"Crickets*” and Sabotage

Posted by jlubans on November 10, 2022


We’ve been hearing about the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting (QQ) and Firing (QF). Now we are told there’s a rival strategy: Quiet Restraint (QR).
According to one QR study, many employees are withholding information that might help a workmate or an organization. To quote:
“Over half (58%) of corporate workers say they are withholding knowledge that could benefit their co-workers.” And, “Gen Z is the top generation for untapped knowledge sharing; 77% of Gen Z'ers say they have more knowledge they could share at work.”
Back in 2015 I offered “Tips for Wrecking an Organization. Free!” which came from the wartime “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” produced by the US Office of Strategic Services (1944).
It was a guide for resisting/undercutting the bad guys, the invaders, like putting sand into a gear box, slashing tires of unguarded vehicles, or burning down a factory through surreptitious means.
The manual offers advice on doing what would nowadays be called QQ or QR, e.g.
“Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful
“Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job….”
The manual, in its “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion” segment, anticipates our current employment milieu.
I wonder if the Quiet Quitters and Those of Quiet Restraint have been perusing (on company time, of course) the Sabotage Manual?
Of the 9 pointers these are the most apt:
1. “Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
3. Act stupid.
4. Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble. (Do the woke come to your mind?)
And if all else fails:
9. Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when
confronted by government clerks.
” (I’ll use that one the next time I am audited by the IRS.)
I doubt if the McKinsey consulting firm could top these strategies.
Obviously, we encounter some of these behaviors daily in any bureaucracy, but post-covid they apparently are no longer taboo.
What’s missing in the QQ write ups is that managers – if not themselves bought into QQ and QR – have these same strategies at their fingertips when quietly firing someone. Obfuscation has two sides to it – the employee is not the sole owner.
In my personal experience with Quiet Firing I got to see how it worked.
While not a life and death dilemma, it’s still a sneaky and insidious process. Mine included no longer being involved in decision-making and some removal of responsibilities including professional travel.
When I informed a colleague – who I thought was on “my side” – that I was still on the various work-related email lists and therefore getting the minutes and agenda from meetings I now no longer chaired, she said little.
But, not long after – in seemingly unseemly haste - my name disappeared from those email lists. Obviously, my former colleague had shifted loyalties. No longer was it “one for all”, now it was “one for one”
To survive, she chose to be a willing collaborator with the “other side”, if you will.
In life and death situations – generally not found in many offices - QQ and QR raise the personal risk level.
A recent WSJ article (“Russian Retreat in Ukraine Exposes Collaborators—and the Finger-Pointing Begins”) describes Ukrainian citizens collaborating with the Russian military in the town of Shevchenkove.
Only 35 miles from the Russian border, the town was occupied Feb. 24. Now liberated, the article provides an example of life and death QR. In the story, a former policeman was accused of collaboration. He admitted that he had indeed briefly joined the Russian-led police but only to steal the list of local hunters who owned rifles. As well, he had passed on intelligence to Ukrainian forces. The investigators dropped the charge.
Here's hoping copies of the Simple Sabotage manual - in Ukrainian – are in plentiful supply.
*THE CRICKETS (awkard silence) LET LOOSE.
My book, Fables for Leaders, full of self-management tips, is available. Click on the image and order up!

And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle
© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

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