Consider the following situation:

  • A person, Alice, is hired to do a job for a company, ZooBiz.
  • Alice is able to entirely outsource her job. She pays the outsourcer 50% of what she makes, and no longer has to perform her duties.
  • ZooBiz discovers what Alice is doing, and then fires her for it.
  • After firing Alice (and upon the realization that she was not completing her own work) ZooBiz decides that it was very pleased with the quality of work from the Outsourcer.
  • ZooBiz hires the outsourcer to replace Alice.

Would that situation constitute a Pyrrhic Victory?

Would that situation constitute Irony?

PS I am sorry if I have miscategorized this post, please feel free to recategorize it.

  • What research have you done on the two terms? – bib Aug 19 '14 at 23:18
  • Sorry, neither. – Oldcat Aug 19 '14 at 23:34
  • It's not really a pyrrhic victory or irony. Are you looking for a word/phrase to describe this situation, or are you trying to get a better sense of 'pyrrhic victory' and 'irony'? – YenTheFirst Aug 20 '14 at 1:14
  • I'd call it adding insult to injury. – 6005 Aug 21 '14 at 12:49

This is not the case of a Pyrrhic Victory:

  • a victory that is won by incurring terrible losses. [named after Pyrrhus, who defeated the Romans at Asculum in 279 bc but suffered heavy losses]

and there is nothing ironic about Alice losing her job.

  • Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

Probably it is a case of 'you get what you deserve' . Alice was not correct with respect to her employer who rightly decided to fire her. The outsourcer gained a stable job out of all this but has no responsibility for Alice behaviour.

  • Interesting that your original link to "Pyrrhic Victory" was misspelled, and still found its way to the proper entry on Free Dictionary. – Cyberherbalist Aug 20 '14 at 17:52

This is called disintermediation (or more colloquially as cutting out the middleman):

the elimination of an intermediary in a transaction between two parties.


In economics, disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain, or cutting out the middlemen.

It is neither a pyrrhic victory nor is it irony, as others have already explained.

It may have been an irony if the ZooBiz company failed to recognize a real contribution that Alice may have provided as part of the overall transaction, and thereby failed to execute their business successfully once Alice had been removed.

It may have been a pyrrhic victory for Alice if she argued to ZooBiz why her involvement made sense but then ZooBiz failed when working directly with Alice's subcontractor, rehired Alice, but then went out of business because they made the mistake of eliminating Alice's job in the first place.


This cannot be a pyrrhic victory, but it is probably irony.

For pyrrhic victory to apply, someone needs to have won at a overwhelming cost. Alice lost, ZooBiz gained a good contractor/employee at less cost and the outsourcer breaks even.

Irony is an "event characterized by an incongruity, or contrast, between what the expectations of a situation are and what is really the case, with a third element, that defines that what is really the case is ironic because of the situation that led to it." In this case, it might be ironic for ZooBiz. It's simply tragic for Alice, and nothing lost and nothing gained by the oursourcer.


As others have pointed out, this situation does not fit the definition of pyrrhic victory. However, it may fit into the category of cosmic irony, or "irony of fate." In cosmic irony, the reality of things seems so fittingly unfair as to suggest a certain force, either from fate or from the gods, working directly against you. Note the word fittingly; without it the situation would be simply unfortunate, and not ironic.

In this case, fate seems to insult Alice directly when the company fires her and yet chooses to keep doing the very thing she was fired for. It is as if fate is trying to tell Alice something in an ironic way.

(Whether or not something is "ironic" is naturally subjective, but I personally find this to be a bit ironic so I thought I'd bring up what others failed to mention.)

Since calling this cosmic irony may be a stretch, a more concrete term for this is adding insult to injury. The injury is that Alice is fired; she is furthermore insulted when they continue to do exactly what she is fired for.


From all three participants' points of view, it is an example of "unintended consequences," which Wikipedia defines as "outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action."

Alice expected that subcontracting her job would net her a nice infusion of money in return for very little effort, without altering her existing relationship to the company.

ZooBiz expected that Alice would do the work it had contracted with her to perform, and that it was paying a market-appropriate amount of money for the quality of output it expected from her.

The subcontractor expected that the payment from Alice and perhaps the resulting business relationship with her were the extent of the benefits to be obtained from agreeing to perform the subcontracted work.

All parties reaped unintended consequences from their participation in the sequence of events that ensued.

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