The Simple Sabotage Field Manual, Cubicle Edition

Behold, published in 1944, the Simple Sabotage Field Manual. In its original context, the SSFM was applied to allied sympathizers in occupied territories during WWII. Today, the field guide has stunning applicability to 21st century organizations and employees.

This blog reframes the Simple Sabotage Field Guide’s “tips and tricks” as a set of guideline for how productive, driven employees can counter the everyday, white-collar saboteurs we face in the workplace. I am a public sector employee, but I look forward to hearing thoughts from the private sector in the comments.

SSFM had two primary objectives that are applicable to professional life today:

  1. Create “constant and tangible drag” on operations
  2. Harass and demoralize enemy administrators”

There are a lot of other objectives, but I’m focusing on the organizational and professional aspects of simple sabotage, instead of the infrastructure disruption techniques. Though now that I’ve read the SSFM, nails definitely should have been included in the Halo arsenal.

Chances are, if you’ve worked in the government for an hour or more, you have felt the drag and faced some demoralizing moments. If you’ve had a career in government, you may even have been the drag at some point.

Drag on operations is reduced productivity. When someone is an agent of simple sabotage, they reduce more than their own daily output. Every other employee who has to come in contact with the Dragger will become one of the Dragged.

Harassing and demoralizing are the flipside of drag. Demoralized employees are the obvious result of making daily work painful to accomplish. Combining drag with demoralization and harassment is an effective way to cripple an organization. When nothing seems to get done, no one wants to try that hard to fulfill the mission. Employees lose sight of the vision and fall into a vicious circle of unproductivity.

Why do people create this environment? If you were to ask someone if they really intended to undermine the mission of your organization, he or she is not going to say yes. First of all, getting caught would make them a bad saboteur. Second, they might not even see their actions as undermining the mission.

How do you stay motivated in the face of operational drag? How have you successfully overcome (or avoided) a Dragger in your organization?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

David Dejewski

Ngiste – Here are a few threads that might contribute in a positive way to this post:




I find it amusing that sabotage keeps coming up in these forums. It’s clear that many see the correlation between the content of that manual and what goes on in the government workforce. What does this say about us?

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

Coming up to my 10 year ani and it feels like I’ve was drug the whole way. I persist in trying to change the culture, forever the Pollyanna to think I can impact those around me. I recently had to start singing to myself each morning to get going, Zippity Do Dah or Oh What a Beautiful Morning, to get myself off on a positive note. Ok, now it is stuck in your head too! But it does help and reminds me that I need to do what is best for me, which is to not be drug into a tit for tat. To continue to push for change that is good for the organization.