let’s discuss weaponized incompetence

Let’s discuss weaponized incompetence: when someone pretends not to know how to do a task well so that they won’t be asked to do it (also known as “strategic incompetence”).

Sometimes this is used for ill (like the classic example of men who can’t seem to figure out how to do their own admin work) but sometimes it’s used for good (like women deliberately not learning how to make coffee so they won’t be pigeonholed into always doing it).

So: let’s talk about times you’ve seen weaponized incompetence being used at work … or times when you’ve used it yourself. Share in the comment section!

{ 1,164 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed a ton of off-topic comments, on everything from the best way to order a drink at a bar to the politics of various fast food restaurant owners. Please stay reasonably on-topic!

  2. Ann O'Nemity*

    I used weaponized incompetence at my very first job at a local burger joint. I was taught how to clean the shake machine in the first week, but immediately realized it was one of the worst closing tasks. So for the next few months, every time I was assigned to clean the shake machine at closing I said that I didn’t know how to do it. So I’d get trained again, which consisted of me standing there watching someone else take apart all the complicated machine parts and clean out sticky ice cream residue.

    I should feel bad, but there were so many terrible things about that place that I just can’t muster much guilt.

    1. gnomic heresy*

      Working in fast food excuses a multitude of minor sins. You do what you have to to survive that kind of workplace, and if that one task would send you over the edge, given all the other horrible tasks you had to do that day, I don’t blame you in the least.

      1. evens*

        Well, somebody had to do it. I’m not sure why it should have been a coworker instead of Ann O’Nemity.

        1. Artemesia*

          Been there. Cleaned the shake machine. If you are a woman and do it, it will be our permanent job.

    2. Katydid*

      There is a machine at my bartending job that makes frozen drinks. This is not my main job so I just say I don’t know how to use it. I can just make you a margarita in the rocks.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh man I would walk out. Frozen margs is my favorite and is the reason I came in; marg on the rocks is nothing special. I feel the same way when the shake/latte machine is broken in drive-through (it’s often broken!). However, I don’t blame the employee, obviously, and I’m not rude about it. But I have often suspected it’s not broken and they just don’t want to bother haha. Vindication!!!

        1. good old days*

          In twenty years of bartending, I never once made a frozen drink. Mysteriously, every blender was broken. What, someone made you one using it at lunch? It broke an hour ago. Sorry. In all seriousness, I first worked at a bar that was always standing room only and frequent in charge of serving over a hundred people. And a lot of bachelorette parties. If there are two bartenders and 300 to 400 people in need of liquid courage for karaoke night, there would have been riots if I took the time to make frozen drinks.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          I’m the opposite, I hate frozen drinks but love them OTR or straight up. Frozen drinks just seem icky, especially when you see that slushie machine.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Maaaaaany years ago, back when rocks were soft and dirty was new, I took a bartending course. The instructor specifically taught that when a bar gets busy, things get broken. Friday night? Sorry, the blender is broken. I can get you one on the rocks.

        1. Goose*

          Worked at a bar during the summer. We had so many drinks with muddled ingredients. When it was slammed, oops! No more mint to be found.

        2. Liane*

          Nope, the reason is that the shake/ice cream machine (at just about every chain) locks down when its internal programming says “Cleaning Time!” or “Heat Cycle Time!” and there is no workaround because Risk of Food Poisoning.

          (Seriously, I don’t known why folks are so into McD’s ice cream products. Even in my small rural town there is a Sonic & Baskin Robbins, both of which have a much bigger & tastier variety plus a Wal-Mart & grocery that both sell premium ice cream brands.)

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Ironically, it may be because of the cleaning. McDonald’s has long been known for having the best tasting fountain drinks in the land, and the reason is regular and vigorous cleaning of the soda machines. It probably carries over to the shake machines as well.

            1. Artemesia*

              Glad to hear this. One time at the greasy spoon I worked in I had nothing to do and so idly took apart the spouts on the soft drink machine to clean them — found pads of well developed mossy moldy stuff — it had obviously not been cleaned in the memory of anyone working there. Been drinking bottled/canned soda ever since.

              1. miss_chevious*

                Eww! When I was a McD’s employee, the soda machines were cleaned literally every night at close.

                1. Jasmine Tea*

                  When I worked at BK we did it every night too.
                  Sometimes when business was slow we made the machine keep running to freeze the milkshakes into soft serve ice cream.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                That does not surprise me.

                When I was in high school, they had a little snack bar near the gym with fountain drinks, and twice after attending a basketball game and having a soda, I became violently ill. You’d think I would have learned after the first time, but I wasn’t sure that’s what it was, until it happened again.

            2. Guin*

              Ray Kroc started out as a milkshake-machine salesman. If you don’t know Mark Knopfler’s brilliant song, “Boom, Like That” go seek it out. Milkshake mixers, that’s my thing, yeah.

            3. LikesToSwear*

              It did when I worked at McDonald’s some 30 years ago (and cleaned said machines); we took them apart and cleaned them daily. I have heard that the machines they currently use are cleaned less often.

              What I really dislike about the current machines is how there is only one dispenser, instead of one per flavor. You end up with plain shake base at the bottom of the shake, instead of all chocolate or whatever.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            There’s a whole saga out there around the McDonald’s ice cream machine issues. If you goggle it, you’ll probably come across it

            (the tldr version is the company that makes them has a locked down deal with McD’s to service them, sets them to lock until the service is done. it’s a hassle. someone has a better way, but they are being frozen out. Also, the normal cleaning process is a hassle, so they go ‘out of order’ aka employees don’t want the hassle)

        3. Grim*

          I wish I’d thought of that back when I worked at Subway. We sold smoothies, which were a bit of a pain in the ass to make, meant somebody who knew the process for making them (usually me) had to jump out of the sandwich production line to go make one and slow everything else down, and also weren’t even that good. It would’ve made life a lot easier if the blender had conveniently stopped working every day for an hour or two during the worst of the lunch rush!

      3. Baby Yoda*

        At Hardees many moons ago, to make a strawberry shake you had to start with vanilla ice cream and add strawberry syrup, then hold the cup so a metal spinner could blend it. Whoever had to make these was coated with pink syrup the rest of their shift. Everyone said they didn’t know how to do it.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I hated making milkshakes the summer I worked at an ice cream parlor. Tip the cup the wrong way even by a millimeter and boom, the spinner cuts off the bottom and I’m wearing milkshake for the rest of my shift

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Well if they didn’t know how to do it and remain clean, I’d say they didn’t know how to do it. Unless they kept extra clean uniforms out the back for those who got dirty?

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I definitely used this excuse to get out of changing the soda syrup boxes when I worked at a movie theater. I should feel regret but alas.

      1. Jenifer Crawford*

        Not sure why, but I always enjoyed changing the soda boxes when I worked in fast food. Then again, it was never during a massive rush, because multiple people kept an eye on it, and almost always had a box ready for hookup on the extra shelf management had just for this purpose.

    4. atypical*

      Ha, I was your opposite: I loved cleaning the shake machine because I could drag it out and not have to deal with customers. Everybody else pretending that they couldn’t do it just helped me to justify taking a veeeeeeeery long time to do it!

      1. Beka Cooper*

        Oh you just reminded me of the summer I spent cleaning dorms on campus. When we got to the apartments, which housed 4 students and had full-sized fridges, I would volunteer to clean the fridge, and everyone else would get the rest of the apartment done by the time I finished with the fridge. It was great because I hated cleaning the bathtubs.

        1. i like hound dogs*

          This reminds me of one time I wasn’t weaponizing incompetence, I was just actually incompetent. The manager of the bagel place where I had just started working asked me to do the dishes at closing. So I fastidiously began cleaning all the giant, gunked-up cream cheese tubs. Two hours later he said he’d finish up for me. When I came in the next day, someone made fun of me for how slowly I’d apparently been doing the dishes.

          But guess who never had to do the dishes again?? Kinda worked out.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I have no problem with this because a truly cleaned fridge is a commitment. (I assume you weren’t half heartedly wiping the handles and whistling.) When I clean the work fridge it’s good for an hour and half off the phones. Throw in the freezer and boom.

    5. Bi One, Get One*

      I had that closing task too, why were those things so greasy on the inside? I didn’t want to do things like empty the fryer grease, so I just made cleaning that machine my entire closing task. “Sorry, can’t help, still washing the shake machine parts, unless you want to switch?” No takers.

    6. Sabrena*

      So you are the reason I can never get a shake at McDs??? Machine is always down for cleaning.

      1. Liane*

        Nope, the reason is that the shake/ice cream machine (at just about every chain) locks down when its internal programming says “Cleaning Time!” or “Heat Cycle Time!” and there is no workaround because Risk of Food Poisoning.

        (Seriously, I don’t known why folks are so into McD’s ice cream products. Even in my small rural town there is a Sonic & Baskin Robbins, both of which have a much bigger & tastier variety plus a Wal-Mart & grocery that both sell premium ice cream brands.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Worse to me is “may not legally” even though it is technically possible.

    7. Chirpy*

      I had a manager at a fast food place that always framed prep work as “but you’re so good at it”…

      I don’t know if she was just trying to get out of doing it herself or what, but it didn’t matter to me. I’d much rather spend my day chopping lettuce than making burgers or talking to people, so if she wanted to do the hard stuff while I took my time doing prep, then sure.

      1. Talks about running too much*

        I’m going to try to say this delicately……I used to work as a rehab therapist in a ward, which often involved helping patients accomplish their ‘necessary business.’ Often the patient needed both hands on a walking frame, which left my boss and I to do the rest. She was extremely competent at everything else, but always insisted that I manage the, ahem, business end of things “because you’re so much better at it.” Better at….wiping?! I always wanted to ask how she manages at home then, but I never had the nerve!

  3. Lisa*

    My favourite is the photocopier – the blank looks people will give when the paper or toner run out, and how they’ll just quietly back away when there’s a paper jam.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Oh no! Some printers are horribly complicated though! I have been wrestling with one in my office and just gave up. Only certain people can connect to it. It randomly deletes users and the menus for it don’t make logical sense, like adding a user is something like “new request” and then clicking “send to” in the corner.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Maybe I should add to my resume that copiers like my smell and will let me un-jam them. The copier whisperer. Not that I need it now, it’s funny how when you work for a company that isn’t toxic all the equipment is in good repair.

        1. BookishMiss*

          I also am a copier whisperer. I firmly believe there could be more of us if people tried to learn instead of being scared.

          That said, I have had a toner cartridge decide it had a tiny bit left as I was taking it out. Let’s just say it’s a great thing I wear mostly black. So I get why folks are leery.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            I was the copier whisperer at a financial services firm that did a LOT of printing. All it entailed was (1) read the fix-it prompts on the screen and (2) follow those prompts. It’s literally so easy and I think people are just impatient.

            1. Dawn*

              Take it from somebody who works in consumer electronics, not all printers are created equal.

              Some can definitely walk you through a fix; others require a working vocabulary of Old Enochian and an active circle for safety.

              1. metadata minion*

                Yep. I follow the instructions. I download the manual from the internet and follow the *advanced* instructions. I carefully open and close every user-serviceable drawer and latch to check for jams or to see if that magically fixes it. And sometimes it still insists there is a jam where no jam exists.

                It took me a week to get my new label printer to work and it’s still displaying the red “no signal” error light despite happily printing out labels. The cable they first sent with the printer was either wrong or broken and caused my entire power strip to shut down out of self-defense.

                1. Sharpie*

                  Sometimes the jam is the teensiest tiniest piece torn off the corner of a previously jammed sheet. And that minute scrap might be invisible without literally deconstructing the copier or printer.

                  I used to work in IT hardware, I’ve had this more times than I can count!

                2. Bronze Betty*

                  My home printer routinely decides it does not recognize my computer and I frequently get the pop-up saying Error: Document Did Not Print (or something like that), yet there is my document, all nice and printed.

                  My trust in technology is very low.

                3. Tiny Soprano*

                  Opening and closing every hatch and drawer is one of my favourite pieces of arcane photocopier magic. It feels satisfying and it works more often than not.

                4. pandop*

                  Oh yes, even if you have cleared the jam, the printer in our office won’t work until you have opened and closed all the little doors.

              2. TX_TRUCKER*

                OMG, yes! We have a lease on a “fancy” printer that includes in-person technology support. The tech guy is here so often, we gave him his own cubicle.

              3. Lizzie Bennet*

                Are we talking salt circle here? (And maybe some form of iron. Just to be fully prepared.)

              4. Ally McBeal*

                I mean, I believe you, but the copier at this specific company had very detailed instructions and illustrations. All I did was read the directions and follow them. Sometimes I had to poke around for a minute before I found the correct button/lever/drawer/whatever, but considering I was making $65k when the rest of my coworkers were making double that, minimum, to research and analyze very complicated business models, it’s not unreasonable to hope that they could’ve used their big brains (that make them big money) to do things OTHER than just their job descriptions.

                1. Observer*

                  but considering I was making $65k when the rest of my coworkers were making double that, minimum, to research and analyze very complicated business models, it’s not unreasonable to hope that they could’ve used their big brains (that make them big money) to do things OTHER than just their job descriptions.

                  Not really – when someone is making that much money, it may be cheaper to call in a tech.

                  Add that “poking around” when you really don’t have experience with the innards of hardware of this sort can wind up with damage as well, and it’s actually sensible.

            2. AnonORama*

              Honestly, I was the copier whisperer at my old job…because I have tiny hands and could reach in and pull out the misfed paper. Which I did not enjoy, because I’d wind up coated in black powder at best and scratched at worst. But I would do it, because everyone knew I could and would make it sound like a project would tank/they’d lose their job if they couldn’t get their copies. I admit, no one has noticed my baby hands at this job and I hope they don’t! (We don’t do a ton of work on paper anyway, but we still have a copier and it still jams.)

              1. GammaGirl1908*

                Tiny hands definitely help! I have bigger hands for a woman, and when I worked in the library in college, getting a hand chewed on by a copier, printer, or (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) microfiche reader was a weekly part of the otherwise awesome job. Ugh.

              2. misspiggy*

                Ohh that makes sense – I was always the paper unjammer because of my narrow and bendy Ehlers Danlos hands.

            3. Brain Flogged*

              I’m usually very good fixing thins, and had been know as a happy Follower of Manuals, but printers? Ha. They are evil and like to mess with you.
              No matter how closely you follow the damm instructions, they don’t what you to fix then, and will lie to you face.
              Once, after I tried everything in the book and found exactly zero reasons why the printer was not printing, I resorted to calling the expert, who came, touched the print button, aaand…the haunted thing just worked. At least, until the tech smug smirk walked away, at wich point, it just made a “WHIRRR” noise and stopped mid print.
              I’m still not over it.

              1. Sharpie*

                The number of times I responded to a call-out only for the tech to fix itself once I arrived…

                I think everyone who has ever worked in IT, whether hardware or software, has those stories!

                1. LikesToSwear*

                  I am perfectly willing to threaten tech with a service call if I can’t make it work, and stuff will often start working for my coworkers when I come over to see what the problem is.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  A friend of mine has said that some things are “horses”. As in, some people can simply get on a horse and go places, and other people…can’t. There just seems to be some kind of intuition or something. Besides printers, other examples include power drills, hand mixers, and sewing machines. (Can attest to the hand mixer thing. I really don’t know how to explain how to use it other than “hold it in your hand and turn on the switch”, but I’ve seen them go flying across the room.)

              2. Richard Barrell*

                Be thankful it didn’t wait until the tech was out of the building to stop working.

          2. Covert Copier Whisperer*

            I amas well, but I have made sure no one else knows that. I’ll wait till no one else is around them un-jam it. In previous jobs where everyone knew I could troubleshoot, I was always getting interrupted to help.

            1. Blocking it out*

              Same here! I sit in the cube by the copier and while I CAN solve a bunch of problems (because like someone above I actually read the directions on the copier), I will absolutely NOT stand up because of your loud wailing and moaning. I might help if you come ask me directly, but mostly I pretend I can’t hear your ongoing drama while you try to unjam those labels.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            I think a lot of people are afraid they’re going to be held responsible for inadvertently destroying the printer–they are completely nonintuitive where I’m concerned and I have no idea if I just entered the sequence that means SELF DESTRUCT WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.

            1. Jessastory*

              at my school the admin in charge of calling for printer repairs has specifically requested everyone not try to fix jams since it’s easy to get paper shreds stuck somewhere you have to disassemble the dang thing to get them out again.

          4. Hannah Lee*

            Sometimes I feel like people just don’t have the patience for, or don’t want to be bothered to, think through the problem logically and ‘debug’ it step by step or sometimes, with newer machines, simply follow the prompts on the printer screen.

        2. Kesnit*

          I co-oped while I was in undergrad. About a dozen people with technical degrees in the office, and none of them could fix the copier. I always joked that if the students couldn’t get a job in our field, we could all become Xerox repair people…

        3. I Have RBF*

          This is me. I can unjam them, change toner without making a mess, and unscrew the print queue. Printers too. HP was good. Ricoh was good. But I can’t remember the minor brand that hated me and everyone else, no matter where I worked.

          1. Syfy Geek*

            The best printer I ever worked with was a Ricoh. We called it “Ricoh Suave” (yes, it was the 90’s) .

        4. Marzipan Dragon*

          Yes, copier whisperer is a real thing. The faculty used to call me to stand next to the copier. Not make their copies or anything, they just believed the copier loved me and it would perform it’s best if it could see me.

          1. Brain Flogged*

            Once upon a time, I tryed to befriend the machine. Gave it a name, and even printed and laminated an office badge (with an actual photo), but old “gertie” was having none of it.

        5. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

          I work with an Apple Whisperer. She doesn’t even have to DO anything; she just has to be in the general vicinity and Apple products start behaving.

      2. Jenna Webster*

        Agree!! I am the opposite of a printer-whisperer. If there is a problem, I will make it worse. I don’t know if it’s really weaponized incompetence so much as actual incompetence, but possibly, since I handle other technology just fine.

        1. RVA Cat*

          It becomes weaponized when you drag it out to a field with a baseball bat while blaring gangsta rap. “Die MFer…!”

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              The guy who programmed it is a serial liar, makes sense that the machines he programmes lie too!

        2. IneffableBastard*

          It depends on the printer! I’ve had nightmarish issues with several of them, and loved two wholeheartedly — even when they misbehaved, it was something straightforward and easy to fix. Even extremely tech-savvy people (think people who can do magic with cables AND coding) have hard times with some printers.

        3. Shakti*

          Me too! Printers stop working basically instantly around me and it was especially frustrating when I was an admin and dealing with the printer was my job, I definitely might have indicated it was the individual people’s jobs to deal with the printer themselves so I wouldn’t have to lol

      3. What, what?*

        Printers are the liminal space between the real world and the digital world. Portals this powerful aren’t destined for stability.

    2. higheredadmin*

      I worked in an office as a temp as a summer job when I was in high school and back then the toner for the photocopier had those huge strips you had to carefully pull out. After spraying ink all over myself and the floor several times, I was banned from this task. Still avoid photocopier ink cartridges like the plague now.

    3. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agh, the COPIERS. The number of times I’ve had to tell people, “There are really good directions on how to do that onscreen, gotta run to a meeting/finish this document/catch Jane before she heads out!” and power walk away before they can protest is too high.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah our copier not only plays a little step by step video, but when you open the front of it, whatever toner is empty will have its little door pop open and gently slide the cartridge out so you can grab it. It is SO EASY and yet I have come back from days off to find the new cartridge sitting on the table in the copy room and the copier refusing to work because it’s out of toner.

    4. Common Sense Not Common*

      I agree wholeheartedly. Copiers/printers are not rocket ships.

      I had a manager from another department come to me to change the toner because she couldn’t do it because she “wears nice clothes.”

      She’d also often print after hours and leave the machine jammed. However the machine had a queue screen where it listed the name of the person printing. We could you of easily see it was her.

      1. Cats stole my croissant*

        Can’t remember what tv show it was, but they tested the “it’s not rocket science / brain surgery” thing. Groups of actual rocket scientists & brain surgeons were asked to photocopy a broadsheet newspaper double sided onto A4. Chaos ensued.

    5. Admin Lackey*

      Yes, in my office it’s known that the printer and I get along, like it’s a wild horse that I’ve tamed, and so I’m the one who always fixes issues and replaces supplies. I’ve tried to just wait the others out but they’re willing to wait much longer than I am.

    6. Jane Bingley*

      This is one of those jobs where I found it beneficial to become the copier wizard. They always seem to break in the middle of an incredibly important job, and becoming the person in the office who can get it up and running again right away meant people owed me many, many favours that I didn’t hesitate to cash in on!

    7. former academic*

      Ironically, when I was a graduate student there was a rule in the copy room that you basically weren’t allowed to try to fix anything on your own but had to alert the print room staffer, because otherwise there were crazy issues like someone loading the colored paper with transparency sheets and forgetting to remove them after printing. As a faculty member we did not have that rule, but staff did monitor when the noises in the copy room went from “ugh, a paper jam” to strings of profanity and step in at that point.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        Hahaha yup. As a former higher ed admin, there’s a very fine line between “you should handle that yourself,” and “please back away before you do any damage and I have to actually get a service rep in here to fix this.” Sometimes it’s weaponized incompetence, sometimes it’s just straight incompetence and it’s better for everyone if I just handle it.

    8. Ann O'Nemity*

      There is a reason that the Office Space printer smash scene resonates with so many people. Those things frustrate people to the point of destruction.

    9. FrivYeti*

      Funny story – back when I was a temp I was pretty good at my job. I got called in by the agency and told my current placement was replacing a temp who got fired by the place they were placed at, and they’d picked me specifically because I was reliable, so it was critically important to do a good job.

      It turned out that there had been a paper jam, and the previous temp had ignored the rule that you’re supposed to get a technician because “it was just a paper jam.” Fifteen minutes later, they had done $2,000 worth of damage to the machine and taken it offline for two weeks.

      I still don’t know how they managed that.

        1. FrivYeti*

          I legitimately don’t know what they did. I think it involved escalating attempts to remove parts, breaking those parts in the process, and then trying to jam them back into the printer.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I was so mad when my office brought in this new one where an error message is sent to the copier company team and they fix it. If you touch it, the warranty is void.

    10. Antilles*

      Oh yes the photocopier, the best argument in favor of weaponized incompetence.

      At my first professional job, I got moved from a cube into an office, the office immediately adjacent to the printer. The VERY FIRST thing someone said while I was moving my stuff into that office, so immediately that that I was still plugging in cords? Never, ever fix the printer because otherwise you’ll become the Printer Guy and always be asked to fix it. Being young and inexperienced, I took this as a joke rather than sage wisdom. A couple days later, there was a paper jam and still being young and inexperienced, I offered to help by helping to decipher the error message and following the obvious diagram showing exactly where/how to remove the jammed piece of paper. And then…yep, word got around that “he knows how to fix the printer”, I instantly was the Printer Guy, and got interrupted every single time anything went wrong with the printer. Took me several months to break everybody of that habit.

    11. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Ha, this reminds me of a printer issue at a previous job. I went full-time remote, so I sent out instructions for the in-office tasks I did (it was all recorded in a shared, online notebook).

      I came back for some in-person meetings and my manager scolded me for not sending out the instructions to order printer cartridges, how it was unacceptable and irresponsible that they had to ask me to do it remotely, etc.

      So I forwarded the email with the link to the appropriate page in the shared digital notebook that we all used regularly…that I had already sent out twice.

      Oh, and since we had an actual office manager at HQ (I had been in a specialist role since I started), the instructions were pretty much, “Ask Office Manager to order what you need.” Not sure why it didn’t occur to them to contact the office manager (instead of asking me).

      I kindof regret not adding a passive-aggressive note like, “Manager let me know ya’ll missed this email twice, but you can always look in the shared notebook we all use regularly for stuff like this. Or, since it’s an office management task, you could try asking Office Manager in the future, since ordering supplies is part of his job.”

    12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Or when they call IT because it’s our job to know all about the printers and thus know how to refill them.

      My personal belief is printers are evil and like to nom their own toner cartridges but they don’t require specialist help to fill them with paper. Don’t fill up our call queue with ‘the printer is saying out of paper’ unless you want a ‘PICNIC’ tag affixed to your calls.

      (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)

      1. La Triviata*

        Our printers have super secret drawers for paper, which often results in people going bonkers trying to figure out why their print jobs are coming out on weird paper, when they just filled the drawer with plain white letter-size paper.

    13. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

      This drives me crazy. Printers now have screens that will show you step-by-step how to fix the problem, yet everyone just walks away.

    14. don'tbeadork*

      Heck, even when it runs out of staples and you need to run to the school secretary to get a new cartridge of them. Some teachers would go for weeks without stapled assignments just to avoid walking to the office, asking for (and getting) an new cartridge and putting it in. Even walking to the other building on campus and getting them I could replace the cartridge and be happily copying in under 5 minutes.

      And you can bet that I promoted my copy job ahead of the dolt who wasn’t there and didn’t bother to either get the staples or cancel their job so others could finish their copies.

    15. Itsa Me, Mario*

      Oh god, I lovvvvvvveeeeeeeee messing around with the copier. I don’t know if there’s any term for the opposite of weaponized incompetence (weaponized over-competence? strategic hyper-ability?), but if there is, getting the copier to work is my toxic “thing I know how to do that nobody else knows how to do”. Which isn’t particularly relevant to my job at this point, and which is probably not a good use of my time. But I love it and love being the one person in the office with the magic touch on the copiers.

    16. Too Long Til Retirement*

      EEhhhh I am a Millennial, fairly tech-savvy, and I still have issues with printers. We have a large scale plotter that refuses to print in color properly. We have had a tech out to “fix” it 3 times. He’ll get it working, and then we go to use it the very next day and it’s like he wasn’t even there. I have given up on that particular piece of equipment.

      Our copier is also a printer/scanner. I know how to change the paper on it, how to copy in color, how to copy multiple pages, how to scan multiple pages. I have never had to change the toner and that is fine with me!

    17. Former Young Lady*

      I worked with a guy who made about twice as much money as I did, because he was presumably a super!business!genius!

      He came to my desk one day looking like he’d seen a ghost. “FYL, the printer is BROKEN!”

      I walked over to the copy room with him. It said right there on the display screen: “Load paper.”

      I asked if he’d tried to load paper. He gave me the ghost look again.

    18. Saberise*

      Our printer is fancy and shows pictures on the screen on what to open, pull out, etc to unjam it. Very easy if you do what it says yet no one can manage to do it and just walks away.

      1. Observer*

        It’s surprisingly easy to break something, even when following the instructions. Our printers have almost no moving parts – we mostly have the kind where toner and drum are one unit, so if anything does go wrong, it generally means you absolutely need a tech so just message them and save everyone some time. But they can all change paper and most people can manage the toner cartridges. (I know that having separate units are supposed to be cheaper. But dealing with the inevitable ruined drums quickly eats up all the savings and then some.)

        Our big floor standing copiers are another whole kettle of fish. Even changing paper can be a bit fraught, because at least one tray has 2 stacks of paper, so it’s surprisingly easy to not align the paper properly. Getting the toner refilled without making a mess is easy *if you know how*, and it’s not just a matter of following the instructions. As for jams ans the like? We have an ironclad rule as to who is allowed to even try. Because even if you just follow the instructions, you can mess stuff up very quickly and easily and the cost to fix it is high.

        TLDR; People not touching their printers is not necessarily weaponized incompetence, and when talking about large copiers, it’s almost certainly not incompetence at all, but rather some significant rules and training (official or experiential).

    19. Apt Nickname*

      What gets me is when people leave a printer jammed with paperwork that has their name on it!

    20. Liane*

      Back when I was a new graduate (just before That Meteor that ended the non-avian dinosaurs), I got a humor book called Welcome to Our Company. One of the cartoons was New Employee warily approaching the copier, with both thinking, “Not YOU again!”

    21. Meghan*

      I am generally someone who will add more paper, fix a jam, replace the toner, all that fun stuff. But the admin at my current job is VERY territorial over everything, including the copier. I tried to add paper during my first week here and was very explicitly told to NOT do that. So… I don’t anymore.

      (And this is just a normal copier I’ve used basically all my life. It isn’t temperamental when you try to add paper or fix a jam.)

    22. goddessoftransitory*

      I frankly am terrified of a lot of printers–I feel like Jane Fonda in that scene in 9 To 5 where the entire copy room goes Skynet on her and she’s staring in horror with no idea what’s happening.

    23. Ann*

      I’ve broken two printers at home. I am absolutely not getting in there and trying to fix a complicated office printer. I can put more paper into the tray and hope for the best – have to note one of my home printers bit the dust after a paper replacement turned into a major jam – but anything more? Nope. I’m saving everyone trouble by keeping away.

    24. anon as I've told this story at work*

      This is not a story of weaponized incompetence, unless someone at our company helpdesk was intentionally mishearing me, but I called in a problem with the “coffee machine” and got back an email saying they’d managed to solve the paper jam – someone had written down “copy machine”, which was evidently also simultaneously broken.

    25. Katherine*

      I’ve had to figure out copiers in Japanese and Chinese, so I have very little patience for people who act like replacing paper is some arcane magic.

      1. Beebis*

        We got a new one a while back and I’ve no idea why it defaulted to Turkish, but my coworkers got a crash course in the language while figuring out how to get it to display in English

    26. PCloadletter*

      I used to work with a bunch of engineers and they would print something and stand at the printer staring at it wondering where their print was. it printed in a slightly lower tray so you had to bend down to see the paper. they wouldn’t think to look for the paper, they would just stand there and stare, thinking it would magically appear on top of the printer or something I guess. so many times I had to show them where their print is…multiple times per person. like open your eyes people! and I was the one looked down upon in that company because I wasn’t an engineer.

