The question of whether global norms are experiencing a crisis allows for two concurrent answers. From a facticity perspective, certain global norms are in crisis, given their worldwide lack of implementation and effectiveness. From a validity perspective, however, a crisis is not obvious, as these norms are not openly contested discursively and institutionally. In order to explain the double diagnosis (crisis/no crisis), this article draws on international relations research on norm contestation and norm robustness. It proposes the concept of hidden discursive contestation and distinguishes it from three other key types of norm contestation: open discursive, open non-discursive and hidden non-discursive contestation. We identify four manifestations of hidden discursive contestation in: (1) the deflection of responsibility; (2) forestalling norm strengthening; (3) displaying norms as functional means to an end; and (4) downgrading or upgrading single norm elements. Our empirical focus is on the decent work norm, which demonstrates the double diagnosis. While it lacks facticity, it enjoys far-reaching verbal acceptance and high validity. Our qualitative analysis of discursive hidden contestation draws on two case studies: the International Labour Organization’s compliance procedures, which monitor international labour standards, and the United Nations Treaty Process on a binding instrument for business and human rights. Although both fora have different context and policy cycles, they exhibit similar strategies of hidden discursive contestation.