Strategic Incompetence

Jason English

I don't know how to change the toner cartridge. Paper jams also confuse me. The printer, in general, is over my head. And therefore, off-limits.

In an unfortunate case of office planning, I sit within shouting distance of the freight elevator "“ the shouting of the person with the shipments, locked inside. If I knew the ins and outs of our shipping and receiving policies, I'd spend half my day dealing with deliveries. Lucky for me, I'm baffled by the whole situation.

Who knew there was a term for this? Let me turn things over to Jared Sandberg of the Wall Street Journal.

Strategic incompetence isn't about having a strategy that fails, but a failure that succeeds. It almost always works to deflect work one doesn't want to do -- without ever having to admit it. In all cases, it's a ritualistic charade. The only thing the person claiming not to understand really doesn't understand: That the victim ultimately stuck with the work sees through the false incompetence.

I guess he's right. I could probably figure out where to sign for those packages. But I swear, I really do struggle with the printer.

What tasks are you pretending are too complicated?