    27. Ancient Llama*

      First job out of college at govt contractor (early 90s so normal killing trees level printing plus multi-copy 100s of pages proposals).
      Copy room staffer often had too much to do, so some of us learned enough to help keep things moving, like how to use the binder machine or some maintence tasks for the high end giant copier/printer.
      1. Incompetent and obnoxious exec: one day I come in copy room to find exec by the copier that wasn’t working just standing waiting. Staffer was on a priority thing so would be 30 mins to an hour. Was exec just going to stand (at his salary)? Yes, I believe so given other behavior by him. I look at copier, see it is an issue (probably a jam) I’ve dealt with before successfully due to screen instructions, so get to work clearing (I needed my printouts too). As I’m working the exec is making comment/suggestion/direction throughout (so he can read the instructions but chose to stand, and can reason options for copier issues but can’t actually do work). Ugh.
      -incompetent at the wrong moment: a little over a year into the job, so I had replaced the powder toner cartridges multiple times by now, the copier gave the replace toner error. Staffer on other things so I say I’ll get it. The old toner box was not in fact fully empty and I unfortunately managed to turn it over while still pulling it out (a second later and I would have cleared the copier and just dumped hard-to-clean black powder on the floor). But no, tiny black powder all through the copier that was half the size of my 88 Buick. They never told me the bill, but shortly after everyone was told ONLY the staffer could change the toner, no exceptions. I felt really bad. So not exactly malicious incompetence but now no one else had to fake they didn’t know how to (yes I’m looking at you, exec).

    28. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      I was regarded with utter AWE at one job because my photocopies didn’t have the thick black streaks across them that everyone else’s did. (I never put wite-out on originals and knew to clean the feeder strip as well as the big glass.)

    29. PartTimeJedi*

      When I was doing my student teaching, one of the first things my mentor teacher did was teach me how to fix the copier when it jammed. 13 years in education later, and it’s still one of the most valuable skills I’ve ever learned.

    30. Elizabeth West*

      I used to threaten ours at OldExjob. If a paper jam was being particularly difficult, I would just say, “Welp, guess I’ll have to go get the forklift and take somebody outside!” The stuck piece would magically come out, lol.

    31. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      I had a coworker who would literally bang on the copier with her fists, as if it were an old tv that if you banged the side of it enough the picture would come back to the screen, and my cube being next to the copy room made it great. Except one day she took it too far and the menu screen had a crack in it that made it inoperable. It was a paper jam but you would have thought the thing asked her for a divorce. She also quietly backed away and strangely did not have an answer when the CEO asked what happened to our copier.

      Can we also talk about the 3 millimeters of coffee someone will leave in the carafe to turn into a toxic sludge instead of making more? Or has that been done already…

    32. Reluctant Mezzo*

      We had a worker whose cubicle was closest to the printer room. I seriously told her to take the Xerox course and become a repair person and make five times what she was currently making, since she ended up being stuck doing the unjamming and easy repairs.

  4. ScruffyInternHerder*

    There’s a certain department here that seems to be incapable of the whole “you drain the pot you make new” coffee rule. Dilbert from the 90s would fit right in, and they’re all Dilbert, no signs of women anywhere in that group. Its not even a certain age demographic, as they manage to hit at least 3 different named demographics (Boomer, Gen-X, Millenial).

    Its amusing to watch them ignore the admins telling them to make their own coffee and get public coffee making lessons from the president, who cannot grasp why the group of men who consume the most coffee cannot be bothered to make it because its “women’s work”. Because said company president sees it as “coffee drinker’s work, what the h3ll do you mean “women’s work”? Women’s work means whatever they’re doing for their job, not the parts you don’t want to do.”

    1. iglwif*

      An office I used to work in had a coffee-making flowchart on the wall. The CEO made it, so it looked exactly like the “if X then Y” code flowcharts in his office!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I love this!

        In any job where there’s been a coffee machine, I am very clear that, as a tea drinker, I take no responsibility for coffee making.

        (In my private life, I am quite capable of making coffee, as my parents considered making good coffee an essential life skill for everyone. But I never do, as there are no coffee drinkers or coffeemakers in my household.)

        1. Kacihall*

          I tried making terrible coffee the first few times (well, rather I didn’t try to make GOOD coffee; I legitimately didn’t know how to make it) but it was for the customers, and though all 3 guys I worked with also drank a ton, if I didn’t make it the customers would complain it was out.

          1. Elaine B.*

            My first job out of college I was the only woman on a small team of other guys who were also fresh from college. They tried to get me to make the coffee. Convo went something like this:
            “Why don’t you ever make coffee?”
            “I don’t drink coffee.”
            “Well WE all drink coffee, if you made some occasionally it would be nice.”
            “Does this mean you’ll start bringing me Diet Cokes to be nice?”
            “Okay, when that happens then maybe I’ll make a pot of coffee.”

            Never got a DC from those boys, but they never bothered me about it again either.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          One (retail) place I worked kept a pot of hot (and generally fresh) coffee for customers. It was very popular. The owner decided we should all take turns making coffee, but I really don’t know the first thing about brewing toxic bean waste (how can anything smell that good and taste that bad?). I explained that to him, but he wasn’t impressed. So I went over the procedure, as I understood it: “This container that I put the filter and the grounds in are this size for a reason. I fill it up level to the top, right?” I was excused from making coffee.

          1. misquoted*

            I work remotely now, so it doesn’t matter, but it used to: I have no idea how to make coffee, other than with a Keurig. And I refuse to learn, as I don’t drink coffee. When I worked in restaurants, I learned how to do it, but have since forgotten. No way was I going to be the one who makes it, simply because I was one of a few women in an engineering firm.

          2. Nessun*

            Oh my goodness yesss I cannot agree enough – coffee smells wonderful (especially Irish Cream imho), but it tastes AWFUL to me. I have never understood this…it gives me such cognitive dissonance.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Me three! I never have been able to choke down even half a cup but the smell is wonderful.

              1. Alice in Crazyland*

                Am I the only person in the universe who finds the smell of coffee redolent of used urinal odor? It actually makes me gag to even smell the foul stuff!

                1. Daily reader, rare commenter*

                  I dislike both the taste and odour of coffee. It smells like cat pee to me.

                2. EllenD*

                  I detest the smell of coffee and hate being next to anyone drinking coffee, especially the dreadful stuff that was provided for work meetings and kept in large thermos flasks. At least for the last 25 years there was hot water in flasks with tea bags, so at least the tea was fresh.

                3. SJ*

                  I am a lifelong coffee drinker, but when I was pregnant that was exactly how it smelled to me! I couldn’t handle being in the house when it was brewing. After I had the baby it went right back to being appealing, it was so weird!

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              There was an SF novel called THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE where these tiny aliens were able to fix the coffee pot where the coffee would taste as good as it smelled. The spaceship fell apart Because Reasons, but they salvaged that coffee pot!

        3. Nina*

          I like reaaaaaally strong coffee. Like, I will happily drink cold brew concentrate or espresso shots neat. Office coffee pots are never punchy enough so I just bring a thermos from home.
          In a new workplace I usually get asked to make the coffee exactly once.

          1. iglwif*

            Pretty sure this is what would happen if my mom worked in an office and were asked to make the coffee. (She has worked almost her whole life, but never in a 9-5 office environment.) Her coffee is well known to kill cows at 20 paces.

            1. Techno Support*

              This is both me and my mom, and is why neither of us drink coffee not made by ourselves or my dad (who knows the drill). At work her colleagues think she doesn’t drink coffee; it’s actually just that the coffee there is so weak that she won’t touch it.

            1. whingedrinking*

              I’d ask how, but I’ve seen some surprising equipment fails. When I worked at a coffee shop, two iced tea shakers got stuck together and no one could separate them for a week. (I apparently quite impressed my supervisor by figuring out that someone had stacked them when they were still hot from the sanitizer; I just ran them through again and took them apart.)

              1. Brain Flogged*

                I did it by putting too much ground coffee on it. My colleagues forbade me from going near it for fear i was gonna give someone a cardiac arrest from strong coffee eventualy.
                I giggled at the history of the two lovelocked tea shakers.

          2. Hot Flash Gordon*

            I make very strong coffee as well. My poor dad ended up making his own when he would visit me because he would get such a stomach ache from it.

          3. Esmae*

            I worked as a receptionist in an office where one person made coffee much, much stronger than everybody else did. Part of my unofficial job was noticing if he made coffee and warning people as they went past me toward the kitchen so they could water it down.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              I told my brother (retired Navy) that there was a rumor that Navy coffee was interchangeable with N0. 2 diesel. He never did give a straight answer…

        4. Your Mate in Oz*

          I took the opposite approach. I cheerfully said “I don’t drink coffee but I’m happy to learn how to clean the machine”. Somehow they never got around to teaching me.

        5. Nikki*

          Yes, same here. I drink tea only so I never make coffee in my office. Usually it’s not an issue but once in a while when the boss is busy and wants a pot for clients coming in he’ll ask someone to make it… but never me!

      2. I Have RBF*

        Ooooh, I always wanted to make one of those!

        I often made the coffee in the office. But, that was mostly fair because I was the one who drank it first thing when I got in, and the pot was either nearly empty, empty, or still in the drainer. I did get irked when men (I’m AFAB) would wait until I got in and made coffee before they would get theirs! It got so bad at one place that I would start the pot, go back to my desk for 15 minutes, and when I came back the entire pot was gone. So here I was, still uncaffeinated, making a second pot so I could actually get some.

        I started waiting for it to finish so I could get the first cup. The three guys would do the “grab while brewing” thing, and my coffee would end up being weak. I couldn’t win.

        1. Dawn*

          I made it at at least one job, but it’s because nobody else in the office could make good coffee.

    2. Soontoberetired*

      it is why I never learned to make coffee. we now have coffee for sale in the office, no more coffee pots

    3. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      If making coffee is women’s work, drinking coffee is women’s drink

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “Sorry, you’ll have to come back later. I’m engaged in very important work.” *takes the world’s longest sip of coffee*

    4. skipjack*

      At my old (US-based) job, coffee making was Europeans’ work!

      Our French co-worker made the best coffee – which I realized after I started working from home was because he was making it espresso-strength.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I used to fire up the espresso machine to do taxes. This was my husband’s cue to take the kids to the movies, preferably a double feature.

    5. Elsewise*

      I used to get asked to make coffee occasionally at an old job, because “we all chip in”. People would get very confused when I’d just stare at them and say that I didn’t know how. I’m sure I could have figured it out if I’d tried hard enough, but honestly I resented being asked because I don’t drink coffee! Why should I pitch in to make the coffee I’m not going to drink? Eventually people stopped asking me and focused more on convincing the men who drank coffee that they needed to also make it.

      1. DEJ*

        I know a member of a church well known for its ‘no coffee’ policies and when he was asked to make the coffee he did make an effort, and was ultimately never asked to make the coffee again.

        1. Alice in Crazyland*

          Hah, as a notorious coffee-loather in the Army, I at one time was a member of that Church. The missionaries, while preparing me for baptism, commented that they had never had a soldier have so few problems with adapting to Church policies of no coffee, tea, alcohol, or cigarettes. I loved being a member because previously fellow soldiers thought I was being a judgmental snob when I simply politely declined to join in. Apparently, once I could say it was a religious restriction, then it was totally fine!

          1. Selena81*

            I’ve sometimes half-seriously thought of joining such a church just so my no-alcohol no-meat no-sex life would become brag-worthy

        2. Techno Support*

          There’s a classic story of a member of that church joining the army and being ordered to make coffee for a general. He does his best and brings it to the general, the general takes a sip, hands the coffee back and tells the private to take it to the tank maintenance crew so they can use it to lube the tanks.

      2. Maker of bad coffee*

        I think I’ve told this story before, but early in my career when I was asked to make the coffee for a big meeting at work, I told the meeting coordinator that I’d never made coffee before because I don’t drink it, so I didn’t know how. They said, don’t stress over it, just follow the instructions on the coffee can, which I did. The instructions said how many cups of coffee grounds to use for the number of servings you were making. Being young and a little naive, I assumed that by “cups,” the instructions meant the little scoop that comes in the can. Unfortunately, they actually meant measuring cups, not the coffee scoop, so I didn’t use anywhere near enough and I ended up preparing a large urn of hot brown water. I hadn’t done it on purpose, but they definitely never asked me to make coffee again.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The first time I tried making coffee I didn’t realize the purpose of the filter. So I brewed crunchy hot brown water.

          They made the coffee-making instructions more detailed after that.

        2. Hot Flash Gordon*

          “and I ended up preparing a large urn of hot brown water”

          You’d fit right in at a Lutheran pot luck. You would be the toast of the church for your wonderful coffee making skills.

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          It can be hard to make coffee in the morning before you’ve had coffee. I have on occasion made a pot of hot water because I’ve forgotten to put in beans (at home) or grounds (at the office) before pressing the Start button.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        I have been saying this for years. Don’t ask the non-coffee drinker to provide you with a delicious cup of coffee. I hate the smell, I don’t want to drink it, I refuse to learn.

        One of my former coworkers, who also did not drink coffee, got bitched out for this one.

        1. Chirpy*

          THIS. I used to be the one who always got asked to be the coffee maker at church for some reason, despite hating coffee, not drinking it, and not really knowing how those giant ancient percolators work. They never provided even hot water if I wanted tea, I was lucky if someone else remembered cold water. (Maybe because I was the youngest woman? IDK.)

          (I have since learned to make drinkable French press coffee, but I will never, ever let on at work or anywhere else, because I still almost never drink coffee, especially not the pre-gound nastiness most offices have.

    6. Trillian*

      For my generation of women one rule of success was “Never let them know you can type.” Unless your job was an actual admin job.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This was me. I didn’t admit I could do anything clerical, especially typing, until PCs were in use and I could charge a premium for knowing how to use the software. If they made me try, I did sloooow hunt and peck.

      2. Big Bird*

        “Games Mother Never Taught You”–I remember that book! If they ask you to make coffee make the worst coffee ever–spill the coffee if you are asked to serve it. My favorite, though, if a man gives you stuff to file and filing is not part of your job, put all the papers in a corner with a big sign saying “Fergus’ Stuff”.

        1. Not today*

          Oh my – i think i still have that book! It actually was helpful for my first post-college job, as no one in my family had ever worked in a big/office organization.

      3. Psaradactyl*

        Yep. I worked IT starting in the late 90s. I’m AFAB and was very young at the time. My boss (a man, FWIW) told me to never let on that I was a fairly quick (though still hunt & peck) typist, because I’d end up being pulled off all IT-related tasks and stuck doing transcription for the doctors, who dictate their notes and rely on transcriptionists to get those notes into the computer system. I was a hardware tech, and the LAST thing I wanted to do was end up stuck in the transcription department.

    7. Donkey Hotey*

      Two things about coffee:

      1- Old office had a sign admonishing “You stop the flow, you make some mo’!”

      2- We would have huge discussions about how strong or weak people would make the coffee. It took explaining that it is always possible to make strong coffee weaker. It is impossible to make weak coffee stronger.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        “It is impossible to make weak coffee stronger.”

        Oh, it could be done. You could boil it down, for instance. Mind you, it would be undrinkably burnt at that point (not that coffee is drinkable anyway, IMO), but it would be stronger.

        1. Dawn*

          Sure, but most offices lack the necessary equipment to boil it down unless you want to try doing it in the microwave, which I reeeeeally don’t recommend.

      2. dawbs*

        I may confess now to the college sin of adding instant coffee to coffee when I needed to be more coffee-ed.
        It was awful.
        But it was an improvement of swallowing instant coffee crystals, which we also did. (god bless the inventors of energy drinks.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          The manager at my first work study job in college did that.
          She also had a mug that seemed to be as old as she was that she never rinsed out… black coffee, triple strength (Folgers? crystals added to the brewed stuff by the scooful) day after day after day for however long she worked at that job. I think by the time I got there the mug held an ounce or two less than it used to, because there was so much staining built up on the inside.

            1. starsaphire*

              “If the spoon won’t stand up on its own in the middle of the cup, it ain’t strong enough.”

              – Master Chief Somebodyorother

        2. Nina*

          When I was in grad school my routine used to be, on arrival, go to the coffee machine in the staff lounge that we were allowed to access if we didn’t get in anyone’s way, put three shots of espresso and a little bit of hot water in a cup, go to office. Repeat two or three times over the rest of the day. I also kept and used a stash of caffeine pills because I tried the ‘eat coffee crystals’ thing and it was not for me.

          1. Richard Barrell*

            I’ve heard that chocolate coated coffee beans are also a very palatable way to get a large amount of caffeine in.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Yes. I knew one president of a local Jaycee chapter who would feed them to her board of directors. I believe they won several awards that year.

      3. Don't make me come over there*

        Our office had a sign that said “You kill the joe, you make some mo”, with a little handwritten addendum that said “unless it’s fo”, because there was a person who would come downstairs and make a full 12-cup pot of coffee at 4 in the afternoon. Then we’d dump 11 cups at 5:30.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          What, you didn’t keep them for the next day? (My husband would drink the Catholic church’s Saturday bingo coffee on Mondays and Tuesdays, which probably didn’t help his blood pressure any).

    8. Anonymous Engineer*

      At a previous (manufacturing, so I was one of 2 women in the building) job my office was next to the coffee maker. I took great joy in telling every man who asked me why there wasn’t coffee made that I don’t drink coffee so I don’t care when it’s empty and don’t know how to make it.

    9. Not A Girl Boss*

      At an old job, we had mugs and a Keurig. All of us reasonable adults would put our mug in the dishwasher once we were finished with it. The admin would pop a soap pod in and start the dishwasher on her way out each day.
      The senior managers, especially CEO, insisted on drinking coffee out of the community / customer mugs, then leaving them in the sink for someone to magically clean up.

      One day, the dishwasher “broke” and the (normally highly competent) admin was somehow utterly unable to get someone in to service the dishwasher… for over 6 months. She went out and got the most awful disposable paper coffee cups imaginable for use ‘while the dishwasher was being repaired’ and then disappeared the company ceramic mugs.
      The reasonable adults switched to bringing our own mugs from home and hand washing them in the sink. The managers would stand around each day with their little crumply dissolving paper cups whining about how they missed ceramic mugs and [admin] really needed to get on with the repair.

    10. Zombeyonce*

      How are they consuming so much coffee if they aren’t making it themselves? Are admins just giving up and doing it for them? That makes me sad.

    11. Jenifer Crawford*

      Fabulous! How do we get a million more company presidents like this?

      The Dilberts you work with might learn a lesson or two if I worked there. I’m female, but don’t drink coffee. The one time I made it, our incredibly polite minister gagged it down, coffee grounds and all.

    12. Sharpie*

      I drink coffee. Instant coffee (it’s only recently that things like Nespresso and Keurig have become kinda popular in the UK). If I’m faced with an actual coffee machine, I don’t have the first clue and it’ll be horrible.

      FWIW, I don’t like filter coffee, I find it too strong and bitter.

    13. Past tense sneak*

      By the time you have an entire three generations of a team declaring a task like coffee making “women’s work” you have a deeply entrenched sexist issue.

      I’d be attacking that attitude problem very fast, the coffee machine would be part of the scorched earth ground – gift them their own coffee machine and tell them to stop using anyone else’s. Make it a three cup tiny pot.

    14. OMG, Bees!*

      As one who drinks energy drinks, I love that I get to dodge all the coffee wars on this site. I would (honestly) say “I don’t know how” if someone asked me to make coffee. I imagine any coffee I make would be like budget gas station quality.

  5. iglwif*

    I had a boss (and before that he was my grandboss) who did not know how to touch type and refused to learn, so instead of sending an email [this was before Teams and the options were email or phone] he would unexpectedly call you and ask you questions for which you were totally unprepared. He seemed to like catching people off guard like this; the rest of us did not like it.

    He also refused to learn how to annotate documents in Adobe Acrobat, use Track Changes in Word, or add comments to a PowerPoint, so when you sent him anything to review you would get it back as a scanned PDF full of illegible handwritten annotations and/or Word or PowerPoint with red and green text all through it. He was the CEO, so we gritted our teeth and dealt with it — and many other things, including his habit of asking people to “just take 15 minutes and put together” things that could not possibly be put together in less than half a workday.

    My very first encounter with weaponized incompetence, though, was long before I knew there was a name for it: my little brother didn’t like drying dishes, so to get out of it, he would drop something and break it so I would get mad and tell him to go away. (He is now a grown-ass man and no longer does that sh!t.)

      1. Barb*

        If you have to wash the dishes
        (What an awful boring chore)
        If you have to wash the dishes
        And you drop one on the floor
        Maybe they won’t let you wash the dishes anymore!
        -Shel Silverstein

        From memory, apologies if misquoted

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          it’s almost perfect, but not quite.

          (Honestly, I’m not sure if you misquoted, but I wanted to share MY Shel poem that’s been living in my head since fifth grade!)

          1. Panicked*

            I very frequently think “I cannot go to school today, said little Peggy Ann McKay. I have the measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash, and purple bumps!” everytime I don’t want to go to work.

            I adore Shel’s work.

            1. Trealla*

              So do I! I always stop there, because I don’t remember the next line.

              But I also have Come In, Hug o’ War and I’m Being Eaten By A Boa Constrictor memorized.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            There was a little girl named Abigail, who was taking a drive through the country with her parents…

            (Abigail REALLY weaponizes her ability to not live without a pony!)

        2. Really?*

          My sister tried this. My mother replaced the everyday china with melamine which was more or less indestructible.

          1. iglwif*

            Yeah I’ve often thought since that what I *should* have done was get the (melamine) camping dishes out and stop using the regular ones. For some reason 14-year-old me did not think of that!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I have some sympathy for not knowing how to touch type and not wanting to learn at an advanced age. I took typing in eighth grade. This was during the Carter administration. At that time, typing was still regarded as a vocational class for secretarial work. The class was not only touch typing but stuff like standard business letter format. I shudder to think what it would take to learn it at my advanced age. It would be possible, but legitimately a lot of work. This excuse wears thin with anyone under the age of sixty today. My kids were taught touch typing (which is now called “keyboarding” starting around third grade, and the kids totally understand it as being a relevant skill (as contrasted with, say, writing cursive, which the schools wisely give only a nod at).

      On the other hand, the non-typers have mostly long since discovered computers and learned a passable hunt-and-peck.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Reagan era middle schooler here. I still believe that my touch typing classes were the best thing I got out of those years.

          1. Runnerup*

            Co-sign. My high school required typing for maybe 5-10 years in the 80s and 90s. It was the most useful class I took.

          2. Jasmine Tea*

            One 8 week typing course in middle school has been handy my whole life! The machine was an ancient monster donated by a business and I never got to the numbers but still happy I learned. Then I moved to Taiwan and had to learn to type in Chinese! Sigh…

        1. LHN*

          Oh yes. It was the worst grade I ever got (manual typewriters with blank keys and those horrible typewriter erasers that tore through paper didn’t mesh well with my typing style), but easily the most useful skill I took out of middle school.

          Especially since handwriting was definitely not. By college I was taking all my notes on the only laptop my instructors had ever seen, a Tandy Model 100 that ran on AA batteries.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Typing was the only class I’ve ever failed. I’m spectacularly bad at anything that has to be done fast (typing, times tables, notes for a meeting in 20 minutes, etc).

        2. Magenta Sky*

          I took typing in high school because I needed a “manual arts” credit to graduate. The only two classes that had openings for the slot I wanted were typing and a welding class that, the semester before, had welded the shop door shut from the inside, while the teacher stood there and watched (and they were getting ready to do the same to a school bus door, again from the inside, before he had second thoughts). I didn’t want to be in that class.

          Touch typing is, of course, the only thing I learned in high school that I use regularly as an adult (and in IT work, you’d *better* touch type).

          1. I Have RBF*

            … in IT work, you’d *better* touch type.


            I still can’t touch type, even having taken it in high school and having over 30 years of practice with computers. I do a modified hunt and peck, adapted to the fact that I only have the use of one hand. Too many different types and sizes of keyboards to adapt to.

            When I first started out in IT I was doing the thing where I went to people’s desks to help them, and they had half a dozen different types and sizes of keyboards. No touch typing was going to happen there.

            I am now a senior sysadmin, and I still don’t touch type. I only test out at 35 wpm.

            1. LabSnep*

              I learned how to touch type. I got a terrible grade. I have weird double jointed pinky fingers. Small hands. I have a bizarre three fingered typing style that is mostly accurate and fast. I go back and forth across the keyboard, but for the most part my hands start at centre.

              Someone watched me type once and they were like “You are the fastest three finger typist I’ve ever seen”.

              Everyone at work is like “HOW”

              I used to do web design, mostly CSS and HTML back in the day, so it had to be fast and accurate or it was broken.

              I like spell check because of some mild dyslexia though. Thank goodness.

            2. Verthandi*

              Long time former IT person. I hate touch typing. I took two semesters in HS (not my idea, I wanted the computer programming class instead) but I already could type just fine with my personal 6-finger method.

              It was so much faster than touch typing and I made fewer mistakes. I like to see what I’m doing, and since I don’t type from copy, I see nothing wrong with my own system. The computer course was so much more interesting when I finally got to take it. There were only two semesters of typing, so they couldn’t substitute another typing class on me after they forced Typing 2 on me. I didn’t even bother to do it their way. My way works and got me the required WPM.

              1. allathian*

                I do modified touch typing in the sense that I can find the correct keys without looking at the keyboard, but I do it 8-fingered because I don’t use my thumbs. Very occasionally I might use my right thumb to hit the space bar, but more often than not I use my right index finger for that.

            3. It's Marie - Not Maria*

              I am told watching me touch type is like watching someone play piano. All those years sitting on a piano stool practicing piano did me some good, I guess.

              1. Beebis*

                My dad always seemed amazed when he would come into the computer room to talk to me and I would have a full conversation with him while still typing AIM messages to my friends

          2. Sharpie*

            I worked in IT during my time in the British military, lo these many years ago when the world was new and all, and O Best Beloved, I cannot touch type. It’s not exactly hunt and peck either but I’m lost if I can’t see the keyboard when typing.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            “The only two classes that had openings for the slot I wanted were typing and a welding class that, the semester before, had welded the shop door shut from the inside, while the teacher stood there and watched (and they were getting ready to do the same to a school bus door, again from the inside, before he had second thoughts). I didn’t want to be in that class.”

            I don’t understand, that sounds amazing! (Sarcasm)

            How did this teacher not get fired for safety violations?

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          I too learned typing on typewriters and it is indeed the most-used skill I acquired.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Was in HS in the late 90’s – I had that weird keyboard teacher who INSISTED you learn how to use a typewriter as well as a computer.

            I am one of two people in my current job who has said skill – and I’ve given up counting how many times I have to get pulled out of my normal work to type up this gov’t form real quick pretty please.

            The other person who knows how to use a typewriter is senior enough that she gets left alone unless I’m out of the office.

        4. ILoveLlamas*

          Oh my, one of my life regrets is not being able to apologize to my incredibly patient high school typing teacher back in 1981/82. When she was pushing touch typing on us, I arrogantly said, “I don’t plan on typing for a living. I will have other people do that for me.” Oh youth. Typing kept me employed for years. I have her to thank for learning practical skills I still use today.

        5. There You Are*

          Same. My high school was a newly-created “college prep” school and we only had two choices for an elective: Typing and (whatever the other class was; I didn’t take it and now I can’t remember what it was).

          So I spent three years in a typing class, mashing down manual keys and advancing to the next line on a sheet of paper by grabbing and shoving the huge metal handle attached to the carriage [hence why the “Enter” key was originally the “Return” key, named for the movement called a Carriage Return], because our school couldn’t afford electric typewriters.

          When computers became ubiquitous, I was miles ahead of my peers in terms of speed of typing and not having to look at the keyboard to type coherently.

        6. So they all cheap ass-rolled over and one fell out*

          I was a Reagan era middle schooler and I never learned how to properly touch type. It’s too late for me now, a couple decades as a software developer have permanently wired my brain to improperly touch type.

      2. Typing is a basic skill*

        With great respect, I think this is actually indicative of a trend of weaponized incompetence by older, higher ranked workers. Typing classes have been easily available since the 90’s and most offices have required a certain amount of typing since Y2k. Surely in the last 25-30 years there was time to figure it out. Younger workers have been complaining for years about older workers getting paid better only to push basic functions of their jobs off on any millienial or Gen X nearby, typing is just one more example.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I learned touch typing by, you know, actually typing. We had a word processor (which was a thing in the 80s), and I typed my papers on it.

          But I got really, really good at it by working customer service phone lines for an insurance company. I also can tab through screens at a dizzying speed.

          Computers have been standard office equipment since the 80s. Typing is nothing new.

          Oh, and I am on Team Teach Cursive. It helps with hand-eye coordination, helps create a stronger link between writing and memory, and helps people learn how to*read* cursive or cursive-like fonts.

          1. Loredena*

            Is there any evidence that cursive improves hand eye coordination? Not being snarky, seriously asking — because I came of age when cursive was taken seriously (and I had the index finger bump!) but took five years of piano lessons in a failed attempt to improve mine. Cursive by itself certainly did not, even my printing was barely legible.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Every student is different and should be given different experiences with sensory practices and types of movement. There are bad printers who get better when they learn cursive, but some students are better off just concentrating on their print. I have a student who had extremely poor working memory until his gross motor skills were improved in PE (his health condition had prevented these skills from happening earlier). He’s now working on his fine motor skills which includes improving his handwriting with word formation practice.

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            “Cursive” isn’t a single thing, though. I’m old enough that they taught us a style where the capital Q’s look like fancy 2’s, and the capital G looks nothing like a “print” upper- or lower-case G.

            I did a bunch of transcribing of Civil War soldiers’ records that were written in that style–the project was having trouble finding volunteers who recognized the characters. I did occasionally have to look at the provided reference, but only occasionally.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Ahhh… copperplate. It’s beautiful but can be hard to read.

