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What is Weaponized Incompetence and are You Guilty of it?

by Roveen Anyango
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Weaponized incompetence is a pattern of behavior in which someone pretends to not be able to so a task so that another person does it. It often happens in relationships, especially romantic relationships, but it can happen anywhere, including at the workplace.

How do you identify weaponized incompetence? Here is how.

Saying they are unable to do simple tasks

One of the most obvious signs of weaponized incompetence is someone claiming to be unable to do a simple task. Washing dishes, doing laundry are some of the very simple tasks to do. So, if someone claims to not be able to do them persistently, and seem not to learn even when taught, they most likely are practicing weaponized incompetence.

At work, this can be in someone claiming to be unable to do simple office stuff such as converting files to PDF, scheduling appointments and such.

Complimenting you at said task

When you ask someone to do a task, but they instead, begin to make claims about how you are much better than them at said task, its likely they are trying to get you to complete the task.

While you can be the best person to complete a task, if someone keeps deferring simple tasks to you, they most likely are practicing weaponized incompetence.

Doing a task badly

So they said they can’t do a task and said you are better at it, and so you taught them and… what’s that? They did it badly? Okay, perhaps it was a mistake. What? They did if badly a second time? third? Fourth? If this is the case, then that is a sign of weaponized incompetence. This means that they will mess up things on purpose so that you do not ever ask them to do it again. While a mistake can happen the first time, if it they keep doing the task badly, they most likely want you to take over.

‘Forgetting’ persistently

If a person seems to conveniently keep ‘forgetting’ to do certain tasks while still remembering many other things, this is a sign of weaponized incompetence. And it becomes even more blatant when there is no good reason for them to ‘forget’ to complete the task.

Note that you can also look at yourself and see if you practice this. If so, then consider learning how to curb the behaviour. Weaponized incompetence can lead to growing resentment between loved ones, a breakdown of familial relationships and strains at the workplace.

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