A Film Analysis in Terms of Organizational Behavior Concepts: Spy Game



Term Paper for TRM336 Organizational Behavior

Bogazici University School of Applied Disciplines - Tourism Administration Department

May 2003




Spy Game is an example of action, drama and thriller genre films.  It was released in November, 2001 and its length is 2 hours 6 minutes. It was directed by Tony Scott for Universal Pictures and Beacon Pictures. The main casts of the film are Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and Catherine McCormack. Robert Redford stars as Veteran CIA officer Nathan Muir and Brad Pitt stars as CIA agent Tom Bishop. Catherine McCormack stars as Elizabeth Hadley, girlfriend of Tom Bishop. The tagline of the film is “It is not how you play the game. It is how the game plays you.”. As plot outline, “retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir recalls his training of Tom Bishop and works against agency politics to free him from his Chinese captors”. The movie contains rich material for Organizational Behavior concepts such as individual behavior, organizational culture and structure, motivation, groups, teamwork, leadeship, power and politics, and conflict and stress management.




Spy Game begins with the scene that Tom Bishop enters into a Chinese prison and tries to rescue one person from the prison. However, he is captured while he is going out the prison. Then the scene turns to Nathan Muir, who is a high level CIA employee on the brink of retirement. He is awaken up in the morning with a telephone from Hong Kong CIA spy who tells that his old subordinate Tom has been arrested in China for espionage. This is the time the Cold War is ending. This event occurs just days before the US president is to visit China for trade walks. The newly developing relationships between China and US can be broken up due to this capture. In addition, Tom will be shot in 24 hours unless the president steps in China.


CIA and NSC arrange an immediate task force to decide weather Tom Bishop will be rescued with an operation or he will be left in the Chinese prison or killed in 24 hours not to damage the relationships. Nathan Muir is the man who recruited and trained Tom. CIA wants to gather information about Tom from Nathan at this meeting. Nathan burns the documents about Tom not to give them to CIA but he accepts to tell his past experiences with Tom. After that point the story continues with the flashbacks. Nathan recalls how he recruited and trained Tom and how they worked together.




Nathan and Tom first met in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. Nathan required a sniper to kill a General of Vietnam Army. Tom was suitable for the task since he worked as police at “Boy Scouts” before he joined the army. Nathan employed Tom for the task and informed him about the operation. Tom reached the operation area with another soldier. However, a risky situation occurred at the beginning of the operation and Nathan ordered them not to shoot, meaning not to complete the operation. Tom did not obey the order and accomplished the task. He also survived the life of his partner who was injured in the operation.


Next, Nathan recalls how he recruited him for CIA after the war and how he trained him as a spy. The training period is told in details in the film.


In the next flash back he recalls the operation in Berlin with Tom. The operation was about finding an insider in CIA. Tom was a small but important piece of the operation. He was responsible for crossing a German man through the borders of the city and this would determine the insider that they suspected since only the suspected person knew this travel. That night while Tom and the German man were on the way Nathan warns Tom by telephone that he determined the insider and she had given information to German police about their travel. Therefore, police was searching the German man to kill and all the passing points had been already held by the police. Tom should immediately have left the man. Tom argued with Nathan on the phone that if he had left the man, the police would have killed him. Tom could not accept the death of the man because he was used only for trapping the insider woman. However, Tom obeyed the orders of Nathan unwillingly.


After the operation Tom and Nathan had an argument about the way that Nathan uses in the operations. He saw the people as assets that can be used or even killed if this would be on behalf of him, operation, or his organization, CIA. The German man was one of those whose life had no importance related to the achievement of the task. Tom was against this opinion and thinking they were responsible for the death of the man. Nathan warned Tom that one day he could be in the same position with the German man if he put the operation in a dangerous situation to survive the lives and nobody including Nathan would try to rescue Tom. At the end of the argument, Tom seemed as accepting the ideas of Nathan.


The last flashback was in Beirut where another operation would be organized for assassination of a man. Tom played a journalist to collect information for CIA and for establishing a relationship with the doctor of the target man. The team had planned to negotiate with this doctor that he would kill the target man by injecting a poison. Doctor was working at a health camp designed by an international health organization. To become closer to the doctor Tom brought health aid to the camp and met Elizabeth who is a voluntary employee in the camp and very close to the doctor. After a while Tom and Elizabeth fell in love with each other. Nathan noticed their relationship and searched the past of Elizabeth. He found out that Elizabeth was a member of a radical organization and she was in the task of bombing a Chinese building in London. China was searching her to arrest. In Beirut she was working as a negotiator for Hizbullah and in return Hizbullah was financing the camp. Nathan considered Elizabeth as a threat for the operation and he tried to break up this relationship. Later on, he exchanged Elizabeth with an American agent prisoned in China.


In Beirut Tom gave Nathan a whisky bottle for his birthday. Nathan asked how Tom found such a whisky bottle and Tom answered that he brought it with the operation “Dinner-out”. Nathan said that he would remember the name of the operation- “Dinner-out”.


