize a company and subvert productivity by non-violent means… although one might argue that corporate emails are a form of violence at times.

The manual covers all sectors of organizations, including:

  1. Managers and Supervisors
  2. Employees
  3. Organizations and Conferences
  4. Communications
  5. General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion

According to the guide, simple sabotage “is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit.

A non-cooperative attitude may involve nothing more than creating an unpleasant situation among ones fellow workers, engaging in bickering, or displaying surliness and stupidity.”

Hitting a little hard?


Thought so.

The call is coming from inside the house: Wreaking mayhem within corporate structure

Spend a few minutes on the “corporate life” portion of TikTok, and you’ll never feel alone again.

No, it’s not just your company.
Yes. It’s every company.
And… maybe… just maybe… it’s the CIA.

Let’s delve into some of the instructions in the manual, and you can decide for yourself.

General Interference with Organizations and Production for Organizations + Conferences:

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order 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 committee as large as possible — never less than five.

  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  • Refer back to matters 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 such action as contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

General Interference with Organizations and Production for Managers + Supervisors:

  • Demand written orders.
  • “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

  • In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
  • Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
  • When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
  • 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.
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  • To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.

General Interference with Organizations and Production for Office Workers:

  • Make mistakes in quantities of material when you’ are copying orders.
  • Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
  • Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
  • Misfile essential documents.
  • In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.
  • Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.
  • Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

General Interference with Organizations and Production for Employees:

  • Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job.
  • Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
  • Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

If none of the above pointers on how to grind an enterprise to its knees make any sense to you… let’s just say I want to see your *REAL* work ID badge.

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