This paper aims to explore managers' and employees' views about service brand sabotage at the front line in retail banking. The current literature emphasises the role of the employee in service delivery, and advocates the cultivation of brand ambassadors – employees who support the service brand through their performance. Yet there also exist saboteurs – employees who actively work against the brand, and there is a dearth of literature exploring the nature of this group. Moreover, much of the extant literature explores service performance from the perspective of the consumer and little is known about employees' views. This paper seeks to present managers' and employees' views about service performance, and service sabotage.Design/methodology/approach – The study incorporates findings from in-depth interviews with bank managers, and a survey of 438 branch employees reveals sabotage drivers in the “job for life” banking environment in Ireland.Findings – The paper identifies employee fear, overwork and compliance demands as issues which influence job dissatisfaction, consumer resentment and employee insecurity.Research limitations/implications – The research is exploratory. The paper advocates further research to confirm the components of service sabotage, and test the influence of these components on consumers' perceptions of the service.Practical implications – The paper offers suggestions to help managers to better manage sabotage in this sector, and recommend future research in other highly structured services sectors.Originality/value – The paper provides new insights into the constraints on the banking employee that may lead to service sabotage. It also offers advice to managers that may help them better harness employees as brand ambassadors.