During that period, Nathan and Tom achieved to negotiate with the doctor and he accepted to kill the target man with the poison on next Thursday. On that day things did not go as they were planned. An attack occurred toward to the civil public in Beirut and many people were injured. Although doctor should have gone to the target man, he was at the camp for the injured people. Tom lifted the doctor from the camp to the operation place although it was late. Nathan did not want to leave the operation to the chance and he decided to apply the plan B, which was to send a car to the building the target man was at, with full of bombs and with two suicide commandos. At the end while the doctor was successful at entering the building and the man would be killed by poison, the suicide commandos arrives and bombs the full building. 75 people died in the attack with the target man. Tom was shocked psychologically due to the death of people. On the other hand Nathan found the operation successful since the target man was dead. Tom could not accept this event and he decided to separate their ways with Nathan.


This was the last flashback of Nathan. Tom was in the Chinese prison to rescue Elizabeth, who had been reported by Nathan.


In The Last 24 Hours


At  7:55 am  Nathan is informed that Tom is  in danger by the Hong Kong’s embassies.

When Nathan comes to his office, the documents about Tom Bishop are wanted by task force.

Nathan joins to the meeting.

At  8:02 am Nathan learns that Tom  will be executed at 8:00 am the next day. There are 24 hours to the execution.

Nathan recalls how he met with Tom.

He calls a friend from press and he informs that Tom was captured in a Chinese prison. He aims to rescue his friend with this way.

Then he continues telling more about Tom, how he made him a spy for CIA.

Nathan wants to learn the operation name, but he is not allowed to know any information about it. The operation name is “Sideshow”. 

He understands that CIA searches a reason to kill Tom because the operation that Tom made in China may cause to destroy the relationships between China and US.

After the news about Tom is broadcasted, Nathan thinks that he rescued Tom . However, it does not work. After a while press says that the news about Tom is not true.  Nathan starts to make new plans to rescue Tom and he has very limited time.

He continues flash-backs. And also he collects information about the operation.

At 5:42 pm the meeting finishes and they make a decision about Tom. He should not have been in Chinese Prison. Thus, CIA will not rescue him. However, Nathan plans a new operation to rescue him with keeping the operation secret from the CIA.

At 9:22 pm he transfers all his money to  a single account.

At 11:03 pm he prepares the details of the operation.

At 2:55 am He prepares the official papers for the operation. The name of the operation will be “Dinner-out”.

He negotiates with Chinese for an electricity shortage 30 minutes long, in which the operation will take place.

At 7:04 am the meeting of task force starts again. They sign the report about Tom Bishop. Tom will be executed at 8:00 am.

At 7:17 am operation Dinner-out begins with the order of Nathan.

At 7:42 am Nathan achieves to rescue Tom and Elizabeth and leaves the building.



The United States has carried on foreign intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis.

Even before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was concerned about American intelligence deficiencies—particularly the need for the State and War Departments to cooperate better and to adopt a more strategic perspective. He asked New York attorney William J. Donovan to draft  a plan for a new intelligence service.  In July 1941, Roosevelt appointed Donovan as the Coordinator of Information (COI) to direct the nation's first peacetime, nondepartmental intelligence organization.  America's entry into World War II in December 1941 prompted new thinking about the place and role of the COI.  As a result, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was established in June 1942 with a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies.

During the War, the OSS supplied policymakers with essential facts and intelligence estimates and often played an important role in directly aiding military campaigns.  However, the OSS never received complete jurisdiction over all foreign intelligence activities.  The FBI formally received responsibility for intelligence work in Latin America when its Secret Intelligence Service was established in June 1940, and the military branches conducted intelligence operations in their areas of responsibility.

As World War II drew to a close, Donovan's civilian and military rivals feared that he might win his campaign to create a peacetime intelligence service modeled on the OSS.  President Harry S. Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt in April 1945, felt no obligation to retain OSS after the war.  Once victory was won, the nation wanted to demobilize quickly—which included dismantling wartime agencies like the OSS.  Although it was abolished in October 1945, however, the OSS's analytic, collection, and counterintelligence functions were transferred on a smaller scale to the State and War Departments.

President Truman soon recognized the need for a centralized intelligence system.  Taking into account the views of the military services, the State Department, and the FBI, he established the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) in January 1946.  The CIG had two missions: providing strategic warning and conducting clandestine activities.  Unlike the OSS, it had access to all-source intelligence.  The CIG functioned under the direction of a National Intelligence Authority composed of a Presidential representative and the Secretaries of State, War and Navy.  Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers, USNR, who was the Deputy Chief of Naval Intelligence, was appointed the first Director of Central Intelligence.

Twenty months later, the National Intelligence Authority and the CIG were disestablished. Under the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 (which became effective on 18 December 1947) the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were created.  The 1947 Act charged the CIA with coordinating the nation's intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence which affects national security.  In addition, the Agency was to perform other duties and functions related to intelligence as the NSC might direct.  The Act defined the DCI's authority as head of the Intelligence Community, head of the CIA, and principal intelligence adviser to the President, and made him responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods.  The act also prohibited the CIA from engaging in law enforcement activity and restricted its internal security functions.  The CIA carries out its responsibilities subject to various directives and controls by the President and the NSC.

