I'm trying to come up with (and coming up short) a term or expression that is used when one is simply moving a problem from one area to another (instead of solving it).

Something similar to;

robbing peter to pay paul

... in the sense that it's a zero-sum game, but speaking more to moving issues instead to taking resources.

  • 1
    displacing or shifting a problem – Lambie Jun 18 '19 at 21:11
  • In a software dev environment, I always referred to this as "sweeping it under a different carpet." – Robusto Jun 18 '19 at 21:27
  • 1
    Look what I found for you: shifting the burden thesystemsthinker.com/… I cannot provide an answer because these guessing games are just that. Anyway.... – Lambie Jun 18 '19 at 21:33
  • @Lambie - I appreciate the engagement - "shifting the burden" seems to fit. If you want to enter an answer w/ that I will accept it. – Christoph Jun 18 '19 at 21:53
  • 'kicking the can down the road' – Mitch Jun 18 '19 at 22:05

Here is a systems person who has written a piece and calls this "shifting the burden" in an organizational setting.


shifting the burden aka displacing or shifting a problem from one thing to another

  • +1 I like it. "shifting the burden" sounds like moving some baggage from one side of the camel to another: it hasn't gone anywhere, and still has to be carried. – Cascabel Jun 18 '19 at 22:03
  • This is not an established expression...any other similar one would fit the bill. Not really helpful!!! – user067531 Jun 19 '19 at 9:25
  • If that is the case than the question is just a POB issue. – user067531 Jun 19 '19 at 19:13
  • @user240918 Completely irrelevant. – Lambie Jun 19 '19 at 20:23

The phrase passing the buck comes to mind.

It's when someone shifts a problem to someone else rather than solving it.

Which is also how the phrase the buck stops here was derived from.

  • 1
    passing the buck specifically refers to responsiblity. – Lambie Jun 18 '19 at 21:31
  • @Lambie I assume you mean 'culpability'. But this answer is fine; CED has 'to leave a difficult problem for someone else to deal with' – the non-culpability sense of 'responsibility'. / There are enough duplicates to close-vote here, though. It's non-CVing that bothers me. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 23 '19 at 12:11

"Pushing bones around the graveyard" is the worst form of shifting a problem from one place to another -- it's aimless, it's acting like the bones will make a difference anyway, it's futile.


sweep something under the carpet (in British) or rug

  • to conceal (something, esp a problem) in the hope that it will be overlooked by others


  • This is not British or American. It is just English. – Lambie Jun 18 '19 at 21:12
  • That's not really it - not looking for concealment, but more shifting the problem to another person or area. – Christoph Jun 18 '19 at 21:20
  • @Lambie - Collins defines the saying as British, but you are probably more informed than the Dictionary. – user067531 Jun 19 '19 at 9:26
  • To sweep something under the carpet or rug means to disregard the thing. – Lambie Jun 19 '19 at 18:57

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