1944 OSS Spy Manual Offers ‘Dirty Tricks’ To Sabotage Office Productivity

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Simple Sabotage Field Manual for workers offers 15 tips to sabotage your day job - an intriguing guide to navigating behind enemy lines at the office.

America’s OSS under ‘Wild' Bill Donovan specialized in refined manners and ungentlemanly warfare and its declassified field manuals for Special Operations, Operational Groups, and Secret Intelligence are a window into how spies plied their trade in the 1940s before the CIA was formed.

Even more clandestine intelligence can be gleaned by watching Oscar-winning Hollywood director John Ford’s once-secret 1943 OSS film: Undercover - a handy guide for those needing to sneak across borders, employ a cover story, use a dead drop, and ‘go gray’ to blend in with the locals.


It is the manual involving hum-drum workplace sabotage through simulated incompetence that caught our eye though.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual doesn’t focus on blowing up railway lines or ambushing supply lines. Instead, it is a how-to guide for 9-to-5ers that shows ordinary individuals how to help the Allies' cause by diminishing production in factories, transportation networks, and offices.

Behind enemy lines at the office

Desk jockeys are given a blueprint for devastating company morale and productivity without sacrificing personal credibility - perhaps even facilitating a promotion. For starters, the OSS advises: 

  • Insist on routing all matters through formal channels;
  • Routinely refer all matters to committees, ensuring their membership is maximized - never fewer than five;
  • Engage in prolonged negotiations over the precise wording of communications, minutes, and resolutions;
  • Revisit decisions from prior meetings, endeavor to reopen discussions on settled matters; and
  •  Make speeches as often as possible using long anecdotes and personal experiences to illustrate your points.

1944 OSS Spy Manual Offers ‘Dirty Tricks’ To Sabotage Office Productivity

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The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Simple Sabotage Field Manual for workers offers 15 tips to sabotage your day job - an intriguing guide to navigating behind enemy lines at the office.

America’s OSS under ‘Wild' Bill Donovan specialized in refined manners and ungentlemanly warfare and its declassified field manuals for Special Operations, Operational Groups, and Secret Intelligence are a window into how spies plied their trade in the 1940s before the CIA was formed.

Even more clandestine intelligence can be gleaned by watching Oscar-winning Hollywood director John Ford’s once-secret 1943 OSS film: Undercover - a handy guide for those needing to sneak across borders, employ a cover story, use a dead drop, and ‘go gray’ to blend in with the locals.


It is the manual involving hum-drum workplace sabotage through simulated incompetence that caught our eye though.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual doesn’t focus on blowing up railway lines or ambushing supply lines. Instead, it is a how-to guide for 9-to-5ers that shows ordinary individuals how to help the Allies' cause by diminishing production in factories, transportation networks, and offices.

Behind enemy lines at the office

Desk jockeys are given a blueprint for devastating company morale and productivity without sacrificing personal credibility - perhaps even facilitating a promotion. For starters, the OSS advises: 

  • Insist on routing all matters through formal channels;
  • Routinely refer all matters to committees, ensuring their membership is maximized - never fewer than five;
  • Engage in prolonged negotiations over the precise wording of communications, minutes, and resolutions;
  • Revisit decisions from prior meetings, endeavor to reopen discussions on settled matters; and
  •  Make speeches as often as possible using long anecdotes and personal experiences to illustrate your points.
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Subversive office politics

If that’s beginning to sound a lot like your workplace, consider that even the most subversive staff can burnish their sabotage credentials while still getting ahead:

  • ‘Misunderstand’ orders, posing endless questions and nitpicking details;
  • Insist on written orders;
  • Provide convoluted explanations when questioned;
  • Refer to matters decided on at the last meeting and try to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision; and
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.


Manager of chaos

The OSS field manual reserves a dedicated section for devious managers as well:

  • When training new workers, furnish incomplete or misleading instructions;
  • Reserve significant responsibilities for inefficient personnel;
  • Demand perfection in inconsequential work while endorsing defective work;
  • Schedule meetings when critical work demands immediate attention; and
  • Ensure three people have to approve everything where one would do.

Embrace these strategies and a promotion may be just around the corner.

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