tell us your worst intern horror stories

Some interns are awesome.

Others are not.

As we near the end of summer internship season, I want to know about your worst intern stories: the interns who behaved badly, disruptively, unprofessionally. I especially want to hear your stories if that intern was you.

Share in the comments. Spare no detail.

{ 1,389 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    Please note that stories shared here may be used in an upcoming column (without names or anything identifying), as usual! Feel free to note that you do not want yours used in that way.

  2. A

    We had an intern call us in Michigan from West Virginia to say he wouldn’t be in that day because he was on vacation. Same intern didn’t understand how to use a paper cutter to cut our flyers into quarters. He didn’t grasp the concept of turning the paper.

    1. Leanna

      We once had an intern who didn’t know how to use a paperclip. Instead of placing the clip in the corner of the pages, he’d put it directly in the center, and bend it.

        1. Sadsack

          I have a feeling that he bent the clip over the edge of the page, instead of putting the page in between the coils.

          1. Leanna

            Nope, he actually figured out that the pages went between the clip, but would then bend the edge so that it stuck up in the air!

            1. Afiendishingy

              Bent the edge of the clip? Like he didn’t push the paper clip all the way down to the edge of the paper? I’m still not quite clear on this. And how is it possible to not know how to use a paper clip??

              1. Afiendishingy

                True story: I just googled “paperclip fail” images to try to get some clarity. Most of the results were either novelty paperclips that were intended to resemble dog bones or memes about Clippy from old Microsoft word (mostly about committing acts of violence towards him, which makes me think of a classic “wait wait don’t tell me”).

            2. anon17

              The edge of the paper or the edge of the clip?

              It says something that what he did was so off from the norm that we can’t even visualize it.

      1. AnonaMoose

        I would LOVE to find out where this guy is today. Common sense….it’s not so common.

      2. fretnone

        We had one who paperclipped volumes of multi-page emails together instead stapling them, which would have been fine, had he not alternately paperclipped at the top left, then the bottom right, then the top left, then the bottom right and so on. It was a mess to sort out because the clips would grab on to the wrong pages and then get mixed up.

        1. Dust Bunny

          Not to scare you, but I bet I know why he did this–to distribute the extra thickness (of the paperclips) to make them stack better.

          I’m not saying it’s not a pain in the rear, but there might be some (misguided) logic behind it.

      3. Lisa

        I put paperclips directly in the center because I have a thing about symmetry. However, I used to work in an office with lots of personnel files, and everyone centered their paperclips. I didn’t realize that was odd!

    2. Anony-moose

      Our intern texted at 11:45pm on Monday night to say he was going on vacation. I spent half the day wondering where he was until my boss let me know!

      1. Afiendishingy

        Ours get a lot of use. Our department oversees programs for kids with developmental disabilities, which means a lot of creating visual supports, which translates to a lot of laminating things and cutting them to size. I’m generally supposed to delegate these tasks but it can be a very satisfying way to spend an hour or two very now and then. A nice break from critical thinking, with a nice shiny finished product to show for it.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I’ve only had one intern, and she was great. So great that I recommended her for a full-time position with a VP…and she quit shortly after taking said position. I was upset, but that’s hardly a horror story. I think she just had her eye on a career in a different industry, and didn’t have the maturity to say that outright.

        I also was an “intern” briefly, but after being dumped in the shipping department and told to take care of everything on my own after a day or two of chasing people down to ask what the hell I should do, I complained to the owner (very small business), who screamed at me how grateful I should be (basically “do you know who we are?!?” speech), at which point I walked out.

  3. Cath in Canada

    A brand new co-op student (kind of an intern, right?) once came into our lunch room for the first time, listened to about 10 minutes of our usual conversation (sport, major world events, Game of Thrones and other TV), and announced that those topics didn’t interest her and that we should be talking about classical music instead. One of my colleagues asked how that would go, and in a very condescending tone she said, “well, if I was to say the name Beethoven, would you know who I meant?”

    After that we basically ignored her and went back to our favourite theories about Jon Snow.

    1. Stephanie

      Hahaha, because Beethoven is obscure?

      My friend the classical buff will talk endlessly about Sibelius given the chance. That level I feel like is the entry point to classical buff-level discussions.

      1. Elysian

        Your friend is right, Sibelius is amazing. (I wouldn’t call myself a buff, but I am an orchestral musician with a Sibelius station on Pandora.)

        1. Jeanne

          I’ll give you Sibelius. Also Saint-Saens is unappreciated. We used to have this Monopoly type game with composers. The cards had great info on the back about each composer.

          1. fposte

            For reasons that I cannot explain, I gargle with the tune of “Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals.

          2. The Strand

            I had that game too, but I got it a little earlier than I think I could have appreciated it – about 9 or so. I’d have more fun with that today. I remember the design was pretty classy.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        My favorite is Prokofiev. Mahler is a close second.

        (Major “orchestra buff” here! Married to a former professional classical trombonist, season subscriber to our orchestra.)

          1. Artemesia

            I just heard a Prokofiev the other day and right in the middle, there were those Peter and the Wolf Oboes — I feel like while his stuff is lovely, there isn’t a lot of range there. Of course my very favorite, Beethoven (you’ve heard of him right?) is easy to recognize and each symphony is a bit of a rough draft of the next.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              I didn’t see your reply two years ago, but I’m commenting late to say that I belatedly laughed at your comment. :) Beethoven sounds familiar. I’m pretty sure he maybe wrote two of my favorite sonatas?

              At the Cliburn competition this year, several of the competitors played Prokoviev. It was wonderful!

        1. Lily in NYC

          He is my favorite! I just taught myself to play one of his piano pieces; I wish he has sheet music available for purchase.

      3. AcademiaNut

        I seriously impressed a very senior colleague once in a classical music conversation when discussing Renaissance era Franco-Flemish composers. (I sang in an early music vocal group in grad school).

    2. fposte

      Missed opportunity–you could have punished her by talking about Beethoven the dog for hours.

      1. Engineer Girl

        And don’t forget about the hit song from the movie – “Roll over Beethoven”. Right?

      2. anonanonanon

        I was so sad when Netflix took the movie off their streaming service. I rewatched it an embarrassing number of times.

      3. Audiophile

        “Oh I’ve heard of him. Did you see 2 or 3, those are seriously underrated?” “Oh you meant the other Beethoven. I always think of that adorable pooch first!”

    3. lawsuited

      Of course you would! He’s a lovable St. Bernard who goes to great lengths to protect the family he lives with and gets into all sorts of misadventures along the way! Right? Right?!

    4. StillLAH

      omg I work for an orchestra and even we don’t sit around at lunch at talk about classical music!

  4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    My worst intern was pretty tame, compared to the stories I’m sure we’ll hear today. He was just generally unprofessional, although he did his job really, really well, so his manager (my direct report) struggled with how to handle him.

    His worst/best day was on the first day of the Egyptian uprising during the Arab Spring. He didn’t show up for work, and didn’t call. After 30 minutes or so of waiting, we called him. He answered and unabashedly told me that he wasn’t coming in that day because “as a political science major, it’s more important for me to watch the news about the Egyptian revolution.”

    Oh, dear sweet white boy. His manager was Egyptian. She was at work.

    I don’t actually remember how we handled it. He did end up on a PIP, but I don’t remember if that was the catalyst.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        It was the first time we’d ever used one! He came to us through a college, so we conferred with them about how to handle it.

      2. BRR

        That was my first thought too!

        “We need to put you on a PIP but it’s for 30 days and you’re internship is over in two weeks.”

      1. S

        A dear friend is half Egyptian with a lot of family there. She jokes about being a “stealth Muslim” because people just won’t accept her as Muslim, even with her name – which is horrible, people feel they can be really Islamophobic around her, because why should she care, right? She had to tell a *lot* of randoms to *** off over the Arab Spring, esp when they were trying to tell her what she should *really* think

    1. Cat

      Oh God, is there a German word for the secondhand embarrassment you get when reading stories like this?

          1. Sparky

            Myötähäpeä is Finnish for second hand embarrassment. This came up recently somewhere else. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it though.

                1. Prismatic Professional

                  Yes. Yes it is. I adore expanding my vocabulary! And if someone who speaks these languages ever comes in (and it is appropriate), I ask how to pronounce things! My friends are in awe of the versatility of my vocabulary!

              1. Jessa

                You have a cool words Excel? OMG is it up on Google Docs, can we see it? This concept is amazing.

              1. Sparky

                I copied and pasted it from where I found it, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get them on there.

              2. Cube Farmer

                umlauts: and now I know they are not called those-double-dot-things-above-the-letter. I came looking for intern stories, I left with so much knowledge.

                1. alter_ego

                  umlaut is actually the word for them in German. In English, it’s called a diaerisis, though I’ve never actually heard someone use that instead of umlaut.