              IRL, I have a capital T in my name, and I love all the options cursive gives for just that one letter.

            2. iglwif*


              I learned cursive writing in Spain (sabbatical year) when I was 7/8, in Grade 1 because I didn’t speak Spanish and that’s what the school system decided was best. (It was not.) Like many European countries, Spain taught cursive writing before printing, and although it took a while for me to figure out what words I was writing, I was pretty good at it.

              In Canada in them days (early 1980s), cursive writing was taught starting in Grade 3. Guess what? According to my Grade 3 teachers, I was making at least 30% of my cursive letters wrong (lower-case f, g, and p were big offenders), so I had to learn over again.

              At various points over the years I have experimented with pretentious greek E’s, funky Q’s, various ways of writing lower-case R …

              Now I’m almost 50 and it’s anyone’s guess what my writing will look like at any given point — I’m writing for my own eyes 90% of the time so I go with whatever letterforms are easiest, but also sometimes it’s upright, sometimes it slants right, occasionally it slants left, etc. I can’t imagine being able to pick my own handwriting out of a lineup unless I remembered writing the thing in question.

            3. Tierrainney*

              My college age child had a job transcribing old mining records to an online data base. I would sometimes get texts/photos can you read this? the best was a person who made all their lower case m to look like uu. the Hamm family was easy to pick out after you realized that.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            I can ten key like a MFing champ thanks to my CSR job–just flying fingers over those numbers!

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I did data entry for years – my IT guy kept getting me cheap keyboards and I’d bust out the keypads within four months, then request a separate heavy-duty ten-key-pad. He’d come back with another cheap keyboard, I’d threaten him with it, he’d go “but it has a double zero key!”
              GARY. THERE IS NOTHIG ON THIS FORM THAT HAS TWO ZEROS. He was just not going to get me my heavy duty pad, so I kept disintegrating cheap keyboards. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          4. Lexi Lynn*

            Unless you are left handed, then it’s just an opportunity to provide crappy teaching and punish lefties because cursive is designed to pull the pen across page, not push it. Cursive and can die.

        2. Peanut Hamper*

          I completely agree. It’s typing, not brain surgery. If a bunch of middle school students can figure this out, there is no reason why grown ass adults shouldn’t be able to figure this out.

        3. Magenta Sky*

          I went to one of the smallest, crappiest high schools in rural Missouri in the late 70s, and the typing class was full every semester.

          Typing classes have been readily available for a longer than since the 90s.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              My dad did in the 50’s. Calligraphy as well

              Later as an engineer all the admins loved him. He could type his own stuff up – and if he just ran out of time and they had to do it for him – they never minded because it was always legible.

        4. LabSnep*

          Oh yeah, I get frustrated by computer weapons zed incompetence for people who have been working with computers their entire professional lives, and in many cases with some of the software LONGER THAN I HAVE but suddenly there is an upgrade and a very minor change and it is THE WORST.

          At a former job I had a coworker who complained constantly. My career is one where things CONSTANTLY change. I got tired of it and ended up flat out saying she needed to change with the times, stop complaining around me, or retired.

          She did the last 2.

        5. La Triviata*

          Back when computers were being used for something more than word processing, someone had a class for upper level executives to teach them how to use their desktops for financial predictions, drafting materials, and so on. One executive turned up with his secretary in tow to do the typing for him.

      3. Nea*

        The problem with not teaching cursive writing is that people are losing the ability to read cursive as well. This isn’t an issue in many jobs, but not being able to read old records and documentation is a dealbreaker in some work.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Sure. It is a specialized skill required for certain jobs. The same is true of reading Elizabethan secretarial hand. Seriously: it is completely illegible with specialized training. This is not an argument for teaching either cursive or Elizabethan secretarial hand to grade schoolers. It is an argument for having programs in paleography for those who need it.

          1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

            Took a course in Russian paleography during my studies in St. Petersburg back in the ’90s. There is really nothing like holding a note scribbled by Ivan the Terrible himself and being able to read it.

        2. beans*

          I write in cursive most of the time and I struggle with historical writing. It is a skill for sure.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I read a fair amount of 19th century writing in my early baseball research. The trick is that they actually had three ways of writing. For formal presentation documents they used that gorgeous copperplate hand: think the Declaration of Independence. Most people never used this, and it was a specialized skill. Ordinary people were trained to write legibly but not beautifully. This is what you see in letters, court filings, and so forth. If you are proficient reading cursive, this writing presents no difficulties. Writing legibly slows you down, however, so they also had illegible scrawls for personal record-keeping, not intended to be read by anyone else. So they might write out a file copy of an outgoing letter. Reading this stuff is… problematic.

          2. Jaybeetee*

            Quite beyond handwriting (which can be challenging itself), the further back you go, the more variations you’ll see on spelling, and words and phrases that no longer even exist. I work with century-old documents regularly, and sometimes older – to a modern English speaker, those are generally easy enough to parse. But once you’re in 1700s or earlier territory? You’re starting to get into completely different dialects of English, on top of the handwriting issues (not to mention if you/the documents don’t operate in the same language to start with). It’s a skill to be sure, and even for people *with* the skill it can be challenging. Fortunately for most people, not that many of us need to be able to read Middle English on a regular basis ;).

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            I see old examples of “copperplate” writing and it’s a jumble to me. When I read about Jane Austen and “crossing” letters I was blown away. How on earth people were able to make out those words…

        3. alienor*

          True, but if someone were going into a field where they would read old records and documentation, wouldn’t they seek out training on how to do that? I don’t know how to read Cyrillic because I don’t have a need to, but if I had studied Slavic languages in college so I could become a translator, then I would have learned, similar to how I learned the rudiments of Old and Middle English for my literature degree.

        4. Katherine*

          I like to think that in one generation those “live laugh love” signs and their ilk will become mysterious glyphs.

        5. goducks*

          I’m GenX, so I grew up writing everything in cursive. My teenagers did not learn cursive. However, I’ve found that it took them almost no effort to read modern-day cursive. It’s not completely foreign! Old-fashioned script is hard for both generations. I do alright with something like the Declaration of Independence because the handwriting is very tidy, but am at a loss with many things I’ve seen from more than about 100 years ago.

        6. Dawn*

          Turns out many people also can no longer practice medicine without studying the specialized skills required for their field first, we need to start teaching basic surgery in grade school again.

        7. umami*

          Yes, true! A friend of mine told a story of how his wife wrote a check to her son, and when he went to cash it, the bank teeller didn’t want to accept it because they couldn’t read what they called ‘hieroglyphics’. They could not read cursive and had never seen cursive.

          1. iglwif*

            Please don’t take this the wrong way, but my 21yo kid would also have no idea what to do with a handwritten cheque, not because she can’t read cursive (she reads mine just fine) but because people stopped writing regularly cheques when she was a tiny child. I don’t think we need to teach kids cursive writing so they can write or read cheques.

            1. Media Monkey*

              the last cheque i wrote was for antenatal classes before my daughter was born. she’s 15 now.

              1. iglwif*

                I legit cannot remember the last time I wrote a cheque, but 15-16 years ago is probably about right.

            2. umami*

              Oh sure, I wasn’t suggesting teaching kids cursive for this reason, but if you work at a bank, you should be familiar with written checks in all forms. Getting a check is par for the course at a bank!

            3. US-based renter*

              On the other hand, I write checks every month because it’s the only way to pay my rent without a $50+ fee to send it via Venmo. My landlord only accepts those two options for rent payment. Maybe this is a US vs. UK thing (based on how you’re spelling cheques)?

            1. umami*

              I mean, it happened. The bank teller called her to tell her she needed to write out another check because they did not think it was written correctly.

        8. Tupac Coachella*

          Not even just old records. I’m an older Millennial (under 40) who was taught cursive in school. My everyday handwriting is a weird cursive/print hybrid. In working with first year college students, it’s not been unusual for a student to sheepishly tell me that they can’t read my handwriting because they never learned to read cursive. I suppose that won’t be an issue in a few years because those same students never learned to write in cursive either.

        9. Rose*

          I lived in China for years and people are forgetting how to handwrite Chinese because on phones and computers you write it out phonetically and choose the correct character. They are fine on anything you normally handwrite like ingredients for hot pot or something you’d jot on a post-it but my friends were always like “wait, how do I actually write out this character?”

          1. Jasmine Tea*

            Yes! Before we had Pleco dictionary in our phones if we wanted to know how to write a character we would ask someone still in school or recently graduated. Adults write terribly! I can read a lot of characters since I’ve lived in Taiwan 31 years, but only if printed or written by someone young.

        10. Sharpie*

          I can’t write in cursive, but Indo write joined-up rather than printing every single letter individually.

          I have also worked with original documents from the eighteenth century. It is perfectly possible to learn to read such documents if you have an interest in reading them – and trust me, horrible handwriting has existed for centuries, not everyone even then had beautiful copperplate, though some people did.

      4. Indolent Libertine*

        My hub can’t touch type to save his life, but he’s amazingly fast at the three-finger hunt and peck.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Right. My mother famously refused to learn how to type in the 60s, because she wasn’t going to be a secretary (and she wasn’t!), but when computers came in and secretaries went away, she made it work without touch-typing

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Personal question, because I’ve noticed something over the last 30 years.
          born in 1970: Gen X, typing is for “girls” or business track.
          born in 1980: phase one, X-cusp millenials, start using computers in schools regularly, but typing is still a “girl” or business track class
          born in 1990: pretty much the same
          born in 2000: kindergarten teaches “keyboarding.”
          So they’ve rebranded typing. It’s keyboarding. It’s for everyone!
          And that’s great, but there is a younger generation who fell through the cracks. 30-40 years old, touch type and that’s just what they do.
          Is this where your husband falls? Again, curious about my theory/observation. thanks

          1. A (Former) Library Person*

            As a personal anecdote, I was born in the mid-80s and first remember doing typing/keyboarding classes in fifth grade. Everyone did it and I never registered a gendered perception around it. FWIW I went to a large suburban mixed-class high school in the US, so I can imagine experiences being different in different areas, but everyone learned typing together.

            1. umami*

              Yeah, solidly Gen X here, and typing where I went to school was done in 7th grade, and everyone took it. Similar sounding school as you in the Mid-Atlantic

            2. A Person*

              This is exactly the same experience I had, born in the early 80s. Definitely no gendered perception in “computers are here, you gotta learn to type” at least in school.

            3. iglwif*

              I was born in 1974 and we were taught touch-typing in the computer lab in Grade 6. Everybody, not just girls.

              Now I will say that I disagree with the method they used: you couldn’t move on to the next lesson until you had beaten your handwriting speed, so if you wrote fast — which I did — you might end up not getting to the end of the program before the keyboarding module was over. That’s why I didn’t actually become GOOD at touch-typing until much later. My little brother, who had always struggled with printing and writing, had a very modest goal to beat, finished the program quickly, and by the time he was in junior high was typing 90wpm. He got faster from there — lots of coding and lots of data-entry jobs after high school, eventually up to 100wpm! if you’ve never heard 100wpm typing, it sounds a lot like a very quiet sewing machine.

          2. cassielfsw*

            Not Indolent Libertine but I was born in ’83, typing was not seen as “for girls” as far as I was aware, and we all took keyboarding in elementary school. My school district may have been ahead of the curve though?

          3. Andy*

            For what it’s worth, I was born in the early 80s and keyboarding was a required class in 6th through 8th grades (so, 1992-1995?). Never got the impression that it was “girls” work, though perhaps my school was an anomaly, or those attitudes showed up in high school/college instead.

          4. Properlike*

            Born in the ‘70s, in Missouri, and high school typing on IBM Selectrics was equal between the sexes. Perhaps it was because early ‘80s saw the rise of the computer (and thus, the keyboard)

            Never crossed my mind I was going to become a secretary, but we knew we’d be required to type papers in college.

          5. AceInPlainSight*

            Mid-90s; I learned “keyboarding” starting in 1st grade. Not a proficient touch typer (it was one of the classes I regularly failed due to typos and slow speed), but I only need to look down occasionally for the letters and punctuation that fall under my hands and can type (with concentration and typos) without looking at either keyboard or screen).
            Also, they had these horrible orange skins that were supposed to teach touch typing that they put over our keyboards in computer class. The skins changed the haptics of the keyboard and just got me to memorize the layout for common letters, not build up the muscle memory.

          6. AngryOctopus*

            Born late 70s, learned typing in HS on a hybrid like typewriter (had a very small computer screen, you’d type the line, it would stop when you were out of characters, and you hit enter and it typed the whole line out on paper and moved to the next line). Everyone took typing, no gender divide. Papers were expected to be typed because of access to the computer lab, but you brought in your handwritten paper and just transferred it (different of course were you lucky enough to have a home computer and dot matrix printer).

          7. Nina*

            My mum was born before 1970 (non-US), and by the time she was in college, typing was for secretaries, most people could hunt-and-peck if they had to, but the country didn’t get its first internet connection for several years, computers were rare, and unless you did an awful lot of writing as part of your job, a word processor or typewriter was a waste of money. My grandma (born 1940s, worked as a secretary and then a PA) could touch-type blazingly fast and typed Mum’s thesis for her.

            I (born 1990s) did not go to school but have lived in a house with a computer my entire life because of Dad’s job, and was taught to touch-type about the same time as I was taught to write, because Dad was adamant that no child of his would end up with a RSI from not knowing how to type ergonomically. None of my cousins of similar age, who went to normal schools, can touch-type.

          8. Dawn*

            Xennial here and we had non-gendered typing classes.

            Is this maybe a regional thing more than a broadly-accurate thing?

      5. Loredena*

        I have eye/hand coordination and/or fine muscle control issues that resulted in absolutely unreadable handwriting. Which had only worsened as I got older and so infrequently need to write

        As a result I received special permission while still in middle school to take typing at the local community school. (Since it was offered in high school students typically weren’t permitted to take a slot at the evening community class). It was and still is absolutely invaluable to me! I learned touch typing on a selectrix and was able to obtain one to write all my school papers on. For college I got a PC JR and a cheap printer after a couple years of the typewriter. I’m one finger on phones which is slow and painful despite not needing to hunt but for my day to day work I out perform all my peers for speed and accuracy

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I remember having a selectrix in HS typing, only 1, BUT ours was not working most of the time. Normal class, just move to a different electric. Test time generally stuck with a cranky manual where I didn’t even know how to set the tabs.

          I’m a decent touch typist now, but have trouble at home. Cat and keyboard is not a good blend.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          My little brother had some issues with hand writing such that it took him FOREVER to write out essays and short answer-type questions. We’re both GenX and he was in middle school in the late 80s when home computers with dot-matrix printers were still not all that common, but we had one and writing papers on the computer was SO much easier for him. Well, he came across a teacher who did not want to allow that because how would she know he wrote it and not a parent or big sister? Same teacher also required a clean copy after all revisions were made – basically handwriting practice, torture to him. My mom, an elementary school teacher, got his learning disabilities diagnosed and the equivalent of what they call an IEP now to allow him to type his papers on a computer. He also got extra time on tests and some other accommodations that ended up really helping him. I always found it funny that this was the same woman who used to type my dad’s papers for him when they were dating in college.

      6. AcadLibrarian*

        The typing thing is weird. My father was in high school during the EISENHOWER administration and they all took typing. Boys and girls. We’re talking about a town that didn’t allow DANCING (Southern Baptist). They all learned touch typing (he said they covered the letters on the keys with masking tape until you learned not to look).

      7. mariemac*

        I’ve been reading a bunch of political memoirs from the last 20 years and it’s amazing how few politicians emailed, even into the Obama administration. Partially because they were always in meetings and getting briefed – essentially consuming content vs creating content, and partially because anything written down could get FOIA’d.

      8. iglwif*

        I do know people who can’t touch-type BUT type very quickly and efficiently using their own personal methods. I touch-type but I learned to really do that as an adult in my first office job — very clearly it was going to be a PITA to not get better at it, so I practised at home on my crappy 1991-era laptop until I got better at it.

        This guy just didn’t want to learn a different way of doing things because he was the big boss so why should he have to?

        1. Sharpie*

          I’m one of these! I have no idea how to describe what I do, but I use all my fingers though it’s absolutely not touch-typing.

          I was born in 1980, we had a computer in my classroom in junior school (when I was aged nine) and no, typing was not taught to anyone, not even when I got to secondary school (and I went to an alll-girls secondary).

          1. Not really touch-typing*

            Me too! In my case, I learned very young – I was born in the early 80s and we had a computer at home when I was 4 or 5 years old. I use most of my fingers but not necessarily on the same keys (e.g. letters in the middle are sometimes left hand and sometimes right hand). I’m definitely not consciously aware of which finger goes where, but I’m very fast (>100wpm) and easily switch between looking at the screen vs. keyboard as I go.

      9. morethantired*

        I took typing classes but never could get the hang of proper touch typing form. I still figured out my own way of typing and I have a speed of 48wpm now, which is considered fast. I still have to look at the keyboard most of the time in order to not have typos, but that’s not a problem as I’m rarely every copying down anything I’m reading on screen.
        Take a couple free online typing games and you may be surprised at how much you can improve!

      10. Artemesia*

        At my HS it was only offered as a for pay summer school class; still the most useful thing I learned. But during early working years I did not let on I knew touch typing — it is of course invaluable with computers and younger folk mostly have not learned it.

    2. Itsa Me, Mario*

      I work with lawyers and you would be surprised how often — IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2023 — the different sides go back and forth on a contract with hand-written comments that need to be scanned and converted to a PDF.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        One of the only upsides of the pandemic was that it was easier for a bunch of them to learn how to use effin’ track changes (FINALLY) rather than learn how to scan and email their handwritten markups without the step-by-step assistance of their admin.

        One thing I give my former firm credit for is that they really ramped up training and virtual deskside in the early days of the pandemic to help the dinosaurs evolve.

      2. miss_chevious*

        GOOD LORD. I am a lawyer and I once emailed a document over in Word and received a PDF with handwritten illegible comments back from opposing counsel. When I emailed the (older, white, male) lawyer back and asked him to provide comments back in Word, he *called me* so he could READ THEM TO ME OVER THE PHONE.

        …he did not appreciate when I told him that I was not his secretary and would not be taking down the changes he wanted.

        He did send the document back in Word eventually, although he didn’t have Track Changes on. That’s okay, though; I run a Compare on every document I get back from opposing counsel as a matter of course.

    3. Hats Are Great*

      Female lawyers in my dad’s day — when they first started getting admitted to law school in substantial numbers — all pretended they didn’t know how to type, because they’d get relegated to legal secretary roles if they could type.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Can confirm this. If you’re old enough to remember using the term “Photostat,” you might know some of these lawyers.

    4. mlem*

      When we were kids, my job was dishes and my brother’s was sweeping. This was on the Gulf Coast, so there was a lot of sand in the house, but there were a lot of dishes for a family of four. I got sick and demanded to switch to sweeping … and we spent a few days eating from dishes with crusted-on food until I caved and switched back. (All these years later, I’m annoyed that I caved and that my parents didn’t address the disgusting “dishwashing”.)

    5. Anon for this*

      I pitched a fit earlier this year. I was supposed to edit a script, but instead of using track changes, the other department just highlighted sections they wanted changed. Which told me … nothing. This because they “didn’t know how” to Track Changes. I told my manager that next time they HAVE to track changes. It’s literally clicking a button, and it is nonnegotiable. I refuse to waste my time going line-by-line to look for a comma (and it’s a script, so the comma was a cue!) just because they couldn’t be bothered to learn how to Click. A. Button. Yeah, I’m still a little peeved about that one.

    6. margaret*

      My first boss didn’t know how to type and much of my job was typing up his emails as he dictated them or trying to make sense of his literal chicken scratch handwriting on a piece of paper. I was eighteen so it was fine and I didn’t mind. Easy work.

      But while I was a fast typist, at the time I was not fast with a numberpad. There’s this online game called Tontie which is sort of a whack-a-mole thing that uses the numberpad–I got really obsessed with it around the time I started this job and it was incredible how rapidly my numberpad skills improved. Whenever I feel myself start to get rusty I go play that game again for a while. Recommended for anyone who has to do a lot of number data entry as a training tool!!

  6. Ex-prof*

    In my youth, when I spent three weeks as the only female delivery driver at a Domino’s Pizza. (I didn’t know the politics of the company then.) NOBODY could figure out how to use the washer/dryer for the uniforms.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      I appreciate your caveat, but please rest assured that no reasonable person would excoriate you for working a minimum-wage job at a politically unsavory company. I don’t even blame the kids working at Chick-Fil-A even though there are so many other fast food chains that hire teens. (I had/have several friends who were closeted as teens and used CFA’s great scholarship program to help them get out of their unwelcoming hometowns.) If you’re working for minimum wage I know you’re probably just trying to get by.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Wait! Whats the politics of dominos? I know about chick-fil-a but I haven’t heard of anything about dominos.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          The owners at least used to be major donors to anti-abortion campaigns.

          The company also had to be taken to court to stop rewarding their drivers for driving dangerously fast and causing accidents. They knew that they couldn’t make their promised delivery times while driving legally.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I’d sure like to see that current “pin drop location” crap dragged into court. You might as well make an ad saying “here’s how to lure our driver to a remote locale to rob/murder them!”

  7. Caroline*

    I used to work in a supermarket on a fresh food section. All my coworkers in this section, of all ages and genders, tried to avoid doing the checks in the big fridges and freezers out back because the tasks were cold and uncomfortable. Excuses varied from “I don’t know where the book is kept”, “I don’t have a pen”, “I don’t have my warm jacket today”, “I don’t know how to fill out the checklist”. The most common excuse was “I have a bad back” (which I realize isn’t exactly weaponized incompetence) from 5 or 6 young people, who chatted about going to the gym/playing local league sport in their free time, who all apparently had back problems only at work! So I was always stuck with the unpleasant chiller and freezer checks. Fifteen years and I’m still bitter :)

    1. Kiz*

      As a 30+ year food service veteran with years of management experience I would haul their you know whats in there. However that’s now taboo because the industry has lost so many employees. In order to hold onto them you need to conform to their wishes. Not getting their hands dirty is one of them. Yes, I’m bitter.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        side note – but double their pay and you’ll have an easier time retaining people.

    2. What, what?*

      My ex worked at a grocery store and adamantly refused to learn how to get a live lobster out of the tank. Sorry customer, I’m not qualified to do that.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Now I’m imagining a little badge you get for being qualified to do that. Qualified Lobster Wrangler, Grade 2.

    3. anon for this*

      Not work related, but I had these same young people as housemates for a while.

      They solemnly swore that they could not load or unload the dishwasher because “bending over like that” made their backs hurt. And having bad backs meant they were disabled, how dare I expect them to do physical tasks?!?!

      So my actually-diagnosed-as-disabled ass had to clean up after them while they strolled out the house to go to one of their multiple martial arts practices (which involved a lot of bending, stretching, falling, getting up again, and other stuff I physically can no longer do).

      (No worries, I got smart and unloaded *them* as soon as I could…)

        1. Michelle Smith*

          And what if they don’t and just leave them in the sink or dishwasher anyway? Establishing rules like that unfortunately doesn’t work with unreasonable people, because the disorder, smells, and bugs will bother you long before it bothers them.

          1. anon for this*

            Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened. They just blithely ignored their messes, and pushed back at any attempt at discussion, until I gave up and did the work myself in order to stay healthy and sane.

            Weaponized disregard really, rather than weaponized incompetence, but, same results.

            (Ironically, we’d established rules about this stuff beforehand; they just ignored those too.)

    4. Hannah Lee*

      “Fifteen years and I’m still bitter :)”

      I was waiting for a “Fifteen years and I’m still frosty” :)

    5. Hot Flash Gordon*

      I worked part time for a grocery store (Grader Moe’s) and loved working in the dairy cooler or pulling frozen because I am a lady of a certain age who is ALWAYS hot.

  8. Lilac*

    I was extremely underqualified for my last job—I didn’t have any of the training or experience that’s usually the bare minimum for that type of role. (I was asked to apply by an acquaintance who was desperate to fill the position, and I really needed a job—otherwise I would never have applied.) I’m a fast learner and quickly picked up the skills I needed to do the job effectively, and I was frequently praised for how well I was doing despite my lack of training.

    That is, until the organization decided to increase my workload without increasing my pay. Then it was, “Sorry, but I’m not trained on how to do that” for anything that wasn’t actually part of my job description. Somehow it worked.

    1. Nina Bee*

      This feels like an appropriate use of weaponised incompetence (maybe some malicious compliance?)

  9. LB*

    I had a boss who hated everything we did, but wouldn’t give us actionable feedback; just waves and waves of “this is bad” and “why are you dumb and bad at this” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was very much the tone).

    My VP and I created “strategic incompetence,” because if you just PRETENDED to be bad at your job at the outset (“hey Boss, we’ve been talking and we just don’t know what direction to take the recent Llama Grooming reports. What do you think?”) he would give us the actual direction we needed to do our work well the first time.

    I told my father about this later on. He was horrified.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      When two people are talking at cross-purposes, I’m pretty good at figuring out where the disconnect is, so I try to ask the “dumb question” that clarifies things. (Which I’m concerned makes me look like I don’t understand what’s going on, but at least it clears out the logjam.)

      Person A: “This way is more efficient.”
      Person B: “No, that would be less efficient.”
      Me: “Quick question. So when you’re talking about efficiency, do you mean for the coder or the end-user?”
      Person A: “The coder.”
      Person B: “Wait, that’s what you meant? I was talking about the end-user.”

      1. Properlike*

        I do this too, and it is a superpower. If anyone could do it, we wouldn’t need to. Congratulations!

        1. J Jonah Jameson*

          This is one of my major skills, especially when tech people and not tech people are trying to communicate with each other.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I used to do it, until I worked with a couple of impatient, know it all co-workers who would turn their irritation on me “we ALL know what we’re talking about HANNAH” …. even though it was blatantly obvious to me and anyone else who wasn’t invested in being the mostest bestest smartest most bullyingest person at the meeting they in fact were completely mis-communicating and talking past each other. All talk, no listen that crew. The value add of those meetings for them was “winning” ie talking the most, the loudest, the last instead of whatever the actual agenda items were.

        I’m so glad I no longer work at that company.

      3. all my what*

        This kind of activity takes up a great deal of my working life. I refer to it as translating English to English.

    2. ferrina*

      I turned into a shadow director for my whole department through this. The actual Department Director was beyond incompetent- she was incredibly underqualified and was a blatant nepotism promotion. I would go to her and say things like “I was thinking that it would be nice to have a training program for our team. I had a few minutes so I mocked up a couple slides on how we might model this this program- of course, feel free to use these however you want or ignore me completely!” (she would always use whatever I gave her in its entirety, because she had no idea how to actually do the things).

      I would also volunteer to handle big aspects of her job “I know you’re super busy- would it be helpful if I mocked up a draft for you?” She wasn’t busy, but she was more than happy to farm off her responsibilities. Then she would magnanimously allow me to present my work to the team (though if it went to the higher-ups, she was always the one to present it). She never contradicted anything I wanted to do, so I was basically able to model the entire department how I wanted. Several people knew what I was doing, but no one ever said anything because they knew that I was way better at her job than she was.

      So I guess I weaponized her incompetence?

      1. Workerbee*

        If you got salary/recognition/promotions etc. for doing her job for her, then yes, you weaponized her incompetence for the betterment of your career & well-being!

  10. V*

    I ran a meeting in which minutes were taken by a different person each week. The team had agreed that this system worked for us in terms of distributing labor. This team was coincidentally made up of women. A man joined the team and when it was his turn to do the minutes he refused point blank, saying that he “wasn’t any good” at minute taking.

    He absolutely would not budge on his refusal and my estimation of him declined. But I couldn’t really afford the political capital of standing over him like a schoolchild until he did his homework.

    1. I edit everything*

      Oof. I’d have just suggested everyone take their own notes when it was his turn, and not distribute them afterwards.

    2. maybenotrelevant*

      I am legitimately* bad at taking notes. Nobody would want what I created.

      *I had a HS teacher who hated that I didn’t take notes in his class. He spent 3 weeks teaching me to take notes. At the end of 3 weeks he told me to stop taking notes because my performance/retention of what he said had gone down. Apparently I can listen or write, but I can not do both.

      1. Trillian*

        The teachers/lecturers I dreaded were the ones who insisted “You don’t have to take notes.” They were invested in handouts and ~listening~. Taking my own notes were how I retained material.

        1. maybenotrelevant*

          I wish I could be better at taking notes. They are helpful! I am so envious of the people who can take fluid notes in a meeting. At the moment I start writing, my ears no longer deliver information to my brain. Typing is marginally better than writing by hand.

          The best I can manage is some memory jog notes like

          llama 3pm blue
          Sue – Priority coat qual

          And hopefully I get a chance to convert to full sentences as soon as the meeting is over.

          1. mlem*

            It’s so individual! I retain information by writing … something … down; the process helps my brain. But whatever I write is usually entirely useless later; it’s all fragments and squiggles. If I’m focusing on taking *coherent* notes, I’m not processing what’s going on otherwise.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I used to lavishly illustrate my notes back in school–for some reason the little drawings did a lot to help me retain info. It’s weird because I’m not much of an artist/drawing person in regular life.

              1. KathyG*

                When my sister was in a middle school program for the Academicly Talented, her teacher TAUGHT THEM ALL to doodle as a concentration aid.

      2. daffodil*

        now it’s a common accommodation in classes that a student can be given notes from a peer or record class for exactly this reason. As someone who uses note-taking to aid focus, it’s hard for me to understand, but I know it’s real!

        1. Usurper Cranberries*

          As someone like you, I loved that accommodation – in college I got paid to drop off copies of my notes to the disability office when someone needed them! Cash for what I was already doing to learn myself, plus helping someone for whom that doesn’t come naturally is the best win-win in my book! (And I have no idea who or how many people used them – the office did great at preserving privacy.)

