The Things That Destroy Productivity

As I tell my students, “the key is in the contrast.” That means that we can sometimes examine other angles of a potential problem to glean and gain fantastic insight. This lesson will be no exception.

Imagine that you had a worker that talked too much, brought up irrelevant issues, and spread rumors. Are these just annoying quarks? In truth, these are productivity killers that need to be dealt with as soon as possible. You might be wondering, how bad could it really be? It’s probably worse than you think.

The History Lesson

In 1944, the CIA distributed a manual titled “The Simple Sabotage Field Manual.” This manual was an instructional guide for how citizens could reduce productivity in their workplace and weaken their nation. Declassified in 2008, the guide is now considered a valuable tool for understanding organizational hindrances regarding productivity.

The manual provides some interesting instructions. Indeed, these instructions are easy to follow and are rapid ways to sabotage an organization’s productivity. However, as leaders, we can use the list and rapidly identify potential issues that need to be addressed. Let us examine a few examples from the list:

  • “Talk as frequently as possible and at great length.”
  • “Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.”
  • “Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.”
  • “Refer back to matters decided upon.”
  • “Be worried about the propriety of any decision.”
  • “Misunderstand orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders.”
  • “In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first.”
  • “Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products.”
  • “Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.”
  • “Multiply the procedure and clearances involved in issuing instructions.”
  • “Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.”
  • “Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.”
  • “Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job.”
  • “Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary.”
  • “Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment.”

Take a moment to appreciate that the CIA taught people these as tactics to hinder productivity and weaken entire nations. Now, if these tactics can weaken a nation, what could they do to your team or organization? It’s sad to say, but most of us know someone in our organization who is guilty of at least one or two of these behaviors. However, while their behavior is likely, not intentional, we must understand that such behaviors are productivity killers that must be addressed immediately. The reason for urgency resides in the idea that these behaviors tend to spread like cancer and can negatively affect the entire organization.

The Leadership Lesson

A big part of leadership is creating a positive and productive work environment for all employees. However, sometimes certain individuals may be hindering the success of the organization. Identifying these problem individuals early on and taking appropriate action is crucial for the growth and success of the company.

One way to identify problem individuals is through their behavior and attitude in the workplace. Individuals who consistently display a negative attitude, are resistant to change, or engage in gossip and rumors can be detrimental to the team’s overall morale. They can also create a toxic work environment for their colleagues.

Another way to identify problem individuals is through their performance. Employees who consistently fail to meet deadlines or produce sub-par work can also be detrimental to the organization. These individuals may not have the necessary skills or work ethic to be successful in their roles.

It’s also important to consider the impact of the problem of individuals on the organization. Individuals who are causing delays, causing conflicts, or impacting the productivity and morale of the team, are likely to be causing more harm than good.

Once problem individuals have been identified, it’s essential to address the issue directly and allow them an opportunity to improve. However, if they fail to improve, it may be necessary to terminate their employment. This can be a difficult decision, but it’s ultimately in the best interest of the organization and its employees.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual” provides insight into ways to reduce productivity in the workplace. However, as leaders, we can use it to identify productivity issues. It’s important to recognize and address negative behaviors and attitudes within the organization. This can include addressing the issue directly, providing opportunities for improvement, or terminating employment if necessary.

No discussion about leadership would be complete without addressing vision. Leadership, as well as leadership training and development efforts, must understand that productivity and organizational vision are closely linked. Productivity is an important aspect of achieving an organizational vision, as it relates to the efficiency and effectiveness with which the organization can achieve its goals. A productive culture can also help attract and retain talented employees, which can further contribute to the organization’s success. Therefore, while this article provides an interesting way to discuss and identify productivity issues, it should also reinforce the importance of the topic and just how destructive such behaviors can truly be.

As leaders, it’s important to be aware of the impact of such behaviors on the organization. It is also vital to address these actions and behaviors as soon as they are recognized. Moreover, we must be acutely aware of our actions and behaviors, lead by example, and avoid engaging in these behaviors ourselves. We must be clear in our communication, open to new ideas, and foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork. If you need help, I am here.