                2. Jake

                  So, actually umlauts and diaereses are different things (although they look the same). The umlaut, used in German and many other languages, changes the sound of the vowel. a in German is pronounced like the a in tap (sort of), and ä is pronounced like the a cross between e in tent and a in tape. So it really makes a different sound. If you can’t make an umlaut you can just put an e after the letter, so ä = ae, ü = ue, ö = oe.

                  A diaeresis, on the other hand, is used to indicate that two adjacent vowels are pronounced distinctly, instead of as a single sound. It has mostly fallen out of use in English (although it’s still found in French), but you’ll see it sometimes on the word naïve. As far as I know, The New Yorker is the only publication that uses is consistently, so on their pages you will find the word coöperation.

                3. alter_ego

                  @Jake
                  I didn’t know that. I just know our Spanish teacher always told us diaerisis was the English word for it. I guess I shouldn’t have trusted a teacher in a language that doesn’t use either.

                4. Jessica (tc)

                  That makes sense for Spanish, actually, because it does use the diaereses to let speakers/readers know to pronounce subsequent vowels separately, as Jake mentions. Pingüino and bilingüe pronounce the U separately, while guerra doesn’t. Without the U in there, guerra would be pronounced hair-a, but the U itself isn’t pronounced distinctly from the G.

                5. Ellie H.

                  Another diaeresis you see in English is sometimes in the name Zoë (although that’s a proper name, so probably doesn’t really count among the English lexicon)

                6. Myrin

                  @Jake, super minor quibble, especially considering your great linguistic explanation: a German a isn’t pronounced like the a in tap (in fact, if I wanted to write what “tap” sounds like but following German pronounciation rules, I’d write “täpp”) but rather like “aah” or “ah” (the length can depend but if you had to choose one, it would be the first).

                7. Jake

                  @Myrin.. I did say “sort of”. English doesn’t really have a vowel that sounds just like the German ‘a’, so I was approximating.

                8. Jasmine

                  Completely irrelevant tidbit; the dots above letters in the Finnish alphabet are not umlauts.
                  That is, they are not a vowel that is altered in pronunciation when there are dots above it.

                  They are considered separate letters altogether, whith their own specific pronunciation rules, and all three are listed separately as part of the alphabet, after “z”.

                  And Myötähäpeä is (very roughly) pronounced “meough-tah-hah-pey-ah”.

                  :)

                9. Polymer Phil

                  I was in the same boat here as a former high school Spanish student. I didn’t know that “diaerisis” was an English word, and was under the impression that it was just Spanish for “umlaut.”

                1. Ruthan

                  On my Mac setup (which I think is pretty default) you can also just hold down a letter to get alternate versions: źŁøßåÿ

              3. zlionsfan

                On a Windows machine, ä is Alt+0228, and ö is Alt+0246 (numbers from the numeric keypad only – using the numbers on the main keyboard won’t produce anything). Copying and pasting is much easier!

                If you’re using an international “keyboard”, like US International, then you can do something Mac-like: typing ” followed by a vowel produces our umlaut friends. Penn State has an excellent section on this kind of thing for those who are interested: http://symbolcodes.tlt.psu.edu/accents/index.html#win. (About once a year or so, I want to type something like ° and forget how, so I end up on that page again.)

                1. Sparky

                  This is all so useful! Thanks, all!

                  I knew a guy who couldn’t watch the Pink Panther movies because he identified too much with Inspector Clouseau, which I wouldn’t have said was possible, but there you go.

            1. AnonaMoose

              YAY! I’m part finn and only know how to say ‘finnish pancakes’. Thanks Finnish grandmother who passed away way too early!

            2. Anonsie

              Is there a word for the feeling you get when you watch The Office and what’s happening in the show is so embarrassing and so awful that you just get really tense and upset and have to go lie down for a little bit?

              Asking for a friend.

              1. Meeee

                Dutch version is ‘plaatsvervangende schaamte’ which is unfortunately two words but translates as ‘placetaking shame’ – I guess ‘shame in the other’s place’. Anyway, my husband cannot deal with that. There’s several shows I just cannot watch when he is around because they make him have to leave.

                1. Stefanie

                  Samesies! There are certain shows and movies that I cannot watch when he’s home, especially anything with Steve Carell.

                2. Anonsie

                  YES. I knew this had to be a shared human experience such that someone must have named it!

                3. hermit crab

                  I am so glad for this thread! I don’t watch sitcoms for exactly this reason. Sometimes I will ask my SO to preview shows for me to see if I will be able to watch them, or if they will be too embarrassing.

                4. Jessica (tc)

                  The first time I watched Office Space I could not figure out why anyone thought it was funny. I was tense and upset and really stressed by the dysfunction at the office. The next time I watched it, I worked somewhere else and found it hilarious. Apparently working for jerks makes fake jerks unfunny.

                  I also cannot watch What About Bob, because Bob stresses me out too much and I don’t find his antics amusing.

                  If I have seen a show before and I know that someone will be made a fool of (they are being cheated on and everyone else knows, for example) or majorly embarrassed by something or someone in the episode, I can’t watch it again. If I have to for some reason, I just wait the whole show, on edge and feeling sorry for the person who is going to have to deal with that (and I kind of hate the people putting him/her through it). I don’t understand why people treat others that way, and I think I empathize too much with certain situations.

                  I am so glad I’m not the only one who has these moments when it comes to “entertainment” that I know isn’t real in the least. My friends just think I’m weird.

                5. Ellie H.

                  The one thing I literally can’t watch because of that is Dawn’s cheerleading tryout scene in the s7 episode “Him” of Buffy.

                6. AcademiaNut

                  I love it.

                  I can’t watch most sitcoms without being acutely uncomfortable, for just this reason.

                7. Charlotte Collins

                  I totally understand this. I have to leave the room when certain scenes come on, because I feel so bad for characters when they embarrass themselves. :(

                8. Jennifer O

                  John Cleese had a series of sketches called “How to Irritate People,” which were fabulous. One of the first sketches I saw had me chewing nails: I was so frustrated I could barely breathe! When watching the later sketches, I realised it was because the situation hit too close to home. The rest of the sketches were hilarious! My favourite was the sketch about airline pilots – but don’t watch it if you’re at all afraid of flying.

                9. Dust Bunny

                  Jessica (tc) Like how This is Spinal Tap apparently makes musicians cry?

                  (I’ve only ever been a hobby musician but, yes, I’ve gotten lost backstage and been accosted by weird music fans, so apparently it doesn’t take much to not think it’s very spoof-y.)

                1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

                  God I wish I could remove that episode from my Netflix entirely. It’s upsetting just to see it there as an option.

          1. Marcela

            My pedantic soul wants me to remind that pena means embarrassment only in some Spanish speaking countries, not including mine. The general term is vergüenza ajena.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Meanwhile, those of us who actually work on the middle east were thinking “well, f**k, there go my next few weekends”

      1. Ama

        I worked at the time for an ancient history focused university department that had our director, several postdocs, and a dozen undergrads doing field work in Egypt when that went down (thankfully in an area that was quieter than Cairo). It was an …interesting few days while they tried to get out safely.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I was temping part-time at an old job when 9/11 happened–we did NO work that day and someone had brought in a small TV. So all we did was watch Dan Rather all day. At 2:00, a special edition of the newspaper came out, so I ran out and got a copy of it, and a big thing of chocolate chip cookies for everyone. The phone only rang twice.

          I remember being creeped out by how quiet everything was. Traffic had gotten light because everyone was inside, watching or listening to the news, and of course no planes or helicopters or anything. That freaked me out a little–that flights were grounded at ALL airports, including our tiny, insignificant, doofus one in the middle of nowhere.

          Weirdest workday ever.

          1. Artemesia

            We had two former interns in the building that day in their shiny new New York job; they didn’t make it out. We had several other interns in the area but none of them got caught up in it. One horrible thing was that the fraternity brothers announced to everyone that their brother had been rescued and were interviewed in the local paper about this great escape while the parents were at home in agony knowing that he had not gotten out. Lots of rumors about that day that caused a lot of pain.

          2. Erika

            I was a senior in high school when that happened, and they did the same thing – every room had TVs and we watched the news reports all day. They put the school on lockdown and wouldn’t let us leave (we were just outside DC). It felt like watching a snuff film all day.

            1. Not So NewReader

              I have no clue how you got through marathon watching all that. I watched a little after work (was not allowed to leave work) and I was wide awake all night long. The last time I saw anything that rattled this country so badly it was when Kennedy was shot. BUT, that time, the country calmed down quicker and went straight into mourning.

            2. Mel in HR

              I also was in high school, just outside of DC at the time. One history class saw the second plane hit when they did their morning routine of watching the news and discussing it. They didn’t put us on lockdown and simply sent out an announcement saying the Pentagon had been bombed and the phone lines were down. My dad and my best friend’s dad worked in the Pentagon so we were freaking out. When school let out, they told us to go straight home. Of course, my best friend and I walked to school so we had to run home. Her dad survived because he had been running late that day and got stuck in traffic. My dad was in a building in Pentagon city and felt the rumble of the plane flying over, followed by seeing the explosion. He was immediately evacuated.
              It was such a creepy day.

