An interesting take on meeting etiquette by a long-time activist…


It was both surprising and enlightening to find in a recent update to the offerings on Project Gutenberg the Simple Sabotage Field Manual of the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA). While much of the information provided dealt with physical sabotage and workplace resistance, what I found most interesting was advice on how to interfere with organisations and conferences:

(11) General Interference with Organisations and Production

(a) Organizations and Conferences:

(1) Insist on doing everything through

“channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken

in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as

possible and at great length. Illustrate your

“points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­

sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few

appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to

committees, for “further study and considera­

tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large

as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently

as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­

munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at

the last meeting and attempt to re-open the

question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable”

and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­

able” and avoid haste which might result in

embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any

decision — raise the question of whether such

action as is contemplated lies within the juris­

diction of the group or whether it might conflict

with the policy of some higher echelon.


Being a meeting addicted person, who has attended thousands of co-op, church, union and community meetings over the years, finding out that what I have consistently found frustrating was recommended as sabotage techniques for those wanting to ensure that organizations couldn’t function well.