In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed and supplemented the 1947 Act.  The addendum permitted the Agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures and exempted CIA from many of the usual limitations on the expenditure of federal funds.  It provided that CIA funds could be included in the budgets of other departments and then transferred to the Agency without regard to the restrictions placed on the initial appropriation.  This Act is the statutory authority which allows for the secrecy of the Agency's budget. 

In 1953, Congress amended the National Security Act to provide for the appointment of the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.  This amendment also provided that commissioned officers of the armed forces, whether active or retired, could not occupy both DCI and DDCI positions at the same time. The DDCI assists the Director by performing such functions as the DCI assigns or delegates. The DDCI acts for and exercises the powers of the Director during his absence or disability, or in the event of a vacancy in the position of the Director.

Congressional oversight has existed to varying degrees throughout the CIA's existence.  Today the CIA reports regularly to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as required by the Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980 and various Executive Orders.  The Agency also reports regularly to the Defense Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in both Houses of Congress.  Moreover, the Agency provides substantive briefings to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Armed Services Committees in both bodies, as well as other committees and individual members.




To identify the structure of the organization, the job tasks and how they are divided, grouped and coordinated must be considered. The key elements in designing an organization’s structure are work specialization, departmentalisation, chain of command, span of control, centralization and decentralization, and formalization. Therefore,  the organization’s structure  was analysed according to the degree of these six key factors, taking into consideration the dialogues and events in the film.


According to the film, CIA has a highly standardized and formalized organization.  The suits that the men wear show that in this organization there is highly formalization.


There is a high degree of hierarchy and very rigid chain of command system. Nathan was a supervisor of Tom. Tom should implement the orders of Nathan in operations especially. There is  highly detailed information for the operations and also many procedures in preparing and implementing an operation. For instance, an operation coordinator Nathan had to prepare some analyses reports and an order request form and also many official papers approved by the director of CIA.


Delegation of information is narrow. The name of the operation (Sideshow) and the details of the operation were not wanted to give Nathan because he is not allowable to know them. Everyone has to do his/her own business. If one person is an operation’s coordinator, he has his own team for this operation and he is allowable only to report the operation’s details to his supervisor and take command from his supervisor. The authority was too centralized. The biggest authority in CIA is the president. Considering that the CIA is an governmental agency, we can easily talk about the “bureaucracy” as a main feature of the organization. There is also as a bureaucratic structure highly routine operating tasks achieved through specialization, very formalized rules and regulations, tasks that are grouped into functional departments, narrow spans of control, and decision making that follows the chain of command. 


Furthermore, at the operation level, team structure is highly used in the operations by the organization. In Vietnam, Beirut and Berlin, team work  can be observed. However, team work is a result of the structure of the work. One person cannot do all the operation on his own. However, the hierarchic structure of the organization can be observed among the teams. One person gives the orders and the others follows these orders.


Finally, evaluating all the cues and messages in the film, it can be said that the organization has a typical mechanistic structure which is characterized by extensive departmentalisation, high formalization, a limited information network, and centralization. Since the organization size affects the structure, and CIA is a large governmental structure, it is not easy to organize without specialization, departmentalisation and using procedures and regulations.


Another important point is the organizational culture of the CIA which refers to the common perception held by the organizations members. The organization type of the CIA is strong. That means there is low risk taking. In the first operation in the Vietnam, Tom Bishop took the command of not shoot the target because it is risky. Another example Nathan started the B plan because Tom was late with doctor in Beirut. Nathan did not want to take risk being unsuccessful. Moreover, the CIA did not want to rescue Tom, because there is a risky situation in the relationship between China and US. Attention to detail is very high. In training Nathan said to Tom that he has to show high attention everything around and memorize every picture to be able to understand what is wrong in the picture. Suspicion and attention to the details are close to the paranoid level. Furthermore,  Charles showed very high attention like a good trained CIA agent to be able to catch Nathan in doing against the CIA. Since it is a bureaucratic organization, if an operation does not go according to its procedures, they stop the operation. Therefore it may be said that the outcome orientation is not high. Procedures and rules are more important than the outcome. People orientation is low. The effect of outcomes on people within the organization is not much important, because the main important thing is the values and the goals of the organization. The German man, who Tom is not allowed to cross the border, died, and in Beirut many civil people died.  The outcomes of the operations were successful for the CIA. However, Tom was influenced negatively by the outcomes.  Team orientation is low. There are teams in the operations. However there is always a supervisor who gives the orders. Therefore, there is no individual participation in decision making. Aggressiveness is low. Everyone in CIA is doing his/her business and there is not high competition for promotion between the employee. Stability is high. Since it is a governmental organization, profitability and growing are not important.


The core values of the CIA are had to be shared by all members within the organization. Since in the strong culture, the organization’s core values are both intensely held and widely shared, there is a strong dominant culture which expresses the core values.