      2. zora

        Ha, that’s what I was thinking. I was working on MENA policy at the time, we were all watching/listening to the news in the office.. WHILE we were working….

    3. AW

      Oh, dear sweet white boy. His manager was Egyptian. She was at work.

      I’m going to spend the next 5 years laughing at this.

      1. Dang

        Ditto. I’m thinking this one makes the list, but this is only like…. 10% of the way through the comments as of now. This is gonna be good.

      2. Jessa

        Yeh I had the same idea. For a poli-sci major that was kind of tone deaf of him, as well as ignorant.

    4. Retail Lifer

      It’s not like the internet exists or anything. Imagine if we could get up-to-the-minute news on demand?

      1. Kyrielle

        That, but even without the Internet, it’s not like TV news *ever* repeats a good clip, right? (Thanks, news media, for some images indelibly burned on my mind….) Or like newspapers run detailed major stories? Or magazines do summaries? Or, you know, there’s recording it to watch later, or….

        Yeah.

    5. anon-why

      Oh, dear sweet white boy.

      This made a cringe a little. I’m not sure it needed to be said to get the other part of the story across…

        1. anon-why

          Don’t get me wrong, I know that. But that person’s race doesn’t necessarily matter, as the joke is that they stayed home to watch the events because they were a Poli Sci major, not because they were white or male. But whatever, “lol white people” is funny I guess.

          1. MashaKasha

            A Poli Sci major who didn’t even know that his boss was Egyptian; or, if he did know, it hadn’t occurred to him to ask if her family was ok. Instead he chose to stay home and passive-aggressively chastise her, and everyone else who came into work that day, for not being as attuned to the current events as he was.

            This actually does sound like something a person with “the lowest difficulty setting” (from the below link) would do.

  5. Colette

    I used to work at an organization that hired high school co-ops, university co-ops, and interns, all of whom were well paid. We had some great students, and some of them went on to be hired for a permanent job once they graduated, but there were some that weren’t so great.

    1) Summer student #1 had been a high school co-op with us, and my manager was good about working around her school schedule. We hired her for the summer. She took a couple of days off with approval, and then called in on a Friday to announce she was going out of town to attend a school-related event (it might have been a course of some sort – it wasn’t frivolous) and would be gone for the next two weeks … out of an 8 week summer job. We did not hire her the next year.

    2) Co-op #1 was hired to work on some projects, but he didn’t really like doing them. He did, however, like creating a webpage that counted how many seconds you had been viewing it, and shared that with the team. He did not come back and got a bad review. (I’m not sure how actively he was managed during his term – it’s possible his manager could have done a better job there, but it’s also possible that he just didn’t care.)

    1. AW

      He did, however, like creating a webpage that counted how many seconds you had been viewing it, and shared that with the team.

      Why? Did he think that would somehow be useful?

      1. Stryker

        Actually, that can be really useful for landing pages. Are people staying on the page and reading what’s there, or just visiting and abandoning immediately? A simple bounce rate won’t tell you this.

        That said, there are already analytics tools that do this, most notably Google Analytics.

        1. Colette

          This was pre-Google. It might have allowed him to learn some skills, but they weren’t remotely related to what we were doing (telecommunications software).

      2. The Strand

        Site stickiness can tell you a lot about how well you’re doing, actually. If people stay on a page because they can’t figure out how to get to the information they really need, that’s bad. If people spend hours on the same website (you know, like AAM), that’s really good, especially for advertisers.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius

    We had an intern whose mom was BFF with the Boss.  The parents set up a three week internship for this 19 year old woman.  Here are a few problems.

    1) While trying to figure out availability, the intern’s mother called our office and said all communication should go through her because her daughter was in the middle of finals week and shouldn’t be bothered.

    2)  The intern’s mother brought her to work and picked her up every day.  As in…walked the intern in, left, returned, and waited in the front office for her child at the end of the day.

    3) The day before the internship started, the intern and her mom stopped by.  Her mother responded for her every time I asked the intern a direct question.

    4) Every single item of the intern’s clothing barely covered her butt.  One item was see through.

    5) One of the intern’s responsibilities was to answer the phones.  She cried on the second day when she received a distressing call.  (Our office got a lot of those.  We told her that.)  She called her mother, and her mom showed up immediately.

    6) Intern’s mother attended her daughter’s party at the end of the internship.  Her mother was in every photo.

    We might as well have had two interns because I felt like I had to manage both of them.

    I weep for our future.

    1. cv

      I weep for that young woman. I can’t imagine growing up with the kind of mother who would act like that.

      1. Sparrow

        Me too. That mother is doing her daughter a great disservice in preparing her for the real world. I wonder if the daughter doesn’t feel comfortable standing up to her mom, or if she’s okay with her mom doing everything for her.

        1. Hotstreak

          Or if she doesn’t have enough life experience at 19 to even know that her Mom is acting so oddly.

          1. Sascha

            Yeah….that was me. My mom answered for me for everything, took me everywhere, basically made all my decisions. And I was 19-20 as well. I was just so sheltered I had no idea it wasn’t normal for Mom to do everything for me at that age. Then I fell in with some hooligans during college, and started becoming independent, to her horror. :) (I ended up marrying one of those hooligans, and we just had our first kid.)

            1. Specialk9

              Would you consider yourself fairly adept socially and career-wise, or do you struggle because of how you were raised?

          2. Blue Anne

            Yes, this. My mother has an extremely narcissistic personality and I didn’t know it wasn’t normal until I’d been living thousands of miles away from her for years. When I was growing up, if I was uncomfortable with anything my mother did, I was told that it was because I was lazy, socially awkward, or weak.

            I hope this kid got out quickly.

    2. NickelandDime

      She micromanaged her daughter to this degree…but let her come to work with no clothes on? I would imagine a parent like this would buy all of their kid’s clothes and lay them out every day.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        That’s what I said!!!! I didn’t get this woman. You don’t trust your kid to get herself to work alone, but the skimpy clothing is okay?!!!!??

        Plus I didn’t want you all to think this intern came from a strictly religious family. She didn’t. She went across the country to college.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Didn’t your company want you to tell the mom to back off (so to speak) that it’s her adult daughters internship not hers??

          1. Snarkus Aurelius

            It was a tough choice. By the time we figured out these major issues, there weren’t that many days left in her internship. Wasn’t with the mom confrontation.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Maybe the mom wears mini skirts too and isn’t against “showing your assets”

        1. Dust Bunny

          Or is living vicariously, getting a thrill out of being the one who produced a daughter who can apparently get away with wearing it.

    3. T3k

      Wooow. At least I had the common sense to tell my mom to wait in the car when I interviewed for my first internship (didn’t have a car at the time, so she had to take me).

    4. DarjeelingAtNoon

      A parent exhibiting this level of control is a red flag for abuse, and it was part of my training to watch for these signs. At 19, this kid was probably using every brain cell to navigate this extreme control.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        We talked about this at the happy hour we wanted to invite the intern to but we figured her mom would be there so we didn’t.

        On the one hand, this could constitute abuse. On the other, the mom literally had nothing else going on in her life so of course she was going to throw herself into this.

        We couldn’t come to a conclusion.

        1. Jenna Maroney

          It is interesting and something I’ve observed working with younger kids that from the outside, things like helicopter parenting/indulgence and toxicity/abuse can look very similar. I wince whenever I hear someone say for example that because someone gets very emotional when they screw up or are reprimanded, they must have been coddled by their parents. Maybe! Or, maybe their parents berated or injured them for mistakes of all kinds and they subconsciously associate error with danger/shame/etc. Excessive support is not the only way to deprive a child of developing emotional resources to cope with hardships (even minor ones).

          1. Abyssal

            I’m reluctant to view helicopter parenting as indulgence — having come from a background with helicopter parents, it was pretty much the opposite. I had to be involved in everything and be the best at everything I was involved in. There were months at a time during the school year when I wouldn’t get home until 11pm, and I was getting up at 5:30am for my before-school activities. Everything was checked, and if I got less than 100% on any test, I had to talk through it with my father and explain exactly what I got wrong and how I was going to bring up my grade.

            It might not be outright abuse, but it really is toxic as all get-out. You’re terrified to set a foot wrong, and the strategies for dealing with that kind of an atmosphere are incredibly maladaptive once you get out from under it. It took me years to really convince my gut that it was better to tell my boss “Hey, I made a mistake here, this is what I think we can do to fix it” instead of desperately trying to bury my wrongdoing.

              1. Abyssal

                I saw the Slate article a few days ago, and found it profoundly unsurprising. I had one semester of fantastically high performance in college as I maintained my momentum from high school, and then depression set in and I basically fell apart, started refusing to leave my room, having panic attacks, the whole nine yards. I had no survival skills for pulling myself together because I’d never been able to collapse before and so I didn’t know how to handle it.

                It’s a terrible thing, and I wish that kind of treatment were more broadly recognized as abusive.

                1. Dust Bunny

                  I’m learning disabled and have always had a really hard time in school. I made it through college but, ha ha, was never in any danger of making the dean’s list.

