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Many languages have this expression but I am not sure how it is expressed in English.

Its example would be:

I helped him cheat his way through college, now he has no job. I did him ____ favor.

Hope it makes sense, and thanks for your help in advance.

  • How do you say it in one of these other languages? – Mitch Oct 23 '15 at 12:30
  • In my language it is called "bear favor" and since I am for Balkans other languages in region have that expression. Example of similar phrase would be "Sisyphus task" - task leading nowhere, dead-end. – Dolphin Oct 23 '15 at 12:34
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    Normally one would simply say "I did him no favor." – Hot Licks Oct 23 '15 at 12:56
  • Same in German (Baerendienst) and in Scandinavian languages (though in Denmark, the young have started to think it means a really big favour). – Toothrot Oct 23 '15 at 15:08
  • The bear's service is used in many languages - it is based on the fable "The Bear and the Gardener"(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bear_and_the_Gardener) and its Krylov's version "The Hermit and The Bear" (fablesofaesop.com/hermit-bear.html). I am surprised that the phrase apparently is not known in English, too. – Honza Zidek May 15 '18 at 19:19
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I think the word you're looking for is disservice.

disservice: an act intended to help that turns out badly

(Princeton WordNet)

I helped him cheat his way through college, now he can't get a job. I did him a disservice.

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A backhanded favour, maybe? Just like when you pay someone a "backhanded compliment".

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Consider counterproductive and detrimental.

counterproductive: thwarting the achievement of an intended goal; tending to defeat one's purpose Random House

I helped him cheat his way through college, which eventuated in being counterproductive, since now he has no job.

detrimental: causing loss or injury; harmful; damaging Random House

Alternately, double-edged, or the phrase work against someone, might fit the bill.

I helped him cheat his way through college; now he has no job. I did him a double-edged favor.

I helped him cheat his way through college, which eventually worked against him, since now he has no job.

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