      3. Magenta Sky*

        I never took notes in high school, and never needed to (honor role student the whole time). The one exception was a teacher who graded notebooks. So, about the third day of class, I had figured out how she was doing things, and read ahead in the textbook and took notes for the next several weeks. Then worked on homework for other classes during the lecture (getting straight A grades the whole time, in both classes).

        She figured it out when we skipped a chapter, and took my notebook away. She’d give me one sheet of paper at a time and watch to see if I was writing on it. It’s amazing how *large* one can write, and fill up a sheet of paper with a handful of words. “This page is full, I need another sheet” – several times per session. That lasted a couple of sessions, and she gave up and decided actually learning the material was more important than the process of taking notes. (Still graded the notebook, but stopped caring it was several chapters ahead of the class. For all I know, she might have planned her lectures based on my notes.)

        (Note: I was a senior in a sophomore class that I had to have to graduate. Geography was something of an interest anyway, so I knew about 99.9% of the material better than the teacher, who mainly taught other subjects.)

        1. Verthandi*

          I hated it when notebooks were collected at the end of the year. We were never told ahead of time and not all teachers did that.

          I’m a doodler. If I’m drawing pictures or making snide commentary on the lesson, I retained the info better than if I just copied what was written on the board. Sometimes, I’d take notes in another language so I could get in some practice. And then…. turn in your notebooks time. Eeep! Redact redact redact. After I got burned once, I made sure I had a thick black marker with me at all times.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            I was known throughout high school to be . . . academically gifted (at least in subjects I was interested in). Most of the teachers left me alone as long as I aced the tests (and I always did).

            I had a physics class (where I was actually going to learn new stuff!) where I often sat in the front row with my head down on the desk, looking for all the world like I was asleep (and taking zero notes). The first day, the teacher called me out on it, asking what he’d just covered on the chalkboard. I recited his lecture back, word for word, for the last several minutes. That was that. (Because he had extra credit questions on the test, I ended the semester with over 100% on my total grade.)

            There was only one teacher who ever collected notebooks, and we basically hated each other’s guts.

          2. Your Mate in Oz*

            Do they give the notebooks back afterwards? I’d be really annoyed if I lost my record of what was taught.

            1. Verthandi*

              They did, but I hated that they’d collect them and grade you on note-taking. So much of mine wouldn’t have counted as they were never meant for anyone else.

        2. Teacher's nightmare*

          This reminds me of a teacher I had in high school! I was also the honours class kid, and this teacher (in grade 9) decided she was going to teach us how to take properly formatted notes. Unfortunately for her, my grade 5 teacher taught me that because I was bored in his class, and so I’d already been using and honing my note taking skill for 4 years.

          The teacher said that we had to hand in the notes so she could see that we had the formatting right, but didn’t care much about the content. She also wouldn’t let me do other homework, read novels, or listen to music when I finished my work quickly. So one day I decided to create a cipher alphabet to use to take notes so it would slow me down.

          Boy, was she unimpressed when I handed in a full units worth of beautifully formatted, tidy notes, that I had used to very successfully study for my test, in an alphabet she couldn’t read. 14 year old me stared her dead in the eye and said, well, you told me you’re grading format not content. You can see my format is correct.

          (We had a meeting with both my parents and the counselor. I think my dad was trying not to laugh the whole time.)

      4. Totally Minnie*

        This is how my brain works too. I can do one words-based task at a time. I can be writing words or I can be listening and understanding words. I cannot do both at once.

        1. Properlike*

          Common enough that, as mentioned, it’s a school accommodation. Uncommon enough that convincing people who need it to use it (my kid) is another story.

          The Dunning-Kruger strain of weaponized incompetence.

      5. Gila Monster*

        I know someone who was diagnosed with a graphomotor learning disability around 1995. (I have no idea if they still call it that.) He could either write or process auditory information, not both. So he was issued a word processor, in middle school, and the quality of his notes went way up.

      6. iglwif*

        I am excellent at note-taking (provided I’m not also running the meeting) and am happy to be the note-taker because it helps me focus.

        What I cannot do is listen to what is being said and make eye contact with the person speaking at the same time. An astounding number of people do not understand this.

        Brains are fun!!

    3. so anonymous for this one*

      This happened to me in a DE&I-related workgroup I was in. We started having people volunteer to take notes, which ended up going in this order: 1) more junior women; 2) senior women; 3) no men. We literally got to a point where every woman in the group had taken notes, but no man had.

      When I pointed out that it was wild that in a DE&I group no men had volunteered to take notes, all of them said “but I’m not good at notes.”

      Our executive sponsor said “Well, there’s only one way to get better at something. Practice.”

      1. Arya Parya*

        I once worked somewhere where I was the only woman and was also the youngest. When we got a new manager, he decided we would rotate taking notes. (The manager before him would just take notes himself).

        One colleague asked me once if I could take all the notes, seeing as I was so good at it. I told him that if he wasn’t good at it, he should take all the notes, because he could you the practice more than me.

        1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

          Gold star. I see and appreciate some of the upthread conversation about people who genuinely struggle with note taking. Since we are talking about weaponized incompetence though I think “(Mostly) men who refuse to do task because they aren’t good at it” is high on that list. I love everyone who had the guts to call it out by asking them to practice!

      2. N C Kiddle*

        That reminds me of my dad’s favourite Morton’s Fork for household chores. He would ask if I was good at some task. If I said yes, he’d tell me to do it. If I said no, he’d say I clearly needed more practice and tell me to do it.

    4. Brain the Brian*

      I am a man who is very good at taking minutes — but only if I finish them the same day. If I wait even one overnight, my mind just cannot make sense of my notes well enough to whip them into some semblance of shape that other people can understand. Is anyone else like this? I genuinely don’t mind minute-taking!

      1. daffodil*

        I’m a woman and I do best when I’m typing the minutes in real time, or as you said, if I can finish them up immediately after the meeting. I CAN do it later, but it’s much harder. I’ve been the chair in most meetings I sit in lately, and I also can’t manage the meeting and take minutes well at the same time. Different types of attention.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        Me. I have illegible handwriting and lousy short term memory. The act of taking notes gets the material into my brain, but forget about reading it afterward.

        When I did try to read my notes, I found that if I forgot to write a word, or if the word came out completely unreadable, it was the key word in the sentence.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I’ve just got lousy memory period. I don’t remember a thing that was said in a meeting after it’s over, unless I’ve written it down. And I do generally have to reread or at least re-skim the notes to remind myself.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        Oh yes. I would take notes on scratch pads in college and then rewrite them nicely and put them in a binder, because it helped me retain information. But if I waited a day or two–half the time I couldn’t read my writing because I was going too fast, or I made a shorthand notation that I didn’t recall what it meant, or I’d draw arrows indicating…something…that was clear to me when I did it, but not two days later. I would ultimately end up with something others probably could understand, but I also probably missed a whole lot by waiting.

    5. SarahKay*

      Early in my career at my current company (15-ish years ago) I was asked to join a new cross-department group, and in the first meeting it was agreed we’d need to take minutes. I’m in a heavily male-dominated industry so in that group of 12 I was the only woman; the meeting leader asked me to do it.
      Luckily I knew my (male) manager would have my back on this if needed so I said in my most ‘surprised-and-surely-not!’ tone of voice “You’re not giving the task of doing minutes to the only woman here are you?”
      At least he wasn’t a total fool because at this (and possibly seeing the determined this-is-a-hill-I-will-die-on glint in my eye) he rapidly back-tracked and said “no, of course not, we’ll rotate it so everyone gets a turn.”
      As their turns came around several of the men claimed they were poor at it; the meeting leader told them they’d cope. Some of them were indeed dreadful but other than making sure I knew what my actions were I determinedly wrote *nothing* when I wasn’t the minute-taker.

    6. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      “Oh, perfect- this is a great opportunity for you to learn. You can do it each week so you get the practice!”

      Seriously, note taking is not hard.

      1. Llama Identity Thief*

        I’m sorry, but yes, note taking is hard for me! I’ve learned to do it decently well, especially in meetings where I don’t have much direct input to provide, and my notes quality is pretty good…but then I retain basically 0% of the information, even after reading over the notes 10 times. I need to be spending time in meetings slotting new information into my network of connections, asking questions about context pieces I don’t have that will make things come together, in order for it to all sit in my mind. I can either engage heavily in the meeting, or take solid notes others will be able to use well downline, but I continue to fail at doing both in the same meeting!

        1. TechWorker*

          Okay, but if you have a meeting full of those people (or even people who can take notes but it will impact how *much* they can contribute to the meeting – which tbh is probably most of us); then it’s still not fair to not take turns. Once every 8 times or whatever you won’t really be able to contribute. But that might be the cost of having notes. If you really wanted to, you could choose to participate in the meeting & record it, & then listen back & make notes at that point.

    7. Peanut Hamper*

      “I don’t know how to pay attention and write the important things down” may be the most pathetic excuse I have ever heard.

      1. Loredena*

        It’s a processing issue. I’ve worked with some men who were simply amazing note takers. Captured everything, bulleted and organized.

        My notes generally work for me but no one else so I take full advantage of recording transcripts and also try to expand upon them immediately after meetings if I need to send them out. If you want me to take detailed notes in the moment I won’t be answering questions well because it’s a different brain track.

      2. maybenotrelevant*

        For me it is not an excuse it is a reality. My brain can only handle information in a uni-directional way. If I am writing, I can not listen. If I am listening, I can not write. I’m am reading, I can not listen. If I am writing, my brain doesn’t take in what was said taking the note, so unless the whole meeting comes to a stop while I write, I will miss what is said.

        I can listen and do menial manual work like emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry, if anything it helps me focus more on what people are saying.

        1. Properlike*

          Yes. But also: look at all these (mostly men) claiming they simply “can’t” who make it seem like those with legitimate processing issues are being dishonest.

          I have the same pet peeve with “I can’t learn online.” Most likely you can, if you adjust your mindset and expectations, but there are people for whom it really is cognitive overload.

          1. Llama Identity Thief*

            Very true. I’m a man (at least according to birth records and most common presentation) in the “processing issues/you can have notes or you can have me engaging, not both,” so in a lot of the meetings where higher-level things are being discussed that I know I wouldn’t really engage in, I actively leap at the opportunity to carry the group-note-taking role. This is something my supervisor has seen and gives me a lot more grace in “I won’t take good notes about this meeting so that I can present the work you have me on this meeting specifically to present as well as I can, but I’ll still remember what happens well personally.”

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I suggest you read the comments here talking about this as a disability accommodation issue, and then do some further research on your own to better understand it. This is a real, legitimate issue – and a fairly common one.

        I used to work in the accommodations office of a university. Note-taking assistance such as audio recording or getting lecture outlines from the teacher were one of the most common accommodations we provided.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. Like some forms of acquired executive dysfunction, the ability to take useful notes can also degrade with time. I don’t remember ever having any trouble taking notes in high school or college, but now at work? Forget it. Under a previous manager the responsibility for note-taking rotated. At the time, we didn’t have laptops, so you had to take notes by hand and type them up afterwards. Most of the time, my attempts at taking notes got amended later, because I’d forgotten to include key stuff.

          Now our notes basically involve updating the agenda with any decisions that were made, and it’s usually my manager who runs the meeting who makes the changes during the meeting itself.

      4. Kyrielle*

        It can be a real thing, actually, and it’s tied to some disabilities. There are cognitive tests that look at whether someone can process written and audio input at the same time, whether they can process audio input and written output, etc. I have a family member who is fine in each individual category, but listening *and* writing or listening *and* viewing tanks their scores immediately. It is a true processing disorder.

        It is also a great excuse for people who don’t want to, of course. (And it’s much less a specific diagnosis – there are a few that can include processing issues – and more just “this is a thing that exists and is sometimes tied to a disability”. I have the same diagnosis as that family member, and while I don’t find taking notes very useful for me personally, I can do it well enough.)

    8. Kayem*

      We have all-day, weeklong meetings a few times a year where one person facilitates and another takes notes. Last year, my note-taker was fantastic, I love him. Sadly, he was not my note-taker this year. We were short handed, so we took turns taking notes for each other. I was unfortunately paired up with Mark the Mansplainer, who has a clear idea of where women should be on the employment hierarchy. His notes for my meeting were atrocious and so sparse, they were useless to me. Fortunately, I discovered this by lunch time on the first day, so I spent the rest of the week taking my own notes while I was also facilitating.

      I later discovered he had copied and pasted all of my notes from my files into his note-taking form that was submitted to our boss. Except, I took all my notes in Notepad++ using tabs as the delimiter and the form he had to use was an Excel spreadsheet that was not compatible. He blindly copied and pasted, didn’t bother to check the formatting when he tried to pass off my work as his own. I took great pleasure in explaining to my boss why Mark’s notes were jumbled and the data mismatched.

        1. Kayem*

          She said she could tell right away he copied my notes and when she reverted his file to a previous version, saw what a terrible job he did initially. I don’t know what she said to him, but he was really quiet afterwards and I was assigned a different notetaker.

    9. MDinMD*

      This is why as a woman in a male dominated field I always forget a pencil.

      My weaponized incompetence

  11. Richard Hershberger*

    I feel no obligation to display competence at stuff that is entirely irrelevant to my job, such as the endless mandatory fun activities. Just how much incompetence may depend on how annoyed I am. I am, on my best day, a mediocre bowler. In a mandatory fun setting, this may turn into an endless string of gutter balls. Strategic incompetence on an actual job function is another matter entirely, as this is simply foisting work onto someone else.

    1. HR Friend*

      This is more malicious compliance than weaponized incompetence, since no one – presumably – becomes responsible for your bowling score when you perform badly.

      Genuine question: does it make you feel better to tank activities on purpose? Like.. I get it. Mandatory fun can be annoying. But isn’t it *more* work to be salty or petty about it than to go with the flow?

      1. Salty Sally*

        Nope! It’s cathartic, satisfying and makes me feel better about having to go through the bullcrap that HR and management foist on us in a vain effort to justify their existence. Compliance makes me feel helpless and miserable.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Absolutely! It is a way to remove myself from any sense of competitiveness. Tossing gutter balls is quick and easy. Ideally, if the mandatory fun format allows the involuntary participants to self-organize, then I will be at a lane with similarly indifferent folks.

        1. HR Friend*

          “Ideally, if the mandatory fun format allows the involuntary participants to self-organize, then I will be at a lane with similarly indifferent folks.” <<OK that sounds like the place to be lol

      3. Magenta Sky*

        I wouldn’t need to tank bowling on purpose. I’m genuinely terrible at it. (Though the first time I ever tried, I got a 7-10 split, don’t ask me how, and had a total score for the game of 47.)

      4. Totally Minnie*

        For me, yes, it makes me feel better. My office has an annual tournament for a commonly played lawn party game. I’m not great at anything sports adjacent and I’d rather be standing on the sidelines cheering and drinking a soda or something than actually playing, but everybody is required to participate. So I usually try to sign up for one of the earliest matches and get my defeat over with so I can enjoy the rest of the day.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Ooh, is it Jarts? If my workplace tried that, someone would end up impaled before the first round was over. (Fortunately, metal-tipped Jarts have been illegal for decades, I believe.)

    2. Tired*

      For some reason this made me laugh! I’m a gutterball queen even when I try my best.

      I also dislike mandatory “fun” unless it is on the clock during the typical workday. The last thing I want to do is hang out with work people in my free time. I already see too much of them during the week!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yes! I want it to be on work time, unless it’s select coworkers who I would hang with anyway.

      2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Pre-pandemic, Old Job, that never had had after hours events before, suggested we have an after hours event at an axe throwing joint. I laughed and said, “You’re going to put us all in a room with weapons that someone teaches us to throw effectively?”

        Apparently that- and the pandemic- put an end to the idea real quick.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The fact that I’m being observed by my coworkers naturally makes my skill level gutter. I want to do well, but I look stupid at every activity

    3. Cmdrshprd*

      “I am, on my best day, a mediocre bowler. In a mandatory fun setting, this may turn into an endless string of gutter balls.”

      Just curious is this purposeful gutter balls like you aim for the gutter, or is it more your skill just naturally decreases because you are annoyed/don’t want to be there/are not really trying?

    4. mariemac*

      One of the best things I ever learned from an old boss was to schedule a meeting during the time our department put up decorations for the holidays. I got roped into it because I was a junior employee and a woman (shockingly, the same demographics of everyone who decorated) and I hate decorating, see very little need to do it at the office and don’t want to participate. She told me she always scheduled a meeting during the decorating time because she felt the same way I did.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      OMG, THIS.

      I have the hand-eye coordination of a drunken giraffe. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a catapult and a dead cow. I am the very, very last person you want on any team needing any kind of athletic ability, period. The idea of being on a bowling or softball team is horrific to me and will only make the rest of my teammates get increasingly snarly as I single handedly lose us the game.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      This reminds me of when I was in 1st year at secondary school (12-13 years old) and as a sort of “team building” thing, the Transition Years (15-16 year olds) organised a basketball tournament for us, which meant you got to give up your lunchbreaks to play basketball and we were given no choice about this. Cue teams cheering when they lost and got knocked out of the tournament so they didn’t need to give up any more lunchbreaks.

      I mean, SERIOUSLY! Kids are now in school for nearly an hour longer than in primary school and are adjusting to having different teachers for each class and starting new subjects and are probably getting more homework than ever before. Hey, this is how to help them adjust: let’s remove some of their lunchbreaks and use them for “mandatory fun.” I guess the point was to ensure the kids from country towns who might be the only one coming from their primary school (we had one girl from a town so small, she’d been the only kid in her year in primary school) were put on teams where they would be included, but…heck, do it during P.E. classes or take the kids out of class. They are already significantly down on their free time between secondary ending 45 minutes later than primary, usually giving significantly more homework and some kids now coming to school by bus so they may have a long commute each way when their primary was likely within walking distance.

    7. Safety First*

      If you really want to get excused from the mandatory fun, try to end up on the team with the organizers (who are probably enthusiastic bowlers) and just roll the ball really slowly in addition to your gutter balls.

  12. AnonForThisOne*

    I used to have a coworker who would send me (and other junior women on the team) emails about a particular task– basically, just filling out a non-time-sensitive, non-essential form. These forms were not assigned to any particular person, so usually folks would do them themselves when the need arose– because they took like 5 minutes. It took him longer to email us asking us to do them than it would have taken to just do them himself. It was wild.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      I had a colleague who would do this with things that needed to be mailed. Instead of putting it in an envelope and addressing it herself, she’d write me a note with the address it needed to go to and when it needed to be sent by. She could’ve easily done it herself and put it in my “take to the post office” box in the same (or less!) amount of time.

      1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I handle the mail for my building. I had someone do that to me. I gave it back and said, “Post office won’t accept this.” Why, yes, I AM that petty, and yes, it only happened once.

    2. iglwif*

      Ooooh you just reminded me of something that happened a couple weeks ago!

      I have a leadership role in my religious community and someone emailed me to say “so-and-so asked me to send my committee an email about such-and-such. Is that really part of my job as chair?” I wrote back being like, well, this isn’t strictly related to your committee’s mandate so if you don’t want to do it you don’t have to, the message will get out in other ways … but in my head all I could think was “How did you have time to send THIS email but not THAT one?”

      1. Dr. Vibrissae*

        In college, a professor I worked with liked to send me emails asking for specific information or answers to questions from other people. These weren’t people I knew or worked and the information wasn’t needed for my project, although it was often tangential. Usually, I would then forward her original email to the person named with a short note copying us both on the reply. I could never figure out why she emailed me instead of just sending the question to the person directly (or including them on the original email). It felt like the email version of “Let me Google that for you.”

  13. JEB*

    I am not a coffee drinker so I don’t make it at work or at home! My husband used to complain so much about getting the trash ready that I just took it over… now I don’t have to listen to him complain!

    1. Choggy*

      I don’t drink coffee either, so if forced to do so, would mess it up so badly (not on purpose, mostly) that no one would ever want me to make coffee ever again! :)

    2. londonedit*

      I don’t drink tea, but you don’t get very far in Britain without being able to make a decent cup of tea, so I can (apparently) make very good cuppa and often do so for my family and friends. I also wouldn’t mind doing a tea round at work (these are the fabric of British office life). But in a work situation, if it was always me being asked, or if I realised it was only ever women being asked, I’d definitely use the ‘Sorry, don’t drink tea!’ excuse.

      1. R C*

        If someone were to ask me to make tea, they would get a pitcher of my ultra-sweet, southern iced tea. While it starts out hot (to make the base) it doesn’t stay that way long.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          My father learned the best (in his opinion) way to make tea when he was working in Saudi Arabia. They’d take a Coke bottle and stuff it *full* of rock sugar, then pour boiling hot in to create a tea/sugar slurry.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I am a coffee drinker so I definitely choose to never touch the work coffee pot. Not because I have any reluctance to make/clean up after coffee, but holy crap is office coffee terrible.

    3. Joielle*

      I do drink coffee but I make myself individual cups with a pour-over because I want absolutely nothing to do with the coffee maker cleaning or maintenance. I’m in a role where people ask me about a lot of random stuff and I have been dodging all coffee-maker-related questions for years. “I’m not sure, sorry, I’ve never used the thing!”

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Oh, I don’t take out the trash, either. It’s not weaponized incompetence though, it’s just that I do so much of the Stuff that I just refuse to do the couple of things I hate the most.

  14. Llama Llama*

    I honestly feel this is my daily life. I am accountant and should do accounting things. However the system I work in to have all the accounting things happen is broken. The system support team to fix all my issues make me want to scream. I have literally tickets that cause millions of dollars in issues. This is to the point that my manager and are taking official courses so we can be experts in coding in said system so we can fix stuff ourselves.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Oh I feel you – I haaaaate having to go through our official IT, because we use a very specific and very finicky program to collate our work and you have to get to tier three support before they can actually effectively troubleshoot. I understand why the tiering system exists the way it does but it took me nearly 5 hours across a week to get there last time for an issue that, as it turned out, could be fixed in under 15 minutes.

  15. They Might Be A Giant*

    I am a software engineer and a former academic scientist. Early in my current career, I got a reputation of being too honest to be allowed to speak directly to customers. I understand the game better now, but I’ve continued to leverage that reputation in order to get out of pesky customer interactions unless absolutely necessary.

    1. jellied brains*

      My boss is the same way. She gleefully told me that the higher ups banned her from talking to clients.

    2. Anonymask*

      I did this to get out of auditing purchase card transactions at work (it’s not my job, I was just pulled in because the team that was in charge of it was drowning in work and I’m known to be very efficient/a fast worker with little to no training). I did not like doing this.

      Company policy is that any employee with a purchasing card must provide all receipts of transactions, and if receipts are missing too many times the card will be revoked. (ex: missing one $5 receipt in the span of 6 months will just be a gentle warning, while consistently not having receipts ESPECIALLY for bigger purchases will definitely get the card revoked, with a sliding scale between the two points; there was also an approved vendor policy, no alcohol policy, etc.)

      The CEOs expense report landed on my desk. It was missing tons of receipts, with random high-cost expenses without explanation (think $3000 at a sports arena in alcohol and food and ticket costs). I took my red pen to that thing and attached company policy to it. Said it couldn’t be processed because of missing items, highlighted that it was turned in late too. I had already done similar things to the VPs and CFO. They’re the ones that made the policies, they should be examples of how to abide by it, right?

      I was politely informed that I would no longer be doing this work after the CEO came down on the CFO and VP for allowing someone to step to him because he couldn’t do the simple thing and provide his receipts =]

          1. Anonymask*

            We were also under audit at the time, so anything missing was heavily scrutinized. I was not going to put my name on something and get dragged down as well. The CEO was well aware that the audit was happening too, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise…

        1. Kevin Sours*

          In this case the person asking the question wanted the answer. Management, however, would have preferred a less bluntly stated response to the customer.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Like computers, they also have a bad habit of doing exactly what you tell them to, rather than what you want or need them to do.

        I’ve gotten a lot of kudos just for being a tech person who figures out what’s actually needed, rather than just fulfilling requests.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      I had a coworker who was a great individual contributor but banned from management or talking to customers. Given the way he continued to speak to colleagues, I’m not sure that was an effective solution.

      1. They Might Be A Giant*

        That’s not what I meant at all! I wasn’t a jerk to anybody. It’s just that in science, you’re supposed to openly discuss your work’s limitations, drawbacks, and uncertainty. Whereas in business you’re really not supposed to do that, at least not outside the team.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Yes! I hate that technically competent + awkward and/or direct is weaponised (ironically) into “is a jerk” so often it’s probably thought of before just being disinclined to soften things adequately.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Heh, at my place there’s an unwritten list of people who aren’t allowed to go on client calls unsupervised or respond directly on client facing tickets (when their role would otherwise involve doing that) because of their history with saying inappropriate things etc.

    5. Jenifer Crawford*

      One of the anchors on major network news (possibly Dan Rather, but not certain), typed every story via the hunt-and-peck method. Seeing that it worked so well for him, why aren’t the rest of us following his lead?

  16. Busy Middle Manager*

    I work heavily with coding/software type work and it’s pretty common for someone to drag out a project to make it seem more complicated. Some work is easy, but a lot of experience went into making it appear easy. So you don’t want to purposefully make it seem easy.

    On the flip side, some coding projects that sound easy are actually hard, given the database (for example, a database that has lots of duplicate or triplicate records for basically the same thing, or there are multiple records and sometimes you want the maximum ones and sometimes you want the first one, or you’re not sure whether to round a field up or down, or data is just missing for some customers), so you don’t want to rush the difficult sounding stuff but get stuck on easy sounding stuff. Because then the “suits” will think you don’t know what you’re doing.

    You also don’t want to make it look too easy, or people will ask you for constant changes and think they’re all equally as easy and also worth your time to do, and worth releasing immediately.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Sure, but we often don’t even know how hard it will be until we get into it. That’s why it’s normal to estimate about twice the time we think at first, because too often that double estimate turns out to still be too little time to finish. But when it turns out to be easy, then we look super good – we got it done in half the time we estimated!

      1. R C*

        That’s called the “Scotty Principle” from Star Trek’s Montgomery Scott. When the captain asks how long something will take, make a quick estimate and double (or triple) it. When you come in under your estimate, you’re the hero.

        1. I Have RBF*

          The fact is, we usually need to. We look at a thing, think it should be easy, turn in a Scotty estimate, and then are glad we did because there was an unexpected complication in going from A to B. Only about 5% of the time can we make it work in the time allowed. Yes, I suck at estimating coding tasks.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think every programmer, in their heart of hearts, believe they can accomplish anything in a long weekend with no interruptions.

            Sort of like how, no matter how many bugs are found in previous projects, a programmer believes that the code they’re currently writing will have zero bugs.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            As part of my role I have to review other people’s estimates as input to my projects. I have a mental “adjustment factor” that varies by person/team that I apply to their estimates…

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              What’s the difference between an engineer and a scientist? When an engineer tells you how long something should take, you should double whatever number they give you. When a scientist tells you how long it should take, you should double the number…and increment the units!

            2. Brain Flogged*

              I dread when people ask me to do something saying “it’s just a easy quick fix!”. It aways end not being easy, nor quick. People are REALLY bad at estimates about coding in general.

        2. Analog Mayhem*

          Scotty Principle all day, every day. Beyond coding, if it is writing, estimate all the last-minute feedback that will come in, plus the need to collate edits and go back and forth to determine which edit wins.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        User: “Can you put a drop-down list here?”
        Me: “Sure, give me a couple hours.”
        User: “Can you put a checkbox here?”
        Me: “Sure, give me a couple hours.”
        User: “Can you put a radio button here?”
        Me: “No.”
        User: “…no?”
        Me: “I $@#* hate radio buttons.”

      2. magc*

        I just went off to find that very xkcd — it’s what I use at work to illustrate how difficult it is to know, well, how difficult something will be.

        When I can’t show that, I’ll say that changing existing code is like remodeling a really old house: you never know what’s involved until you taking things apart.

    2. Mainer*

      I learned that last lesson the hard way. I whipped up a program for someone because it was interesting and I had a couple of unusually slow days. Suddenly, change after change was requested even though it was complete. When I quoted a normal timeframe for a complex one, the person was clearly unhappy and bugged me every day or so!

      The person was such a pest that I got fed up and made the project billable. I would’ve just done it as a courtesy had they been respectful of my time and schedule!

      The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the loudest rooster gets the ax.

  17. Marna Nightingale*

    I briefly worked as a roadie and set carpenter, in a big city with great transit, and the strategic incompetence I remember best is “do NOT get a driver’s license or don’t admit to having one if you have one. And if you get caught having a license, do NOT get an air-brake endorsement even if work offers to pay for it.”

    If you have a driver’s license they make you drive the truck. If you have an AZ or DZ they make you drive the BIG truck.

    Nobody wants to drive the truck because driving the truck in the city is awful AND after it’s unloaded you have to take it back to the rental office and then get the night bus home.

    The only sure way out is to be unable to drive the truck. The Talent can hire a driver.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        NON- strategic incompetence related to that: roadies and former roadies aren’t just trying to avoid work when we say we don’t understand your sound system. Commercial sound systems are so incredibly unstandardized. It’s a whole new planet. I mean we can flail at it, but we’re not a lot better than you are.

        And do NOT ask us to do wiring. Wiring that’s going to be permanent and maybe go behind a wall has entirely different rules and we know just enough that it SCARES us.

        We will, however, build you basic structures out of wood, help you paint your walls, and happily crawl behind your desk and organize your cables. Possibly without being asked, in that last case. Tangled cabling makes us twitch, do you people not KNOW about zip-ties?

