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The 6 Biggest Dick Moves People Pull in the Workplace

#3. Deliberate Incompetence

Not that employees don't have a way of fighting back. Consider the case when an order or direction arrives that a subordinate disagrees with.

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"Eddie, please name all the wasps in the lunch room."

Very few subordinates will outright refuse to do this. Very few things are worth risking our jobs over. So they'll do it. They'll just do it really poorly.


In this manner.

And with their incompetence preventing the order from effectively being carried out, the subordinate gets their way without having openly defied their boss, in the process possibly making their boss look bad. And because it's much harder to discipline an incompetent employee than an insubordinate one, that subordinate often gets away with it. Incompetence takes longer to detect, and even when it is detected, it usually takes repeated instances of incompetence to receive discipline. In most workplaces, incompetence results in extra training and manpower being assigned to the task. Really, the worst case scenario is that the boss will just give you the task again, only now they're a bit angrier.

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"Eddie, please eat all the wasps in the lunch room."

#2. Malicious Competence

There's an even more perverse form of screwing over your boss called malicious competence. In those cases, the subordinate understands that an order their manager has given won't work but follows it anyway, knowing that the failure will reflect poorly on the manager. Even if the subordinate has the power and ability to "make it work," they'll choose not to because the failure will benefit them more, perhaps because they expect to be promoted when their manager is beheaded for their failing.

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"Yes, I would like to move up in an organization that consumes its own so violently."

This also shows up specifically in union environments, where one of the possible job actions a union can take is work-to-rule. When that's declared, employees will conduct their work in accordance with the written rules and regulations, ignoring all the undocumented procedures and workarounds that are a necessary part of basically every job. Actual work grinds to a halt as a result, even though everyone's still there, doing their "job."

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"I want to count those wasps, but I won't until I get those T8-BTA forms filled in and have H&S assess my footwear first."

#1. Setting Up to Fail

Back to the managers again, with the flip side of malicious competence. When someone is "set up to fail," that means they've been given a task that has no chance of success. Depending on how a particular office is set up, this can be done by co-workers and peers as they hog resources among themselves, but it's most commonly done by managers, in the form of giving someone not enough resources or time to do a job properly.

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"Eddie, I'm going to need that solid gold pyramid on my desk by the end of Friday."

Another option is to withhold important information from the person doing the work, or "shifting the goalposts," which means changing how the work will be judged without telling the person doing it.

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"You didn't know? The solid gold pyramid has to be leopard print now, Eddie. And also a working leopard.
We need a leopard, basically, is what I'm saying."

Implicit in "setting up to fail" is the notion that the failure benefits the person setting up the task in some way. Whether it's to make a disliked colleague or subordinate look bad, to kill an unfavored project, or simply just to feel something, anything, if there's no actual benefit to the manager, then it's not actually setting up to fail. That's just incompetent management, which is too everyday of an occurrence to really count as a dirty trick.

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Except by the universe, on us.


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and would like to remind all current and future employers that he is a synergistic team success story player. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to make generous job offers.

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