Articles

The CIA's manual for how to be a terrible employee sounds like it was written by the E-4 Mafia


In 1944, the CIA's precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), distributed a secret pamphlet that was intended as a guidebook to citizens living in Axis nations who were sympathetic to the Allies.

The "Simple Sabotage Field Manual," declassified in 2008 and available on the CIA's website, provided instructions for how everyday people could help the Allies weaken their country by reducing production in factories, offices, and transportation lines.

"Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant," reads the current introduction on the CIA's site. "Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined."

We've collected below some of the timeless instructions on how to be a terrible employee. What's most amusing is that despite the dry language and specificity of the context, the productivity-crushing activities recommended are all-too-common behaviors in contemporary organizations everywhere.

See if any of those listed below — quoted but abridged — remind you of your boss, colleagues, or even yourself.

Organizations and 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.

Managers

  • 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.
  • To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  • 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.

Employees

  • Work slowly.
  • Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
  • 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.
  • Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

You can read the full manual at the CIA's website »

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