        1. Magenta Sky*

          I know all about zip ties. Any time I work on a computer for a neat freak, the first thing I have to do is spend 10 minutes cutting all the zip ties away so I can get to what I need. (I don’t complain about it, mind you, I’m only there for an hour, they have to live with it. And I’m pretty sure at least some of them get a great deal of satisfaction from dressing the cables all over again.)

          1. I Have RBF*

            I prefer the hook-and-loop cable ties. For one, they don’t damage the cables like zip-ties can. For another, they are easier to remove and then put back.

            When I was doing a lot of cabling work I bought rolls of half inch, two sided hook-and-loop, so I could cut to length what I needed.

    1. Not Totally Subclinical*

      Long ago when Spouse was a mechanic in the USAF, another airman in his crew was told that he couldn’t drive base vehicles because he didn’t have the right drivers license. He did have a driver’s license, but because of his dad’s job he’d been living in Canada when he learned to drive; a Canadian (provincial?) license wasn’t qualification to drive the vehicles.

      At first the airman considered getting a US-based license, but he quickly realized that he didn’t have to do some really annoying driving pickup jobs due to lack of US-based license, so he didn’t get one until he was out of the Air Force and living in the States.

    2. BlueberryGirl*

      This is genius and I am super impressed. I was given similar advice when I was working with a local theater doing lighting work about not admitting to know anything about hard wiring. Could I rewire a light? Sure, but anything that went behind drywall, I knew nothing about. (Never-mind that I was literally in training with the IBEW as my other job at the time.)

    3. Nelalvai*

      My first job out of college trained me and paid for a commercial driver’s license so I could plow snow in a giant Mack truck. I hated pushing snow so much that when I moved on I let my commercial license lapse. The chances of my current job asking me to push snow is slim to none, but I’m not gambling on it.

  18. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I don’t know if this counts, but not only did we have the diner-style coffee machine, with open carafes and hot plates to sit them on*, the burners were turned way too high and the coffee tasted burnt within minutes. Our office manager “couldn’t taste the difference”, so she also always ordered the absolute cheapest coffee you could buy. (I liked her a lot, actually, even though we never agreed on this.) For a while I had a coffee machine in my office, and then I discovered the Melitta pour over coffee maker; I’ll let you Google it rather than get stuck in moderation, but suffice it to say it makes one cup at a time. Even the office coffee tasted passable with it, although I started bringing my own. This was as much because of how often I found myself making coffee and soaking carafes with burnt coffee at the bottom as because of the taste. I certainly wasn’t going to clean up after people who use all but a few drops of coffee and then put the nearly empty carafe back on the burner without turning it off!

    *Wow, I just Googled “diner coffee maker”, and apparently while they still make this style, the carafes aren’t as wide-mouthed, so they probably don’t evaporate as fast as they used to.

      1. I Have RBF*

        When I was young and broke, I couldn’t afford a coffee maker like Mr. Coffee. I used a Melitta plastic cone and paper filters. People would steal the coffee I brought in right out of my thermos.

        Nowadays? Coffee houses charge a premium for a “hand pour” coffee.

        (For reference, see https://www.peets.com/pages/brew-guide-pour-over The only thing I didn’t do was rinse the filter first in my poverty coffee brewing.)

        1. TCPA*

          This is how we make coffee in our household every day! No coffee maker necessary :) We have the cones and a French press for when we have guests, but that’s it! Love the simplicity of it.

    1. The Dude Abides*

      The major manufacturer of those is based in my city, and our HQ has one on every floor. When I worked at HQ, we had a double-burner, and whoever got there first would make two pots so everyone had some from the jump. Those who need more than one cup are responsible for making more once it goes empty.

    2. Lucy P*

      We used to have a sign on the coffee machine that said if the coffee level went below the silver band on the carafe, turn off the coffee pot. The sign didn’t work.

    3. Ann*

      Oh, so it’s the burners? I’ve been wondering for years why the office coffee always tastes a little burned. This is a lightbulb moment for me.

  19. AnonandAnon*

    I have a co-worker whose favorite line, in response to being tasked to do something, is “I’ve never done that before, is there documentation?” This person is a seasoned professional, and the rest of the team have all had the same training and are all proactive in either figuring out how to do something or using other resources. I’ve told him time and time again not everything will be documented and to try to figure it out on his own. I always redirect him and will never take anything off his plate because he “doesn’t know how to do it”. And yes, he usually does things poorly and when questioned reiterates that he did not know how to do it correctly, there was no documentation. We are also all supposed to create documentation for the rest of the team, his documents are never anything he has created himself, but documents he’s just gathered from others and put his name on. When he does actually add something himself, the difference between what he puts out versus the rest of the team is night and day. He has been the worst from the day he started 9 years ago and has not changed. Three managers have not been able to get rid of him because management sucks. His face should be next to the dictionary definition of Weaponized Incompetence.

    1. SpecialSpecialist*

      I had a program coordinator who told me she wasn’t going to fill out a form until she was trained on how to fill it out. It was a self-explanitory form.

    2. House On The Rock*

      He sounds like the twin of a former employee of mine who always responded to coaching and error correction with “no one ever told me that” or “I wasn’t trained on that”. This was a theoretical professional with decades of experience. He responded this way, with no shame, to things that were core parts of his job he claimed to know when he was hired. Think a Project Manager claiming he “hadn’t been trained” on how to create a status document for customers, or a project plan or how to schedule a meeting in Outlook.

    3. Another Academic Librarian too*

      I was hired to a new position and inherited an assistant.
      She literally did nothing. Yes there was a job description.
      Every time time I asked her to do something like create an excel spreadsheet for an inventory, she would say-
      I wasn’t trained to do that or no one told me how to do that.
      And perhaps incompetence would get her out of answering the office phone- she would not write down who called or their phone number.
      When I started the PIP with HR, I discovered that she had completed and had certificates for training in Word, Excel, and the all the basic tasks of the job.

      1. AnonandAnon*

        And I’m sure she thought she was doing a great job, just like my coworker, he’s baffled that our boss is (finally!) cracking down on his incompetence. He thought he has been doing a stellar job. Again, management failure, they also used the path of least resistance (me) to get things done when he could (did) not. I am so glad I’m not long for this job. Retirement take me away!

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I had a coworker who tried to pull something like this. Claimed he didn’t know how to do certain things because he hadn’t been trained. Which I knew was false because I trained him.

        Came to a head when he used the excuse to his boss to get out of doing Task X. Boss emailed me saying he needed me to set up training for Coworker on Task X. My response: “He gave me the certificate for his Task X annual refresher training last month. Was there an incident indicating a need for remedial training? If so I’ll need specifics so I can ensure we cover the necessary points.”

        Miraculously, coworker remembered how to do it the very next day with no additional training! Complete coincidence I’m sure.

    4. Emmy*

      Ah yes, lack of training. My coworker’s excuse for sticking the rest of us with a task for a YEAR has been that he “couldn’t figure out how to get access to the system,” and now that he doesn’t know how to do the task that uses the system because he hasn’t had to do it.
      My old boss manages to be a supervisor who refuses to learn how to use multiple necessary computer systems for more than basic tasks, rendering her utterly unable to help with any of our technical questions or anything that requires supervisor review. If it wasn’t so frustrating, it would be admirable how she manages to get people paid half her salary with 2 years experience to her 30 to do things so she doesn’t have to.
      And the coworker who emailed me today to ask me to send an email, after I sent the email address and explanation of what he needed to do to him.
      Another manager who just ignores emails asking him to do things until you go over his head.
      There’s a lot of this at my job.

    5. Max*

      Having a coworker like this. He got the job because he is friend of my boss. She brought him in to be my supervisor and I have to do my jobs along with babysitting him coz he is completely useless.

  20. H*

    As an assistant editor at a magazine, had one of the sales reps constantly ask me to print off documents for him before his meetings because he was constantly “in a hurry and just didn’t have the time!!!” I maybe did it once expecting it to be a one-off thing, but once it kept happening I just said something along the lines of “I’m on a deadline, so no.”

  21. gnomic heresy*

    Getting accused of this is a big fear of mine. I have (increasingly severe) ADHD. Things I can do tolerably well one day, when the meds are working, I’ve slept and eaten well, and my emotional state is balanced, will be completely impossible a few days later. For example, one day I can be on the ball and get the kids packed up and ready to go out the door for my partner before I start work, with a packed lunch, fed breakfast, given meds and vitamins, and in clean clothes and with brushed hair and teeth. The next day I might be slightly tired and it throws off my balance and all of this feels like an impossible task, and I can’t even think through the fog about where to start.

    I’m a person of decent intellectual ability, which enables me to cover well for my ADHD under certain circumstances, but when things get too much it sometimes happens that I fall apart emotionally. I imagine that what this looks like from the outside is a capable person getting complacent and sliding into dicking around, and then getting overemotional and taking it personally when they are called on it, and falling back on the excuse of ADHD.

    How do you tell when someone is weaponizing incompetence to avoid doing things they don’t feel like doing, or has a mental health condition that sometimes prevents them from working at full capacity?

    1. V*

      As a fellow adhder you do your best, have the difficult conversations about what that looks like with your partner, and maybe figure out accommodations for bad days. Like – kids will not die from lunchables. Maybe clean clothes can be simplified somehow. I literally send my laundry out and it comes back clean and folded because I can feel guilty about not being able to do laundry or I can use money to get clean clothes.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Also YOU GUYS. A friend recommended kC Davis’ How To Keep House While Drowning to me recently and it is A REVELATION.

        Her website, podcast, and other work on what she calls “struggle care” is the best thing I’ve found in YEARS.

        1. Doc McCracken*

          Also adhd here. Dana K White’s books How to Manage Your House Without Losing Your Mind and Decluttering at the Speed of Life are amazing! She has a podcast and YouTube channel too. It’s called A Slob Comes Clean. Found her super helpful even before being diagnosed as an adult.

        2. Usurper Cranberries*

          Unfuck Your Habitat (website and book, though honestly I prefer reading through the now-defunct Tumblr because it includes real before-and-after pictures) is also excellent for advice on working with yourself on bad days. Obviously not for those who don’t like profanity.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Once my mentor at one company and I were discussing time saving methods, and I mentioned using a laundry service. His response? “Absolutely! Fluff and Fold is awesome. That’s the only way my laundry gets done.

        For years I lived in a house that didn’t have laundry machines. I went to a laundromat, and paid the people there to wash, dry, and fold my clothes. It was worth the cost to not to have to spend a day recovering from doing laundry.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        I forget which YouTuber it is, but my husband watches one who says “ADHDrs live life on Hard Mode,” and he says that’s exactly it.

    2. Marna Nightingale*

      As a fellow person with ADHD:

      Strategic incompetence always turns out to be convenient for the incompetent person and a pain in the neck for someone else. Also, the people who wield it don’t usually do helpful things for others on their good days.

      ADHD-fail is at best an even split of being a pain for everyone, and often way more trouble to you than to the other person, for whom it’s a trivial task. And you almost certainly help your coworkers when they’re having a bad day and you aren’t.

      So odds are this is something you don’t have to worry about.

      Also, fwiw maybe look up “rejection-sensitive dysphoria”, which is a known facet of ADHD. In short, people are generally judging us a lot more generously than we think they are.
      Knowing this doesn’t FIX it, but it’s helpful.

      1. FrogEngineer*

        wow, I had never heard of RSD and… yeah, now I understand why job searching is so hard for me.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yes, but people with ADHD are always being critiqued and told they’re wrong (ask me how I know), so having RSD is just…what you get for being non-typical. Unfortunately, I’m well aware that people are judging me on a very harsh basis, because I keep causing problems with my brain :/

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Then, respectfully, the people around you suck. You deserve compassion and grace, especially as you are trying your best to navigate a world that wasn’t designed for you. My friends and my bosses/coworkers have always been supportive of me and how my brain works. I hope you can find and surround yourself with people who do the same for you.

      3. Smithy*

        Absolutely this – but also, having people in your corner – be it family, friends, therapist, who can help you identify when you’re doing this to yourself.

        I was recently at a work happy hour with board members, and found myself talking about my scope of work in a way that I’m sure would not have made my boss’ “top 10 list” of things she’d want me to tell a board member. I left questioning whether I’d drank too much, if I was in trouble, if I needed to tell my grandboss who was with the board, etc etc etc.

        Reality was that while I know I was a bit more informal that I would be if I could have done it over again, I wasn’t rude or inappropriate. I talked about a less positive aspect of my work, but in an upbeat manner. So while again, not a topic my boss would have wanted me to bring up, she probably also wouldn’t have wanted me to fart but wouldn’t have been angry about either.

        But it wasn’t until I told a friend and talked it through that I could emotionally accept I wasn’t in trouble and could let go of that anxiety. And it was holding onto that anxiety and fear that can be a lot more damaging in reinforcing a belief of needing to be perfect to compensate for any other shortcoming. Because the reality is that level of anxiety rarely leads to preventing new mistakes, but rather just more anxiety of making new mistakes.

      4. O'Bun*

        Marrna, thank you for the pointer to RSD. It’s terrifically helpful.

        I believe this is the first time I’ve responded on here to a person I know IRL. Fortunately, I also know you won’t judge me harshly.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Well, the whole *point* of weaponized incompetence is that it’s not the first thing most people jump to – the first thing they assume is that you’re somewhat incompetent, or otherwise unable to do the thing. It generally doesn’t occur to them right away that you’re perfectly capable but Prefer Not To. I’m not sure that helps you but …

    4. PaperclipsPlease*

      I’m not sure about telling when another coworker is doing this, but as someone with ADHD (and close to my team) I can just say something like “I’m sorry, my brain isn’t cooperating today. Can we push XYZ to tomorrow instead?” and usually it’s fine.

      I think coworkers are open to it when you don’t make a big deal out of it or act like you can get away with anything because of ADHD, for example. I have a coworker who blames everything on her ADHD and I’m like, I get it, I have the same problems. But let’s talk about strategies to support you and allow you to get your work done.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I think that sums it up really well: people can tell the difference between coping and blaming. If the person is coping, they’re trying to find a workaround. If the person is blaming, they jump straight to “can’t do it” and stay there.

    5. I edit everything*

      This sounds so familiar to me. Some days I can edit like a maniac, and other days, I just sit and stare at the same sentence for an hour, broken by intermittent forays to Facebook or something else around the house, followed by frustration and utter bewilderment at how I could have gotten so little done that day.

      1. gnomic heresy*

        OMG me. I write and edit curriculum, and somedays I write like the wind, and some days I sit and stare at it for very long-seeming stretches of five minutes at a time broken by 20 minute stretches of “research”.

    6. New B Lurker*

      “If you could do your best every day it wouldn’t be your best.” Sounds obvious but actually it’s been a little life-changing for me to accept this. Stop holding yourself to an impossible standard and try to make peace with being just-okay at many of your daily tasks.

      (My partner’s version of this is “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”)

      1. Sedna*

        Oof, this is a great phrase. Borrowing it for when I get in my own head about not always being perfect.

      2. Sloanicota*

        These are such great reminders for kids like me raised on “give 110% every time!!” sports stuff. Even at the time, I was like, “wait, isn’t the whole point of that phrase the fact that it’s *not possible*??”

      3. EmF*

        My general equivalent is “best is a variable target”

        Some days my best is “I have answered two emails, go me!”
        Other days it’s “I’ve conducted a bunch of case audits, done data cleanup on that spreadsheet with seventy thousand rows, designed some reporting that’s gonna be really handy, automated something I’ve been doing manually, and answered two emails, go me!”

        Those were both my best at the time.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          This is exactly it. There’s a graphic I saw recently that showed different circles for different days. Some days were filled in at about 10% and some were closer to 100%. The caption was something along the lines of this is what giving 100% actually looks like. It’s not 100% every single day, it’s the best you can do on a given day, whether that’s 10% or 70%.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        I find this really helpful in cooking*: if you’re out of Hungarian paprika it’s okay to use regular. Bottled lemon juice is fine if you don’t have the wherewithal to squeeze a dozen fresh ones. I personally am never going to hand make noodles or jam; that is what the grocery store is for. It’s okay to not produce a gourmet feast for the gods on a Tuesday night.

        *I would not recommend this for baking: proportion and correct ingredients are vital to most baked goods.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          That is so true, about baking. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science.

          Come to think of it, one reason I like baking more is because there’s less guesswork. As long as I have a reliable recipe and follow it to the letter using quality ingredients, I know I’ll probably get good results. Most of the time, anyway!

      5. FromCanada*

        My friend recently said this to me – “anything worth doing is worth doing badly”. It was a revelation. I was so struck by it. I probably have ADHD (not diagnosed but my child does) and I struggle with these kinds of things talked about in this thread.

        I’m now adding your “If you could do your best every day it wouldn’t be your best” to my toolbox. Thank you @New B Lurker!

    7. Warrior Princess Xena*

      A big part of it is consistency at what you’re incompetent at. If you have up days and down days that affect everything you touch, that’s one thing. If you happen to become incompetent every single time you touch a task, despite being competent elsewhere, especially if it’s a relatively unfun one or there’s a bias (see all the men being pants at so-call women’s work in the threads already), then people start wondering.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I don’t have ADHD but do have practically every other mental condition and here’s how I judge whether my actions are deliberate incompetent or not:

      If I make excuses for it and expect others to go ‘oh that’s ok then’.

      That’s not alright and I am guilty of it – ‘I’m allowed to be nasty to people when my pain level is at a solid 9’ feels good to say but it’s not alright.

      Whereas if I say ‘sorry for being completely out of it yesterday, I’m on new medications and I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again’ then that’s okay.

    9. M*

      I hope that reading through some of the other examples in this thread help calm your fears a bit. I do implementations/operations at a big university am very often on the receiving end of weaponized incompetence and the word “weaponized” makes all the difference here! I can absolutely tell the difference between someone who is unable to do something for whatever myriad of reasons versus someone who does not have respect for me and what I’m doing!

    10. Double A*

      My husband has ADHD and I know some days will be better than others. When I get frustrated with him is when he won’t engage in coming up with systems to help mitigate the disorganization. And obviously every system can fail and some days just go sideways no matter what, but being able to be proactive to anticipate what needs to be done and have systems to make it go more smoothly is key to feeling like someone is doing their best and trying.

      1. Grim*

        Oof, I know this feeling. I have ADHD, and used to be in a fairly serious relationship and semi-cohabitating with a fellow ADHDer. And yet somehow the majority of the chores (like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, making plans and organising logistics for anything we did together as a couple, etc) seemed to somehow fall on me. I guess I’d just managed to come up with more effective strategies for staying somewhat organised, remembering important tasks, and making myself actually do things even when they seemed boring or unpleasant. But it did get frustrating to feel like I was the only one making an effort to manage my symptoms!

    11. Beth*

      The surest sign is when the person can do anything they actually want to do, and can never do anything they don’t want to do, even if they have been trained in it, it’s part of their job, it’s been part of their job for a long time, and they demonstrate full consistent competence at other tasks.

      Other elements of the pattern can include:
      – the person is a guy (not always, but usually)
      – it’s a task that’s seen as “properly” belonging to lower-status workers, especially women
      – they usually try to get someone else to do it, who they see as lower status, even if the person is not lower status
      – once they’ve gotten someone else to do it, they will never ever be able to do it themselves
      – they make a bigger deal of not being able to do the task than seems reasonable, or they make an oversized joke about it that isn’t funny

      Someone in your situation is really unlikely to fit this pattern, although I certainly understand why you’re worried that it might happen. Everyone has off days; off days make it harder to do everything, not just the specific task that That One Guy never does and always tries to get someone else to do.

      At least for me, a big part of the resentment isn’t the task itself, which is often minor, even petty; it’s the arrogance of the person who’s playing incompetent, and the fact that they’re willing to put so much effort into the system of performative lying — more time and effort than the task itself would require. This is not what you do, and it’s not who you are, and people can tell the difference. You’re ok!

      (Full disclosure: I had an ex who was bad at everything that he didn’t want to do, across most areas of basic adulthood. He taught his son to be just like him.)

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, the arrogance and time investment in NOT doing a simple task: that is the exact thing that infuriates me! You aren’t too good to learn to make coffee or change toner or do inventory, and I AM too good to be subject to your Rube Goldberg-ian workarounds that you clearly have all the time and energy in the world to build!

    12. ADHD Partner*

      I was just thinking about my partner’s ADHD while reading this thread. He does well at work (tech support) even without his meds (he went off because of the shortage) and tries to do a lot at home, but the last step or two of something is never finished and he just doesn’t remember it. If he sees me doing it, he gets frustrated with himself because he didn’t mean to not finish. For example, he’ll take out the trash and forget to put a bag in or feed the cats and leave the cat food cans on the counter and not refill their dry food because he gets distracted by their water fountain, etc. It’s not weaponized incompetence – it’s just his brain moving onto a different thing before finishing up. I don’t mind finishing the last parts of tasks. It’s not on purpose so it’s not the same thing, though I know he sometimes feels insecure that I see it that way (I assure him I don’t and I appreciate all that he does to help out). I know what helps him at work is alarms on his phone, documenting the steps of each task so he has a reference and can make sure he finishes all of the tasks at hand, and taking notes to make sure he doesn’t forget what step he’s on with the person he’s tech supporting. He can’t do the same with every chore we have so I know why there’s a difference in his work performance and home performance.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Why can’t he do the same with every chore? I’m genuinely asking because this is how I manage my symptoms and I don’t have anyone to come behind me and help me finish if I forget. Checklists help a ton (when I use them!) and I bought a laminating machine for like $50 that lets me make them all nice and neat looking. The only reason I suggest trying it, even for some chores if not all, is because he’s feeling a certain type of way about not remembering all the steps. If it would help him feel more secure and happy about his contributions to the household, just try it! Even for just a few of the bigger tasks he takes on, it could just help him feel more accomplished. And if putting signs up around the house feels like too much/too embarrassing, a binder in each room could work too. Just don’t forget to put putting the binder away as the last step lol.

      2. Premium Hot Towel Warmer Replacement Bulb*

        I don’t have diagnosed ADHD but I not infrequently forget some follow-up step. Like putting all the hand towels in the wash but forgetting to put up new hand towels. It drives my wife nuts, but why can’t she just put up a new hand towel herself? It would take less time and be more effective than finding me and snapping at me about it. :(
        Similarly if I accidentally leave a light on, just turn it off. None of the thousand previous reminders have trained me not to do that, one more isn’t going to be the tipping point. I put LED bulbs in practically all our fixtures, they can be left on for like 4 hours at the cost of a penny.

        1. Amanda*

          With the hand towels, she’s likely discovering that you forgot to put up a towel when she has dripping wet hands which is annoying. She’ll have to walk to the closet or dryer and grab a new towel with wet hands, then back to the washroom. Or wipe her hands on her pants until you remember to put a towel back. If you know this is a pattern and want to break it, I bet you can learn to remember it. Her snapping at you clearly isn’t working, but if you want to do a small kindness for your wife I think you could learn this if you really try.

        2. Observer*

          . It drives my wife nuts, but why can’t she just put up a new hand towel herself? It would take less time and be more effective than finding me and snapping at me about it. :(

          I think that if you flip the question, you can see the answer. Like “I know that it drives him nuts when I come after him, but why can’t he just put up a new towel instead of causing me to have to deal with stuff with wet hands?”

          And to be honest, the question makes me wonder if you *forget* or if you “forget” because “well she can just as easily put the new towels in when she sees it”. I’ll take your word for it that you are actually forgetting, but it’s surely a thought that has occurred to your wife. *Especially* if you say this to her. Or if you have ever boasted about how much house work you do. Because what you are describing sounds like a lot of deliberate strategic incompetence.

          1. Premium Hot Towel Warmer Replacement Bulb*

            Strategic incompetence would be if I were deliberately trying to get out of laundry duty with this tactic. I am not and it does not.

    13. Becca*

      I know this is not what you asked for but my sister and I recently discovered you can freeze peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and it’s been lifechanging for both of our families.

    14. Jaybeetee*

      As someone who has ADHD, has been on the receiving end of weaponized incompetence, and, if I’m brutally honest, has probably weaponized incompetence myself at times – the people close to you can tell the difference between executive dysfunction and weaponized incompetence.

      WI tends to be more targeted to specific tasks, there tends to be a resistance to learning how to do the task better (or at all), and they tend to be tasks that reasonably, most people can learn how to competently do, but aren’t particularly pleasant. For example, making coffee or doing the dishes. Anyone can screw up sometimes, but the difference is between “I know how to make coffee, today I got distracted and screwed X up” vs “Coffee-making is a mystifying skill that I have never mastered, so you must be the one to do it.”

      I have an ex who had executive dysfunction issues, but also tended to do the weaponized incompetence thing with household chores. Executive dysfunction tends to impact nearly everything, including things you want to do or have no problem doing. WI tends to be an oddly specific inability to figure out how to clean a bathroom no matter how many times someone holds your hand through it.

    15. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

      Oh my gosh, this sounds exactly like you’re describing me (I also have ADHD).

      Riddle me this: when you have executive dysfunction, what even *is* the difference between things you don’t feel like doing and things you’re unable to do because of a mental health condition?

      1. Admin of Sys*

        People w/out executive function issues still don’t want to clean the house, they just want the house to be clean and that triggers cleaning the house. Sure, some folks enjoy doing the dishes or whatever, but afaict the vast majority of people without DAVE riding them do things the don’t want to all the time. The issue is where the ‘I don’t like doing the thing’ and ‘I am unhappy with the state of things’ intersects.
        In someone without issues, when they get to ‘I am unhappy with the state of things’, then unless they absolutely detest doing the thing, it gets done anyway. Trash is full, we like having space to throw out trash, so trash gets emptied. You don’t enjoy taking out the trash, you just do it because it needs done to achieve not-having-trash-around. And if you abjectly hate touching trash, you find ways to get around that – it becomes the partner’s job, you get a compactor, you wear gloves, whatever.
        But if DAVE is around, it ends up being ‘I want trash to be emptied. Trash is not emptied. I must not want trash to be empty enough to do it. If I eventually /really want/ the trash to be emptied, I will empty it, but since I am currently not emptying the trash, I must not want it enough. And then the trash stays around until it gets so overwhelming you empty it because the other option is actually horrific.

  22. Lainey L. L-C*

    Let’s see:

    1. We had a copier that another department would also use. The amount of people (male and female) who didn’t understand how it worked was astounding. “It says it’s out of paper, what do I do?” “It says there’s a paper jam, what do I do?” “It says it’s out of toner what does that mean?” And, if no one would do it for them, they had no qualms about walking off and leaving the problem for the next person who needed to use it to deal with. I unfortunately sat right next to the copier so guess who was constantly asked and/or had to fix it?

    2. I had a male co-worker who couldn’t understand how to print documents. No matter how many times people showed him.

    3. Another male co-worker would basically refuse to do his job! He had an advanced degree (supposedly?) in the field he was in. But when it came time for him to groom the llamas, he would claim the llamas he was assigned couldn’t be found, so he didn’t groom them. This went on for years until he was assigned a new boss and several noticeable llamas that he was assigned were not groomed. He tried to claim that he couldn’t find them at the time and the llama’s owners claimed no, he never picked up the llamas from them. He got reassigned to alpaca grooming, which was less intense, but made a million mistakes that he somehow also blamed on the alpaca owners. How he still has a job is beyond me.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      2. I had a male co-worker who couldn’t understand how to print documents. No matter how many times people showed him.

      At my last job, we let a coworker go, and I got to clean out her desk. She had a sheet labeled “How to print” tacked up on her bulletin board, and it was literally “Microsoft Word > File menu > Print” and “Adobe > File menu > Print” for all of the different software packages we used (there were about eight of them, in total).

      I kind of wish I had kept that sheet.

      1. Lainey L. L-C*

        I wish he had made those notes. He would just get mad that no one would “help” him because we all got tired of explaining it over and over again and would just ignore him.

        1. JB*

          How is Ctrl+P difficult to remember? That’s why those shortcuts are so ubiquitous, they’re intuitive to learn, retain and use.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Even if you have a memory problem and can’t remember, you honestly don’t need to. It would be very difficult to find an office where the computers assigned to the office worker is not connected to the internet. I forget how to do things in Foxit (we don’t use Adobe) all. the. time. I Google them. The answers for basic questions like that are not hard to find!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I mean, that’s what I’d do, no lie. I can’t retain tech info unless I use it all day, every day until it’s automatic.

  23. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

    Shoutout to everyone who like me learned the concept of weaponized incompetence as a kid from the Calvin and Hobbes strip where he shovels the snow in little discrete holes instead of one long path. “If you do something badly enough, he won’t be asked to do it again.”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Calvin obviously did not have my parents. Trying this would get us an extra-uncomfortable intensive training session. One of my brothers attempted to be bad at mowing the lawn and my mother made sure we had the best-looking lawn in the neighborhood all summer long, including edging and hand-trimming around the trees and fenceposts. Brother quickly learned that it was faster and easier to do it right the first time.

      1. UnicornUnicorn*

        Lawn mowing was the *one* chore I got out of by using weaponized incompetence. My dad was incredibly anal about the yard, and I really, really, REALLY did not want to mow it, so I did a really bad job and he got so frustrated that he just did it himself and didn’t ask me again.

        It didn’t work for dusting or doing dishes or cleaning my room, but for some reason, screwing up the yard pushed him over the edge.

        To this day I’ve never mown a lawn. One of the benefits of apartment living.

      2. AceInPlainSight*

        Lawnmowing- it wasn’t weaponized incompetence, it was just plain incompetence/ bad luck. The first time I mowed the lawn as a teenager, I threw up a piece of gravel and broke a basement window. Never had to do it again (and now I live in an apartment)

  24. Exhausted Electricity*

    “I was never trained on this software!!! And now all my work keeps autodeleting!!!”

