Looking for a word or phrase for something that causes no change or has no impact (be it positive or negative) on a situation.

I'm using the word "asset" in reference to something advantageous or beneficial for an organization, although not in a financial context. My intent is to shed light on something incorrectly perceived as an asset that is, in actuality, something that is at best inconsequential.

It's a sensitive matter so I don't want to go so far as to call the offending element a "liability". Doing so might sour the audience to my adjoining proposal. Plus, their "thing" isn't actively debilitating or disadvantageous - it just isn't beneficial.

Everyone knows what an asset is. How do you say something isn't an asset without calling it a liability? There's gotta be some middle ground in there somewhere, right?

Example sentence:

"The website, in its current form is _________ (or is a _______). It should be an an asset that actively grows your business."

Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    Could you add a sample sentence with a blank for the word you want?
    – S Conroy
    Sep 5, 2018 at 20:29
  • Sample sentence, please! Also, did you consider the word "inconsequential"? (You actually used it in your question!) Sep 6, 2018 at 3:39
  • hi all, thanks for all the help and your patience. I know I'm splitting hairs here so I wanted to give it some thought and be sure I'm not sending people down an unending rabbit hole. Sep 7, 2018 at 15:14
  • Here's my example with some additional comments "The website, in its current form is [ blank] (or is [a blank]. It should be an an asset that actively grows your business." Ok so not the best example sentence but frankly, I hadn't gotten that far yet. But it does accurately portray the context. @alwayslearning - In this context I feel like "inconsequential" is a bit condescending. Part of the challenge for me here is that audience doesn't/didn't know any better and I don't want to belittle their efforts. Sep 7, 2018 at 15:29
  • I have edited the question to include the example sentence from your comment/response. Sep 7, 2018 at 20:25

4 Answers 4


Consider calling it an overhead to match your finance-derived terms asset and liability.

overhead noun 1 (usually overheads) An overhead cost or expense. ‘overheads, such as lighting, equipment, and any little extras, are paid for out of a centralized fund’ - ODO

That definition references adjective definition 3 on the same page:

(of a cost or expense) incurred in the upkeep or running of a plant, premises, or business and not attributable to individual products or items.

On a commercial flight, for example, an extra pilot or two is an asset, but five extra pilots is just overhead.

Here are a couple of examples from the internet:

  • HR Is Just Overhead? - ere.net

  • Myth: IT is an overhead with no competitive advantage - KPMG

  • 1
    I think this is an excellent suggestion because in my experience "overhead" illicits an unspoken connotation of being a "necessary evil" or perhaps being of "lower importance" for many people in business. Given I was slow to provide feedback I want to give others a chance to chime in before marketing this answered. But so far "overhead" perfectly encapsulates the sentiment I'm trying to convey. Thank you for your suggestion. Sep 7, 2018 at 15:35
  • Overhead is neither an inconsequential object nor an activity.
    – Lambie
    Sep 11, 2018 at 21:08

I think it would be easier to guess what kind of word you wanted with a sample sentence but as it is I'd suggest.

It has a neutral effect. Or perhaps: it is a neutral element.


not causing or reflecting a change in something: It is believed that the new tax law will be revenue neutral.

  • I’d go with neutral as well, except it seems the term needs to match asset and liability, so the OP is probably looking for a noun.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 5, 2018 at 23:44
  • I see what you mean. Not sure if it's an improvement, but I've added neutral element.
    – S Conroy
    Sep 5, 2018 at 23:58
  • That definitely helps. Upvoted.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 6, 2018 at 0:09
  • 1
    Thanks, though I have to admit I prefer your suggestion.
    – S Conroy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 0:52

Perhaps you can call it an embellishment - something nice to have but not necessarily serving as an asset.

The website, in its current form is an embellishment. It should be an an asset that actively grows your business."


embellishment NOUN
1 A decorative detail or feature added to something to make it more attractive.

‘While these were practical necessities, in the hands of English craftsmen they were often transformed into decorative embellishments.’

  • I quite like that. An adjective along the same lines would be 'cosmetic'. .
    – S Conroy
    Sep 10, 2018 at 3:37
  • This activity will not bear or yield any fruit.
  • This activity will not fructify.
  • This activity will not prove productive or fruitful.

    One of these might work.

An asset is expected to provide a return of some kind. If it does not it is not productive or fruitful.

Merriam Webster says this about fructify:

The word also expanded to encompass a figurative sense of "fruit," and it is now more frequently used to refer to the giving forth of something in profit from something else (such as dividends from an investment).



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