No matter if your company is less than 10 staff or deck up to a few thousand, we all know an employee who is the useless white elephant in your workplace.


He or she probably holds an important sounding title and every now and then, you might bump into the person in a rare meeting that he is involved in.


Although you might be in your company for several years, you have absolutely no idea what this person does. In fact, you can even ask around, no one has any inkling. Ask his boss and you’ll get an answer that “he was already there when I was promoted to be his boss.”


Somehow or rather, by a series of well-blessed fortune or maybe he is invisible to the management, he doesn’t get fired for doing absolutely nothing, nor does he contribute anything at all. Your thoughts (as the same as mine), “give him something to do then! Throw a project in his way!” This magical elephant always manages to avert the necessary work or screw up so badly that someone else has to step in and take over, else all he’ll break loose.


So much so
Those who actually do work alongside with him doesn’t want to talk about him. Rather shoulder the additional burden than to clean up his mess later. He will never have a good relationship with his direct peers.

Surprisingly, such person doesn’t sly away from office networking. He still goes around rubbing shoulders, clinking wine glasses and absorbing the cheers of someone who celebrates their milestone achievements as if it’s his own. If you are a noob in the workplace, you are impressed that he is someone important. He has to be right? If he is seen chummy and sharing jokes with the Head of Finance at the office luncheon. Chances are nobody really remembers who he is.


If you do confront him on what he actually do in his work, he will give you a vague answer. Probe deeper, he will give you a smile and shrug off your questions, making you feel smaller than you already was.

The thing is that such elephants in a company are poisonous and lethal. They create a false impression that top management does not care about productivity hence he is still where he is and not put the door. Their presences are like a little black dot on a clean clear champagne glass. It’s probably a stain that is deem harmless but it brings the whole value of the champagne glass down.


Sorry, but I have come across too many white elephants in my career even when I am freelancing for others. I truly detest them as they are known to leech on the goodwill of others, hide behind someone when trouble knocks and rides on cloak tail of the successful ones.

Share with us if you know someone like that in your company. You know you’ll enjoy bashing him or her at the comments below!

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9 replies on “The Useless White Elephant

  1. Your post is a good start… I feel your pain. Are there any solutions? Does Patrick Lencioni’s, The Ideal Team Player deal with this? Or Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Both of these books seemed to me to challenge my “complaining” as a “reaction” to how things are and challenged me to “take responsibility” for my own “response.” Identifying problems is essential. You have done a great job. I don’t have any solutions at the moment. It seems very difficult. I am looking forward to how you choose to respond to this problem :>)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot, James. There are solutions but such solutions really are in the hands of the management and the culture of the company. I’ve work in a company where they weed out useless white elephants aggressively. It might seem extremely cruel but at the end of the day, productivity is at its highest and employees are rewarded accordingly, nobody is accused of not pulling their weight. It’s tiring constantly need to push your limits but oddly satisfying when you succeed at limits when you never thought possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kally, I like your brutal honesty and hard hitting style. There is no denying that every workplace has its parasites. But parasites will only get so far in life. The solution is not to ‘fix’ them, and it’s not to blame them. It’s to focus on what you as an individual can change your approach when working with them. I wrote an article on this a while back, I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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