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I don't know if in English this translation makes any sense: zealous strike

In Portuguese is "greve de zelo". Performing a zealous strike is something that fascinates me. People decide to comply with procedures very rigorously and the outcome is a disaster. Not because people are cheating but because it is nonsense to follow a procedure religiously when the context is always changing and requiring a human touch


Paula from Australia asked me to post this interesting comment. She could not do it as she was at work, and her system wouldn't let her:

In the discussion I think there is one thing that is assumed – that is, that processes, procedures and policies guiding workplace activity and behaviour exist. Certainly, the fear driven box-checking exists (been there, done that in a role a few years ago), but there also exists a type of ‘somebody syndrome’ – somebody didn’t tell me what I should do, so therefore I won’t do anything until they do. I think perhaps the United people might fall into this category – it would be interesting to know if the appropriate guidance exists, is clear and unambiguous and is easily accessible for the United people to follow to achieve the correct outcome (which may or may not be palatable for travellers).

I’ve often noticed that when nothing exists to guide people in the workplace, they either (a) make it up, hope for the best, and then attempt to make it a process, procedure or policy so that the same does not happen again; or (b) decide somebody will tell them what to do but in the meantime don’t do anything (and generally assume a helplessness mode of operating).


When you are at the bottom of the feeding chain, I don't know if I would consider it malicious as much as self-protective. I was taught that in that situation, simply do what they say and document everything. If you do not do what they say, they can discipline or fire you. If you don't document, there is no way to prove it was not your own misguided decision. It's a last resort, but sometimes it's the only way to protect yourself.

Kelly Hall

Malicious Compliance was common when I was in the Navy, lo those many years ago. It was typiclly applied when being micro-managed by an incompetent superior.

The happiest day of my life was the day I was released from 8 years of service to the Navy. I worked for so many asshole bosses, all I really wanted was the freedom to simply leave a bad work environment without being threatened with time in the brig.

Paul Williams

Hi Bob,

I'm really taken with this post, and the content is really important to me right now.

You see, I'm about to engage in this "malicious compliance".

I'm a 15 year veteran of the software development industry. My employer is about to engage in a new project to create some new software. I have an idea how this should work.

The company is systematically ignoring or undermining my research and recommendations.

My boss isn't to blame here; my internal customers are really distorting what I'm supposed to be doing in order to advance their agenda.

My internal customers are salespeople, and are selling to the execs what they think should happen.

I'm a great technologist, not a great salesman. I have a hard time refuting such skillfully persuasive (yet inaccurate and distorted) information, especially since I don't have physical access to the folks who are making the decisions -- I'm not invited to meetings, nor am I consulted.

I am simply decided upon (read the same as "shat upon").

So, to paraphrase a good friend of mine: "You want it bad(ly), you get it bad".

So, to try to round this out with a positive note: How to avoid this?

In my case this is driven by a feeling that my expertise, which is considerable, is being ignored or even maliciously twisted. Engage people, seek advise, be inclusive and above all, listen when your experts are telling you that something is wrong.

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