                  The flip side of this is that I’ve had a whole lot of practice failing at things. The more I read about the effects of never-failing as children/adolescents, the more weirdly glad I am of that.

            1. Elizabeth West

              It’s not indulgent; it’s controlling. I was a helicopter kid. It wasn’t as bad as Snarkus Aurelius’s intern’s mum, nor was it similar to yours, but it was bad enough that I’m still dealing with it.

            2. Anonsie

              Absolutely. With some of the folks I grew up with whose families were like this, some were outright abusive (to the extent that my parents and others actually called in complaints to protective services several times throughout my childhood on different families and one girl actually ended up being removed from the home) but others were just controlling to an extremely damaging degree but never crossed a line that could have landed them in hot water. The one that really stands out had a schedule like yours, and her mom also had a detailed matrix of “privileges” (with the lowest being allowed to choose her own clothes or eat dinner with the family instead of alone in her room) that had to be earned by solid weeks of no mistakes. Months would go by where she only worse the punitive uniform her mom picked out. At one point I think it may have stretched years.

              The girl whose mother lost custody over it is actually doing alright, but I think a lot of that has to do with going to live with different family members when she was still youngish. Most of the people I knew who grew up like this are so used to severe consequences for every hair out of place that they just ran wild as soon as they got the opportunity because getting fired, getting arrested, none of that really scared them. That’s just the way life is as far as they’ve ever experienced.

              1. MegEB

                Oh my god. That’s horrible. The idea of having to earn the right to eat dinner with your family is so incredibly upsetting to me.

              2. FarFromBreton

                I had a friend in high school whose parents were like this. She was a straight-A student who got teased by classmates for how high-strung she was. Her mom would take her shopping and insist on buying her tons of clothes she didn’t want to wear (they were very wealthy). She once upset her parents with some minor error (I think her room got a bit messy during a very busy week), and as punishment, her parents took away all of the clothes she actually liked wearing and threatened to give them away. When she reminded them how much those clothes cost, they settled on taking away the clothes for a month and made her wear only the clothes she usually refused to wear (which included miniskirts. In winter.). Shockingly, she also had an eating disorder throughout much of high school. We lost touch after high school, but she seems to be doing okay now, luckily.

                1. Blue Anne

                  Urgh. Sounds familiar. At sleepaway camp when I was 8, everyone got care packages – the other kids got candy and mad libs, my mom sent me three bikinis. She was always trying to get me to wear revealing clothing, whereas I wanted to wear extremely covering, shapeless stuff because she’d drilled it into me that I was extremely fat. Ugh ugh ugh ugh.

            3. Observer

              There are all sorts of helicopters, and I agree that some are abusive or borderline so. But, others are way indulgent and do too much rescuing. The commonality is the over involvement in the details of a child’s life. And it’s toxic even when it doesn’t feel that way to the kid.

            4. MashaKasha

              Wow. My And I agree, indulgence has nothing to do with it. My parents were a bit on the helicopter side, and I know some parents in my age group that are also a bit on that side, so I’ve heard everyone’s points of view. The biggest problem with helicopter parenting as I see it, is that, as a kid/teen in this situation, you’re not allowed to make mistakes, because your parents define their own value through you. Every question you miss on a test is a judgment on them and a cause for embarrassment for them. They determine their own place in the social hierarchy, and their own value as a human being, by how well their kids do in life according to the standards defined by them. It’s pretty sick really.

              My parents tried pulling the same thing with my kids, but were met with resistance on all sides. One family joke we have is about how my mom found my one son’s test scores where it said he’d placed in the 99th percentile, and asked in a saddened voice, “Why didn’t he get a hundred?”

            5. mirror

              I could be your twin. I’m better now, but my first instinct when I make a mistake is to hide it. There have a been a few AAM letters here where I would never, ever admit the mistake. AAM almost always says it’s better to do so and I feel like I’m looking through a dusty window–I can almost see the logic and wisdom, but it’s clouded by years and years of shaming and guilt and yelling and disappointment.

          2. aebhel

            Honestly, I think that degree of helicopter parenting is abusive. That would be controlling and weird toward a 12-year-old, IME, let alone a college student.

          3. Artemesia

            Some of it is inborn temperament. My granddaughter who is 5 is very sensitive to making mistakes although her parents have always been very relaxed about it. She was cooking with me the other day and broke an egg which ended up on the floor, rather than in the bowl — she was almost cringing but calmed down when I laughed and handed her another egg and said ‘that happens when you cook sometimes.’ I think some kids are just more high strung about things like this.

    5. tesyaa

      I was babysitting for 2 little kids when I was about 12, and I thought I smelled gas in the house. I called my dad to come over and check it out. That’s the last time my parents got involved with my work life.

      1. jmkenrick

        I mean, I fairly routinely ASK my parents for advice. But have them show up to an internship with me? I would be mortified.

        I feel bad for that girl if she thinks this is normal. (And I wish her luck if she knows it’s not and is biding her time.)

      2. BenAdminGeek

        I like to imagine your dad as Ron Swanson, instead telling you to deal with the problem like an adult…

      3. Artemesia

        My adult kids ask us for advice — me work advice and him legal advice — all the time and they listen carefully. That is when they ASK for advice. We would never presume to offer it otherwise and I know that particularly in my son’s profession that I am relatively clueless about how he should manage his career. (I can provide good advice about managing up though)

        1. Cafe Au Lait

          I talk to my Mom all the time about my job and what to do. But she’s great at seeing the big picture, and I often can’t see the forest due to all the trees.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      You should have fired the mom immediately. Of course, she would probably exclaim “But I don’t work here!”, at which point you can throw her out with less of an argument than before.

    7. Angela

      This reminds me of my former boss and her teenage daughter. They were in constant contact. I have no idea how former boss got anything done between the texting and the phone calls. I frequently wondered how the teenager was ever going to learn to handle things on her own since she would text/call her mom all day long.

      1. Jess

        In my first job out of college I shared an office with a man who was CONSTANTLY on the phone with his three college-aged children. They each called him literally once an hour all day long every single workday. I remember one day his soon-to-be-graduating son was at a job fair and called him between every single booth so he could talk his kid through, “What company is next? Okay, if they ask you X, answer Y. If they ask you A, answer B and word it like this: blah blah blah.” The kid would hang up, talk to the recruiters, and then call his dad again to get his answers for the next interview. It blew my mind; the kid was only a year younger than I was but my parents had literally zero involvement in my job search/interview process beyond my telling them that I’d been hired somewhere and their saying, “Congratulations! How nice! Where?”

        1. Marillenbaum

          Yeah, the extent to which my mom was involved in my job search was saying, “Your uncle John works for [field related to what I wanted to do], you should probably ask him what he thinks.” Actually, it was a point of pride that I was recently able to give my mom job search advice, because I’ve been spending so much time here–she took my advice on salary, and ended up negotiating for higher pay! It was awesome, and not like I’m not already totally proud of her (she’s great), but it was so neat to be useful.

    8. Kristen

      I am afraid that is the generation that is being raised and coming into the workforce. They don’t know how to handle these situations because they have been coddled and indulged by their parents for their whole lives. Sad state of the workforce.

      1. Audrey

        That’s a fairly disappointing take on the generation currently entering the workforce. Offensive, even,

        1. Not So NewReader

          Annnd, it says that parents don’t know how to be a parent… Hmmm. Isn’t the first place we learn how to be a parent is from watching our parents? The comment actually covers multiple generations of people. Grandparents didn’t teach the parents so now the parents are messing up this generation– that is how the statement plays out in my mind.

          This is the problem with generalities.

          1. TootsNYC

            I think that my generation of parents, and the ones the followed me closely, got a lot of messages that said, “It is YOUR fault if your kid messes up. YOU have all the responsibility for how your kid turns you. YOU have to make your child succeed and be happy.”

            I saw it–I fought against it.

            I remember sitting there while my kid’s teacher said to me, “He needs to learn to do this!” and I was thinking, “Then why are you scolding me?”
            My son didn’t format his spelling words properly (so it was easy for teacher to check rapidly), and she wrote US a note telling us that when we signed off on his homework, we were supposed to be checking that he’d done it right, so we were wrong! to be signing his homework. I’m thinking, “Why don’t you teach him the right way to do it? how am I supposed to know he’s to write double-spaced and on the left? And why am I signing his damn homework anyway? His homework is supposed to be between him and you, and I’m only called in when he needs help.”

            A colleague at work said she used to have to say to her son’s teachers, “Look, this is HIS homework, not mine. Don’t talk to me. Talk to him. I’ll back you up, but don’t talk to ME about it.”

            Those are the messages we are getting, as parents.

            There’s a backlash, so the kids who are 4 and 8 today will get parents who are hearing the message, “let your kid take care of it; he’s more capable than you know; this is good practice.”

        2. kt (lowercase)

          +1. Also really lazy. People have been saying this about “kids these days” since time immemorial.

