I remember reading something about a type of compliance that was also an act of defiance. It was basically complying with orders you don’t agree with, but following them so literally that it essentially is noncompliance. I forgot what it was called though, it was ________ compliance but I forgot what the first word was.

  • So you're looking for an adjective? – KillingTime Jun 27 '19 at 5:13
  • It sounds like working to rule to me, but you say it has to be ___ compliance. – user339660 Jun 27 '19 at 5:33
  • OP may be looking for the term malicious compliance. I am not in the mood to write a full answer with references, but anyone else is welcome to do so. – Nate Eldredge Jun 30 '19 at 18:50

This is not a single word, but it sounds like you are talking about “work to rule” (or “work-to-rule”), which means to do your work in compliance with the rules and regulations, but to do no more than what is required.

Collins English Dictionary:

    If workers work to rule, they protest by working according to the rules of their job without doing any extra work or taking any new decisions.
    Nurses are continuing to work to rule.

Macmillan Dictionary:

      to do only what the rules at work say you must do and nothing more, as a form of protest
      a situation in which workers protest by doing only the exact work that their contract says they must do

Cambridge English Dictionary:

    a form of protest in which employees do exactly what is stated in their contracts, and nothing more, in order to slow down production


    the practice of working to the strictest interpretation of the rules as a job action

It is used as a form of protest that’s analogous to going “on strike” (i.e., not working at all) but a notch or two less severe.  For example, school teachers might routinely make themselves available after class hours to answer questions and even provide tutoring.  School teachers have also often felt the need to buy classroom supplies (e.g., chalk, paper and pencils, etc.) with their own money.  In a “work to rule” situation, these extra actions (which are not formally required) would cease.

For example:

Upset with lack of contract, Providence teachers OK work-to-rule

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Providence Teachers Union has voted overwhelmingly to authorize work-to-rule in the event that tomorrow’s negotiations with the city do not show progress, according to PTU President Maribeth Calabro.

She said 1,940 members voted Monday to move to work-to-rule after two years without a new teachers’ contract.  Work-to-rule means that teachers only do what’s is laid out in their contract.

Calabro said it means that teachers would not come to school early or leave late; that they wouldn’t staff open houses and that they wouldn’t volunteer for any activities that are outside the contract.


The Providence Journal, R.I.


Depends on the exact amount of sabatoge, but first in my mind:

perfunctory - performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial

There are a few synonyms that might be more what you're looking for, like slipshod or slapdash but if you stick them with "compliance" they almost become oxymoronic.


Probably "minimal compliance": https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100159828

...Is an orientation to work in which employees comply with management instructions but restrict their level of motivation or engagement in work tasks to a minimal level.

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