Arlington VA May 10, 2016
Some form of sabotage exists in most companies; much of it relatively benign, but some amount causes real damage, economically and administratively for management. I began thinking about that topic some weeks ago, during a discussion over lunch with several professional friends, one of whom was involved in trying to develop a company policy designed to reduce or prevent sabotage, at their request.
My concern was that it seemed to me to be virtually impossible to prevent all but the most egregious forms of sabotage, especially that which is inadvertent, coming from someone with no real axe to grind or animosity for anyone. There are always people who sometimes disagree with decisions, but ‘agree to disagree’ and simply move on. There are others who let those decisions with which they disagree become subconscious irritants, which can reduce productivity, and create untoward results.
Among the small group, we were pretty much agreed that there were no hard-and-fast rules, that a great deal depended on hos decisions are made in the organization, and how inclusive management is in getting input and feedback on changes to policy and procedure. We left it at that, and our associate went back to his work after lunch probably thinking he still did not have a good approach for his task.
Then I read an article in the recent issue of Workforce Magazine, found the digital copy of the article and sent it to my friend. In the article by Bob Frisch, Rob Gifford, and Cary Greene, titled, “Sabotage in the Workplace is an Inside Job,”, these amazingly thoughtful writers described how they discovered an old World War II-era publication from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS – Now the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)) with a set of eight (8) tactics for encouraging (believe it or not) sabotage in the workplace. Most of these tactics are what we still see today. They are:
- Insist on doing everything ‘though channels’ – Always follow the chain of command to the letter, and you will always be ‘correct’.
- Make Speeches – Be an active debater, orator, and stump speaker every chance you get, and use a lot of time to prevent decisions
- Refer matters to committees or working groups whenever possible to delay decisions even further
- Bring up irrelevant issues whenever possible
- Haggle over precise wording on communications, minutes, and resolutions
- Refer back to matters discussed and decided previously to attempt to reopen those discussions
- Always advocate caution and reasonableness as well as avoiding haste in decision-making
- Engender a sense of ‘worry’ about any decision. As the authors say, ‘Raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated is within the jurisdiction of the group,’ or whether it might conflict with some higher policy or decision.
In short, make it as hard as possible to make decisions and execute them. Active saboteurs will use these tactics every chance they get, but they still seem to be publicly supporting the effort, just ‘cautious.’
The inadvertent or innocent saboteur may not realize that their ‘conservative’ approach is actually gumming up the works for others. They may have honest principles which they use to base their questions and opposition. It can be difficult to separate the innocent saboteur from those who are knowingly trying to prevent action. The article discusses several approaches to reducing occurrences. It is a great read, and my associate, after receiving it felt a lot more secure in recommending policies and practices to his client. You just might find the same.
You can read the entire article here. Comments appreciated.