Weaponized Incompetence: What It Is & How To Stop It

As humans, we come across different people in our lives. Some people make our lives easier or bring us a lot of inspiration, be it our parents, our friends or just anyone who has ever had a positive influence in us in any way, whereas there are people who unfortunately come into our lives only to make things so much harder for us.

A lot of us tend to believe that there is no such thing as a bad person, but bad situations that make that person become who they are. Quite honestly, this statement holds a lot of truth because there have been many people out there who have time and again broke the cycle of generational trauma and have worked towards helping shape the future generations in a positive and kind way.

With that being said, we will also see that human beings are one of the only creations of nature who would deliberately try to get out doing something by pretence. In our article today, we will be talking about a type of manipulation technique that is interesting but equally annoying when it affects other people. This technique is called Weaponized Incompetence.


Before we jump into learning about weaponized incompetence, let us learn just a little bit about incompetence itself. When we call someone incompetent, we basically say that they incapable of doing anything and think that they are useless to us.

This could have a negative impact on the person who is being called incompetent, but it could either push them to do better or they could also make them depressed or insecure. With that being said, there are many people who weaponize or fake incompetency to get Out of responsibilities, because what better way to make sure all your work gets done other than having someone else do it for you? In our article today, we will be learning about how incompetency can be weaponized and what could possibly be the reason behind people doing such a thing. Keep reading to find out more.

Weaponized Incompetence

The term “weaponized incompetence” gained popularity after it started to emerge across various social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Youtube, where people started to share stories about how their significant others would deliberately act incompetent to avoid responsibilities. Safe to say, majority of these relationships had either already ended or had been on the verge of ending.

Although the phenomenon of weaponized incompetence started gaining more and more popularity from social media, a 1986 issue of Harvard Business Review magazine brought forward the phenomenon of employees pretending to be irresponsible and incompetent to shirk away from professional responsibilities. This is also done to avoid situational conflicts at that point exactly but this could cause bigger organisational conflicts later.

Bestselling author Jonathan Acuff has expressed the need for applying weaponized incompetence strategically, both in cases of entrepreneurship and relationships, in order to get out of doing excessive or unimportant tasks and focus on more important things.

Reasons Behind Weaponizing Incompetence

Now that we have figured out the meaning and idea behind why some people tend to weaponize incompetence, let us also learn the reasons behind why people tend to do it in the first place. Below are some of the most common reasons why weaponized incompetence is utilized:

  1. Reduced Responsibilities: the main reason behind why people weaponize incompetence is to get out of responsibilities, or to get as few tasks as possible. This works in many cases, both in case of household chores as well as professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, in many cases this also extends towards more serious spaces, like childcare. Most of the time, the mother of the kid(s) is seen to be handling or expected to handle everything, like household chores, her professional life and also taking care of children, while the fathers can rest easily after getting back home from work.
  2. Avoid Uncomfortable Situations: One way weaponized incompetence can be utilized in a positive way is by using it to get out of uncomfortable situations. Many times, social anxiety or introversion can make it difficult for people to feel comfortable in social situations, so if one can make being incompetent work in their favour, they can easily get out of situations that could make things difficult for them.
  3. Attention Seeking: faking incompetence can be a way of attracting attention towards oneself. It does not necessarily have to be negative always but manipulative people will do anything for their advantage.
  4. Controlling Behaviour: sometimes, weaponized incompetence might be something that people utilize for the sake of maintaining control in their relationship. This control could be done financially as well as emotionally and mentally.

Affect of Weaponized Incompetence in Relationships:

In all honesty, it could be a hundred percent possible that people could be incompetent towards doing certain things. Different people come from different backgrounds, and there is no proper commonality in how people grow up. Some people grow up to be really pampered, and have everything done for them, while some people, unfortunately, must grow up in really tough situations, making them entirely independent and tough.

A lot of times, some amount of incompetency may also come from disabilities, and this is something that really is not under someone’s control. That being said, deliberately acting incompetent over doing the most basic tasks could definitely be source of a bunch of problems.

  1. The one thing that weaponized incompetence could cause is resentment. If one person has to take up all the responsibilities, both professional and personal, then there will definitely be a power imbalance, plus the feeling of lack of control and stability
  2. Trust issues are another thing that could occur as a result of weaponized incompetence. This could make the person find it difficult to put their faith in someone else.
  3. Conflict is another result of weaponized incompetence. This could absolutely  cause lots of problems on a regular basis.

How to Deal with Weaponized Incompetence:

When it comes to dealing with this issue, there are two ways. One would be confrontation. Confronting the person about them weaponizing incompetence will make them aware that their tricks don’t work on you. In case of relationships, this is specifically important. If confrontation leads to excessive negativity, then the best thing to do would be to let go of that person.