    I sat and trained this man for 24 business hours in how this software worked. I wrote painstakingly detailed process documents. I screen-recorded videos of how to design projects, complete with subtitles!
    And I thought it was my fault that he didn’t know what I was trying to teach him until the interns came, watched 1 video, had 1 tiny question here or there, and sure they crashed the software once or twice, it happens. But they never had to start over “from scratch” because “the program deleted everything”…

    Turns out he was sitting at home doing literally nothing, or talking to people in other departments, and he’d figured out if he waited just long enough that I’d get assigned to do his work because I could finish his projects in less than a business day.

    1. Exhausted Electricity*

      he ended up calling me “condescending” for explaining that the client wanted us to use spout Y for the teapot and not spout A because…he’d asked me if I “was sure, and why do we want to use that one” (client preference written in the scope???)
      like, buddy boy, you asked, and I ended up needing to have our manager sit in the last remedial training I ran for him about the software to prove I was running it properly so THAT was fun.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > Turns out he was sitting at home doing literally nothing

      This didn’t surprise me at all, perhaps I’ve been around too many of this type of person but I knew as soon as “all his work was autodeleted” that the work had never existed. Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to just do it – although maybe not if he’s wfh so could just watch Netflix or whatever.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      “I was never trained on this software!!! And now all my work keeps autodeleting!!!”

      “Hmmm. Have you tried SAVING IT??”

  25. Anita Burner*

    While not exactly weaponized incompetence, I have fought against cultural norms of women being the note takers in meetings. I am a woman in a technical field and I refuse to do any admin related tasks. When I was new the team I joined assigned me to keep the meeting notes – fine, as the FNG, that role fell to me. However, the very second a new person (a man) joined our team, I made it a huge point to publicly, at the start of a meeting “bestow” upon him the duty of capturing meetings notes “as that job falls to the person newest to the group.” Even when the notes weren’t great and sent out late, I stood firm and did not take the task back over.

    I’ve also allowed incredibly long moments of awkward silence to linger when the team assumed that I would be taking on a task that was previously “mine” given my previous place in the org chart. To the extent that when I finally spoke up (literally a full two minutes later) and stated that “I [would] not be doing X, but am here if anyone has questions, as it’s time someone else learn X so that we aren’t setting up a single point of failure” a team member actually said “Oh, I was hoping that you would do it like the last few times this came up.” Once again, I had to remind myself that if I took over when things went sideways that I was only reinforcing that incompetence or laziness was a valid excuse to get out of a task.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Yes to this!

      My department head understands fully that though I take notes in meetings (its a quirk of ADHD in my case – I write it down, I recall it), those notes are for MY use and benefit, and unless I’m asked ahead of time in the rotation of note-takers, they will NOT be shared.

      In fairness, I keep notes when assigned, as it is rotating. But those notes and the ones I otherwise take look very, very, very different.

      1. lissajous*

        Had this one the other day!
        “Ooh you’re taking notes!”
        “I’m taking notes for me, yes. Minutes are a very different thing.”
        Why yes, I am a woman in a very male dominated field. (Credit to the companies I’ve worked at though – when I’ve taken minutes it’s been because I’m in the role most suited to it. And when it should been one of the guys, they’ve done it without prompting.)

        (I always take notes, because otherwise I don’t remember things. Usually I don’t have to refer back to them much, because writing them helps lock it in the memory.
        Typing doesn’t have the same effect at all.)

    2. Tau*

      I’ve really struggled with this because I always want to be helpful – but I’ve heard enough horror stories that it’s one of my guiding rules at work to never volunteer to take notes. I sometimes pretty much sit on my hands as the silence stretches.

      At one point, it was only me and men on the team, and we had a weekly meeting where for some reason one of the guys had been roped into being the note-taker. He hated it and frequently complained about the unfairness; I’d urge him to just set up a rota, and occasionally mentioned in the meetings that we probably should, but nobody ever did anything and I was not willing to either volunteer in order to give him a break or to organise the note-taking rotation because I was too worried sexism would kick in and I’d be saddled with the job.

      …telling this story again, I find myself wondering whether he was complaining to everyone or just me. I can’t actually remember.

    3. Analog Mayhem*

      Good for you for standing up for yourself! Taking notes is part of my job, so I do it. I flat-out need them to do my work. People hate note-taking, but you wouldn’t believe how often team members (men and women) ask me for my notes regarding what decisions were made on certain tasks. When a project is in trouble, everyone loves the notes, but few people will lift a finger to take them.

    4. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

      Same here! I very publicly in a staff meeting asked why women always ended up volunteering to take notes and why didn’t a man do it this time? The awkward pause after that comment sticks with me, 12 years later.

  26. MicrowavePopcorn*

    We are 100% remote and using an AI notetaker on Zoom has eliminated the need to ask someone to take notes. (It is also a HUGE time saver)

    I don’t know if this is weaponized incompetence, but it is my all time favorite story from my last company.

    I walked into the breakroom and made eye contact with a Distinguished Engineer standing in front of the microwave looking confused.
    I asked “Is everything ok?”
    He said “I am trying to figure out how to make popcorn.”
    Me “…”
    Him “…”
    Me “there is literally a button that says popcorn.” I reached over and pressed it. Magically the microwave started up and his popcorn was popped.

    1. Firestar*

      Oh I think you told this before, right? It became the go-to phrase for something obvious in the office that someone could not seem to grasp right?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        My dad’s phrase “Yes, Wallace” came from a similar officemate who was nepo-promoted and had no idea what he was doing: his only strategy was to wait until somebody started to do a task, and then tell them to do the task. That they were in the process of doing. “Yes, Wallace” was the standard answer to this.

    2. Expelliarmus*

      I feel like I can remember being told that the buttons on the microwave intended for various foods are notoriously unreliable and not to use them at all. Interesting to see it worked here haha

      1. Orsoneko*

        Yeah, I’ve pretty sure I have used the popcorn button without catastrophic results, but every package of microwave popcorn I’ve encountered (and I eat a lot of it) has a line in the instructions warning you not to use the button.

        But those instructions tend to be painstakingly detailed, so that probably wasn’t the thing that was tripping this guy up.

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          In my experience, the popcorn button is the ONLY specialized button on a microwave that actually works well!

        2. ferrina*

          Me too! Most microwaves I’ve met burn the popcorn when I press the Popcorn button. I’ve met a couple that do an okay job, but honestly just punching in the desired time seems to work best (the magic time is usually 3:20)

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      In fairness to him, strange microwaves can sometimes be hell. I still have absolutely no idea how I or anyone else worked the microwaves on my college campus, since they didn’t have the standard keypad layout and had some sort of weird programmable button setup that varied wildly from microwave to microwave. I think we all made our food based on trial and error in there.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        One of the microwaves in our break area is old and mysterious. We all now know that you press 8, and it’ll run for 2′, and do an OK job of heating your food (I prefer to wait for one that makes sense, because I like my food at the temperature of molten lava, but that’s neither here nor there).

  27. Marna Nightingale*

    On a cheerful note, I have on multiple occasions dealt with customer service reps and bureaucrats who professed themselves absolutely unable to understand the unwritten rule about not proactively pointing out to clients the small print that said the client could in fact have what they needed.

    That is my absolute favourite kind of strategic incompetence.

    1. Firestar*

      I feel this is more weaponized “ignorance” of unethical practices and making sure they know their now legally agreed to rights.

      But yes, the best kind.

  28. Yeah, I play that game*

    As a middle-aged woman in engineering, I’m utterly baffled by the coffee machine and dishwasher. I only make coffee when I’m the first person in the office, and I make it 1.5x strength. No one has noticed that there’s fresh coffee when I’m the first person in, but I’m helpless to make it through the day. I’m also ruthless about sending people to the admins to solve their problems rather than trying to be helpful.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      My favorite go-to when someone attempts to foist administrative work on me because I’m the only woman in sight:

      “I’m a very expensive administrative assistant and I can’t type worth a darn. I’m also on a deadline because that’s just what my department DOES, deadlines. You should really take it to our actual Administrative Assistant because I simply cannot.”

      I’m not telling lies, either.

    2. Voodoo Priestess*

      We are kindred spirits. At my last job, when I was asked to be on party-planning or decorating committees, I would always reply with “I have too much on my plate but you should ask [male co-workes].” They always assumed the women would do it and rarely even asked the men. Nope. Not it.

  29. Quinalla*

    Yes I’ve definitely used it for good as a woman in a male-dominated workplace on making coffee. I don’t drink coffee and while I understand how a coffee maker works, I am not great at making coffee. If I am ever asked to make coffee (doesn’t happen anymore since I WFH!) I would just say, oh I don’t drink coffee, you don’t want me to make it, I might put in too much/too little grounds or use more than one filter or something. Which is true, but if I wanted to, I’m sure I could figure out how to make reasonable coffee. But I’m never going to as (1) I don’t drink coffee and (2) It is not my job to make coffee just because I am a woman in the office.

    I have definitely seen used many times by people to get out of crappy work. “I’m not good at taking notes/minutes.” Is so annoying to me! or “I’m not sure how to set up a meeting invite in outlook, can you just do it?” or “Oh, I don’t know how to change the paper/toner/clear a paper jam.” I just always offer to walk them through it so they’ll know how cause I see right through that BS!

    1. I Have RBF*

      Some of us actually are crappy at taking notes/minutes. My notes are useless as meeting minutes, because I only jot down my key takeaways, otherwise I miss most of the meeting by trying to write it all down. There is nothing that can train my ADHD brain to do it better.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I am responsible for our intranet page. Some of those comments would get people a link to where they can learn more. I am very helpful like that.

    3. Ann*

      Same. I feel like the office coffee is way too strong, but no one else complains, so I assume they just all like their coffee ten times stronger than I would make it. I really don’t want to mess it up and cause the entire department to be an undercaffeinated tired mess. Even if I come in early, I’d rather wait a bit and let the admin who always does it handle this job.

  30. Mrs Morley*

    As a young woman (early 1980s) I claimed I was unable to type (I learned to touch type age 12 and typed roughly 70 wpm) to avoid admin tasks. I was a software developer. I clearly could type.

    1. Delta Delta*

      David Mamet’s spectacular movie “State and Main” has a scene where a writer can’t type due to an injury and asks another character to type for him. She looks him straight in the eye and says, “never admit you can type.” I think about this a lot.

      Also, go watch that movie. It’s an absolute masterpiece. (if you’re into David Mamet’s style, and I am, so take it with a grain of salt)

  31. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    This is from way in my youth, but here goes: in high school, I ended up on my home country’s equivalent of the student council and, once on it, was put in charge of all things art – signs, posters, decorations etc around the school. Which in practice ended up being 10% me overseeing somebody else making art and 90% me making ALL THE ART. Tried to leave after a year, but was told I had to stay on and keep making the art, which I did till I graduated.

    Mentioned it to a few people when I started college and spent most of my five years there being on a team of 2-3 people responsible for making ALL THE ART in the dorm building. Signs, posters, etc. We are talking a tower 14 floors tall with 16 suites and several common areas on each floor. It got exhausting fast.

    Started my first job out of college, in an IT department of a large manufacturing plant, and not even two weeks into the job, I had two young women approach me saying that they were on the (forgot the name of it… something employee-engagement-like?) committee and did I know how to draw? DID I KNOW HOW TO DRAW? I smiled and said Nope! and that was the end of my poster-making career. I’ve done some of it in my later years, but for myself (made a sign for a protest I was attending, painted the large rocks embedded in the curb strip next to my house etc) but never was anyone able to rope me into doing it for a job or similar on a volunteer basis ever again.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Husband is an accomplished artist and you can bet he keeps that realllll quiet when stuff like this comes up.

  32. Fire Drill Daryl*

    I worked in a hospital registration department back when I was in college. It’s very fast-paced and sometimes you’re coordinating life flight helicopter landings and incoming casualty ambulances at the same time. Even for a small college town it was an intense job. “Daryl” worked there for about a decade by the time I was there. His mom was some high-up’s executive assistant so he couldn’t be fired. One phone line was dedicated for incoming casualties to the ER and it would literally blare an alarm, flash red, and light up the whole office. ER coordination was an in-depth task that took about 1/2 hour and required a lot of focus. It wasn’t bad and it made the day go faster. One day he just sat there while it was ringing and then walked away. When we asked him why he did that he replied “oh, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a fire drill so I left and went home.”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Aside from the weirdness of his excuse, who the heck leaves and goes home whenever there’s a fire drill at work? You go outside and wait in your team’s designated space until you’re all allowed back in. If you notice that you are the only one walking outside or waiting in the designated spot, you realize there isn’t, in fact, a fire drill happening, and go back in.

    2. Protoa (formerly known as Firestar)*

      Well, time to have a “real” fire drill, where he is the only one who does not know it’s not a real drill, and have everyone else do the standard fire drill stuff, and if he does them too, fire him, as he could have gotten someone killed, and then lied, badly, or if he heads home, fire him for being an idiot and ignorant of fire evac procs.

      You wanna lie about fire drills Daryl? Well, put your money where you mouth is and get out for endangering someone.

  33. Midwest_Mower*

    Haha it wasn’t at work, but when my husband had back surgery last summer he got extremely twitchy about the grass getting long, so he wanted me to mow with his newer (to us) ZTR – which handled NOTHING like the riding mowers I was used to mowing on. After I ran it into a fence, the birdfeeder, and dropped half of it into the ditch, I was “banned” from using the ZTR. I love telling that story to my friends and reminding them that weaponized incompetence at household duties is not just for men ;)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have my husband convinced I don’t know how to clean the kitchen floor and he’s just so good at it (and every time I compliment him on how well he does it and comment that I don’t know how he does it, I feel generations of women before me beaming down upon me).

      1. Midwest_Mower*

        *slow clap*
        I will say we’re pretty good about splitting chores generally and both pulling our weight around the house/property, but I used to spend HOURS mowing on those riding mowers and he can get the entire place done on the ZTR in under and hour and I did NOT want to get roped into that again… lol.

        Also I just wanted to say I was having a rough morning (unexpected traffic on my commute, schedule packed full of meetings, forgot my lunch at home, etc etc) and the fact that you replied to my comment just made my whole week!

      2. She of Many Hats*

        Mine is NOT turning clean laundry right side out when folding it. If you can’t do it when you dump stuff into the hamper, you can do it when you’re dressing in a hurry…..

        1. I Have RBF*

          I always turn my printed t-shirts inside out when I put them in the wash. It helps the art last longer by not getting ground around in the wash.

        2. Stormfly*

          You are actually supposed to turn most things inside out when you wash them. It increased the life of the clothes, as the pilling and friction damage occurs on the inside of the clothes where no-one can see it. And it’s pretty essential for anything with prints.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        My husband is convinced that he cannot operate the thermostat. I have fostered this belief, because as long as he is not playing around with it, I can set it at a temperature that suits me. I forgot to adjust it before leaving on a trip, and I got so many texts about the temperature while I was gone.

        I have taken to setting a couple degrees lower than I used to during the winter. Now everyone HAS to wear the sweaters and cardigans I am knitting them!

        No regrets!

      4. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I have a brother in law whose mother convinced him at a very young age that he was the very best at vacuuming. No one else could do it quite like him. My sister is very happy to reap the rewards of that early training.

      5. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        My Hubs is a rock star when it comes to laundry. I refuse to iron anything, so he does that as well.

    2. DataGirl*

      lol, I refused to learn how to use the riding mower for 10 years, even paying other people to mow the lawn if my husband was not available. Now I’m divorced so I had to learn how to use it, sadly.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      When my father couldn’t mow anymore and my mother “beheaded” a shutoff valve on their water line while mowing, my parents hired a mowing service. Best money they’ve ever spent.

    4. Bibliovore*

      OMG. I just realized when my husband proudly showed me the bathroom he cleaned, it was strategic incompetence. He did not remove ANY of the stuff on the countertop, just wiped around, did not sweep or wash the floor. I said, how about I just do this from now on.

      1. ferrina*

        My ex did this for EVERY household chore. At one point he “cleaned” our laundry room. By which he meant, he took the piles of dirty laundry off the floor and put them on top of the piles of clean laundry. But hey, the floor was clean, and why wasn’t I proud of him?

        I don’t mind being the sole owner of certain chores. But he tried to weaponize his incompetence for literally every household chore. There was only one household thing that he wanted to do, and he was actually not very good at that thing. He refused to de-weaponize his incompetence (even when I was literally in tears about the amount of chores I was doing), and that’s a big part of why he’s now my ex.

    5. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      I take full advantage of that too! Somehow I just can’t figure out how to fill up the ice cube trays. It’s hard being a girl!

    6. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      I have the opposite take on mowing (albeit with a push mower that I know how to use quite well). Are you telling me that I get to put in my headphones and get a little exercise, AND no one asks me for anything for 90 minutes or so? Why on earth would I give that up?

      1. Roe Jo*

        As a mom of 3 boys this is literally the only time my kids will leave me ALONE. You can mow the grass when I am dead.

  34. PaperclipsPlease*

    I work in higher ed. We had some new hires in a team adjacent to mine that would always be making mistakes. Because my team was more competent and that team’s supervisor was always unavailable, we would be tasked with fixing their mistakes. Luckily, we’ve been moving to a new system. As we moved to the new system, I just say “sorry, I don’t know how to do that in NewSystem. You’ll have to ask your supervisor.”

    I did know how to do it, but it isn’t my job to know that area’s procedures. So I just pretend like I don’t know what’s going on to avoid having to do their work for no extra pay.

  35. Sloanicota*

    The times I’ve deployed it are all around defending boundaries in my pushy nonprofit, usually around things they’d like me to do on my personal phone without offering me any money. I already use my own devices for most of work, and being “unable” to get certain apps to work – either not downloading them or claiming I don’t seem to be able to work them – gets me out of more boundary-pushing (requests lately include, downloading our office’s banking app on my phone – which would now leave me as the only person who can handle checks outside of office hours (I am in communications, not finance) or being unable to take zoom meetings from my car while driving to other meetings (oh darn) or not being reachable via slack outside of hours for minutae. It’s so unfortunate that I have this crappy old phone that just doesn’t work well!!

    1. Random Bystander*

      I’m not sure if it’s weaponized incompetence or just my stubbornness, but I refuse to get a smart phone (I do have a stupid cell phone that I will use when traveling or if I need to text my son who lives across the street–he does his laundry at my house and buys all the laundry supplies, so I’ll text him when one or the other machine is done so he can move his laundry). So I really can’t load any apps on it, because it’s just not capable. I did have to break down and add one app to my ipod, but that’s for 2-factor authentication, and darn if the memory isn’t too full to add anything else (I have a lot of music from when you could still buy individual songs/albums).

    2. Wolf*

      My work phone lives in my backpack after work, so I tend to have a few “oops, didn’t hear the call” moments with coworkers who always call about non-urgent, non-important details.

  36. Whoa is me*

    I have a coworker that refuses to train new staff. She is gunning for the next open manager position. While she is capable of training (ie. doing the job) she absolutely does not want that responsibility and gets frustrated with others’ “incompetence”. I completely understand because it makes work days longer and can get in the way of doing other duties that would make her stand out more as a potential management candidate. However, the ability to train others to a satisfactory state plus having good communication to relay information and build a relationship with the other staff is critical to a leadership role.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think she quite knows what qualities are desirable (in most companies, anyway…) for a manager, so is optimising for the wrong thing.

  37. BellyButton*

    In the 20+ years I have been working professionally, I have seen so much. I can’t even land on one to share.

    From another prospective, I work for a relatively young company, less than 10 yrs old. Most of the employees who are not execs are young Millennials and Gen Z, and I have not once witnessed any of the men asking the women to do those sorts of “housekeeping” items or refusing to learn certain systems or tasks. I have so much hope for our future as Millennials and Gen Zs become leaders.

    Gen Xer

    1. Yeah, I play that game*

      Lucky you. I’m a gen-X woman in a startuup engineering company, and have absolutely seen helpless millenial, gen-Z males.

      1. BellyButton*

        I do think it is often industry specific. When I worked with a lot of engineers and software developers (all ages) I found that they just didn’t care about those things, so didn’t want to do them. They just wanted to do engineering and developing and had no interest in things like handling performance reviews for their direct reports or filling out expense forms.

        1. ferrina*

          Simple solution- don’t fill out your expense form, don’t get reimbursement.

          The performance review solution is to have someone follow up with them until it’s done. Preferably doing the follow-ups in person. Very gregariously. It actually works on a large swath of the population (in an unrelated note, my company has 100% compliance in performance reviews)

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Nobody wants to fill out expense reports. It’s just how much more they want reimbursement that affects whether it gets done.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ve found that the Gen-Z males I’m encountering now are like actually helpless and don’t know how to do basic things – but will learn, and be very proud they learned, and then do it in front of me for awhile waiting for a gold star until it becomes rote.

        At least we get there eventually.

  38. Golden Retriever*

    One of our office’s admin assistants does this to an infuriating extent… I often ask her to help with printing/copying, simple tasks that are a part of her job description. She says she’ll do it, and then when I check in with her hours later, claims that the printer is giving her trouble. Then I take a stab at it and can handle the problem within 20 minutes if not less. It’s incredibly frustrating because we have different roles, and I ask her to help because my plate is full with other tasks. It’s not like it takes me AGES to print/copy things, but it definitely helps to not have to worry about that…. only, I DO have to worry about it because our admin assistant who’s been here for two years still takes hours to print a few envelopes.

  39. Delta Delta*

    I’m an attorney. My jurisdiction recently switched to a new electronic case management and filing system. People hate it, but we’re stuck with it and it is what it is. I am also very involved with our state bar with various groups working with the court working to fix issues within the system.

    I had another attorney (younger, male) tell me he had no idea how to use the new system and wasn’t going to bother to learn because his secretary would do it for him. This person was my attorney. Representing me in a case. I was 100% the wrong person to tell he was going to refuse to learn how to do this.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Paralegal here. My state started the transition pre-Covid, starting with the smaller counties. Covid put it on hold, but now there is just one county left not doing it. We hated it at first, and we got a lot of filings returned for ticky-tacky reasons, but once we got the hang of it, it really is easier. When we work in that one remaining county, putting paper in envelopes seems clunky and faintly ridiculous. And say what you will about efiling, You don’t have to worry about how close you are to the statute and perhaps you need to pay a courier.

      While your colleague really should learn the system, since his secretary might be out sick some day when there is an important filing, back in the day it would be the secretary who printed the documents, pestered him to sign them, made the file copies, and put the originals in the mail. Handling the efile system is just the modern version of this.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yikes. In the last several years in my U.S. jurisdiction, they’ve added the idea of competence with technology to our professional competence rules. So, like, you’re expected to be responsive to e-mail, and you’re expected to know your way around software well enough to do things like properly redact minors’ names and other information as necessary from electronic filings. And we have the usual rule where the buck stops with the lawyer, not their staff.

      In my jurisdiction, then, your pal’s attitude would be all fun and games until he tried to blame his secretary for some error. “Your Honor, it was my secretary who didn’t change the filename from ‘In Re Guardianship of ChildName McLastName Version 3 FINAL_for_ECF’ to ‘In Re Guardianship of C.M.’ before filing,” or, “We would have filed before the statute of limitations ran, but my secretary didn’t upload the document on time,” isn’t something our courts would buy.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Speaking as legal support staff, I waver between taking the blame being part of the job and being royally pissed by it. Either way, there are only a few legal deadlines that are absolute, most notably the statute of limitations. I’m not even sure a judge *can* accept the excuse in that instance, as it is a matter of whether the court has jurisdiction. For all the other deadlines, ask nice, saying “pretty please,” and you will get an extension unless you have thoroughly pissed off the judge (perhaps years earlier on another case entirely).

    3. Watry*

      Ugh, this is probably the one of the few benefits to a strongly hierarchical environment. We’re going to be rolling out an updated system soon (and probably a new one at some point) and if someone tries that with me, going to their supervisor will fix it PDQ.

  40. LB33*

    Years ago I had a summer job as a bank teller. One of the other tellers was very sweet but also a born again Christian who would ask me to go to bible studies, etc..

    I did kind of like her however and was curious why someone would do this in an office, so I pretended not to understand certain things with the system so she’d have to train me. I learned a lot in different ways!

  41. K*

    I have a colleague who will proudly announce to everybody that he doesn’t know how to use Teams.

    All of us are forced to endure conference calls on landlines with him because he just won’t learn how and will tell anyone who will listen (a dwindling group) how useless he thinks this tool that he doesn’t know how to use is.

    We’ve even offered to give him a tutorial on how, but no. He’s entirely proud of it.

    I do not understand how a grown man in a managerial role in a professional sector can be so loud and proud about not knowing how to use a basic piece of technology.

    Imagine saying “I don’t know how to use MS Word and I’m not gonna learn how!”

    1. Sloanicota*

      Oh man my boss did this to us with Google Meet. Our whole organization is set up around Google Suite, but she just “couldn’t get google meet to work” so we have to manually enter zoom info into every meeting now instead. I’m pretty sure she could get Google Meet to work if she really wanted to.

      1. BellyButton*

        It is literally no different thank clicking on a Zoom link! You open the invite and click on the link. WTF.

    2. BellyButton*

      OMG. Why hasn’t his boss called him out on it??? I will never get why people are proud to refuse to learn or use new technology. It only makes them look like a dinosaur as$ and inconveniences everyone.

      1. ferrina*

        Right?! It’s a pain to everyone around them, and obviously they can’t do this to people above them. I look forward to watching these people realize how AI is changing the business game.

    3. Nea*

      Imagine saying “I don’t know how to use MS Word and I’m not gonna learn how!”

      I actually worked with this dude. Twice! AND HE WAS A TECH WRITER!

      He loved Interleaf. Loved, loved, loved Interleaf, wrote a book about Interleaf, was an expert in Interleaf… and literally refused to use any other word processing software. EVER. Anything given to him was imported into Interleaf, edited in Interleaf, and exported out of Interleaf. Period. He literally refused to work on any other software, including MS Word, which he “didn’t know how to use and wasn’t going to learn.”

      It honestly surprised me he got one TW job; I was floored when I was hired into a different company a few years later and there he was, still refusing to use any other software as a tech writer, although he was literally the only one who knew or used Interleaf. (The boss there was starry-eyed because he’d written a book so she didn’t insist he learn the software the rest of the department used.)

    4. Beth*

      There was a period of at least 15 years when the typical (white, male) executive was more or less computer illiterate. You could sometimes land a gig where you discreetly slipped into the office and trained the CEO on how to read their email.

      It became less and less acceptable to be like that, but I’m sure there are still a few aging execs who are nearly helpless around computers.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I knew a female CFO of a small company who could NOT competently use Excel. I, an IT person, would have to come and do certain “too complicated” tasks for her. She made easily five times what I did. I’m AFAB. She just looked down on IT as flunkies.

        I don’t do low level Windows support any more. I am a power user in Excel and Word, but no longer know anything about it when it comes to helping others use it.

    5. Jaybeetee*

      … Don’t know how? Okay, I get with things like screen-sharing, etc, it can get a bit weird, but clicking “yes” on a meeting/call is… what could he possibly be stuck on?

    6. Gumby*

      I once worked for a tech startup that was acquired (sort of but for our purposes this works) by a larger company. Our office was several hundred miles from headquarters. Not an issue, they had plenty of satellite offices. But when the new CEO came for a meet and greet, one of the first things he did was proudly announce that he was terrible at the internet. Couldn’t use most websites. Found computers confusing. Etc. Literally every single brand under the parent company was a tech company of some sort. I am not sure what he was going for there, I suspect it was some point about usability and needing to make things simple, but what he actually accomplished was losing the respect of every other person in the room. Sure, fine, maybe you came into this job from a retail-based CEO position. But you aren’t even going to try? Instead you are happy about your incompetence? After almost a decade of leading the parent company? Ugh.

    7. BellaStella*

      Well the missing stair where I work announced at lunch to a table of us including the intern that “He does not do email”. W.T.F.? so yea I believe it.

  42. Kate*

    Are examples at home OK? Even if I try to load the dishwasher perfectly to Himself’s exacting standards, he will “fix it,” so I just put them in any which way to get them off the counter : )

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is the fate of chore tyrants everywhere. I’m not going to try if you are determined to criticize and redo my every effort. I guess you prefer to do it yourself sooo

      1. goducks*

        Right. That’s a different thing than weaponized incompetence. It’s not that a person can’t do a task, it’s that another person cannot cede control of how the task is done, so they win the responsibility for doing it all the time.

    2. londonedit*

      This is my mum. She’ll do it all again to her standards anyway, so you might as well just do it however you like!

      1. CreepyPaper*

        My mother too! She even criticises how I chop onions, apparently I do it ‘wrong’ so when she comes over for meals, she cuts the onion with a good deal of swearing in our native language about how ‘kids these days’ (I’m 43) don’t know how to handle a knife.

      2. workswitholdstuff*

        Hah, my Mum’s exactly the same. I’ll never clean the house to her standards….

    3. Dinwar*

      My grandfather experienced something like that…He criticized the way my grandmother vacuumed once. She let go of the vacuum, said “If you know better than me, you do it”, and walked out of the room. Grandpa was responsible for that vacuum from that day forward. I honestly believe she never so much as touched the vacuum in that house again–if it needed moved for some reason she’d have one of us boys move it.

    4. Little Bunny Foo Foo*

      He should be happy you’re putting them in there at all! When I got married I had this exact converstaion with my mother about how my husband didnt know how to load the dishwasher. The exact words out of her mouth were, “Hes doing the dishes, isnt he? Let him do them however he wants.” Got it Mom!!

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Though your “weaponized incompetence” types can weaponize this idea too. My ex, who somehow tended to turn entirely helpless around most household chores, used to occasionally try to suggest that the issue was that I was *actually* a control freak and he just couldn’t meet my high standards, and I should be grateful he was at least trying!