Since the CIA is a bureaucratic organization and has a strong and dominant culture; it may be considered that the employee turnover is low and commitment to the CIA is high.  Nathan is an employee who has served to the organization 30 years long.  He adapted to the organization’s culture and stayed loyal to the CIA until his last day there. If Nathan is considered in a socialization model, he passed all the socialization process in the organization many years ago. However, if Tom’s socialization process in the CIA is considered, he passed the pre-arrival stage when he is being trained by Nathan. He passed also the encounter stage when he was in Berlin and Beirut. He sees what the organization is really like. However, he could not pass the metamorphosis stage which is the adjustment to his work group’s values and norms. Tom left Nathan at the airport of Beirut and said him that he did not want to be like Nathan. Tom did not accept the value and norms of his work partner. Furthermore, Tom made an operation without informing it to the CIA. His commitment to the organization is low. It can be said that he can not pass the socialization process to the organization, so he has not much commitment to the CIA.


5. WHO is WHO?

Nathan Muir is a veteran CIA officer who is known for making tough decisions that cost people their lives as observed during the operations he had led in Vietnam,  Berlin and Beirut. However, this time, he must deal with the clandestine CIA executives, who appear ready to sacrifice Tom, by using his intelligence and skills while not drawing back from whisky and some profanity. During the political chess game at the meeting table, Nathan does whatever he can in order to avoid full disclosure and actions aimed to block his attempts at saving Tom whom he was once jealous of in a guy’s manner due to the affair between Tom and Elizabeth.

Tom Bishop is a young CIA operative spy, who became disillusioned with Nathan's ethically questionable tactics. As a policeman in Boy Scouts, he enters the army as a volunteer and meets Nathan in an operation. After the war, he is trained by Nathan and is used in many important spying activities. He uses strong profanity, ends up romantically involved with Elizabeth in Beirut, and finds himself set for execution in a Chinese prison after being captured during a rescue operation. He continuously faces conflicts within himself and his duties.

Elizabeth Hadley is a human-rights activist who appears in the scene as a British foreign aid worker in Beirut. Tom fell in love with her, violating Nathan's rule about treating “assets” as disposable goods in order to survive, and also made Nathan jealous. When Nathan finds out that she was involved in a bombing in the past that killed innocent people, his antipathy against her rises.

Charles Harker is one of Nathan's associates who seems to be irritated by him, wants to uncover and thwart his efforts, and briefly uses strong profanity. It plays with the same off-putting self satisfaction, which is the chief characteristic of Nathan's adversary Charles. Nathan's disdainful rival starts sniffing around, knowing that Nathan knows more than he's letting on. Yet his efforts can not stop Nathan’s operation.

Troy Folger is the boss at the meeting where the executives question Nathan about Tom. He is commited to sacrifice Tom for the sake of not harming the relations between the US and China, while he is eager to be objective and somewhat cooperative with Nathan with whom he has a sincere background. His style allows Nathan to take advantage for disclosure avoidance.

Gladys Jennip is the faithful assistant of Nathan, who helps him in various ways. She helps Nathan to organize the last operation of saving Tom and Elizabeth, making necessary phone calls and research. Acting loyal to her manager, she takes the risk of losing her job. She is not only an assistant, but also acts as a friend and job partner of Nathan.






Intellectual Abilities




Number Aptitude

Ability to do speedy and accurate arithmetic


Nathan uses this skill in timing of the operation and money transfers.

Verbal Comprehension

Ability to understand what is read and heard and the relationship in between words

Nathan, Troy,

Charles, Gladys

In the meeting about Tom, the first three characters show good verbal skills and comprehension. Gladys is so successful in this dimension that she comprehends even the coded verbal expressions used by Nathan for closure.

Perceptual Speed

Ability to identify visual similarities and differences quickly and accurately



As the two spies who took part in many operations, they have developed this ability to understand their environment and make fast decisions.

Inductive Reasoning

Ability to identify a logical sequence in a problem and solving the problem



Nathan solved the problem of saving Tom from Chinese prison and Troy tried to identify the acts of Nathan during the meeting and made the decision.

Deductive Reasoning

Ability to use logic and assess the implications of an argument



Nathan and Troy had two choices. Nathan chose to make the operation whereas Troy chose to sacrifice Tom instead of an operation.

Spatial Visualization

Ability to imagine how an object would look if its position is changed

No Clues

There are not any clues to determine this ability of any of these characters.


Ability to retain and recall past experiences



As an experienced spy, Nathan referred to his flashbacks to explain the situation in the meeting. Charles also proved his memory by not trusting Nathan during the meeting and trying to find out what his plans were.


