The CIA Guide to Sabotaging Meetings: Timeless Tips for Tormenting Your Team

The CIA Guide to Sabotaging Meetings: Timeless Tips for Tormenting Your Team

Who knew that the CIA—or rather, its predecessor, the OSS—could dish out meeting advice that remains hilariously spot-on today? Shared with me by Jesse Morgan (thanks Jesse!), this 1944 guide, intended to help Axis sympathisers disrupt enemy operations, could just as easily apply to modern corporate life. Think of it as the OG playbook for office sabotage.

Uncovered when it was declassified in 2008 (I found the full-length guide here). The pamphlet’s instructions range from outdated to uncannily relevant. As Voltage Control aptly puts it, the manual is a stark reminder of how easily productivity can be derailed.

Who Penned This Guide and Why?

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forebear to today’s CIA, crafted this manual during WWII to guide friendly citizens behind enemy lines. The goal? To create subtle chaos in the Axis economy by arming citizens with the know-how to disrupt businesses and organisations from within.

Timeless Tips for Tormenting Your Team

Fast forward nearly 80 years, and these techniques still resonate—especially in those never-ending, soul-sucking agency meetings. Here are a few timeless gems from the OSS manual:

Make “Speeches”

Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ with long anecdotes and personal stories. Essentially, transform every meeting into your personal TED Talk, whether anyone asked for it or not.

Slow It Down

Advocate for caution and avoid haste. In today’s parlance, that’s code for “let’s circle back to this next quarter.”

Refer Everything to Committees

Ensure no decision is made without a committee’s stamp of approval—preferably one with no fewer than five members. This keeps things delightfully bogged down.

Raise Irrelevant Issues

Frequently bring up topics that have nothing to do with the agenda. If someone is discussing the budget, why not dive into office kitchen etiquette?

Nitpick Over Wording

Haggle over the precise wording of every communication, minute, and resolution. Because why call it a “team effort” when you could argue over “collaborative synergy”?

Revisit Past Decisions

Refer back to decisions made in previous meetings and question their advisability. Nothing screams progress like rehashing last month’s settled debates.

While intended for espionage, this guide holds up a disturbingly accurate mirror to modern office dynamics. So next time you find yourself stuck in an interminable meeting, see how many of these tactics you can spot—and perhaps, gently steer the discussion back on track.


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