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Quirk of history

A saboteur’s guide to gumming things up

Hugh Bonneville and Monica Dolan in the BBC comedy W1A

In 1944, says Insider, the American Office of Strategic Services – a precursor to the CIA – distributed a secret handbook to citizens of Axis nations who were sympathetic to the Allies. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual, declassified in 2008, was a guide to being a terrible employee, with a view to crushing productivity, weakening supply chains and generally gumming things up. And as the CIA website notes, anyone who has worked in a big organisation will find these morale-sapping practices “all too familiar”.

For starters, the guide says, “insist on doing everything through ‘channels’”. Where possible, “refer all matters to committees for ‘further study and consideration’” – and then make those committees “as large and bureaucratic as possible”. Other tricks include haggling over “precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions”; referring back to prior decisions and relitigating their “advisability”; and ensuring that “three people have to approve everything”. See a longer list here.