      2. TL -

        Hey now. Not all of us from this generation had parents like that – my parents certainly were the polar opposites of helicopter parents.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          I think that’s where the helicopter parenting comes from. My parents let us make our own mistakes and be independent, but we always knew they were there when we needed them. And there were definite rules for the big, important things. However, I knew people of my generations whose parents pretty much checked out from actual, you know, parenting, and while the parents tried to “find themselves” or whatever, the kids pretty much raised themselves and their younger siblings. For some of them, I think their reaction was to be so much the opposite of their own parents that they overdo it and become helicopter parents. (I’m not saying that this applies to everyone, just that there is a significant proportion of these generations for which this is true.) Also, I do think that there are higher expectations for parents and their kids to “succeed” than there used to be.

          I don’t have kids, but I realized a long time ago that I just wouldn’t have the energy to be a helicopter parent…

          1. MashaKasha

            Yes, my mom was like that. Her mother was never home when she was growing up, and her father had died in the war, so my mom pretty much raised herself. She decided that she’s be more involved in her child’s life, and boy oh boy was she. With my own kids, I remembered how I felt lost and confused in college, away from my parents, with no one to tell me what I needed to do or what decisions to make; and set myself a goal of making sure they’re able to function on their own by the time they’re out of high school. I’d say I kind of strived to be like your parents. Didn’t know my weird attempt at normal parenting would come to test during my youngest’s sophomore year of high school. His brother was off at college and I had gotten myself into a relationship with a man who lived an hour away, insisted that I spend most weekends at his place, and insisted that I keep communication with my 16yo to a minimum while at his place, because me exchanging texts or phone calls with my kid made my then partner feel somehow unloved and unappreciated. All of a sudden the 16yo found himself at home alone most weekends with hardly any communication with me. We got through that year in one piece somehow. No parties, no one got arrested, house did not burn down and so forth. I guess middle-ground parenting is possible.

            1. Carrie....

              Your post worries me….. Leaving your son alone all weekend every week to be with a manipulative man who is ??jealous of your son?!? I hope you are long out of that relationship. Yikes…

      3. Pipes32

        Sweeping generalizations, woo!

        9 years ago, I went through our company’s college program (they hire you, train you for 6 months, and then you interview internally for your job). Last year I got to be involved in their interview process for that same college program I went to. Let me tell you, the kids I saw…honestly, I don’t even know if I’d have gotten the job nowadays against them. I couldn’t have been more impressed with how bright and engaging even those that we didn’t bring back for the final round were! We are a high paying 6 figure job so we do get the “best of the best” candidates but man, they were awesome.

        1. Specialk9

          Love it! I’m a Gen Xer, and hate seeing the vitriol against millennials. It’s just as bad as what we got in our day, but more cruel because the rest of us geezers crashed their job market and drove up their tuition costs. Sorry guys! On the plus side, you guys as a group know how to save money!

    9. Minister of Snark

      We had an intern who was a cross between this poor girl and the girl who insisted that everybody should change the topic of lunch conversation to classical music to suit her. Her parents’ constant focus on her seemed to give her the impression that she should be the center of all conversations, the most important person in any room, the person whose needs should be considered first. Hearing her tell people to change their conversation in the lunchroom because “I don’t want to hear about that” was not uncommon. (We’re not talking graphic/inappropriate topics, just TV shows and such she wasn’t allowed to watch. At 19.)

      “That’s not going to work for ME.” was practically her catch phrase, whether it was scheduling, an assignment where she would have to do grunt work instead of the “glory” stuff, or just being asked to do something that didn’t suit her down the ground. If her supervisors told her to do those tasks anyway, her parents would call the office to tell the supervisors why they should make an exception for her . If the supervisors reprimanded her in anyway, not even an official write-up, just a verbal, “Don’t do that again.” – her parents would call and explain to the supervisors why they should make an exception for her. If she had conflicts with coworkers, even if it was as simple as a minor dispute over who got to go to lunch first, her parents called the supervisors to explain how the situation should be resolved.

      What made me really sad about the situation was that this girl really couldn’t figure out why her coworkers, even the other interns, didn’t just adore her and fall all over themselves to accommodate her. She had no coping skills and no ability to resolve conflicts with people who didn’t just give up and agree with her. If someone didn’t immediately agree with her or immediately accommodate her, she got this flummoxed “DOES NOT COMPUTE” expression on her face. And it was sad that she was not likely to develop those skills as long as her parents hovered.

      1. S

        This is what upsets me about these kids – their parents are putting barriers in front of them, and the kids are so accustomed to it, they can’t see it. And what kind of workplace has the time/inclination to try to re-educate them?

      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        This reminds me of one of the girls in my sister’s circle of friends in junior high and high school. My sister would have sleepovers all the time with the same six girls. One of them was very spoiled and accustomed to getting her way all the time. She was the first girl in her family in a long time, and her mother had been dying to have a girl. Everyone in the family colluded to make sure this girl never got anything but her own way.

        At sleepovers, she was always either crying that the other girls wouldn’t do what she wanted or threatening to go home if they didn’t center everything around her. Every time she would threaten to go home, my grandma would say, “Okay, time to go,” and call her mom to come get her. I don’t think she ever made it through a full night of actually sleeping over.

        I still wonder if she’s a spoiled adult making her coworkers miserable or if she finally matured out of it.

  7. Cube Ninja

    An old experience which is second hand to me, but nonetheless horrible and amusing is summed up very simply:

    “What do you mean, double click?”

    1. TK

      In my new job I started about a year ago, I manage undergraduate student workers. In that time, I have had to teach/explain:

      *what I mean when I say “copy me on that email” (and the difference between cc & bcc)
      *how to edit a filename by clicking on it when it’s selected
      *that you must lay things faceDOWN on a copy machine/scanner in order to reproduce them

      1. Kelly L.

        I’ve had to explain to various people (not interns) that you put the paper faceDOWN if you’re copying from the glass, but faceUP if you’re putting it in the document feeder. And then some would still routinely mess it up.

        1. voluptuousfire

          I still mess that up and I’ve done office work for years. :) But again, I didn’t always work directly with copiers and such.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

            Almost all printers and copiers have little diagrams on them that help indicate where to put the paper and which way to face it. Like for the document feeder, there will be a little picture that looks like a piece of paper with the corner folded over. If there are lines on the paper and the corner is blank, that means “insert face up.” Look for them when you’re unsure. :)

            1. Jessa

              Oh, yes, if I didn’t have the little diagrams, on the other hand there were times when it wasn’t clear. So what I did as a person with problem solving skills was take a blank piece of paper, mark an x on one side and put it through the machine. I then knew which way to insert the other pages.

              Also did this to test how the machine printed from the tray if I had to make double sided copies in the days of machines that did not do that automagically for me. You put the paper in the tray with an arrow on it and it showed you whether the blank side should be up or down, and which way to orient the papers so that both sides printed with the tops of the pages in the right direction.

      2. T3k

        To be fair, I’ve done 2 internships and worked at one place that relied heavily on email correspondence with customers (current place, not so much) and I’ve yet to learn cc and bcc as we never used them. But the rest *smh*

        Although I can tell you some funny stories about having to teach my bosses and other coworkers how to do simple tasks, like unzipping a file (I wish I was joking about that).

        1. Cautionary tail

          Just last week I sent a zip file to two intern-age students. Neither one had any idea how to open it.

        2. Beancounter in Texas

          I still have to help my boss unzip files. And help him to double click fast enough to count as a double click. Half the time he clicks so intently that he ends up dragging the file into another folder and then he calls me in because “it disappeared.”

          But granted, he’s 77 years old.

          1. Engineer Girl

            My Dad had that problem. Arthritis. You can change the click speed on the mouse and slow it down.

            1. Stone Satellite

              Yeah, definitely have a look at the accessibility settings for your dad, Beancounter. Input devices are legitimately difficult for some users and most operating systems have some configurable settings to make it easier; there’s really no reason not to adjust it so he can use it successfully on his own.

          2. Aisling

            Or you can click it once to select the file/icon/whatever, and then hit the Enter key. That will also open it.

        3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

          I’ve never had a zip file come up in a work situation but on my personal computer I’ve never been able to get one unzipped. Looking for instruction online always tells me I need to download a special program to do it and I just refuse.

          1. Rebecca Z

            Right click on the zipped file. Click on “extract all.” Everything will open in a new folder. No special program needed.

            1. zora

              It depends on your computer/operating system. Some have native archiving software now, some don’t. My parents’ still doesn’t, I can’t figure out why not.

          2. Spiky Plant

            Yeah, on Macs it’s very easy, but on PC’s it’s unreasonably difficult and I managed to contract a virus the last time I tried it.

            1. esra

              That… was an issue with the file. It is really easy on PCs too. Double click, drag and drop. Or extract to folder.

        4. Blue Anne

          A little conversation from when I worked tech support…

          “I can’t remember how to get to the software.”
          “Okay, it’s cloud based so you can just get to it through your browser. Here’s the URL for your instance.”
          “What’s a browser?”

