In The Community
In the world of work and domestic chores, a term has been gaining popularity - “weaponized incompetence” But what exactly does it mean, and why is it crucial to understand and identify this phenomenon? Let's break it down.
What is Weaponized Incompetence?
Weaponized incompetence, also known as strategic incompetence, refers to a purposeful and manipulative tactic where someone pretends to be incompetent at a task to avoid responsibility. By playing the 'helpless' card, they dodge their obligations, leaving others, often women, to pick up the slack.
This phenomenon can take place both in a professional environment or at home. In the workplace, a colleague might say they're 'just not good' at using the new software, leaving you to finish the project on your own. At home, your partner might claim they 'just can't figure out' how to do the laundry, leaving you with another task on top of your already full plate.
In Latine culture, a historical prevalence of machismo and marianismo can feed into this tactic. Machismo, characterized by an emphasis on masculine pride and the domination of men over women, often results in traditional gender roles being strictly maintained. Under this societal expectation, men might feign helplessness or incompetence in domestic tasks, thereby perpetuating weaponized incompetence. By doing so, they reinforce harmful stereotypes and unequal distribution of responsibilities, leaving women to shoulder most, if not all, of the domestic burden.
Weaponized incompetence not only burdens the person left to do the job but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes that some tasks are inherently 'too difficult' for certain individuals, often based on their gender, ethnicity, or age.
How to Spot Weaponized Incompetence
It's important to differentiate between weaponized incompetence and a genuine lack of skill or understanding. The former is a manipulative behavior, while the latter can be addressed with training and patience. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Pattern of Avoidance: The person consistently avoids certain tasks or responsibilities, claiming they're 'just not good' at them.
- Lack of Improvement: Despite guidance or training, the person doesn't show any progress or improvement.
- Selective Incompetence: The individual can perform complex tasks but suddenly becomes 'incompetent' when it comes to specific duties or chores.
- Excuse Making: The person often gives vague, non-specific excuses for not doing a task, or they over-dramatize the complexity of the task.
In the domestic sphere, a classic example is a partner who claims they don't know how to cook or clean properly, leaving these duties primarily to their partner. This is particularly prevalent in households that follow “traditional” gender roles, where domestic chores are stereotypically assigned to women.
In the professional realm, an example could be a colleague who perpetually evades a portion of their duties by claiming a lack of technical skill or understanding, leaving you or others to carry their workload.
How Can you Stop Weaponized Incompetence?
Overcoming weaponized incompetence involves addressing it head-on, setting boundaries, and promoting a culture of shared responsibility.
- Communicate: Open a conversation about the issue, expressing your concerns without attacking the person. They may not even realize they've been utilizing this tactic.
- Train and Support: Offer to train them in the tasks they claim to be incapable of doing. If they genuinely lack skills, they will improve over time.
- Set Expectations: Make it clear that everyone is responsible for certain tasks. If it's a colleague, discuss the issue with your supervisor. If it's a partner, talk about shared duties and equal contribution to household tasks.
- Set Boundaries: Be firm in not taking over the tasks they are avoiding. It may lead to short-term discomfort, but it could bring long-term change.
Weaponized incompetence is a manipulative tactic that not only adds to the burden of those who pick up the slack but also reinforces harmful stereotypes and is part of a larger conversation about gender equality, shared responsibility, and dismantling harmful stereotypes.
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How does one measure success? We surely all have different ideas about what being successful means, but wouldn't you agree that in this day and age, we're bombarded with the idea that money and a career equal success?
Not long ago, gymnast Simon Biles made headlines when she announced that she was retiring from the Olympics; this got many people talking about how she could have given up on something after working so hard for it, but it also opened a discussion on why it’s essential to know when to quit something for your own sake.
We’re often told that working hard should be a priority, and this thought is heavily perpetuated in Latino households, and with good reason. Immigrants and children of immigrants often have to overcome more obstacles than their white counterparts to achieve their goals, and many are trying to break generational economic instability to create a better future for themselves moving forward.
The burden of seeking security and safety in a system not built for feels daunting, but no matter what the circumstances are, if you don't put yourself as a priority in your life, nothing you achieve will ever be fulfilling because your mental and even physical health will always suffer from it. And what is the point of achieving success if you can't enjoy it?
Knowing when to leave something behind for your own good is just as important as achieving goals. As backward as it sounds, sometimes growth comes from knowing when to quit and when to change paths. So if you think you might be reaching a breaking point, here are some signs that you've burned yourself out, and that it’s time to take care of yourself:
Your Body is Telling You
Mental exhaustion can often manifest as physical exhaustion. Stress-related illnesses are way more common than they should be, and signs that you've exhausted yourself can be anything from headaches to insomnia. So listen to yourself and rest.