Personality Dimensions of the Big Five Model



Extraversion – sociability, talkativeness and assertiveness


                        Charles  Tom Troy  Gladys                          Elizabeth    Nathan

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High



Agreeableness – good-nature, cooperation and trustworthiness

                       Charles Nathan Elizabeth                        Troy   Gladys     Tom

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High



Conscientiousness – responsibility, dependability, persistency and achievement orientation

            Elizabeth                        Troy  Charles  Nathan   Tom     Gladys

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High



Emotional Stability – calmness, enthusiasm, secureness vs tension, nervousness, depression, insecureness

              Elizabeth    Tom    Charles                      Gladys   Troy            Nathan

  _   ¬-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® +



Openness to Experience – imaginativeness, artistic sensitivity, and intellectualism

                                                                              Nathan Elizabeth

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High





Major Personality Attributes Influencing Organizational Behavior



Locus of Control – degree to which people believe they are the masters of their fate


                 Elizabeth    Gladys    Tom  Charles  Troy                         Nathan

External ¬------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® Internal



Machiavellianism (Mach) – degree to which an individual is pragmatic, maintains emotional distance and believes ends can justify means


           Elizabeth  Tom     Charles                      Gladys Troy                  Nathan

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High


Self-esteem – degree of liking or disliking themselves


           Elizabeth                                    Tom   Troy              Nathan      Charles

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High



Self-monitoring – degree of ability to adjust behaviors to external, situational factors


                                        Charles               Tom     Troy      Elizabeth    Nathan

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High



Risk Taking – degree of willingness to take chances


                                         Troy  Charles             Gladys Elizabeth Nathan Tom

Low ¬----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------® High

Holland’s Typology of Personality

Below are typologies of characters derived from the personality traits defined above:











He prefers verbal activities where there are opportunities to influence others to attain power. This is strongly observed during the meeting when he leads conversation as he wants, and when he tries to impose his rules to Tom in their talks. 








As a valuable spy, he involves investigative traits but faces conflicts due to his artistic side such as regrets about his job observed in his confession to the doctor’s question: “Does it hurt to take life?”.








Though concerned for human rights, Elizabeth is stuck between her ideals and unfortunate past life that prevents her from self actualization.







He acts as the “correct person” of CIA and wants everything to go on as designed. Therefore, he is eager to trap “individualist” Nathan by failing to understand why his rival is so concerned for Tom.







He is a fatherly boss who tries to be democratic in his actions but does not act at the sacrifice of the organizational principles.







These are commonly observed traits of the fellow assistant of Nathan’s whose assistance and support for morale were key factors in the success of the Operation Dinner-out



Relationships among Personality Types


The closer two fields or orientations are in the hexagon, the more compatible they are. Adjacent categories are quite similar, whereas those diagonally opposite are highly dissimilar. As observed in the hexagon, Nathan and Tom show as two extremely opposite personality types, whereas Nathan has a closer type to his rival, but colleague, Charles. This situation is correspondent to the characters’ choices of rules for playing the game.




Performance is highly affected from motivation. The motivated employees are in a state of tension. The greater the tension, the higher the effort level is. The efforts exerted by spies prove that they are somewhat highly motivated in their duties.


According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, spies show a different pattern than many other people. Their physiological needs are satisfied, but for the second level of needs, which is safety, it is hard to say that they are fully satisfied because of the lack of security and protection in many operations. Yet, their social needs are somewhat satisfied and for the fourth stage, Nathan, Troy and Charles have self-respect, autonomy, achievement, status, recognition and attention. They also seem to be self-fulfilled. There is a missing step, safety, which people who chose to become spies usually ignored, so Maslow’s theory does not fit correctly to spy business. A point to mention is the power of alcohol that many spies are used to drink. Alcohol may help spies to feel more safe and protected either by making them forget the tension and dangers of their duties or by giving them more courage both for security and for social needs. Therefore, Maslow’s theory may still be of use for spy business by the use of alcohol for feeling more safe.


Employee involvement is one of the factors of motivation. CIA has a strong culture and participative management is low especially in lower levels of decision-making. It can be mentioned that there is some representative participation that is observed when Nathan is consulted during the meeting about the decision of Nathan’s employee, Tom. This showed some example of a works council.


Motivating professionals is another issue worth to mention. Money is less important than job challenge in many professionals’ priority list, as in Nathan’s. Nathan is provided with ongoing challenging projects all through his career. He has autonomy to follow his interests and is allowed to structure his work in ways he finds productive. He is also rewarded with the recognition by the Certificate honoured to him for working for 30 years. Nathan as a supervisor recognizes individual differences, needs while using local people in operations in Beirut and Vietnam. He uses goals to increase his employees’ motivation, yet he does not want to get any feedback as we saw after the bombing in Beirut talking to Tom.




Nathan Muir: “What is the name of this task force, ha?”


As Nathan asks when he first enters the meeting, this task group is formed in a crisis time between US and China just before the US President’s visit to China after Tom finds himself in a Chinese prison. In the excitement and panic of the crisis, CIA and National Security Council form a task force to make a suggestion to the President about Tom’s future.


Key discussion point is Charles questioning Nathan’s integrity and consistency, proving that he has low mutual trust on Nathan. Yet Troy as a leader stays neutral maybe because of their friendship with Nathan.


This task force is called a task group because they are working together to complete a task, or make a decision. Group boundaries are not limited to its hierarchical superior as there is the officer from the National Security Council in the group.





Analysis of the group behavior of this task group can be done by analyzing the external conditions, group members, structure of the group and the group decision making process.


External Conditions Imposed on the Group

Organization Strategy

Relationships with other countries need to be protected.

Authority Structures

Troy is formally designated leader. According to the group’s suggestion, President makes the decision.

Formal Regulations

Job policies limit each associate seeing other’s files. There is standardization of employee behavior through files, folders, recordings.