          1. TootsNYC

            I’m not sure I count this as extreme stupidity. Maybe nobody ever used that term for it–it’s Explorer, or “the internet program” to him.

      3. AVP

        This is not about an intern, it’s about my *boss* – I regularly have to show him how to find downloaded files (in the Downloads folder on the main nabber on his Mac) and how to BCC in gmail.

        1. rory

          To be fair to your boss, gmail made it really really hard to BCC in their latest Compose update. If I didn’t know you could BCC, I’m not sure how I’d find out.

          1. Stone Satellite

            I can only assume it was done to stop rampant BCC abuse, which is a serious societal problem.

        2. jules

          I had to teach an older colleague how to use twitter – fair enough, not everyone is born with that knowledge. I started to panic when she said she didn’t know what to write in the ’email’ field to create an account. And then asked me if the password for twitter had to match the exact password for her email.
          As the organisation was originally planning on me slowly handing over the responsibilities of digital comms to her, I had a few very very stressful weeks – until I managed to convince a higher up that it was a Very Bad Idea.

      4. some1

        I worked with a woman who thought the To, CC and BC lines meant you could only send an email to three people or email groups at a time.

        Our file entry program created a label for the physical file in Word. You had to run the merge by file #, and you would put in the # of the first file you created and the last one – she didn’t know how to delete the labels in between that she didn’t need.

        1. AnonaMoose

          Dude, I didn’t understand mail merging until 10+ years after my first office job. That stuff is confusing – and nobody ever would teach me! I remember getting interviewed for jobs and NOT getting the job specifically because I didn’t know how to mail merge. (it never occurred to me to learn it on my own, which I now do for most things including programming languages. Oh early internet years, how I don’t miss you at all.)

          1. some1

            She had no trouble executing the merge – she just didn’t know how to delete the labels someone else had created in between hers before she printed it out.

          2. afiendishthingy

            I learned how to mail merge in my first office job in college, but I haven’t used it since then and I’m not sure I could do it if asked.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              I used to have to mail merge regularly, but it’s been awhile. I might have to reinvent the wheel learning how to do it if I ever had to do it again. It never seemed very intuitive or user-friendly to me even when it was a regular part of my job.

        2. TCO

          My husband’s former boss had the same belief about To, CC, and BCC. She’d send every e-mail to three people (one on each line) and ask them to send it to the rest of the team.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Since CC predates computers, I always wonder why this is the confusing thing on email to some people…

      5. Stranger than fiction

        I had to explain to a coworker that tha document collection bins didn’t actually shred the documents, they get picked up. She was literally standing there perplexed that she didn’t hear any shredding going on!!!

        1. Kelly L.

          Can’t remember if I heard this here or not–anyway, it’s not my story, it’s one I heard online.

          An office was using an old US Mail tote as the to-be-shredded bin, and eventually it was discovered that an employee had been throwing all of the outgoing mail in it for months, thinking it was going to get picked up and mailed.

      6. ineloquent

        I just had to train my 50+ year old coworker how to click and drag her mouse over text to highlight a larger selection. This is not her first job using computers.

        1. Stone Satellite

          My mother’s office specifically left Solitaire on their Windows computers to encourage the staff to learn to use the mouse. They mostly did! But utterly failed at locking their screens, and my mother would rotate the orientation so the “top” of the screen was actually on the bottom and wait for them to come shame-faced to her office for a talk about security, and then she would fix it for them.

    2. So anonymous for this

      I feel for you.

      Not an intern, but I once had to work with a client IT person who was titled as an “NT administrator” (back when Windows NT was the latest-and-greatest).

      He didn’t know how to open folders in Windows Explorer, and I had to have him click on the little “plus” symbol because he could not grasp the idea of clicking twice fast – or else he could not click fast enough. I was on the other end of a phone line, so I’m not entirely sure which.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        I have a bookkeeper with a bachelor’s degree in information technology who has failed to install a printer with the original manufacturer CD on his machine for two days.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yep. Once you stick the disk in the drive, you just wait for the install wizard to pop up, agree to their stupid agreement, and then click next a couple of times. Unless there’s some sort of gremlin in your computer diverting the simple task into the electronic nether world. Which happens.

      2. Anonymous Power Outlook User

        I work with a partner. My one time partner has since retired but she had never grasped the concept of copy/paste. She would manually type in a large number of 20 character part numbers. I noticed it when I looked over her shoulder and noticed all the letters were lower case. I taught her hows to do it but it took her some time to embrace it. Far fewer typos and so much more productive after.

    3. AW

      I have some sympathy here because I once tutored a woman taking a computer basics course. By basics I really do mean basic stuff like creating and copying files, the simplest things for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and doing a very simple web page at the end of the course.

      It was ridiculous the number of times I had to tell her that the reason she got stuck was because the book skipped a step. The course was clearly intended for people unfamiliar with computers (IIRC, double clicking was something they covered) but the book still made assumptions about what the reader would know.

      1. jmkenrick

        I once helped my grandmother with her e-mail. She was a lovely woman, and intelligent, but hadn’t really worked with computers.

        It was a struggle, because at first, I was leaving her confused. Then I started to explain everything, and I just felt so condescending. That’s what she wanted though. It was my own mental block – once you’ve learned something so that it becomes second nature, it seems that it should be easy.

        1. TL -

          Yup! I tend to start with “I don’t know what your background is, so I’m going to assume not very much and I’m sorry if I’m telling you things you already know really well!”

      2. AnotherAlison

        I just don’t know where you go to learn if you’ve made it to 2015 without some familiarity with computers.

        Not that I don’t know a few people who know nothing about them, because I do know those people, but I couldn’t begin to know where you start to teach them something.

        1. aebhel

          It’s definitely a skill set. I teach a lot of adult rudimentary computer skills (and I do mean rudimentary), and they are not for the most part stupid people…but you feel really condescending explaining search bars and address bars and how to use a mouse to adults.

          1. Jessa

            Oh dear, address bars and trying to talk to customers on the phone. And explaining that no I don’t mean type it in Google, but that bar way above there. Given all the different browsers and people’s settings, it’s hard. Seriously.

          2. Kate Heightmeyer

            It really is. My 72-year-old grandfather still has trouble grasping the difference between windows and tabs. He comes over to borrow my mom’s laptop sometimes and she reminds him to close the tab, don’t close the window, don’t press the big red “X” in the corner. And every time, without fail, he closes the window.

            A couple months ago, I came by a free tablet and gave it to him because he’s still lacking a computer. A few weeks later, he asked me, “Can you get these words off the screen?” The tablet came with a plastic cover with charging instructions written on it. I just stood there, pulled off the plastic, and handed it back to him.

        2. Elizabeth West

          A relative gets really frustrated with it–she kept saying she was not smart enough to learn it. I finally called her on that–I said, “I don’t want to hear you say you’re not smart enough, because you are. You can do things I can never do.” Not wanting to was the real issue. Which is fine–if you don’t want to do any more than you absolutely have to, okay then. But don’t tell me you CAN’T learn it, because I know for a fact that you can.

          My 78-year-old dad could, and every so often he expresses interest in getting a computer, but then he just doesn’t bother. He’d be fun to teach, though. :)

        3. Marina

          My local library system has some great classes. Senior centers also frequently have good classes, if you’re in that age group.

          My dad, who’s worked in tech his whole life, recommends starting people by playing Solitaire. They’re familiar with the basic structure of the game, and you practice opening and closing the program, clicking and dragging, double clicking, and using file menus.

          1. TychaBrahe

            That is exactly why solitaire and Minesweeper were included in Windows 95: to get people used to using the mouse.

            1. Jessa

              Yep, click, double click, drag and drop, all things you need to do to play those games. Which is why I hate companies that instead of dealing with the individual people who take advantage of having solitaire on the computer, delete it completely, because it does make it really easy to teach certain skills.

          2. Career Counselorette

            You know, that’s actually a really good idea. I might try that with some of my clients.

          3. Monika

            I volunteer in a senior center and do that with Paint; all the concepts of “serious” programms are there, and trying to write your name with the mouse helps to practise the motor skills you need. It’s a great learning (and teaching) tool for beginners of all age groups.

        4. alter_ego

          If you buy a mac, apple stores offer one-on-one lessons that can be as basic as the person needs them to be, up to and including “here’s the power button”

        5. A Teacher

          My dad had to call me to explain how to turn off the old PC before my mom just went to a laptop. Of course, this is the same man that just got my old iPhone 4 and his cell phone before that was 7 years old. On his old phone you would hit 1 and it would take you to voicemail and then in the voicemail box you could hit 7 to delete the voicemail. Only problem, He was just dialing 7 (skipping the 1 part) and couldn’t figure out why his voicemail box was full and why he kept speed dialing someone. Well, his phone was my sister’s old phone and the 7 he was speed dialing was her part time employer–an ambulance company that she is a paramedic for. He said “that explains why they ask me if this is an emergency of non-emergency when I dial that number.”