You've Lost Passion for your Work
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Not everyone has the privilege of having a job related to their passions, but burnout can be even easier to detect for those who do. When something that you were passionate about before becomes a tedious task that you almost have to force yourself to complete, it's probably time to move on. And this doesn't mean quitting your passion forever; sometimes you just need a break or a change of scenery, but whatever it is you need, forcing yourself to do something you don't want to will only make you resent it.
Your Work-Life Balance is Becoming Non-Existent
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A job shouldn't be your whole life; it should only be a part of it. If you find yourself completely consumed by your work, to the point where your personal life is affected, there's something wrong. Burnout is unavoidable without a work-life balance and is essential to a healthy work environment. You should always be able to spend time with friends and family or simply do whatever you want in your free time, which is genuinely free.
You Feel Undervalued or UnfulfilledPhoto by Pavel Neznanov on Unsplash
If you often ask yourself, what am I even doing this for? And if you can't find an answer, it's probably time to reconsider your goals. Working hard will get you nowhere if you've lost sense of what your end goal is, and the thing is, it is normal for our end goals to change constantly. Just because you desperately wanted something before doesn't mean you can't change your mind. Once that mindset shift happens, we often try to convince ourselves to just power through it and keep going, but we could also use those feelings to ask ourselves, is this really what I want to be doing? Furthermore, you might feel like it isn't you that's the problem, but how those around you perceive your work, being upset because you feel undervalued, is perfectly reasonable and also calls for a goal realignment.
You're Not Yourself Anymore
Photo by Caique Nascimento on Unsplash
And living your best life is what you deserve. If the path to your goals has become a burden instead of a hard road, losing track of who you are and what you want to achieve is easy. But at the end of the day, your life is yours only, and if you don't make yourself a priority, who will?
So yes, hard work might be important, but it'll never be more important than your mental health, stability, and personal life. For more on how to take care of yourself, please visit our mental health and resources guide, and remember you are never alone.
In the quest for a happier 2024, it's essential to ditch the pressure associated with New Year's resolutions. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, we are once again given the unique opportunity to reflect, renew energies, and adopt practices that promote mental and emotional well-being.
While the start of a new year is filled with possibilities, the pressure to transform into “better” versions of ourselves can feel overwhelming.
Data reveals that a substantial percentage of the population faces obstacles in their attempts to fulfill New Year's resolutions. The pressure to meet high expectations and unrealistic goals can frustrate success rather than propel it forward.
Some reasons include adopting extreme all-or-nothing behavior, lack of accountability, and setting immeasurable goals. Tackling these challenges involves cultivating a compassionate introspection within ourselves.
Questions like: What moments brought me happiness last year? Or, how can I cultivate my emotional well-being this year? These types of questions can guide this introspection and also remind you that a new year doesn’t necessarily have to mean a new you. You could find that you’re perfectly happy with the 2023 version of you, and one arbitrary date change doesn’t mean anything has to fundamentally change.
But for many others, this largely symbolic date change often serves as an opportunity to revisit this introspection and take action if and when you feel it’ll best serve you.
If you’re someone who feels like the start of the new year can kick-start some new habits, use the tips below to help guide your New Year’s resolutions.
But also remember that change can happen any day - not just on the eve of the new year:
Make it a priority to anticipate challenges and recognize the gradual process of progress. Set realistic goals that are on your timeline and no one else’s. Setting unrealistic goals is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for inevitable failure. The key here is to be proactively mindful that progress is progress, whether fast or slow.
Being proactive is an extension of being mindful. Staying intentional and embracing flexibility in your schedule will help you avoid comparing yourself to others. Set small, gradual goals to maintain a proactive and productive approach to the process. Doing this will help you avoid placing unnecessary and unrealistic expectations on yourself. We have enough to deal with when others place unreasonable expectations on us - there’s no reason to do it to yourself, too.
Change is a gradual process that can become discouraging when it feels like we’re not moving forward. During times like these, it’s helpful to have someone who can add some additional encouragement and accountability. Consider recruiting a support partner who can add these elements when the inevitable challenging moments arise.
Journaling your emotions regarding progress, goals, and challenges can also offer valuable insights.
Be kind to yourself, stay flexible, and find joy in activities. If you miss your goals this month, take a quick breather and approach them with a fresh set of eyes next time. Redirect the focus from goals affecting your mental well-being to activities bringing genuine happiness.
As we enter the new year, mental health is a necessary element of our journey towards well-being. Whether you’re looking to start new habits, get rid of old ones, or continue on as-is, each step in self-care guides us toward a more balanced and resilient self.
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