Organizational Resources

Time is limited, but other resources like information are high. There is even salad bar and drinks on the meeting table.

Organizational Culture

CIA has a strong culture with different subcultures depending on the location of the facility and groups.


Group Member Resources


Abilities and personality characteristics make up the group member resources. All members of the group have qualified to take part in important decisions related to US politics and security. Different character types as analyzed in the previous sections like Nathan, Troy and Charles affect group performance and Nathan somehow controls the group by sharing his information about Tom to get more time for his operation.


Group Structure

Formal Leadership

Troy is the leader, yet each member of the group have close relationships and similar experience level.


Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” All group members are actors, each playing a role. Nathan’s role is much different in terms of role identity, since he is playing a fake role to the group while planning the operation. Charles is playing the opposite side, whereas Troy as the leader acts more neutral. Troy faces a role conflict when Nathan asks him about the difference between good men (Tom) and bad men.


Performance, appearance and arrangement norms of the group fit CIA’s norms and values. Troy’s conforming efforts and attitude enables smooth discussion, without making Nathan feel he is being judged.

Size & Composition

Nathan, Troy, Charles, the person from National Security Council, the Chinese man, and a few more officials. Size is small, but composition is rich in terms of personal abilities and characteristics, and of hierarchical levels as well.


Cohesiveness is low since this group is formed in an emergency status and increases stress of the members. Some members get out of the meeting table like the children run out of classroom when the bell rings.


Group Decision Making Process


Nominal group technique is used in decision making. Individual members meet face-to-face to pool their information and judgments in a systematic but independent fashion. The most important point is that all members except Nathan seem to be in a consensus to let Tom die in the hands of Chinese officials. Although Nathan knows that he can not change their decision, he creates an atmosphere about Tom’s probable death, causing interpersonal conflicts especially in Troy. He tries to bring social pressure by giving the news channel data about Tom, yet the channel chooses to cover the CIA prepared news rather than reality sent by Nathan.


Work Teams → “Nathan-Tom” & “Nathan-Gladys”


Nathan uses teams for operations in Beirut, Vietnam and Berlin, yet the most obvious teams are the couples Nathan with Tom in many operations and Nathan with Gladys, his assistant in the last operation of saving Tom. The difference between these teams and the task group in the meeting is that in these teams, individuals’ efforts result in a greater performance than the sum of individual efforts. The goal of these teams is collective performance, whereas in the group, the main information is to share information to make a decision. There is not any synergy in between group members, whereas Nathan’s teams have positive synergy, which allows the ordered missions to be accomplished successfully. Skills of group members around the table are varied. On the other hand, skills of Nathan and his team members are complementary to each other, enabling success in CIA operations with Tom and Nathan’s “Dinner-out” operation with Gladys.


The best work teams tend to be small. In CIA operations, privacy and security are very important. Less people in the operation means less risk of CIA being uncovered during a crisis. Trustful team members are chosen by Nathan, which allows him to avoid risk of failure. Tom’s partner in Vietnam who helped in coordination and Arabs in Beirut operations have enough skills and expertise. Tom would not say a word about himself in the Chinese prison although he would die. Nathan’s success in the last “Dinner-out” operation is a result of Gladys’ complementary work. These prove that Nathan has high mutual trust to his team members.


Leadership in the team is very important, as Nathan’s decisions are not questionable among team members. Tom’s willingness to discuss Nathan’s decisions shows his openness, yet Nathan does not accept any mistakes as his job is so risky and dangerous.




According to Behavioral Theories:




Nathan Muir:     If I'm walking into a s*** storm I wanna know which way the wind's blowing.


Nathan Muir:     Don’t ever question me again! I give you an order, you take it!




Nathan Muir: See that building across the way?

Tom Bishop: Yeah.

Nathan Muir: Do you know anyone there?

Tom Bishop: No.

Nathan Muir: In five minutes I want to see you on the balcony.

Tom Bishop: What do-

Nathan Muir: Five minutes.

Tom Bishop: Can't we discuss it over coffee?

Nathan Muir: You just lost ten seconds.



According to Contingency Theories:




Evaluation After Berlin Operation:

Tom Bishop: What happened? What went wrong?

Nathan Muir: Nothing...

Tom Bishop: Nothing!?


Evaluation After Beirut Operation:

            Tom Bishop: Happy?

Nathan Muir: Seventy-five casualties, an apartment block leveled, one dead terrorist? Yeah, happy.

Tom Bishop: We have some f****d up barometer for success, don't we?


·        Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Theory: In Vietnam and during the preparation for the operation in Berlin, Nathan seems as a selling leader with high task and high relationship behaviors in a directive and supportive manner, and Tom completes the team as a maturely ready follower who is able and willing to accomplish the tasks. These situations are observed during Nathan’s training of Tom, and Tom’s enthusiasm for the Berlin operation. Ableness of Tom is best described in the scene where Nathan praises his skills in the meeting.

Tom’s willingness to accomplish the assigned missions decreases after the ethically questionable tactics given by Nathan during the Berlin operation, and it almost fades away after the failure in Beirut (in Tom’s perception). Combined with the lowered supportive or even destructive behavior of Nathan, this situation results in a telling Nathan who knows nothing but giving directions.  