        6. Urban_Adventurer

          When I was at orientation for my current job, another guy was starting who had NEVER used a computer before. He had to take an online training and just had no idea what to do. He was a retired Pittsburgh steelworker with an 80s-style mullet, though, so he had other things going for him.

      3. AcademiaNut

        I did that with my mom. She really likes it when I help her with computer stuff, because I do break it down step by step, without assuming knowledge of terms like right-click, drag-and-drop, Trash, etc.

        I’ve written tech manuals and worked with students a lot in technical fields, so I’ve learned not to assume they know what I do.

        1. Stone Satellite

          Yeah, there’s nothing worse than a manual that assumes I’ll know something when I don’t. I get that it’s mostly plumbers looking at the instructions to install a faucet, but I am not a plumber. Just go ahead and assume I don’t know what an O-ring is or how to install a retaining pin and put in lots of pictures. Usually with those kinds of instructions I give up and watch a Youtube video of whatever I’m trying to do, and then it’s so obvious.

    4. K.

      A new hire (recent grad) at my old company asked “What’s a tab?” when being walked through an Excel spreadsheet. As far as I know she still works there.

      1. Ethan

        I create lists with tabs a lot and it’s staggering the number of times I’ve had to explain tabs to our constituents. On year three of tabs, we seem to have mostly finally gotten it.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          Once again, I am always surprised by terminology that predates computers yet is confusing to people. Tabs on Excel look pretty much the same as tabs on file folders, and those have been around at least since the 19th century…

      2. Beth

        When I send a spreadsheet by email to a new client for the first time I do not assume they know to click on the tabs, I made that mistake once and got an angry email from a client saying I owed him $150o instead of the $350 he owed me. Now I just take the time to mention in the email, “if you click on the tab labeled November you can see that the months expenditures were this much. If you click on the tab labeled November chart you can see where your money is going in an easy to understand format. ” I still get emails back, “what do you mean tabs?”

      3. Specialk9

        I’m fairly bright, but I did that, several years into the workforce. Someone kept sending me a spreadsheet with contacts to update and I’d check and double check, then later they’d be mad I missed something, again. I was baffled. One day they were by my desk, I pulled up the spreadsheet, and they pointed at the tab. What the! I had never noticed them, my eye skipped over them like a design element. (I didn’t learn to use Excel well till my grad school days.)

    5. Artemesia

      LOL I told her the file was on the left side of the desktop. She came back saying ‘I looked all over your desk and couldn’t find anything.’ And I am the ancient old fart and she the shiny new millennial in the age of the computer.

    6. Ellie

      I had this exact conversation with a colleague about 6 months ago! She asked for help about how to do something fairly basic, but had never used the left mouse button and couldn’t understand this whole ‘double-clicking’ business (before anyone asks though, she’s had a standard PC mouse her whole time here). She’s definitely not an intern though, she’s in her forties and has been working as an administrator here for at least 5 years!

  8. Liz in a Library

    Never had interns, but had student workers. Many of them were wonderful, but those unfamiliar with a work environment sometimes made odd decisions.

    We had one student worker who was so flighty. She was delightful as a person, but just could not seem to stay on track with a job. She did well in her classes, so I’m not sure what the issue was, but she’d just…not show up when scheduled. Or show up when not scheduled, show up at odd times, etc. The final straw was the day that she called 45 minutes after the start of her shift to say she ran out of gas in another state (4 hours away) and wouldn’t be in.

    1. Vanishing Girl

      I had a student worker once who would call out for her shift every time her boyfriend got sick: even for colds. She couldn’t stay 3 hours away from him, when his dorm was just on the other side of campus? It was baffling.

      She was not asked to come back after that semester.

    2. Lisa

      I had a student worker who was like this as well. My director was desperate to get someone hired before the school year started and took on this student that I never would have personally hired. She never responded to e-mails, was constantly late, and always wore a t-shirt and sweats/jeans to work in our office. She only worked on our business professional program’s class days, and one week she just didn’t show up. She told the (irate) director that she had gotten an e-mail from me saying that she wasn’t supposed to come in until noon that day so I came into a VERY angry e-mail from the director asking what was going on. The e-mail I sent was for a date two weeks in the future with the date clearly labeled in the subject line and twice in the body of the e-mail. Since the girl hadn’t responded, I assumed she’d understood.

      I left the job for a big move, and I heard through the grapevine that, after a year of employment, the girl skipped two days in a row because she was sick but didn’t bother to notify anyone she wouldn’t be coming in. She finally got fired for that stunt!

  9. Ash (the other one)

    Ah interns. My favorite activity for the last several summers was reading the DC Intern Blog, which is now sadly defunct. Google it though…some truly special snowflakes there.

    1. Ash (the other one)

      I should add, all of my interns thus far (I’ve had around 6 now that I’ve supervised in one form or another) have been great and who I take pride in knowing they’re off doing great things now. It’s only watching other interns from afar that I have to shake my head. Like the one intern who, when I was at a federal government department, was so convinced she was going to not only get a full time job, but that that job would be working with the Secretary of the department. Yea, that’s not how federal jobs (or political appointments) work! She went around bragging to everyone she could find that this was going to happen, only for her to go home like everyone else at the end of the summer.

  10. Chrissi

    Our intern simply didn’t show up the whole 2nd week of work. When the boss finally got a hold of him, he said that his previous employer was fine with him not showing up and not calling for a whole week at a time, and he didn’t realize that it would be a big deal. No explanation for not returning the boss’s phone calls for a week. He was fired.

    1. Three Thousand

      Sounds like his “previous employer” might have been a professor whose class he was taking. After all, you don’t have to go to class if you don’t feel like it, and you certainly don’t have to call in if you won’t be there, so why would an internship be any different?

      1. Ash (the other one)

        At some colleges… at my alma mater, we had a three strikes rule — you missed class three times and you failed the class, no exceptions.

          1. myjah

            I realize this post is from a long time ago… but WHAT? “How obnoxious” that you can’t skip classes you’re paying thousands of dollars for? I am at a total loss of words right now.

            1. Specialk9

              Yes. It’s utterly obnoxious. The person paying the money is the customer, if they want to skip it’s their call.

        1. TL -

          Ug, no. Either design the classes so if you don’t show up to class you won’t get the information necessary to pass or be okay with students not showing up. (that’s my theory anyways. All my classes that had attendance policies were the ones you could easily have skipped. The ones that didn’t were the more challenging ones.)

          1. Jenna Maroney

            That’s a good way of looking at it! My college had an attendance policy for 4 classes in a semester being a failing grade, but most professors I had were very explicit about being flexible as long as you communicated with them about what was going on (and the one exception that comes to mind was a horrible professor for lots of reasons).

            1. JHS

              At the college where I tutor the lectures aren’t mandatory but the tutorials are. The students get two unexcused absences, but after that, their grades get lowered. However, if they contact us to say there’s a problem, then we do our best to help them (mostly by referring them to their year coordinator, who will solve all those problems). I think it’s good practice for going in to the work world, especially as in my department we often assign presentations to the students.

          2. Ethan

            Yeah, the only class I ever had that had a “zero tolerance” attendance policy (ie any unexcused absences would cause a lowered grade) was the worst class. Every lecture was just an outline of the required reading. And then the tests were ridiculously difficult, even if you had done the reading, shown up, and studied, because the subject questions seemed to be chosen at random. I despised that professor.

        2. Lady Bug

          Yeah, those policies always bugged me. I’m paying you, you aren’t paying me. I can take a day off from class.

          1. Kelly L.

            Yep. It’s sort of a philosophical belief of mine. Once you start talking about college, students are adults. Give grades based on whether the material was learned. Don’t grade attendance, don’t grade note-taking style. Did you learn the stuff? But I think I’m in the minority.

            1. Artemesia

              If your instruction is the ‘pour it into my head and I will pour it out on the test paper’ model then that works. But in small intensive classes like seminars or classes that are highly experiential then if you are not there you damage the learning experience for everyone. And classes like that often assess the quality of participation and contribution.

            2. mskyle

              I see what you’re saying, but for a lot of college students the first thing they need to learn is how to learn… if you hold their hands at the beginning it’s more successful for everyone. You could say that students who don’t know these things aren’t ready for college yet, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you, but it’s not like they have a lot of other places to go to learn these skills, and a lot of colleges can’t afford to be super picky about only accepting students who are super ready to be there. Ultimately you need to meet people where they are, and a lot of college students (young ones especially, but many of the older students as well) benefit from structure, tiered deadlines, etc.

              And that’s why I don’t work in higher ed anymore!

              1. TL -

                But if they don’t show up to class, and then they can’t pass the first test, they’ll learn.

                Also, a few colleges offer freshman classes that are more designed to help out (I know my college had a basic, mandatory writing class that was framed as a subject study, as well as a few others) and I’m okay with those, but upper division courses with attendance policies are dumb.

                1. Lady Bug

                  Yup, the quickest way to learn is to fail. Showing up because you have to or you get in trouble doesn’t make you pay attention, but failing will.

