Today I read a book from the 1940s titled, “The Simple Sabotage Field Manual.”
I don’t know why I read it. I guess I wanted to know if it would bear similarity to how I thought in my early twenties.
What I noticed was that the last section of the book describes ways to sabotage businesses that are strikingly similar to the way that the average human being operates at work. There are also hilarious similarities to “best practices” in management, education, and leadership theory:
Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
Above is modern work for a giant corporation. Below you’ll see a description of any job with frequent meetings or incompetent staff.
When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work[The Peter Principle at work.].
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done[It works every time for not working every time].
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do [While you’re at it, put the new cover page on those tps reports].
It even has a prophecy about how people will behave at movies:
Audiences can ruin enemy propaganda films by applauding to drown the words of the speaker, by coughing loudly, and by talking.
The next section must be reproduced in total because it describes the modern worker or student:
- Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.
- Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary.[Good strategy for getting paid not to work!] Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.
- Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.
- Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions[How many meetings have you experienced like this?].
- Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right[If you’re a teacher you’ve heard, “My printer broke.”].
- Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
- Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.
- If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.[It’s like the writers said, “Use unions to ruin everybody’s day.”]
In conclusion, this book could totally be used as a guide to ruin things you don’t like or, more nobly, it could be used as a guide to what not to do at work.
Note: This is meant to be funny, but due to its description of reality, it accidentally seems plausible.
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