The unwillingness of Tom comes out as a major problem due to Nathan’s highly autocratic self-decision making behavior. The feasible behavior of Nathan as a leader should be Group II (GII) which is sharing the problem with Tom on a fair basis, but since he does not even see deaths of people as a problem, moreover strongly believes in their utilization as diposable assets; he goes on with his autocratic behavior resulting in loss of a skillful subordinate. Please check the table below:


Time-Driven Decision Tree Group Problems



Quality requirement

How important is the technical quality of decisions? (they relate to national security issues)



Commitment requirement

How important is Tom’s commitment to the decisions? (Without Tom’s skills, Nathan’s decisions can not be applied appropriately)



Leader’s information

Does Nathan have sufficient information to make a high-quality decision? (He is highly experienced)



Commitment probability

If Nathan was to make the decision by himself, is it reasonably certain that Tom would be committed to the decision? (He ethically questions Nathan’s decisions)



Goal congruence

Does Tom share the organizational goals to be attained? (He is an idealist patriot)



Subordinate information

Does Tom have sufficient information to make a high-quality decision? (He is a well-knowledged spy)



Group II

Feasible behavior of leader





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Among the personal characteristics that provide Nathan with a strong charisma; extremely high confidence, dominance and strong convictions in his beliefs are highly observed. His conviction power is so strong that he gets Tom in the readiness stage for the Beirut operation by saying  

very little things in a calm and persuasive tone, although Tom is very angry with the deaths of people which Nathan employs simply as “the way game is played”. He has the strong ability to manipulate anybody and anything in his world.


A Moral Approach to Nathan’s Leadership


Transformational Leadership: As a highly transformational leader, Nathan, tries to develop Tom as a spy sheltered against harms of the game, but, unlikely, does not pay attenntion to Tom’s concerns. Also, he uses his charisma in an immoral attitude when trying to enhance power over Tom. 


Means used to achieve goals: Accoring to rules of Nathan, every person should be utilized as an asset to achieve goals and none of them is worth taking risk of life. He is too intolerant against Tom who questions ethical sides of such actions.  


Moral content of the goals: The goals of the US army and CIA for whom Nathan used to and does serve for are ethically questionable in terms of their moral contents. Attaining a goal for the US army in Vietnam War is a success, but serving to attain such goals might not be morally acceptable.


One of the toughest leaders of all, Nathan, finally accepts the virtue that lies within Tom whom he cared much. He decides to divert his manipulation power to the organization in order to avoid sacrification of Tom and set Elizabeth free together with his regretting, sinful soul. However, the final part of the power game will be the most challenging one since it will require intensive and clever use of politics which will be discussed in the next section.




Power-Dependency Relationsip between Nathan and Tom


Nathan takes his power from his position in the formal hierarchy of CIA, highly developed special skills and knowledge, and charisma, in other words; legitimate, expert and referent power bases respectively. Tom was highly dependent on Nathan when they first met, since Nathan had the expertise and opportunity for Tom to serve his country. The rules imposed to Tom for the spy game lowered Tom’s willingness and Nathan’s charisma in Tom’s perception, and resulted in a power corruption and lost dependency.


Political Behaviors at the Meeting


Nathan is a highly experienced and powerful individual who refers to extremely illegitimate political behaviors that violates the implied rules of the game. Nathan’s individual factors of high self-monitor, internal locus of control and high mach combined with the low trust factor within the organization members – especially Charles – generate intensive political behavior throughout the meeting. Nathan engages in a process of impression management and defensive behaviors to win the game.




Ethical Questioning of Nathan’s Political Behavior against CIA  


Although the questions about the ethics of such political behaviors can not be answered clearly, a subjective point of view is given below:


·        Is the political action motivated by Nathan’s self interests to the exclusion of CIA’s goals?

The political action is motivated by Nathan’s self interest in saving Tom. It seems to exlude CIA’s goals of maintaining national security, however another goal – or interest – of CIA should be protection of its members. Nathan’s efforts resulted in a spoilt US-Chinese relations, however; if it were the organization itself, rather than an individual, to deal with the situation; things could be handled easierly. They have the right to punish Tom but not burn him.     


·        Does the political action respect the rights of the individuals affected?

Nathan’s misrepresentation actions do not respect the individuals’ rights to information. Anyway, that was to be done to show respect to a greater right – that is, Tom’s right to live.


·        Is the political activity fair and equitable?

Probably yes, since this is how the things work in the espionage business where people tend to use intensive political actions but in a balanced degree.




The ideas of Nathan and Tom conflict about using the people as assets. According to Nathan, people are assets that can be used or maybe killed on behalf of him or his organization. On the other hand, Tom totally disagrees with Nathan and he tries                                            to prevent civil deaths as much as possible. Tom first perceives and feels the conflict with Nathan during the operation in Berlin.


