My supervisor at work has asked me to find one word which perfectly relates the following phrase:

'You are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.'

He wants to be able to use the word as noun, verb and possibly adjective. So a word for each type would be acceptable

(P.S. I work in IT - Computer Programmer)

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    I am tempted to answer "Plonker!" goo.gl/UnMx6Y., but it is not obvious what part of speech you want this word to occupy. Is it a noun, a verb? Is it a bird, is it plane? ;-) Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 11:56
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    I believe the standard word is IYANPOTSYAPOTP.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 12:09
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    One might argue that you (and your supervisor) are part of the problem by expecting such a term to exist.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 12:37
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    It should be noted that the full expression is "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." It's not a "criminal sentence" but a statement of philosophy.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 12:40
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    @Some_Guy Any field in which a supervisor wants to stifle dissent in favor of his currently-approved group-think. If you're not part of the solution, you're actually part of the precipitate.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:29

9 Answers 9



Oxford: having the opposite of the desired effect: The response to the disaster was unsuccessful and perhaps even counterproductive.

Macmillan: having a result that is the opposite of the one you intended: Research shows that sending young offenders to prison can be counterproductive.

Cambridge: having an effect that is the opposite of what you intend or desire: As a way to improve traffic, widening roads can be counterproductive, as it may just encourage more people to drive.

Collins: achieves the opposite result from the one that you want to achieve: In practice, however, such an attitude is counter-productive.


How about "hindrance". Similarly someone can be "hindering" the progress of a project.

But I'm afraid you can't be s hindrantacious person. Still, 2 out of 3 isn't bad!

  • good point. Guess we'll never need hindrantacious after all
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 8:14

Roadblock, defined by Merriam Webster as:

  1. something that blocks progress or prevents accomplishment of an objective

Your supervisor could say:

X's suggestions are nothing but roadblocks to getting this job done on schedule. (noun)

If your supervisor likes this word, he can easily make it into a verb or an adjective.


There's that old (original TV series) "Twilight Zone" episode where, in the future, if you are not deemed a useful member of society, you may be voted obsolete by a govt. committee - and summarily executed.

Your supervisor can probably use this reference for a jarring dramatic effect. (Tell him/her to climb on a desk, point to the offending party, and bellow "Obsolete!") (It might help to find the episode on YouTube, or something)


To emphasize that the coworker is not passive, but involved in causing the problem:

abet -

encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong

n. abettor, v. abet, adj. abetting.

I much prefer complicit for the adjective. Abetting is a stretch in that sense.

I also like n. detriment, v. stymie, adj. detrimental.


In the IT sense, I use these words (depending on the situation):


Lacking self-awareness, or Clueless.

Lacking understanding or knowledge [1]

[1]: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clueless



By your actions and behavior (or like thereof) in this company, you have not made yourself an asset to this company, but rather a liability.

I appreciate thinking about situations from an economic/accounting/investing perspective. Since your work is probably for-profit, such a perspective might drive directly to the heart of the matter (and do so in a beautiful synthesis of poetry and cold hard cash).

See Investopedia's take on the term via the link below.



Teamwork is my answer. This quote insinuates that … every problem is everyone’s responsibility to solve, and if you’re not helping you are hindering.I disagree. I would say… if you are not helping you are not necessarily part of the problem, but if you are helping you are part of the solution. But if you’re not hurting, or not helping, then, hopefully, you are busy (going the extra mile, or picking up the slack) somewhere else. For example : if you see a piece of trash, and pick it up, you are part of the solution. However, just because you walk past it, and do not pick it up, it doesn’t make you part of the problem. The person who threw it on the ground is part of the problem. Therefore, I’d say : “if you are part of the solution, Thank you, if you are part of the problem, (you suck) you need help, or punishment, or consequences, if you are not involved I hope you are contributing (to picking up the slack) to another cause. To get to the point of using one word I would say the goal would be to teach others to have personal innovative, and to go the extra mile. The point where others become a problem is when they protest about a situation but do not provide suggestions of a better solution. One word is hard but a shorter phrase might be “No questions without suggestions.”
If you are in a town that is full of litter, everywhere you look there is trash, then you would complain to the town hall, because their job is to come up with solutions, not your job, not your worry. However, it’s your job to vote for the people who handle these situations. If you don’t vote, you don’t have “bitching rights.” Once your person is voted in they might say everyone is required to pick up 1 bag of trash per day, and if you don’t then you will be fined. If your person loses the vote, and the voted-in person says they are raising taxes to pay for street cleaning, and you don’t like that idea, then next election you need to lobby harder for your counsel-person. Maybe one word for your boss : TEAMWORK

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    This is a little bit too abstract to answer the question. Could you justify this with a dictionary definition? Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 0:17

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