How to deal with strategic or weaponised incompetence

Do you feel frustrated by your partner’s incompetence? Does it seem like you’re the driver in the relationship and the other person is always the passenger? Or like you’re the adult and they’re the child…? 

Well, you may be dealing with ‘weaponised’ or ‘strategic’ incompetence, a phrase that seems to have been coined in 2007. You may not be familiar with the term but we all know someone who chooses to be incompetent or pretends to be incompetent to avoid tasks or responsibility. Generally, you just take over in frustration because it’s easier to do it yourself than watch someone bumble through a task or deal with the messes they leave when they do a task badly. 

The good, the bad, the incompetent

Every relationship probably does involve greater or lesser forms of strategic incompetence. It’s a lot easier to leave tasks to someone else to do and it even makes sense if one of you is a lot better at something than the other. However, if this doesn’t feel overall fair or reciprocal, this element can become toxic to your relationship.

The problem is that over time, if you’re the competent one, you end up carrying a far greater load than the other. You will likely become highly resentful. You might also feel justified in nagging, following up, or even putting down the other person. 

In addition, the person who is incompetent in the relationship becomes resentful because even if their incompetence started out as strategic, they begin to feel justified in their behaviour because they see the other party as self-righteous or superior. Or worse, they begin to incorporate their incompetence into their identity and thus become less confident and competent in reality. 

Face it head-on 

So for the health of your relationship, whether intimate, friendship or family, it’s better to address the problem of weaponised incompetence head-on. For any kind of relationship to work well in the longer term, it needs to have a foundation of reciprocity and fairness. Any kind of strategic or weaponised competence can become entrenched and unhealthy for everyone concerned. From the outside it can look as if you’re the one burdened and your partner just leans back and lets you do all the work, but the reality is that this kind of dynamic is harmful for both of you. 

Success Formula: How to deal with strategic or weaponised incompetence

  1. Self-reflect. Take a good hard honest look at yourself and how you might be contributing to the other person’s incompetence. Are you particular and controlling? Do you allow them a proper chance to complete something on their own or are you quick to take over? Do you tend to act superior and say things intended to make the other person feel guilty and “less than”? If so, take steps to address your own behaviour.
  2. Talk about it. Communicate honestly with your partner using “I” language and talking about your genuine feelings. For example, you could say something like: “When you watch Netflix while I clean the kitchen and put a load of washing on, I feel angry and resentful. I need you to take more of an active role when it comes to household chores”. 
  3. Allow the other to make mistakes and live with the consequences. To continue with the example, if they pack the dishwasher badly and leave smears on the counter, let it be. It’s more important that they’re contributing than that they do it perfectly, right? Or stop doing their washing for them and let them deal with having no clean clothes when it’s time to go to work on Monday morning.
  4. If none of these things work, it’s time to consider reaching out to a therapist to consider your options. It may be that the relationship has become toxic and needs to end.

If you have communicated your feelings to your significant other and it has made a positive impact on your life, please email me or leave a comment on this blog. And as always, if you enjoyed reading this or found it helpful, please go ahead and share it 🙂

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *