What word or idiom describes a person who gains the trust of people in an organization to identify potential threats to that organization?


Say Company (Organisation) "A" wants to know how many of its employees are inclined to take part in or form unions.

  • Company A then sends its own person Mr "M" to locate such employees.
  • Mr M then starts his own Workers’ Union and performs activities and gives speeches against the interest of Company A.
  • All this is done to gain the trust of the employees (of Company A).
  • Company A not surprisingly is silent & passive about Mr M.

Mr M's union grows in size as employees seeing his actions and hearing his words fall for the snare and join his Union, hoping to fight against Company A.

Company A now possesses a list of persons that are a threat to it.

  1. What do you call Mr M?
  2. What are the actions & activities of Mr M called?
  • @WeatherVane The comment thread is reserved for friendly clarifying questions, suggestions for improving the question, relevant but transient information, and explanations of your actions. Please avoid answering questions in comments.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 2, 2018 at 20:38
  • Might also be somewhat relevant: false flag
    – Boaz
    Oct 3, 2018 at 16:51

5 Answers 5


Such a person is often called a mole because they burrow into an organization to gain information. From the Oxford Dictionaries:



  1. A small burrowing mammal with dark velvety fur, a long muzzle, and very small eyes, feeding mainly on worms, grubs, and other invertebrates.

  2. A spy who gradually achieves an important position within the security defences of a country.

    ‘a well-placed mole was feeding them the names of operatives’

    2.1 Someone within an organization who anonymously betrays confidential information.

    ‘the company is hunting for the mole who revealed details of planned job cuts’

They could also be called a spy or a plant (See definition #3).

As to what you would call the mole's activites, he is engaged in subterfuge. From the Oxford Dictionaries:



[mass noun]

Deceit used in order to achieve one's goal.

‘he had to use subterfuge and bluff on many occasions’

[count noun] ‘I hated all the subterfuges, I hated lying to you’

  • 4
    Serendipitously, this person's name was chosen as Mr. M. Oct 2, 2018 at 20:43
  • @IanMacDonald I also noticed that, although I'm suspicious of it just being serendipitous -- I wonder if the OP was already familiar with the term, but didn't remember it consciously, but it had an unconscious influence.
    – Barmar
    Oct 4, 2018 at 2:27

labor spy
an agent of an employer hired to report on union activities : stool pigeon

A wider term is:

agent provocateur
A person employed to associate with suspected individuals or groups with the purpose of inciting them to commit acts that will make them liable to punishment.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

From Wikipedia:

Historically, labor spies, hired to infiltrate, monitor, disrupt, or subvert union activities, have used agent provocateur tactics.

  • 1
    I think you're right about "agent provocateur" but you haven't offered a name for what he's doing. I think that should be "false-flag operation". Oct 3, 2018 at 16:56

I agree with "mole", but a mole implies someone who is hidden deep within the organization – emphasis on hidden.

An Agent Provocateur infiltrates an organization and gains their trust posing as a member, with the goal of instigating a riot or other criminal activity to discredit the movement. The term comes from 19th Century union organizers so it may be very close to your intent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_provocateur

An agent provocateur might create a competing organization intended to lure members of the actual organization who would be impressed by the provocateur's more aggressive politics and invisible funding, but it's just as likely they make no attempt to recruit at all. Their actions may be quite showy and gain them publicity, even as the actions are useless or contrary to the cause.

A recent example is the hoax called Femen that paid Ukrainian sex workers to protest topless in the name of "feminism", while newspapers gushingly reported on their frivolous stunts which were inherently anti-feminist. The group was later exposed to have a male leader with mysterious backing. A red flag was that actual feminists were excluded, along with women who were over 25 because they would not be "pretty" enough. Somehow newspapers conveniently forgot that feminists are against sexual exploitation or devaluing women based on male-gaze appeal, but hey, boobies.

  • I don't think a "mole" necessarily has to be deep within the organization. A receptionist can be a mole, an intern can be a mole, even the CEO (at that level, I'd agree that is a very deeply placed mole).
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 3, 2018 at 16:16
  • @BruceWayne a receptionist or intern would never be an influential mouthpiece. A "mole" (as depicted in Hollywood) is more like an informant with maybe a poison pill to sabotage the company. Agree a mole could be a higher up (a general, an executive) who would have more influence, but showing too much of his own politics might compromise his security.
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 3, 2018 at 16:39
  • I think you're conflating an agent provocateur with a mole. A mole is basically a spy. They may or may not take direct actions against a company/government. Generally, they're there to blend in, collect information and report to their handler. An agent provocateur necessarily takes actions but may or may not be deeply embedded within the company/government/whatever. Also, moles do not (and arguably should not) be a mouthpiece. I'd argue a receptionist would be a great mole to have, as they typically have access to lots of information within the org. (contact info, etc)
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:05
  • @BruceWayne I am referring back to the OP's description. He describes a mouthpiece, specifically: "Mr. M... starts his own Workers Unions and performs activities and gives speeches…" We are in agreement that a mole is hidden, but that is not what the OP asked for.
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:21
  • Ah, sorry! I see what you're referring to now.
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:22

An "undercover agent" comes to mind.

  • "a secret agent hired by a state to obtain information about its enemies or by a business to obtain industrial secrets from competitors."

or "an infiltrator"

  • "someone who takes up a position surreptitiously for the purpose of espionage"

1) Mr. "M" is a Judas goat. A Judas goat is a goat trained to lead other goats calmly to the slaughterhouse. The trick works because goats are herd animals and they will blythely, quietly follow one who shows leadership. The Judas goat (so named for the betrayal of Jesus by Judas) does not suffer the fate of the others because he has performed his job for the butchers. Wikipedia backs me up at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_goat

  • 8
    Wikipedia may back you up, but please describe what a Judas goat is in the body of your post. Oct 3, 2018 at 7:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.