        Before living with him, I lived with roommates, who uniformly considered me “the messy one”. I’m a long way from being a neat freak. He legitimately was doing chores badly. Eventually I blew up and told him he wasn’t a child and I wasn’t going to pat him on the head for “trying” if the effort was so bad I literally couldn’t tell if he’d Cleaned The Thing or not, and had to redo it myself.

        That issue… never completely got better. But he at least never tried that particular line on me again.

    5. A Girl Named Fred*

      The way my boyfriend loads the dishwasher makes absolutely no sense to me, but I also will never say anything about it because hey, I didn’t have to do it that time, so it’s still a win in my book!

      1. SarahKay*

        At university I shared a flat with another woman; her boyfriend would stay over 2-3 nights each week and she would insist he washed the dishes on at least one of those nights each week. He was dreadful at it; the first time I watched him do it I lasted about three minutes then had to leave the room.
        Specifically, I left the room, found flat-mate, and asked her if she knew he wasn’t very good at it.
        “Yes,” she said, “he’s awful! That’s why I’m in here, because I can’t bear to watch. But I’m damned if I’ll let that stop him from taking his turn.”

      2. Gone*

        I don’t get it. if the dishwasher isn’t loaded properly then the dishes don’t get washed properly (food and gunk now hard-dried on) and then the tidy-upper has to do the hand dishwashing. Where’s the payoff to have the dishwasher not loaded properly?

    6. A frayed knot*

      When we moved into our new house 19 years ago, my husband saw me cleaning the shower and immediately told me I was doing it wrong.

      I have not cleaned the shower since.

      1. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

        This is similar to what my mom has done. My dad is an architect/designer and has remodeled 90% of the house himself. One of the things he did was a design that looks amazing but is a PITA to clean – the shower stall in their bathroom is all glass and they have well water, which means it leaves spots like nobody’s business. He insists you have to squeegee, then dry, then polish (? IDK he wipes it again with a second towel) the glass. My mother always takes the first shower so he can get in right after her and then clean it himself if he’s the one who insisted on this design.

    7. Potato Potato*

      Me, my partner, and her bf all moved into a new house together. All y’all could learn something from her bf- he was a master of strategic incompetence.

      Somehow, the dishwasher would never work for him. And every cabinet was labeled, but oh darn, he just couldn’t remember where anything went. Taking out the trash was complicated too- did you know that putting in a new trash bag was part of that process? He was surprised every time, as were we when we’d throw that first piece of trash into a bare can. Weirdly enough, there wasn’t a single chore that he could manage without somebody stepping in.

      Somehow, he managed to do all these kinds of tasks at work. And that was his excuse, that he worked full time and it took his energy so he shouldn’t be expected to do chores at home.

    8. SarahKay*

      Oh, my mum is like that about the dishwasher too; she is very definite that there is One Best Way to fit everything in. Some of it is obvious so if I’m visiting I’m happy to load plates, mugs and cutlery. Bowls, serving dishes, and glasses I simply stack neatly on the countertop for her to do.
      In fairness, this is exactly how I feel about my drying rack (I dislike dishwashers) so in return for me not mis-loading her dishwasher Mum knows not to wash the dishes for me when she is visiting me.
      In this case, though, we both accept that the price of our One Best Way is that we then have to do the task.

    9. mb*

      I am constantly telling my husband that he can either have me do it my way or not at all. To be fair, he has higher cleanliness standards and I suffer from allergies – so he does virtually all house cleaning and yard work. I cook some meals, do more of the dog care tasks, and the dishes and laundry – I’m also more administrative. I feel it’s a fair trade-off.

    10. Mom2ASD*

      My oldest son tried pulling the “I’m too incompetent to fold laundry” trick. To be fair, he’s got some fine motor issues, and has ZERO ability with spatial recognition. He ended up refolding laundry until he got it to a half-decent state. In the end, I decided that he could keep on folding everyone’s laundry but mine, because he was never going to get any better at it, and I wasn’t going to compromise on my standards. So that’s where we are at, several years later.

      1. EmF*

        I am terrible at folding laundry and have compensated by hanging everything that can’t just be tossed a drawer willy-nilly. T-shirts? They hang. Tank tops? They hang. Hoodies? Hang. Socks? I have twenty identical pairs, which get tossed into The Sock Drawer where I pull them out whenever I actually need to wear socks, which is infrequent.

        It has meant working out storage space so that this is actually practical, but it works beautifully for everything except sheets, which I have just accepted will be clean-but-wrinkly except for The Guest Set.

    11. IrishGirl*

      There is a reason I stay out of the kitchen when my husband cooks. I would tell him how to do things and then I would be stuck doing them. If he used 5 pans to do what would take me 2, fine, he has to clean up it all and I dont let him weaponize it.

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh do NOT get me started–my favorite is the current “it’s okay to run that, it’s full” when the entire bottom has one plate in it, because we’re getting low on bowls.

  43. No one would believe I'm incompetent at anything*

    I currently have an assistant who I technically supervise but who is supposed to support the clergy (I work in a synagogue) who has successfully weaponized incompetence (or is truly, truly incompetent at):
    1. Reading & responding to rabbi’s email
    2. Scheduling appointments for the rabbi
    3. Sending thank-you notes for gifts made in honor of the clergy
    4. Doing anything mail-related

    So, you know, key elements of the job. Rabbi won’t let me fire her because she’s “in her 60s with no real skills, so how is she supposed to find another job?”

    1. iglwif*

      Oh nooooooooooooo.

      We just went through this with the company that had been providing IT support to our synagogue office for many years, and not doing it very well. The (relatively new) ED looked at what we were paying and what we were getting and asked the Board for permission to switch to someone else, we said yes go ahead, and then the owner of the company rage-quit the synagogue.

      Which, fine! If you were only paying your membership dues because we were paying you for substandard tech support, good riddance. Except then he complained to someone else, who complained to me and the ED about how this person’s exit was handled, and we had to explain that yes, he was offered an exit interview, *everyone* is offered an exit interview, etc., etc. Exhausting, and for what?

    2. Tiger Snake*

      I do think there’s value in places like churches and synagogues having social officers, separate to the admins who schedule appointments and handle mail. It’s a shame that the unwillingness to do anything related to item #3 on your list prevents us from shuffling her into a role that she’d probably enjoy more.

      Really just goes to show that, as much as we hate being on the end-side of weaponised incompetence, its ruining things for them as well.

  44. Mitford*

    My husband is a paralegal for a federal government agency and was assigned to a veteran attorney who make weaponized incompetence into an art form. She passed the bar exam and joined the agency at a time when women attorneys were few and far between and minority women attorneys even rarer. Even when computers came and everyone, male and female, began to use them, she resolutely refused to learn how. There was a dusty computer on her desk that was never turned on. As a result, DH had to print out all of her emails and she would dictate her response to them, which he would then dutifully type back to the sender, dutifully copying her on his reply: “Fergusina asked me to let you know….” It got so bad both she and DH were working till 9 or 10 at night every day to keep up with the volume of correspondence or draft her briefs. Where other attorneys in the office shared paralegals, she always had just one to keep up with the volume of dictation. DH was her last paralegal (they rotated it around the office) before she was finally persuaded to enjoy her well-deserved retirement.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      What I’ve heard more than once from the women lawyers who came before me, is that if they were to start typing their own documents, they would be treated as secretaries, not lawyers. They would not be assigned a secretary, either, since clearly “they didn’t need one”. Other commenters here have mentioned the “don’t ever let them know that you know how to type,” and it was very, very real, even into the early 1990s. It could be legit risky for your career to type up your own letters and court filings.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      In working with lawyers for decades, the thing that I never got over was the absolute refusal to become technologically literate at even a basic level (#NotAllLawyersButAWholeLotOfThem). Many were borderline offended when you suggested that they learn anything about the word processing tool (since they write for a living), PDF conversion (since nearly all e-filing systems require PDFs and some courts have weirdly-specific PDF specs), or the e-filing system (you know, where you file the documents with the actual courts). That is, apparently, for the little people and not the Big Thinkers.

      To say nothing of treating e-discovery like it was some sort of ridiculous concept and we were being absurd for not simply print everything out for them. One of our most seasoned e-discovery people finally said to a partner who repeatedly complained about not wanting to learn about it that it was being driven by the clients using electronic resources for their business processes and we needed to keep up with the clients or find clients that only sent paper memos still. And also made him a spreadsheet showing how much it would cost to print and review all of the emails alone in his discovery collection versus processing, deduping and threading it, and putting only the unique emails it into one of the searchable review platform.

  45. Red5*

    This is a little less weaponized incompetence and more weaponized cluelessness, but I think it fits the theme. When I (f) was in my 20s, I had a coworker (m) in his 40s/50s who always tried to pawn off his admin requirements onto me. I was not an admin, and certainly not his admin. Once he left a whole stack of papers on my desk. My cube-neighbor told me that coworker left them for me to file. I picked up the stack of papers, walked them right over to coworker’s desk, and said in the brightest, friendliest, most clueless tone I could muster, “Hey, it looks like you forgot your papers on my desk. Here you go!” Dropped the stack right in front of him, turned around and walked out. Another time he was trying to pawn off his annual inventory requirement – which he had put off until it was well past due – onto me. Dial up maximum clueless/friendliness again, “Oh, I’d love to help! I have this urgent project boss gave me that has to be done right now, but I’ll be done with it in about three weeks and can absolutely help then!” The inventory requirement got pawned off elsewhere.

    1. LucyGoosy*

      Ughhhh when I was in my 20s I had a male coworker in his 40s who was like this. We had exactly the same job and he was VERY salty about it. One of his regular job functions was preparing client contracts for the upcoming week (honestly just mindlessly plugging in people’s information and printing them out–small company in the old days) and he just REFUSED to do it and/or would just drop them on my desk. I had to train myself not to pick up the slack for him, even though I knew it would make the week a disaster because the contracts wouldn’t be ready, so that everyone would finally get how worthless he was. Still took about two years for him to be fired. :(

  46. Voodoo Priestess*

    At my last job, we had a CAD technician who had been with the company for over 40 years who never learned how to use a computer. He started as a hand drafter in the pre-CAD days and when computers were adopted in the late 70s, he just never learned. I didn’t realize he didn’t use a computer until 2017-ish and I was totally baffled. We had a CAD tech who didn’t do CAD. He finally retired in 2019, after 45+ years with the company. He did a lot of shop drawing checking and was part-time for at least the last decade, but still. Amazing.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Is this my Grandpa you’re talking about? He did much the same at his job. Has absolutely no interest in all of this computing nonsense. To this day he cannot comfortably operate any electronic device more complex than the TV.

      1. Dinwar*

        I can see it. Drafting by hand is a real skill. Just sharpening the pencils is a process, and the techniques used are definitely not easy.

        And if he’s using it to check the CAD drawings it can be valuable to the company. It’s an independent verification of the accuracy of the drawings. Given that I’ve seen errors in design drawings shut down projects, and others cost millions, I would HAPPILY pay someone to verify the drawings by hand in some cases. You register a lot more when you physically move your hand compared to what you see on a computer screen. (It’s why you still see a lot of drawings in paleontology publications–photos are more accurate, but drawings help the researchers more.)

    2. WS*

      I have to pass this story on to my dad – he started out as a hand drafter and was extremely happy to move to computers, and is still highly tech-savvy though he’s nearly 80. And he taught me, as a kid, to use AutoCAD! He would never, ever have worked with someone who refused to use CAD.

    3. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

      Sounds like my dad – he knows the basics of CAD but absolutely hates it (though I think some of that is a holdover from when it was new and not as sophisticated as I’m sure it is now and didn’t like non-standard shapes). Luckily for him by the time it was ubiquitous he was senior enough to hire a CAD tech whose job was to digitize his designs.

  47. DataGirl*

    I have historically worked in IT, but in things like web development, database administration, data analysis, etc. I never thought of it as weaponized incompetence but I have made it a point to never learn anything about how to set up/troubleshoot peripheral devices like printers, scanners, etc. I also keep myself as ignorant about wifi/ internet issues as possible, because I do not want to be the person in the office (or at home) that everyone asks for help.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh absolutely.

      I deliberately did not learn anything about the proliferation of video standards and cables that happened from like 1995 to 2010. “Sorry, I have no idea what the different between XGA and DIVX is”

      1. DataGirl*

        HA! Same, that’s another field I have kept myself ignorant of- anything audio/visual. Do not ask me to hook up anything requiring cables, or edit a video, or troubleshoot why you have no sound for your Zoom meeting. It’s not that I couldn’t figure it out if I wanted to /had to, but I do not want to and purposely give that kind of thing zero storage space in my brain.

    2. ferrina*

      I took the opposite approach. I enthusiastically pressed buttons. Sometimes I was lucky, sometimes I was…..not. Most people quickly decided that they would rather solve it on their own than risk my levels of pure destruction. It was amazing how people would suddenly remember how to troubleshoot when I said “I could press some buttons for you”

    3. Wombats and Tequila*

      It is very easy to troubleshoot a printer. It’s a printers, that’s what the problem is.

      Printers have had no major improvements in design for over 20 years. I guess the major companies figure, if no one else does any innovations, they’re all off the hook. No need for any pesky in-house engineers. Buy my printer. It’s a printer. Deal with it, sucker..

    4. FloralWraith*

      I work digital corporate comms, but some of our elderly academics see “website updating” as IT and ask me troubleshooting questions. It also doesn’t help that I am a South Asian male.

      I point blank refuse to any these questions anymore. There are guides! That we have emailed!

  48. Tired*

    Higher ed here. My boss “Floyd” often is incompetent in situations regarding student workers. I do not know whether if is weaponized or genuine.

    For example, we both interview applicants for student work study positions in our department (a desk job where they are available to help with basic directional questions). These interviews are relatively simple and last no longer than 30 minutes. Recently, I was unable to make one of our scheduled student interviews due to a last minute situation (which is rare for me). Instead of interviewing the student on their own, Floyd told me to contact the student applicant and reschedule the interview. I was floored that Floyd was unable to even do a simple interview!

    On a side note, Floyd also has a habit of not keeping his appointments well and then telling me about these appointments last minute. This can also cause me unnecessary stress depending on other factors.

  49. Earlk*

    I’m not sure if this counts as weaponised incompetence or if I’m being harsh. But I really struggle with people who request in-depth training on everything, not just internal processes but simple IT tasks and just won’t figure out how to help themselves. I once had to provide someone with a list of search terms for trouble shooting excel needs.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      This is actually not the same person as the person I wrote about below but I once had to teach someone what Google was and how to use it. She needed to know the make of a certain vehicle our grantees got years ago. I told her to Google it. She stared as if I spoke Greek. This was last year.

    2. BellyButton*

      It makes me crazy. If I don’t know how to do something I Google it, I have never not been able to find a video or step by step instructions. I rarely have to ask for help. I am able to search through all our systems to find what I need, why can’t other people??

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Frequently, confidence, especially in older people, especially especially in older women.

        There’s a cultural shift a lot of people haven’t noticed I think. You didn’t used to be able to google it. And more importantly you didn’t used to be encouraged to.

        I started working on a computer in the early 90s and the mantra was “just call IT”. We were fairly explicitly forbidden to try to fix things ourselves, and were locked out of most of the settings.

        I also think systems used to be less generally robust. I did once take a network down by reading the help file, applying common sense and gumption, and following the onscreen prompts. I was not aware of the weird workarounds IT had resorted to to keep the system running, so I broke one.

        1. BellyButton*

          Sorry, I am 49-female, I don’t buy it. Google has been around for 25 yrs. I am not talking about fixing a complex computer system or software- something only an admin should be able to do. But more like, “how to create a pivot table”, “how to add a clickable button in Articulate” things like that.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Agreed! And I am a woman who’s a few years older.

            In fact, I think some of this bothers me more than some other people, because I was raised to be independent and able to do (or figure out how to do) lots of things.

            I also used to be a trainer, so I am really good at asking, “What have you tried so far?” and giving directions without actually doing the work.

          2. Liane*

            Same here, although 60.
            I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t love being able to find instructions so easily, and have them be easy to understand – or find another video or written how-to if the first was hard to follow.
            It was life changing for me. I could edit my (personal) laptop startup; find that app/program menu option that was moved/renamed (just to annoy me!) in the last update; even make my own autofit clones for my 3d art hobby!

        2. SarahKay*

          Seriously? The plural of anecdote is not data. Let’s avoid the ageist and sexist generalisations here.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        People don’t Google any more. Seriously. My job is full of people calling us who won’t Google.

      3. Emikyu*

        Because it’s easier to ask someone else to do it.

        My ex-husband was like that (and no, it’s not an age thing – we’re both millennials). Even when I explained to him that I didn’t know the thing either and would have to Google it, he would still ask me to do that. His excuse was “I don’t even know what to search for”.

        The man could look online and find any kind of obscure music he wanted, everything in the world related to D&D, and basically anything else that he found fun and enjoyable. But something like how to get a red wine stain out of the carpet, or what documents to bring to the DMV, or whatever, was apparently far too complicated and confusing to type into a search bar.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Maybe in an interpersonal relationship it might be easier (at least until they end it), but I generally find at work that it’s much faster to look it up myself than put in a support ticket and wait for someone to get back to me.

    3. ccsquared*

      Some people are lazy, some people overestimate how hard something is, and for some people it legit is that hard. I can brush off the first group and have compassion for the other two.

      But there occasionally are people who truly believe they’ll somehow be exempted from having to use some system or process if they persist in failing to use it, and these people are the literal worst.

  50. Unkempt Flatware*

    3 years after going Google for all applications, an admin-support co-worker will still claim she can’t find anything in Gmail and therefore cannot help you with what you are asking. I’ve gotten so sick of her excuses that I recommend she Google her problem. She hates that.

  51. In the Middle*

    I wish I had started using this in teaching before putting in all of my everything. Mostly because competence is punished with heaps more work. You really did well with that one emotionally disturbed student? You’ll get all of them from here on out! You are good at keeping the children from decending into Lord of the Flies during lunch? Welcome to lunch duty for the rest of your life!

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      That’s my sister: she’s the newest teacher at her preschool and they keep giving her the most troubled and physically violent kids because the older teachers refuse to handle them.

  52. Dinwar*

    I’ve advised it in a few cases. Specifically, I’ve told people to avoid becoming confined space entry certified, and if they ever do, DO NOT let ANYONE outside our group know it. There are only a handful of people that have that certification in our company, and the jobs they do are horrible. Dangling by a rope inside an active sewage line, for example. There are people who enjoy that work, and good on them, it’s necessary work! But if you’re working on my site you are obviously not such a person!

    The coffee thing I’ve never understood. First, it’s not hard–filter paper, grounds, water, hit button. I use it as a brain-break to think about problems, because by now it’s pretty much muscle memory. And if I make the coffee, I can make it the way I like (with due consideration for people who don’t like their coffee to dissolve the spoon when they stir it). Though our office did ban one person (now my boss) from making coffee…He apparently hadn’t had any that morning, and when he came in he forgot to put the carafe under the filter section. Then walked away. By the time he came back, an entire pot had poured out over the carpet. It wasn’t intentional, it was just a running joke for years.

      1. Dinwar*

        It’s a “Pick your poison” type situation. The people that enjoy dangling by strings in active sewer lines tend to object to working hip-deep in toxic waste in Southeastern summers for ten hours a day. We get compensated well, but there are no nice jobs due to the nature of the work.

        Mostly, it’s an issue of being shoe-horned. Since we have so few confined space staff, those that get into that world rarely get to do anything else. It can seriously damage your career prospects–you’re too useful as a grunt, so you never move up the ladder.

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            Though BOO to no advancement. I’ve got to stop replying before I read the whole thing. *face-palm*

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          In my experience, the best kind of unpleasant job to be good at is the kind that doesn’t come up enough to be anyone’s official job, just one of those things that falls under “other duties as assigned” for anyone unfortunate enough to have downtime when the need arises. If it’s twice per week, it’s just your job now. If it’s once per quarter, you can favor-shark your way out of a lot of labor-intensive grunt work in exchange for dealing with the quick and nasty thing nobody else wants to do.

          As a wet-lab biologist, I got a lot of mileage out of being incredibly non-squeamish. We’d get buckets of surgical waste, slaughterhouse scraps, etc. that we’d process into research material. It’s possible to do that sort of thing as a full-time job (and I did, during the Great Recession), but it’s much more fun when it’s a sometimes thing and your co-workers are much less desensitized than you are. I’d dive right in, and then wouldn’t have to do lab chores for quite a while.

  53. BabaYaga*

    I have used weaponized incompetence to combat sexism. I once worked in a computer assembly place and was asked by the incredibly sexist floor manager to sweep the floor. He said “You know how to sweep, right sweetheart?” so I just sweetly smiled and said “No, could you show me?”. I was not sad to leave that job.

  54. Lilo*

    I trained someone who would send me half completed work assuming one of the trainers would finish it for him. That ultimately did not work out for him.

  55. Single Parent Barbie*

    I was the only woman on the leadership team and was one of three people who directly reported to the Site manager. So the majority of the leadership team was at least one step below me.

    They would still ask me at every birthday party or retirement if I would slice the cake. I would usually ignore it until one time, I believe it was MY birthday, someone voluntold me to cut the cake and as sweet as I could I responded with “Do you really want me to have control of a sharp knife?” Me cutting the cake was never brought up again.

    I will admit it took a bit of self control in the beginning to not clean up or “fuss” when we did things.

    My ex-husband was the master of weaponized incompetence. “oh but you do it so much better than I.” I feel sorry for the women he works with.

    1. Lainey L. L-C*

      My ex too! I am not joking when I say I did everything that a grown adult must do to keep a house running EXCEPT mow the lawn and take out the trash, two things he grudgingly did and would put off constantly. I don’t think either of his much younger girlfriends liked doing it all as they both left eventually, so I get to enjoy the thought of him doing it all by himself now. Bwa-ha-ha!

      1. Single Parent Barbie*

        The last couple of years, that was my ex too. I worked, volunteered, and was primary care giver for 3 children under 12. He mowed the lawn on occasion, took the garbage out, and restacked the dishwasher after I was done (his primary task, evidently).

        One day I realized since I was doing it all anyway, I could get rid of him and have my own room and closet.

        So I did.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was always taught that whoever is being honored makes the first cut (and, therefore, chooses the size and location of their own piece). After that, it’s a free-for-all.

      1. Bugalugs*

        That’s kind of what I do for my people at work. Their birthday they make the first cut and they can either choose to keep cutting or I can take over and cut the rest of it up.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      My father would cut birthday cake slices that had all about the same amount, but never the same shape: triangles, parallelograms, almost anything except a square. I never thought it might be deliberate to get out of cutting the cake! If so, it didn’t work anyway — I loved seeing what shape of cake I might get, and I have learned the same skill (but rarely use it — other people really don’t like it).

    4. Wolf*

      > “oh but you do it so much better than I.”

      Oh no, then you need the training and you should do so much more of that task!

  56. Common Sense Not Common*

    Weaponized/strategic incompetence is the males in my department not being able to find or figure out how to set up the plates/cups/silverware (all disposable) for our mandatory monthly pot lucks OR bit being able to clean up afterwards because they must do XYZ immediately.

    There are labels on every drawer and cupboard. They are reminded during every pot luck to clean up…NOPE. They will not do it.

    Now the ladies make sure not to tidy up after a pot luck and sometimes things will sit for days, but we grit our teeth and hold firm.

    One dude even admonished my female colleague that his crockpot had been sitting in the sink for three days and had not been washed. She told him the soap was in the cabinet under the sink and he could wash it whenever he wanted. I hate mandatory pot lucks.

    1. M2*

      I went with my spouse to a work event where someone clearly ordered way too many gift bags, etc. When it ended my husband, me and a few other women started packing up left over gifts, name tags, etc but his male boss and another colleague who was same level also male refused to help and just left. One of them said, “I don’t know how to do it. That isn’t my job.” You don’t know how to put stuff in cardboard boxes and carry it downstairs? Another male who wasn’t an employee but a guest helped carry stuff down too! The elevator was broken for part of the way so we had to carry these large boxes down two flights of stairs to the other elevator.

    2. I edit everything*

      I’m an admin in an office of all guys–maintenance/landscaping types–and I have never touched the dishes they leave in the sink. I always wash my own, if I have any, but never the accumulation of crusty plates and silverware. Eventually one of them will do them, and the cycle starts over. To their credit, they’ve never suggested, implied, or hinted that washing their dishes is my job.

      1. Lulu*

        Once at an outdoor reception, where all staff were allowed to attend in addition to guests, I noticed that all the garbage cans were full. Being young and helpful, I started to change out the bags. Other female staff-and female guests-jumped in to help. All of the men, including the all male event department and all male custodial staff stood and watched. That was my never again turning point.

    3. Workerbee*

      So the mandatory-ness of these pot lucks sounds time- and money-consuming, and is a whole other issue in itself, but –

      What would happen if none of the ladies set out the plates & cups & silverware?
      And also – what if the “dish” you all bring in to pass is just a variation on a bag of chips/crisps?

  57. Otter Leong*

    I once struggled with a coworker who repeatedly, almost proudly, said “I don’t cook,” which was a problem because we worked at a grocery store deli! We didn’t just slice lunch meat and make sandwiches; we were making roast chickens, wings, potato wedges, and other foods requiring the oven or the fryer. I know she wasn’t actually bad at it because she’d do it when pressed by higher management, but since they couldn’t supervise us all the time, she usually stuck to serving customers and cleaning while repeating “I don’t cook, don’t ask me to cook.” We let her because we were too busy to argue, and she made up for it by doing most of the cleaning, but that could be just as frustrating because whenever I tried to clean, she’d come over and start criticizing my glass-wiping technique. She once went so far as to ask how dirty my house was, if that was how bad I was at cleaning. Luckily I wasn’t the only one having problems with her, and I only had to deal with her for five months before I found a job in my field.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      She sounds like a pill but huge plus if she liked helping customers! I used to work in a deli and would hypothetically love it but it gets really trying at times. People complaining thin stuff isn’t thin enough, then that it’s too thin. Wanting you to clean the slicer between each half pound of stuff even though they’re ordering five things, etc. One regular would get annoyed if I asked “anything else” and wanted me to stand there and wait for her to think up the next item. Stuff like that

      I would have loved to just do the cooking parts!

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I would have traded you in a heartbeat! The times I worked the cooking shift in the deli I felt like I needed an extra four arms to keep up with everything, especially the fried and rotisserie chickens. I loved using the slicers and serving customers .

  58. IwentHojo*

    Not so much a weaponized incompetence as a “people assumed and I never corrected them,” but I did not mention to people that I spoke Spanish. I am very white, so no one assumed I spoke Spanish. Many conversations around me took place in Spanish, where I got to know things I otherwise wouldn’t have know, but I also never got asked to deal with Spanish-speaking clients or suppliers.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Similarly, many years ago, a friend of mine worked for an international company based in Germany, with a north american division. My friend was the head of the N.A. division and critical to the anecdote, not white. They cannot “speak” German, but they can understand conversational German quite well. They did not let on that they understood German language conversations. They sometimes learned things that were supposed to be held back from the N.A. division folks. They also came to understand how the former, not-entirely-apologetic Nazi owner (long since deceased owner, we’re now thirty or so years on from when friend worked for this company) felt about non-white people working for the company. Since my friend was very, very good at their job, the owner confined himself to rude remarks about my friend’s skin tone rather than just firing them, thinking friend didn’t understand.

    2. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      I am like you, I don’t look like I speak fluent Spanish, but I do. Comes in handy when I need it, but as a Senior HR Professional, absolutely put my foot down at work that I was not going to into our Call Center Phone queue and handle customer service calls from Spanish Speakers. The company doesn’t pay me enough as it is, I am not going to take on additional responsibilities which will only grew into more non-HR tasks. I know how the company operates. Nope. Nope. Nope.

      1. Chirpy*

        Yup. I do speak Spanish (though rusty, and I don’t know some vocabulary that would be highly useful at work) but if a coworker asks for a Spanish speaker, I know nothing.

        If a customer comes up to me and asks if I speak Spanish, I will, but if work wants me to be a translator, they need to pay me more.

    3. Jenifer Crawford*

      Ah, plenty of ignorant coworkers to spread around. Had one ask me and friends I was eating lunch with if we spoke Spanish, and we all replied in the negative.

      Less than a minute later I was rebuking her for a nasty commentary about us. She looked really confused, then said “But I thought you didn’t speak Spanish.” With a smile on my face, responded “Correct, but I do speak Italian, which is close enough.”

    4. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      For clarfication, why was it important to you to not speak to Spanish speaking clients and suppliers? I understand not dealing with suppliers and clients at all, but why are you singling out one group you don’t want to serve?

  59. Vianne*

    My side hustle is playing coffee house type music. I have been shouted at by enough sound techs, mostly volunteer, for coiling their audio cables wrong (and they all have different techniques and strong opinions on the ONE TRUE WAY) that I pretend incompetence and let them put their own equipment away while I collect my pay and waltz out the door. byeeee!

    1. Pescadero*

      As a musician and someone who runs sounds and is very particular about cables – we’d RATHER you just leave them and let us coil them.

      1. l*

        Absolutely. I never want talent trying to “help” put away house gear! 90% of the time you end up having to re-do the work anyway.

        It’s not that artists are (necessarily) incompetent, but a guest artist generally isn’t going to be familiar with the venue and the house rules. I work at multiple places that are very specific about the size of cable coils due to storage constraints. And I’m personally a firm believer in the over-under wrap, especially for expensive cables, but the main thing is that whatever technique is used, it needs to be consistent within a particular venue.

          1. l*

            Can’t agree with this 100%, sometimes figure-eight is more appropriate (ex. for socapex or analog audio snakes), but I don’t want to get too off-topic! I do think over-under is the best choice in the majority of cases but sometimes people get obsessive about it past the point of reasonableness. An over-over wrap isn’t going to destroy a 6′ cable.

