I have just learned about a concept I did not have a name for until now. I want to share it with you. It is called: “Malicious Obedience”.

Malicious obedience is when you as a subordinate know a decision that is given to you is a disaster and you execute it to its complete finalization anyway.

Why would you execute a decision that you know will be a disaster?
To discredit your boss, that is why.

It can backfire.  Many managers know how to pass blame on others very well.
If you are ever going to implement a decision you know will be a disaster, be sure to get the instruction in writing. You should inform the person giving you the order that you are against the decision but you will execute it once you get that order in writing.

You have protected yourself OK, but the question should be asked – why would you do it anyway? Why the obedience to a decision you are opposed to?

Because you are malicious. You believe that it will hurt the decision maker more than whoever is being impacted by the decision.

Does this ever happen?

I admit I have not experienced it but I suspect it happens in highly hierarchical, autocratic organizations, where the rejection of superiors is high and the animosity cannot be released.

A person who is scared not to implement a decision, will execute it to the most detailed component (that is where the maliciousness comes in) and watch the organization suffer… it is like a “pay back “ the employee gives back to the organization that has made him suffer too. It is like revenge.

Malicious obedience to me is the utmost in disintegration. Usually the sign of disintegration is that decisions that were made are not executed or are not executed in the spirit they were made.

Here we have the opposite: the decision was executed to the tiniest detail with disastrous repercussions.

The conclusion I am arriving at here is that disintegration can have multiple “faces” and one has to watch not only what happens but also why it happens.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes