Despite the considerable research on strategic persistence, there remains a lack of understanding as to why companies persist with underperforming workers. Our study seeks to fill this gap in the literature by integrating the concepts of the paradox of success, external legitimacy, nepotism and the escalation of commitment perspectives to develop an integrated explanation for persistence with underperforming workers. Drawing on insights from two emerging economies in Africa: Ghana and Nigeria, we uncovered that persistence with underperforming workers stem from information hoarding, favouritism through tribalism and externally imposed constraints. Our study also articulates the underlying processes inherent in such persistence. The wider implications for theory and public policy are examined.