Imagine how much you would get done if you would only stop screwing up your own hard work!
So you walk out of a meeting that sucked up another two hours of your business day you’ll never get back and produced absolutely nothing of value. Why? Because somebody talked on and on about a topic completely unrelated to the meeting’s agenda. Then someone brought up doubts about a decision from the last meeting, and of course, there was the discussion about referring things to an internal think tank to further research the topic. Let’s not forget, the yahoo who brought up whether the decision was even this group’s to make, or the quiet person in the corner who inserted the mindset that this topic might be in conflict with something the C-Suite had already decided.
Sound familiar? If so, sorry to say, but you’re in good company. We have all seen it, be it in the military, the government or business. You’re sitting there now going: “Wow! That’s my company! People around me do that all the time! I just left a meeting where that happened!” If you’re thinking, “This shouldn’t be happening, all of these petty things just make my job harder.” Guess what? There’s a good chance that your co-workers have unwittingly taken a page out of a real spy manual.
Office of Strategic Service (OSS)
These are just some of the techniques outlined in a training manual on sabotage published in 1944 by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was a guide for European underground operators to utilize various ways to disrupt, stall or damage the German/Italian war effort in World War II. The manual was so simple, yet so effective that it saw continued use throughout the “Cold War” and into the “War on Terrorism.” It was the standard “go-to guide” for Agency covert action officers for over 60 years. The handbook was fully declassified in 2008. Much of the manual detailed easy ways to disrupt and demoralize the enemy’s organizations without being detected. The intent was clear, do anything to increase impediments in the Axis war machine. “Slash tires, drain fuel tanks, start fires, start arguments, act stupid, short-circuit electric systems, abrade machine parts, waste materials, misuse manpower, and consume time. However, one section was devoted entirely to sabotaging organizations, in particular, to disrupting their decision-making processes, their meetings, and their organizational procedures.
The tactics described were devastatingly destructive, yet incredibly difficult to spot. Why? Because, on the surface, they looked like good behaviors. These subtle tactics used by Allied saboteurs were meant to entangle the enemy’s military, government, businesses, and other organizations daily functions. They ensured inefficiency at multiple levels by exaggerating common and seemingly innocuous business like behaviors.
What it did was slow down operations, confuse workers and ultimately demoralized the targeted organization. No one is suggesting that your corporate competitor has saboteurs lurking in your headquarters, but even your best employees can turn into unwitting saboteurs if they habitually fall into these types of behavior. These saboteurs are ordinary, well-intentioned employees who unwittingly convert daily activities into acts of sabotage. How do they do it? By simply pushing everyday office behaviors to an extreme. If one were to take a poll in your office, odds are great that some employees would identify individuals who have unwittingly taken a page from that OSS manual. Left unchecked, these behaviors will undermine an organization’s productivity and lead to losses that should never have happened. Even the best employees can easily and unconsciously become saboteurs.
The manual cites simple, almost universal behaviors that become dangerous only when someone magnifies them. Even then, people dismiss them as mere “irritants.” But when these irritants multiply and become pervasive, they also become increasingly destructive.