        1. I Have RBF*

          IME, video and sound techs are very particular about their gear. If I want to help, I will ask them how they want it done, and then follow their instructions. OTOH, I make custom storage bags for said equipment, to spec.

    2. Jared Leto's kombucha*

      Vianne, I feel your pain. Everyone’s way of wrapping cables is The One True Way and everyone does it a little differently.

  60. GoodCustomerServicePlease*

    It seems that large organizations weaponize incompetence all the time, in the sense that the person who picks up the phone (if they do, after the interminable wait) often doesn’t have the decision making authority or even the options on their system to actually effect what needs sorting out on the customer’s account. They’re hoping that by the time you go through the operator, the operator’s team leader, and the department manager and still can’t get a refund because no one has the authority or know-how, that you’ll give up. Now THAT’S what I call weaponized incompetence.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Ha, that might explain a lot about one particular team I get landed with a lot of the calls for (which, nine times out of ten, need that team to resolve and not me…)

  61. MsMaryMary*

    There are a surprising number of people (men, in my experience) who never learned to type and are in senior or leadership positions. Or some mid-level positions! But they have 30+ years of white collar experience and type with two fingers. I know a handful who never really learned to use a computer and try to do everything on their phones or tablets.

    And folks of all genders of a similar age/experience level who either never learned or just learned the basics of Microsoft Office. Why are you doing math on your calculator and then typing it into Excel, Kevin? Diane, let me show you again how to export a Powerpoint to PDF.

    1. Potato Potato*

      I’ll confess. I’m a software developer, I can type 60wpm without looking, and I use 3 fingers. People have tried to teach me the right way, but I’ve been doing it too long.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        No shade to people who type WELL with a couple of fingers! I had a manager (who was also a programmer) and he was faster with two fingers than I am with ten.

      2. iglwif*

        If you can type 60wpm with 3 fingers, that seems like competence to me!

        I work with someone who types super fast with 2 fingers. I know (online) someone else who has written dozens of books, many of which have won awards, with 2 fingers.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      My uncle is an IT architecture developer and is very good at his job. He also does not compute keyboard shortcuts. He much prefers using the mouse. Clearly it works for him, but heck if I know how.

    3. Jenifer Crawford*

      One of the anchors on major network news (possibly Dan Rather, but not certain), typed every story via the hunt-and-peck method. Seeing that it worked so well for him, why aren’t the rest of us following his lead?

  62. Cat Admin*

    I was in a support role for a team of 6. One team member was very needy and thought of me more like a personal assistant. I was very good at my job, and usually happy to help but sometimes he would ask me for the most basic things, like resending an email that I had sent to the team the day before because he’s so unorganized that he lost it already, finding something in the drive that I had linked to in that email I had just sent, how to use the snipping tool, how to see another team members calendar, etc.

    It got to a point where if he asked me something not directly related to the department or the work I was supposed to be doing, I would pretend not to know so he would have to figure it out himself. Like if he emailed me to ask if we had x holiday off, I could take 30 seconds to look it up and respond, but instead I would email back and say I don’t know, ask HR or check in company calendar.

    I eventually found a new job and quit. When I told him, he was panicking and asked if there was anything he could do to get me to stay. Shortly before I left there was a restructuring and he was laid off. I always wonder if it partly having to do with him having shown how much he can’t do basic things without me. I think he probably could have if he had to, but the rest of the team witnessed our awful dynamic and that probably didn’t help his case.

      1. Cat Admin*

        He was kind to me other ways and did appreciate my work, but I was also very relived to not work with him anymore. And my new job is much more chill and more money, yay!

  63. Alan*

    We used to have an admin person who refused to do anything for which they had not received formal training. Add paper to the printer? “I haven’t been trained on that.” They had little certificates posted for classes that they had taken, but if you needed something for which there was no class, you were SOL.

  64. H.Regalis*

    I’m currently considering deploying some weaponized incompetence at work since I just got voluntold to do a charity fundraiser for the second year in a row now. If it rotated around and I only had to do it once every five years or so, that would be fine; but our department has about fifty people, my unit has a dozen, and somehow I’m the only person who gets asked to do this. My boss promised me that he’ll find someone else for next year, but we’ll see.

    1. starsaphire*

      Can you schedule surgery for the week of the charity fundraiser? I’d be sooo tempted to do that, tbh.

  65. Itsjustanothergirl*

    I work for a company that does… let’s say Llama Grooming. Everyone at the company, be you accountant, marketer, llama groomer, does a shift every week feeding the llamas. This gives you a chance to get to know our llamas and how they behave. I used to be a llama feeding trainer. Because everyone did llama feeding, you’d get 5 weeks of training and then we offered the option for a ‘refresher’ training. Most people didn’t take us up on the refresher.
    However, one person scheduled a refresher every couple of weeks. So, basically, their feeding shift was spent letting the trainer do most of the work. They’d hit close to 30 refreshers before we caught on and they weren’t allowed any more refreshers.

  66. Academic Librarian too*

    I have not and will not ever be capable of replacing the ink cartridge in the public copy machines.
    Oh, is it out of ink? I’ll let someone know.

  67. Christina*

    haha I’m a feminist but I truly detest doing any kind of maintenance related tasks at home or at work (I managed a bed and breakfast for seven years, so things were always breaking), so I’m not ashamed to admit that I have manipulated men into doing them for me my whole life through weaponized incompetence. At the b&b, for example, if something broke, I would always ask the owner of the b&b (a man) to “show” me how to repair a toilet, or whatever, because he’d fix the whole thing under the auspices of teaching me how to do it, while I just batted my eyelashes and made interested noises until it was fixed, whereas if I had told him I just didn’t want to do it, he would have insisted that I do it. I don’t think he ever caught on to the fact that I was making him do the repairs I was supposed to be doing. Feminine wiles, what can I say. haha

    1. so anonymous for this one*

      my take on this is that as long as there’s a wage gap i’m gonna absolutely pretend i just CAN’T do household stuff like that

    2. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

      I used to do this when I had to go to the hardware store – I’d go in with a list and say ‘my dad (when I was a teenager)/husband says I need to get this – can you help me find it?’ Now that places offer buy online/pickup in store and have aisle/bay listings on the website I don’t do it nearly as often. Plus I actually do know what I’m doing in the plumbing aisle, which impressed one of the older guys that works there (I was there on a mission and when he asked if I needed help I said ‘yeah if you can grab me x and y while I get z so I can get home and fix this faster that would be great’), so now if I need anything I text him first :)

  68. Pumpkin215*

    Not a story, but I call this the “red sock” effect. As in, the guy that throws a red sock in with the whites and claims “See! I can’t do laundry! I will RUIN it!”.

    I have a girlfriend that is married to a Red Sock. This is the name we use to refer to him. The Red Sock has managed to get out of all house cleaning, cooking and financial matters because he will intentionally mess things up.

    But hey, it means he has more time to play video games!

    1. Dinwar*

      I remember in college putting a new set of dark green sheets in the wash with some white t-shirts. I got to wear teal t-shirts for the rest of the year. Wasn’t the end of the world–a few people asked where I got them!

      Another time I saw an attractive woman in the dorm going to do her laundry. I was able to save her some money, by loaning her my foldable drying rack. Ended up dating her for a while, and we’re still friends. Turns out knowing how to do household chores is a point in a man’s favor in the dating world.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      My husband’s white underwear was pink for a while because I might have washed it with a red blanket or towel. But I like doing laundry (as long as I don’t have to spend too much time sorting it).

    3. Gumby*

      My parents have always (in my memory) done their laundry separately. Dad would do laundry for kids with folding done by mom and whatever child was available until you hit maybe 12 or so at which point you also became responsible for your own laundry.

      So Mr. Red Sock would find himself out of clean clothes pretty quickly. And if he turned stuff red.. well, it was his own fault and he’s the one who has to wear the results so… shrug.

  69. Van*

    I have seen weaponized incompetence many times in my career. The surprising thing was pretty often, when asked why they hadn’t learned to do X, people would reply, “if you find out I know how to do X you will expect me to do it.” And they were right, I did expect them to do it. Not sure how they thought that admission would work for them…

    1. allathian*

      My attitude to weaponized incompetence really depends on if X is a core task or not. I think weaponized incompetence is absolutely fine when it’s something like making coffee and you’re a young woman who doesn’t drink coffee herself. She’ll be tasked with that job forever if she admits she knows how. But if the weaponized incompetence is something like refusing to learn to use a piece of software that the rest of the company uses, I think it should be a fireable offence.

  70. Karenin*

    We were in a workshop with a new client, and as we were getting started, a question came up re: who would take notes on the easel. One of my teammates (male) bowed out by saying that his handwriting was bad. It’s a small moment but it’s just absolutely seared into my brain.

    After the workshop, the client and I were chatting, and he acknowledged to me that my male teammates seemed to be talking over me. He was such a nice guy, I felt awful that the issues were so noticeable. Bad day for gender in the workplace!

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I am a woman, and I would also bow out on the easel. I have argued with people that their handwriting might be bad, but mine is worse! (I am also usually too short to reach the entire easel/board/etc.)

  71. NutellaNutterson*

    My job in undergrad was in the library – the info and computer section. I mostly explained the arcane stack system or reminded people of how to right click on a mouse.

    During finals, I was mostly a printer tech, because everyone would show up needing to print their essays. (Yes this was the mid-90s.) I knew how to shake the toner cartridge, and unjam just about anything.

    Well what do you know, that skill just never made it onto my resume! Yes, it was painful to not be my helpful self, but no I was not going to reveal my knowledge and get sucked into that role. If you have a real for-profit business, you have a repair contract!

  72. Nameless Employee*

    I had a co-worker who used weaponized incompetence except the incompetence was actually genuine.

    This person had been at the job for at least several years and should have very well known how to do all of their tasks. But they didn’t, or they’d forget, or they would constantly make mistakes and need re-training. There was one or two tasks they’d refuse to perform for fear they’d mess up. Somehow they never got put on a PIP.

    But this person -knew- they were bad at their job so they claimed bullying, would report others’ mistakes to the supervisor, and threated to lie to HR all to make themselves look better. Eventually HR and the higher-ups caught on and the coworker left.

  73. nosurprisebills*

    Most of the men on my team cannot manage their own calendar. Standing meeting invites go ‘missing’ even though they’ve been sent (and re-sent) multiple times. Anytime a follow up meeting or working session is needed, one of the women has to schedule it–even if the man the one requesting the meeting. Recently, in a team meeting the team decided to put recurring deadlines on a shared calendar. I handled that, and then fielded three different questions from men on my team asking what those ‘meetings’ were about–all of whom had been in the meeting where it was decided.

    1. Tired*

      My boss “Floyd” similarly is unable to learn how to manage his own calendar despite being very smart in other areas. His lack of knowledge of his schedule leads to last minute fires I have to put out. Definitely am taking steps to get a new job!

  74. Ugh*

    Does the time a young male coordinator filled the dishwasher with Palmolive and flooded the kitchen with bubbles when he was on kitchen duty count?

    1. Guin*

      No, he gets a pass because he tried. He gets one more shot to learn the difference between dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think everyone’s done this at least once if they’ve got a dishwasher. I certainly did it in my mid-teens at home. Never made that mistake again!

  75. KP*

    In my teens, I pretended I wasn’t strong enough/coordinated enough to safely push the mower. My dad made my younger brother (who was bigger than me) do that chore instead.

    I feel like I got hit by the Karma train though. My husband is allergic to grass so I do all the yard work now.

    1. Skippy*

      My mom was afraid I’d run over my foot or kick up and be struck by a rock, so she never let me! And now I do it all, so maybe it was a reverse psychology thing?

  76. Statler von Waldorf*

    As a middle-aged man who works in bookkeeping, an industry that’s over 80% women, I’ve used a very different form of strategic incompetence than everything I’ve read here so far. I’ll take minutes, I’ll make coffee, I’ll do all the admin stuff cheerfully and without complaint.

    However, I absolutely play up how my back isn’t as strong as it used to be and how I’m unable to lift heavy things like I used to. This started when I had a co-worker who claimed to be unable to lift a five pound ream of blank paper out of the box, so she would interrupt me while I was working because she needed a “big strong man” to get that paper for her. I saw this woman play roller derby, so I know for a fact that she was physically capable of doing the job. She just didn’t want to do it, as she saw any physical labour as a “man’s job” the same way that some men think that any admin work is a “woman’s job.”

    So now my back isn’t what it used to be, and I’m no longer available to move every banker’s box in the building when year end rolls around. It’s absolutely strategic incompetence, and I don’t even feel guilty about it.

    1. Anakalia13*


      I always appreciate a man calling out double standards, no matter the context.

      ~from a woman in bookkeeping/accounting/finance

    2. SA*

      I used to work at a college. I once asked the admissions office manager why the department’s box of copy paper was still sitting in the hallway. She said she only had “girls” working that day and they couldn’t move it. I said, “You mean the student-athletes that work for you that push that giant tire around the campus during their workouts? Women are very strong – didn’t you tote your four toddlers around when they weighed 30+ lbs? If my fat, middle-aged body can move a box of copy paper, I think your athletes and other women can move it as well. If you want to be treated equally, you can’t decline to do things you think a man should do.”

      She looked appropriately embarrassed and that box of paper was moved within the hour. There’s nothing more I can’t stand than someone saying they can’t do a job traditionally done by the other gender but demand equality. Nope – doesn’t work that way. Heck, my husband is a better cook and housekeeper than I am.

  77. zanshin*

    In the wayback machine…
    my mom was the youngest of three girls. Her dad was a high end drapery designer and artisanal manufacturer. She watched her big sisters get pressured into learning to sew for the business and, as she tells it, immediately became a totally useless butterfingers.
    As a result, when I in 6th and 7th grades needed to do sewing projects for “home ec” she was indeed useless and her home sewing kit consisted of a “Buttoneer” to affix stray buttons via plastic tags.
    (I learned to sew in my 20s and had a home microbusiness for 15 years building high end custom martial arts gear)

  78. gmg22*

    I just realized I think I’ve been doing this as a coping strategy to deal with a passive-aggressive colleague who has frankly been up on a bit of a high horse of late.

    Request from her: “I’m trying to reshape this (implied kinda weedy and boring) item from your team’s newsletter to be interesting to my team’s (implied obviously MUCH more dynamic) audience, can you take a look and make sure my rewrite makes sense?”
    Reply from me: “Looks fine, thanks.”

    Operation Do Not Engage in full effect over here.

  79. This Topic Was Made For Me*

    One dysfunctional company I worked for where most of the leaders were insulated from being fired because it was family-run where if you help out with a task even once; it is then perceived as part of your everyday duties from there on out. On top of that, if you point out how something currently being done is wrong or inefficient, it then becomes your responsibility to fix and manage from there on out. This resulted in a situation where I was working 70 hour weeks and doing everything ranging from accounting, web development, marketing campaign management, sales reporting, information technology, etc. when I was brought onboard as a strategic planning analyst to analyze market opportunities potential customer segments.

    It took over 18 months of politicking to get most of those things offloaded to other people but the bottleneck was still that none of us had actual decision-making power to change the culture. After I got some semblance of work-life balance back with 50 hour weeks, I decided to play ignorant whenever someone asked me if I knew how to do something or had bandwidth to take on something from accounting, web development, etc.

  80. jane's nemesis*

    I worked with someone who pretended to be very silly and airheaded and forgetful to get out of doing harder tasks. It drove me absolutely bananas. (We were all women.)

    -4 women did the same general job; Cee (the “incompetent” one) was actually the most senior and was given a title increase and pay raise to reflect that she was Lead.)
    -batches of work would be placed in a neutral area for all 4 people to pull from. When one batch was finished, it was returned to the neutral area and the next batch was taken to be worked on.
    -it was expected that all 4 people would take from the top of the to-be-completed batches, not sift through them and look through the easiest ones.
    -There was a separate “urgent” area – those batches were to be done first before any of the other (easier) batches could be taken.

    Regularly – like, daily – Cee would skip the urgent batches and take from the bottom of the non-urgent pile. If called on it, she’d say “oh, I forgot!” And then laugh like she’d done something hilariously silly.

    Sometimes, a fifth person (me) would have to actually take Super Urgent batches directly to any of the 4 people doing the batch jobs. I tried to rotate between all 4, but when it was Cee’s turn, she would invariably say “oh, I don’t know how to do that! Can you take it to Bee or Dee?” Even though, again, she was the most senior and usually the one who had trained the others on how to do the hardest batches. And was making more money than the others! If she couldn’t feasibly pull off that she didn’t know how to do it, she’d instead claim that she was working on something else super urgent so she couldn’t take that on. I wasn’t her boss, so there was nothing I could really do about it.

    BTW, I had previously had that same role as the 4 women before I moved into the distribution role, so I knew that the batches I was trying to give her a) weren’t actually that hard, just urgent and b) she knew how to do them, she just didn’t feel like it!

    Eventually I started waiting til she wasn’t at her desk and just leaving them for her so that she couldn’t try to pressure me into taking them back.

  81. Cat Wrangler 3000*

    I had one guy who knew were the supplies were, walk by the supply room and come up to me and ask me to get him some sticky notes. When I told him he walked by the room and could have got them himself he said his foot hurt.

    No I did not get the sticky notes.

  82. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    N.B. I’m in a non-client-facing role. The CEO, President, and JD are all in agreement that I am not in a public or client-facing role.

    My email and phone are black holes for anyone outside my organization. Emails get deleted before the inbox. My phone won’t ring if the number isn’t whitelisted. If you find my cellular number, the texts fail to route. My voicemail isn’t set up on any system. For all intents and purposes, I do not exist to the outside world.

    Any time anyone tries to pass an external person off to me, it fails miserably and they have no alternative but to do their actual job. I’ve had to demonstrate unabashed remorselessness. When asked, I simply shrug and say “All I know is that I wasn’t hired for a client-facing role.”

  83. Lizzianna*

    For a while, I was the only woman on a leadership team. We got a new grandboss, who, while also a man, was actually fairly sensitive about this kind of stuff (I later found out that his daughter was a professor at our state university’s business school and was writing a book about gender dynamics in the workplace. I guess he was listening when she talked at Thanksgiving!).

    About 2 months into his tenure, he interrupted a meeting to ask, “Is there a reason Lizzianna always gets volunteered to take notes?” After some sputtering, someone finally said, “She just takes the best notes. Ours are chicken scratch and no one else understands them when we send them out!”

    To which my grandboss said, “Well, that sounds like a developmental opportunity for you all.” And he put out a rotating schedule for note taking and specifically instructed me that I was not to volunteer to take on someone else’s week without his explicit approval.

    The note taking had been bothering me for months, but I had been choosing my battles, that wasn’t one I’d decided to take on yet. The truth is, my handwriting is also atrocious, as is my spelling, I was just taking the time to type up and edit my notes, because that’s what you do when you’re the notetaker in a meeting.

  84. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Related to weaponized or strategic incompetence — when I was in high school, my mom didn’t want me to learn touch typing bec. she feared I would be consigned to being a secretary. Her reasoning was if I didn’t know how to type very well, I could go to college & get a better job. I learned touch typing anyway, & it’s been very useful in my 30-year-long tech career ;)

    1. Proud teacher’s daughter*

      I just posted about how my mom deliberately didn’t learn to type well in the early 70s so she wouldn’t be tempted to become a secretary! It must have been a common thought process.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      My mother made my sister take typing (I was self taught and quite fast), so that in college she would be able to type up her papers faster. For her, it was an efficiency thing. (She was an incredibly fast, accurate typist who had worked her way up from secretary to editor.)

  85. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    At a big national call center, they monitored our time away from the computer down to the second by timing when our mouse/keyboard wasn’t moving, and you could be written up, forced to have a manager sit behind you, or just get let go if your “unused time” was too high. Strangely, some of us had weird IT issues. The kinds of issues that can’t be put into a ticket. The kind that required us to physically walk across the center to the IT office, past the bathrooms and the vending machines. Issues like, “I couldn’t figure out how to open this file,” and “this button didn’t do anything when I clicked it before.”

  86. Nusuth*

    My boss is great, but is nearing retirement and spent most of her career in federal government service, where tech updates were not the priority. I don’t know if this is weaponized incompetence exactly, but I get away with a lot by pretending I’m just as clueless about technology as she is. For example, she mentioned not really understanding Teams and whoops, neither did I! I didn’t explain to her that if she had the app open she’d be able to see my activity status in Outlook … and now she never uses it and I can take long lunches/midday walks/etc without worrying that she’ll see that my dot went gray. Another time I was having laptop issues and couldn’t get into the office to fix it until the next day. Before I could say that I would just log in on the firm’s virtual desktop from my personal laptop, she said oh well, guess you can’t work today. I shut my mouth and said I guess not!
    (Obligatory caveat that we have a great working relationship and none of my white, incompetent lies create a burden for her – just a little more free time/a little less surveillance for me).

  87. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

    When you work in Higher Education, it is rampant. But one place that was quite obvious was when an admin said in her sweetest voice ever, “Oh, I can’t advise students. I might mess up and ruin their schedule, if not their financial aid!” Students would come to her office regularly for help. Turns out, that she was using her coordinator position as a shield for her independent business selling candles.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      Ha! My story is very similar.

      In higher ed, we’ve had a professor who refused to learn how to conduct an online class. He was also a licensed therapist and was using tenure protections to do the basic minimum and run his therapy business as his main source of income. He retired a few years ago and people in our department can literally not tell the difference in our own workloads. This professor also didn’t know how to use the copier and would just give all of his work to the department secretary/coordinator.

      My students try to pull weaponized incompetence. But lucky for them, I’m a teacher! I grade them on whether or not they’ll learn the correct systems of our technology and writing.

    2. Little Bunny Foo Foo*

      I work in higher ed and totally agree. Rampant. But, I worked in a Student Affairs Office as an admin assistant and tbh she probably shouldnt be advising students at all.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        Sometimes the admins know more than the faculty. When I was in college, a combination of misunderstanding a degree requirement and bad guidance from my academic advisor resulted in me taking a class I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t actually need to graduate. I failed that class and the workload from it caused me to fail another class that I did actually need, so I ended up taking an extra semester to finish undergrad. At the beginning of that extra semester, I was talking with our department admin about why I was back on campus and she told me I hadn’t actually needed that class. If I’d talked to her a semester earlier, I could have dropped that class and graduated on time.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I feel your pain. Not a semester’s worth, but my grad advisor…met him before starting. Nice guy. Told me multiple times I needed four courses, the rest are elective. Great.
          Five semesters later, getting ready to finish up, am told I still need X. Thank god I asked (the difference between being a 40 year old student and a 20 year old student).
          I had to burn 8 vacation days taking half day for 16 weeks to take the class from noon to 3 pm on a Tuesday.
          (Bonus, my nieces went to school nearby. I’d drive them home and we’d have dinner.)
          But still!

        2. hereforthecomments*

          I work in higher ed, and on some things, yes, admins know more. I hated it when my former department chair would talk to students directly and tell them wrong information about what forms they need, etc. He’d also tell them to “just drop in my office and it won’t take long” to do the paperwork. I made appointments because onboarding a grad assistant could take up to two hours, even if they had everything they needed (which they usually didn’t). They always seemed to have a knack for showing up right as I was going to lunch or leaving for the day, and, of course, were peeved that I couldn’t just “take care of this right now.” I’m having flashbacks now; so glad I don’t deal with that anymore!

        3. Itsa Me, Mario*

          I think admins know a lot and can sometimes have deeper context or insider information that can be valuable to share. However, most likely, advising students isn’t that person’s job, and indeed there are probably nuances that person doesn’t have. Universities have entire academic counseling departments, and if students in that program are having trouble getting access to academic advising, that’s a larger issue than “just go pick the department admin’s brain”.

          I’m a career admin in the legal field, and while I know a lot of things, and I feel honored when people come to me with questions they can’t get answers to elsewhere, I am not a lawyer and there are many, many areas where the Dunning-Kruger effect could definitely come into play. It wouldn’t be weaponized incompetence for me to refuse to answer questions that are far outside of my training.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Exactly. We can advise you on “you really want to do that by X” date” or “contact X office” stuff, but we can’t check your graduation progress, get you into classes, etc. Unfortunately, people constantly call us for literally any old thing and we’re not allowed to tell someone no, or I don’t know, which makes me crazy.

          2. Still an admin*

            I wish my university had an advising department! They have put it all on faculty and that is – uneven. Even I did some basic first year advising because we didn’t have enough available faculty. Tiny school. I prefer to be the one who tells the student who to talk to, rather than be their final stop.

      1. SpecialSpecialist*

        When I worked in higher ed, the faculty in my department hated that they were required to help with walk-in registration advising (not just the in-program students). They would not learn how to advise a general student and were so bad at it that the admin staff had to fix all of their advising mistakes. So…in this instance, it was the faculty using weaponized incompetence.

      2. Seltaeb*

        In education, “admin” often refers to an administrator (mid- to high-level position), rather than an administrative assistant.

        1. Dr. Doll*

          Hmmm, not in my experience. An “admin” is an assistant. An “administrator” is an evil, overpaid shill for The System who does not and never has had anyone’s interests at heart but their own and certainly has no clue about realities on the ground. All such REMFs should disappear forthwith and their salaries be given to faculty lines. (<– this is all highly sarcastic in case it wasn't obvious.)

          Fully agree that the "admin" in this case is an administrative assistant and should not be doing advising. We have professionals for that. We've even moved into reserving faculty advising for the majors finishing up.

          1. umami*

            Yeah. I’m that overpaid shill for The System and the term ‘admin’ has never been applied to my group (although I am married to a faculty member, so we can co-exist!). Admin is my admin assistant 100% of the time. A mid- to high-level position is likely to be a director or dean, and we love titles too much to shorten that to ‘admin’, plus the level of offense that would create! lol

        2. Itsa Me, Mario*

          Not only does this not entirely ring true to me, but a university administrator also is not an academic advisor. That person would likely have the same blind spots and lack of necessary training to advise students on what courses to take to fulfill degree requirements.

        3. Foila*

          Yeah, confusingly universities have several totally distinct jobs that can be called “admins”:

          1. The type of role I suspect we’re talking about, which used to be called “Department Secretary” or “Program Coordinator”. A long-tenured, competent one is basically god. They know the course requirements for all the department’s degrees. They know when every class is offered. They know how to override every quirk of the computer system. They aren’t considered “academic advisors”, but actually a big part of their job is helping students figure out what classes they need.
          (For some reason they’re often named Janie.)

          2. The upper-level roles contributing to “admin bloat”. They work in the chancellor’s office or similar and make five times as much as #1. Would not know how to find the course catalog, likely have not have seen a student in the wild in years.

          3. Admin assistants, basically the same as in any organization.

          So if CandleAdmin was #2 or #3, totally reasonable to not advise students. But if they were #1, totally unreasonable!

          1. Gumby*

            My #1 also remembered students years later when we came back for reunions. Like at my 10 year reunion she knew my name w/o me wearing a name tag or anything. I mean, we all knew her because there was one of her. But she dealt with all students who had declared that major. I don’t think I was high maintenance as a student…

            She was the absolute best. (Has since retired.)

      3. KellifromCanada*

        Admin in higher ed means a staff person, i.e. not faculty. There are staff positions called “Academic Advisor”, whose role is solely to advise students. They are usually awesome at this work. You would not want faculty members doing this.

        1. Barefoot Librarian*

          Sadly faculty do advising in a lot of colleges and universities. I’ve advised students as a faculty librarian. I’ve been advised by faculty as a student. I think it works fine in a grad program but it’s much, much trickier with undergrads. I was so very careful because I was really worried about causing a student to take something out of sequence or sign up for something they didn’t need. I don’t know if all faculty were as careful because many (rightly) saw it as a distraction from their actual work.

          1. Music With Rocks In*

            Huh. All of my undergrad advisors were faculty and it worked fine for me, but possibly that’s because I knew going in which programs I wanted and matched with relevant professors very early.

            1. Perihelion*

              It also really really depends on the school. Small liberal arts schools often consider advising a core part of the faculty job, and do quite a bit of training in it. Larger schools are less likely to invest in it the same way, which can cause problems if they do have faculty do it.

              1. Candace*

                I’m a faculty member at a community college, and we do advising, and man, it’s hard work. We do have a designated department for advising for my division, but since they can’t handle everything, we are the first line of defense. Since I’m at a two-year school, most of complications come with figuring out the transfer requirements for the four year schools. We do our best, but advising on top of teaching five classes is not a negligible job.

          2. umami*

            At my old institution, faculty were required to advise, and they were mostly great at and invested in doing so (my husband was the pre-professional advisor for a long time and loved it). I was advised by faculty at all three institutions I attended, and they all also were excellent at it. Where I work now, faculty do not advise, aren’t expected to advise, and would not even think of advising students, so it really depends on the institution.

        2. Pam Adams*

          I spent my first several years as an academic advisor taking over a lot of faculty advising ‘responsibilities.’ Luckily, my campus has seen the light and we know have full-time academic advisors in both the colleges and at the university-level.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            Co-signed. Spent the first several years of my career as a program coordinator, and I thought academic advising was the best part of the job. I knew enough to defer deeper questions about graduate programs or specific course content questions to the faculty in question, but I got a lot of business from students who said, “professor X said I should come talk to you to make sure that I’m on target to graduate.”

            This was because I also knew the other university requirements (which our faculty did NOT know well) and how they worked with students’ academic plans. One year, the faculty wanted to change the requirements for the program, and they had me draft the major-related course requirements.

            If you’ve got a good faculty academic advisor, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, not all of them are knowledgeable about the requirements or don’t care to look them up/become knowledgeable. It’s sometimes deliberate weaponized incompetence (cuts down on the # of students asking to be their advisee); sometimes it’s the attitude that “we have other people to do that.”