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The Manager and The Intern

How to respond when your intern quits same day

· Quitting,Managers

Dear People Ops:

I'm not an HR professional and frankly in a little over my head here. I was wondering how I should deal with an intern who quits early into their internship (leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces of an important project).

This intern was a bit of a flake coming in. He didn't have a ton of experience in the area he was interning in, but he was very passionate about the industry so I gave him a chance. He screwed up two projects already due to carelessness. I've given him constructive feedback and he improved bit by bit, so I thought we were getting to a good place.

Then this morning, three weeks into the internship, he emails me to say that he was "offered a full time position" at his other job (which I am almost certain is a flat out lie) and that he won't be in office today. Literally gave me same-day notice. On one hand, he wasn't a great intern so it's kind of like cutting losses. On the other hand, I feel like I should respond (from a mentorship angle) to let him know 1) that this is extremely unprofessional, 2) he shouldn't burn bridges in our industry, which is very close knit and 3) it was kind of a dick move to not give us enough time to properly wrap up projects. I now have to take time out of my workday to do some of the time-sensitive tasks I assigned to him, which does not make me a happy camper.

Thoughts? I don't want to come across as as ass but I don't want him to think that this kind of behaviour is okay.

I get it, you're frustrated. But sending that email is more about helping you than him. Deep down, you hope that "feedback" will make you feel less frustrated at the crappy situation this intern has put you in. Unfortunately, it won't work and has the potential to make the situation so much worse.

That email can only play out in one of two ways:

 

1) You're right and he was a crappy intern who wasn't skilled or very professional. Pointing out those facts accomplishes nothing. To be honest, he either already knows that or doesn't care. You're not educating him in any way, and he's clearly decided that burning this bridge is ok. So there's no upside, and the possible downside of upsetting and encouraging him to badmouth you to others.

2) You're wrong and you're part of the reason he's not engaged and is now leaving. He may not have been great, but perhaps you didn't engage him, and he feels like he'll get better opportunities elsewhere. Calling him out only reinforces the idea that you're a problematic manager. Again, no upside, plenty of possible downside.

Take this job and shove it
I ain't working here no more​

- Johnny Paycheck

Anytime an employee quits, even with ample notice, its natural to feel frustrated, hurt, and downright pissed-off. That's ok. But its critical to keep your emotions out of the conversation moving forward. Companies develop protocols for this reason, to give you a template to follow when you may be blinded by emotions.

Thank the intern for letting you know and wish him good luck moving forward. Cut it right there, no extended unsolicited feedback, no subtle jabs. Then walk back into your team and move on. Because seriously, you're better off.

P.S. If that intern ever asks for a reference, tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. I promise, that will feel pretty cathartic.

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