Photo: Dmitry Ratushny

Managing secret agents

Research project
Active research
Project period
2020 - ongoing
Project owner
Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow and Gothebrug Research Institute, University of Gothenburg, Barbara Czarniawska

Research partners
British Academy

Short description

This project explores personnel management in non-conventional organizations – secret service ones. Drawing on biographies and autobiographies of spies, we describe key events in a spy's career: selection and recruitment, line management, rewards and punishments, and the exit from the profession (through retirement, capture or death). We are interested in both how secret agents are ‘run’, and how spies manage their own careers. In exploring these aspects of ‘spy management’, we shall compare them with knowledge accumulated in studies of personnel management in ‘ordinary’ organizations. We will also investigate how working under the conditions of secrecy affects professional identities. Our analysis will be conducted against the cultural and temporal background within which spies worked in various geographical and political contexts.