Is there a word, phrase or idiom that describes someone who is trying to help but actually hindering? I find this a lot in a work context but sure it's common elsewhere. I even think there may be a term for this in improv comedy. Another possible application is those people who add comments that start with "I don't know but...."

  • Some consider 'If you can't help, don't hinder' to be idiomatic, but it's probably a lot less used than it used to be. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 25 '19 at 16:00
  • "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" -Thomas Paine – Cascabel Jun 25 '19 at 17:21
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    There's a popular idiom for this in many north, middle, and eastern European languages, "a bear's service". It was popularized through Jean La Fontaine's fable L’ours et l’amateur des jardin in the 17th century, though the idea itself is likely older and the ultimate origin remains unknown. At any rate, for whatever reason the idiom never reached England's shores. Alas. – RegDwigнt Jun 25 '19 at 18:21
  • "Like a comment on Stack Exchange" – Hot Licks Jun 25 '19 at 21:55
  • "He offers all assistance apart from actual help." – JeremyC Jun 25 '19 at 22:00

You can say,

"You're causing more harm than help."


"Your help is counterproductive."

The first one is quite common than the later.

Hope, this helped :)

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That person can be considered 'well meaning' which describe a person who tries to help but tends to just get in the way.

Bob means well, but just keeps getting in the way.

A stronger version of this is 'well intentioned' which would describe a person who tries to help but tends to make things worse.


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If you're leaning more towards the comedic effect, there are some off-beat similes that I've heard.

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

It seems like a bicycle would be useful, but clearly not for a fish.

My sister is a graceful as a bull in a china shop.

She's like a porcupine in a balloon factory.

These similes emphasize the counterproductive (or perhaps destructive) nature of one's actions.

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[lexico] disservice: a harmful action You can use the phrase "do somebody a disservice". Slater actually does viewers a disservice by being less than embarrassing here.

But I would be doing the author a great disservice if I gave any impression that this is a political tract. The article does a real disservice to those children who do have learning differences.

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I think the idiom can answer the OP's query.

He is a wolf in sheep's skin or clothing.

He seems to be friendly but he is harmful

see the link.


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  • A wolf trying to help (see the actual question)? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 23 '19 at 12:23

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