The Vault

The CIA’s WWII Guide to Creating Organizational Dysfunction Perfectly Describes Your Toxic Workplace

The Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s World War II–era precursor) created this document in 1944, for use by operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in occupied countries to commit sabotage. The document is available in full via the CIA’s website.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual, which contains instructions in physical as well as interpersonal disruption tactics, begins with a preface directed to OSS personnel, describing the problems and possibilities of working with “citizen-saboteurs.” Such people, living under the rule of enemy administrators in countries such as Norway or France, might already be sabotaging materials, machinery, or operations of their own initiative, but these acts “may be completely foreign to [a] habitually conservationist attitude toward materials and tools … Purposeful stupidity is contrary to human nature.” Reading instructions such as the ones in this manual might refine civilian efforts at destruction, and reassure them that they were taking risks that had rewards. 

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The director of the OSS, William J. Donovan, advised that the instructions in the second part of the manual, directed at potential saboteurs, “should be carefully controlled and should not be allowed to come into unauthorized hands.” Relevant sections of the instructions could be reproduced in pamphlets or leaflets, but should be “distributed with care and not broadly.” 

I first saw this document in the twitter feed of writer Maggie Koerth-Baker.

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CIA

CIA

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