Stickin’ it to “the Man”: A Cautionary Tale of (Self) Sabotage, Wasted Energy, and Really Strong Cleaning Products

Many people are familiar with the term “saboteur” – a person who secretly and intentionally destroys property or equipment belonging to another. In the context of coaching, a saboteur is an “inner voice” (often negative) that often articulates seemingly logical roadblocks which in the end, prevent you from taking bold action in pursuit of your dreams. As a coach I help people come up with strategies to recognize and overcome their saboteurs so they can find the energy and a way to “make things happen” – getting them closer to fulfilling their goals.


That big hammer? Many saboteurs are a bit more subtle.

The following story, however, is an example of what can happen when we let the saboteur run rampant. Unfortunately, it is all true!

A little over three years ago, in the far-away land of England, a 41-year old mid-level employee at a global marketing research firm was denied a pay raise. While understandably upset, the employee decided at that point that he needed to take action, and put his considerable skills to work devising a plan. And while his plan involved staying in his current position at his current pay, he committed himself to it, knowing that he would be rewarded for his diligence and determination. What do you think that plan might have been? What type of plan would you commit to when faced with a similar setback?


Maybe it’s time for a clean slate.

Well, if your plan didn’t involve spraying caustic chemicals into company computers over a span of three years, you weren’t on the same wavelength as Mr. Edward Sobolewski. That’s right, his plan was revenge. Rather than look inwardly to address some of the issues in his own life (which he did finally share in court – just before being sentenced to 8 months in prison on top of a $16,000 fine), he decided to destroy £32,000 (that’s a lot of £s – just over $50,000) worth of his employer’s computer equipment over a three year period.  Not in a fit of rage after being denied his raise, not three months later after some other boardroom slight, but slowly, thoughtfully, and deliberately from 2009 until he was eventually caught in 2012. While that is one of the longest acts of workplace (self) destruction I have heard of, the real shame is in what could have been. What if he had turned that energy into improving himself instead of harming others? What if he had turned his focus into pursuing an outside interest that would have made him happy, instead of a long-term covert action campaign that would land him in jail (with much diminished employment prospects)?


Using art to stick it to The Man – unlikely to land you in jail.

It’s a little too late for Ed to confront his saboteurs, but not for us. Despite Jack Black’s entertaining “you can’t win” rant (the “live” version of the .gif image above) from “School of Rock”, he manages to succeed by focusing his energy on what he really wants, not really by trying to “fight the man” (although it is a recurring theme).

Where is your energy directed? Who are you fighting? The Man? Or maybe yourself?



photo credits:

Bugs Bunny Gremlin –

Spray Bottle –

School of Rock .gif – tumblr

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