Malicious compliance

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Malicious compliance is the behaviour of intentionally inflicting harm by strictly following the orders of a superior knowing that compliance with the orders will not have the intended result. The term usually implies the following of an order in such a way that ignores the order's intent but follows it to the letter.[1]

It is a specialized form of passive aggressive behavior. This is sometimes called "work to rule", and encompasses the situation where the subordinate sees both the folly of the order, rule or direction, and the adverse results.[2]

Malicious compliance is usually done to injure or harm a superior while maintaining a sense of legitimacy.[3]

For example, when a group of firefighters were ordered by management to wear the unwanted self-contained breathing apparatus that they were being issued with for safety reasons, they took to wearing the equipment on their backs while ignoring it and breathing normally. This made their work less efficient than if they had not been wearing the breathing apparatus at all. A further instruction was required ordering them to wear and use the apparatus.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom DeMarco, Tim Lister, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, p. 179, Addison-Wesley, 2013 ISBN 9780133440737.
  2. ^ Growe, Adam (April 21, 2016). "What I Love About Malicious Compliance". Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  3. ^ "U.S. Set To Begin Massive Military Exercises in Qatar", transcript, NewsNight with Aaron Brown, Dec 6, 2002, retrieved June 7, 2007, Malicious compliance is when your boss tells you to do something and you do it even though you know it's not going to have the desired result.
  4. ^ Gagliano, Mike; Phillips, Casey R.; Bernocco, Steve; Jose, Phillip (2008). Air Management for the Fire Service. Fire Engineering Books. ISBN 9781593701291.