Nathan ordered Tom to leave the German man, although he knows that the man would be killed by the police. Tom felt guilty about the death of this man, since he would survive his life if he did not leave him. Tom’s feelings can be observed from his angry behaviors and body expressions. He cannot know what to do for a moment because the life of the man could cost the operation. Then, Tom obeys the orders of Nathan unwillingly. For him life of one person is more important then the operation. However, he behaves in an accommodating manner that he does not mind his own ideas. He follows Nathan’s way of accomplishing tasks.


The same thing happens, when the argument arises between Nathan and Tom after the Berlin operation. Tom prefers to behave in accommodating intention again. Though Tom disputes the opinions of Nathan and the way the operation completed, he accepts his ideas. This can be because he is concerned about his career in spying, which depends on Nathan or maybe this time only one person died and he thought he could forget this in the future. He chooses not to break up their relationship. However, this event causes the hostility feeling of Tom toward Nathan. His accommodating behaviour brings Tom to Beirut.


In Beirut, the conflict reaches to the top. Even though Tom tried to complete the operation without causing any other death by selecting the hard way of doing, Nathan did not want to leave the task to the chance and used the suicide commandos. At the end of the operation 75 civil people died. Despite Nathan, who thinks that the operation was successfull since the target man died, for Tom the operation was a crime. After the Beirut operation, Tom separates their ways with Nathan. The outcome of their conflict is dysfunctional due to this separation and smash of the team. Maybe the only way of forming a functional outcome was the accommodating intention of Tom again, because Nathan was applying the philosophy of his organization, CIA and Tom’s understanding had the risk to damage the operation. Thus Nathan could not change his opinions about people’s deaths. However, Tom could never confront his feelings and if it was not this time, the next time separation would occur.


This time Nathan faces with his past ideas about using the people as assets. CIA sees Tom as an asset whose life has no importance at the point that the welfare of CIA will be obtained. Nathan conflicts with the opinions of CIA about Tom. Maybe for the first time in his work experiences, he gives importance to someone’s life and he puts himself in a risky situation in which he can lose his retirement and all savings. Furthermore, he cheats his organization for which he served for 30 years. He behaves in a competing manner against CIA from the beginning of the film. He desires to accomplish his own interests which is to rescue Tom and Elizabeth, regardless of the impacts on the organization. Either he would win, meaning Tom would be saved; or CIA would win, meaning Tom would die and the relationships with China would improve. The outcome is functional for Nathan since his goals to rescue Tom are achieved. However, it is disfunctional for CIA since the goals of the organization are not achieved and CIA falls into a crisis situation. On the other hand, whether CIA had weaker and more flexible culture, it would divert the disfunctional outcome to functional outcome by questioning itself and understanding the weak points of the organization. This event could be a change point for it. In that way, it would strenghten its weak points and will not face with similar problems or cheatings in the future. However, in such a bureaucratic and hierarchic organization it is very difficult to achieve these.


Another conflict is observed between Nathan and his rival Charles in the film. Nathan irritates Charles. He is in a competition with Nathan, although Nathan is already at the point of retirement. Charles feels happy and successful when he beats Nathan. He has great hostility toward Nathan. Depending on these, it can be said that the reasons of the conflict lies on the personal variables, not on only the structure of the work that makes them competitors. Charles handles the conflict in a competitive intention and he shapes his behaviors as “assertive verbal attacts to Nathan” and as “overt questioning”. Nathan answers these behaviors in the similar way but he does not show his hostility as much as Charles does. At the end, Charles loses and Nathan wins the conflict.


During the film risky conditions and conflicts create stressful situations for both Nathan and the other parties. Nathan is a high self-esteem man who trusts on his skills and intelligence too much. He does not let himself feel the stress easily. At the times when his stress level increases, he relaxes himself by drinking. That is to say, he chooses the way to forget the events with alcohol rather than showing it in the relations. In the arguments with others, he never becomes excited, anxious, or angry or maybe he does not show his feelings to other people. He always maintains his calm and relaxed manner. This attitude, which can be his personal conflict management technique, relaxes the other parties and they behave more logically rather than behaving emotionally. Tom is not such a person who maintains his calm manner. His behaviors are directed by his emotions when he is under stress. For example, he shouts, beats the other party, or breaks the things around. Charles gets angry and excited easily and he shows his feelings with his facial and body expressions or with assertive words. No other person in the film is successful at managing conflict and stress as Nathan.









Use people as disposable assets to win the game and survive

Dispose Elizabeth in exchange for a more valuable asset – an American spy – from China




Try to have at least some respect against lives of the humanbeings and take risks for it

Ignore Nathan Rules though such action is also against them and take life risk for an “asset”

Follow Elizabeth to save her from China in the name of love and fairness.



Nathan Rules

Dispose Tom for the sake of trade relations between China and the US

Interrupted by Nathan


Tom Rules


The last part of the game:

Operation Dinner-out


“When did Noah build the ark Gladys? Before the rain.” says Nathan upon Gladys’s question “Feeling a little paranoid on our last day?”.



Completion of Tom’s objective


Correction of the mistake at the first part


Throughout the movie, players follow different rules for the same versions of the game that result in dissimilar consequences. This situation is best explained by the movie tagline:


“It’s not how you play the GAME. It’s how the game PLAYS YOU.”