            3. Cactus

              Some of them graded note-taking style? That’s so obnoxious. I couldn’t even stand it when they did that in high school.

              1. Charlotte Collins

                I have never heard of grading note-taking. Unless you are being taught shorthand or how to take official minutes, or something where you must follow very specific procedures.

              2. Jess

                One of my high school history teachers would collect our notebooks every Friday and, over the weekend, read them all and dock points for misspellings. Not only did that mean we couldn’t use our lecture notes to study on weekends, but it meant that every night I had to huddle over a dictionary spellchecking my dashed-off notes. Most kids just stopped taking notes all together rather than deal with the stress of making them perfect.

          2. kozinskey

            Agreed. Plus nobody really wants to be surrounded by hungover or sick college freshmen.

          3. PoB

            As a higher education teacher I always get peeved by comments like this. Would you like to know how much funding we get in a course per student? $75 per head – for a science course, where they do labs!. My salary does not get covered by tuition fees.

            1. AcademiaNut

              Exactly – for public universities in the US, I think about 25% of funding comes from tuition, on average. So you can argue that because students are using public resources, they should be morally obliged to show up and work.

              The other factor is that universities are increasingly expected to be accountable for the performance of their students, like is the case for pre-secondary education. I suspect that university oversight of student attendance, etc., will increase drastically if this becomes the case, and universities will be much more ready to fire students who have poor attendance, or who refuse to comply with mandatory remedial measures if they’re doing poorly.

            2. Charlotte Collins

              Also, if it’s a state university, my taxes go to help support the school. I’d rather the students were going to class than not if I’m going to fund them.

              The only college-level classes I’ve ever known of with attendance policies were the smaller, more intensive courses where you really can’t just learn the material on your own, unless you also are pestering someone who does show up in class for their notes. (As I used to be the pesteree, this is really not fair to the other students.)

              1. Anx

                Genuinely curious…

                why do you care if the student atttends the course or not, so long as they are participating in the coursework?

                Even if you are paying as a taxpayer, they are likely paying quite a bit more as the consumer. If they would prefer to stay home and study out of the book instead of sitting in class waiting to go home to study the material, what does it matter?

                I say this as someone who is a mostly read-the-book learner and prefers having access to an instructor to clarify points rather than lecture.

              2. Scotty_Smalls

                I had a professor who had this view as well. She asked that we not skip lecture and had attendence quizzes once a week or so. It would be one simple question (based on what we studied) and you would get the points. They would usually be in the first 5 minutes or so. But one time as soon as she jumped into lecture, someone got up and walked out pretty conspicuously, so she had the quiz at the end.

              3. Specialk9

                So long as you’re also comfortable expecting adult strangers to let you dictate weird things to them about their driving, because tax-funded roads, and about their sex lives and birth control, because tax funded hospitals and clinics and schools. I mean, you realize why it seems like a silly, control trippy, infantilizing approach, right?

        3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

          The schools I’ve attended (for undergrad and grad) all have had a “miss 3 classes and your grade starts dropping” policy. I always figured those “show up on the first day and for the midterm/final” classes were one of those college myths!

          1. alter_ego

            nah, at least at my school, I only took one class for my undergraduate degree that even took attendance. That class did have a three strikes policy, which was annoying, both because it was a class unrelated to my major that I was taking as a fun elective, and because the professor would regularly cancel class, and only inform us by putting a sign on the door of the classroom. The fact that the only professor I had in 5 years who took attendance was also the only one who regularly cancelled class, without even advanced notification still pisses me off.

          2. Megan

            My college was very hands-off in a lot of ways. Instructors even posted lectures directly to youtube. I drove an hour each way for work, so I’d make MP3s of them and listen to them in the car a few times. I was grateful for that because between work and the commute, there wasn’t enough time for me to physically go to the school enough to finish my degree. Online classes and alternate study methods really made the difference for me.

            1. Megan

              Forgot to add: I seem to recall there being two “attendance” days where if you didn’t show up for them, you were considered to have dropped the class and it affected financial aide if you had any, but they were usually the first day of the semester and the first day back after thanksgiving/spring break.

          3. Not helpful

            I graduated almost 40 years ago. No one really took attendance back then. I had one class I took that you didn’t even have to go to. Teacher gave a quiz each Friday and would put it in an envelope stuck to his door. You took the test and just put it back. Other than the first day and the final you never had to go to class.

          4. Cactus

            My grad program didn’t have those rules, but if someone was routinely missing classes with no explanation, there would have been…concern, to say the least.

            In undergrad, some professors had these rules, others didn’t. I was fine with the “miss X number of classes and your grade drops/you flunk barring extenuating circumstances” rules. What irritated me the most were when professors said stuff like “you are expected to show up for every class!” Because of course, duh we were. And of course I’d try my hardest to do so. But shit happens, and if you’re teaching an intro-level survey course for the core curriculum, it might not be the highest thing on everyone’s agenda.

          5. Daisy

            I had a class where the professor said on the first day buy the book or come to class. He also gave 2 midterms (and only took the high grade of one) so if you did well on the first you could skip the second. I went to the first class, the first midterm & the final. Got a 99 in the class. And took him again a few times.

          6. August

            My sister only attended Calculus two days in college (the first day to collect the syllabus and the last day to take the final). She received an A in the course. To me, it’s analogous to the AP Program, if colleges and universities are going to give students credit for achieving a certain score on the AP Exam, then they shouldn’t mind students not attending their classes.

          7. Kiryn

            My favorite one of these was a Logic class I took in my first semester of college. The professor taught directly from the book, and gave us the test schedule on the first day of class. It was 3 days a week at 7:30 in the morning on the opposite side of campus from my dorm room in a climate where it rained 9 months of the year.

            I trudged half-asleep through the rain for half the semester (I’m stubborn about these things) before I gave up and stopped going to class except on test days. Still got an A. I have to wonder how empty the classroom was towards the end.

          8. S

            You say that, but my (UK) (new) university was banned from checking up on students’ attendance, which really pissed off my teachers when people would skip 95% of the class, then their parents complained about the marks (*then* they went to town… even more so than when students added tutors on FB & wondered why they knew why they were hungover etc)

          9. Kate Heightmeyer

            Oh, no. It happens. I just graduated this past May and over my four years I only missed class if I was sick (with one exception). I found it endlessly fascinating the number of students who would suddenly appear on exam days. Most of my professors didn’t have attendance policies. No one had automatic failing policies. The few that had attendance policies at all allowed two or three absences before grades started dropping (with exceptions for emergencies).

            One professor, on the first day of class, announced that he was being forced to teach the class on-campus (it was previously only offered online). Our grades consisted entirely of tests which were conducted online over material that was exclusively in the book. He told us directly, “If you don’t want to show up for class, you don’t have to.” I went for the first couple of weeks, listened to him ramble aimlessly about topics mostly unrelated to what we were studying, and decided that I would be better off spending those four hours a week doing something actually useful. I aced the class.

      2. Anyonymous

        Yeah, I definitely had an instructor in college who told us that if we missed ONE CLASS, we would fail, unless the reason we were missing the class was because we were in a coma or dead. Someone asked hypothetically if they could miss for a family member’s funeral and he said no, that would result in failing the class.

        On September 11, 2001, every other professor/instructor whose class I went to that day let us go home almost immediately, after talking about our feelings for a few minutes. This guy proceeded with class like usual. When he noticed that we were all looking bewildered, he said, “What? They’re not going to fly a plane into us.”

        A week later he told us he had just gone to New Orleans for the weekend and that if we ever wanted to fly anywhere, we should do it then because “flights will never be cheaper!”

        1. Cautionary tail

          I had a university professor who said something similar, “the only excuse for missing a class is a death in the family…and it must be your death.”

          1. Artemesia

            I’m guessing he had had a lot of students who were losing their 16th grandparents each finals week. I had a colleague once who sent a letter of condolence to parents of a student who missed a critical presentation for his team because of the death of a grandparents; led to an interesting set of interactions. It is a lovely jujitsu because if the student is not lying then it is a nice thing to have done and if he was lying then at the least his parents know what a great job they did raising this one.

          2. ptrish

            I think we went to the same university! A math prof? IMO these kinds of policies are cruel…I know someone who missed her grandfather’s funeral because she would have missed a final, and the department said her only option was to take an incomplete–which shows up on your transcript forever.

            1. Dear Liza dear liza

              That sounds odd. An incomplete is a placeholder indicating the student has not yet completed the course, but will do so soon. Then the “I” turns into the final course grade (A, B, etc). If the student doesn’t finish the work as agreed upon does the “I” turn into an F. Incompletes are not permanent. I had to use this system in undergrad for a health emergency, and now as a professor, I work with it on the other side.

        2. Sunshine Brite

          My alma mater had to start working with the faculty to get them to work with the students come on the no more than 2 misses rule once the swine flu started spreading en masse.

        3. Cleopatra Jones

          I had a college professor who refused to allow students to make up exams. So I had to drag my 6 year old to class a few days after she had a tonsillectomy because the instructor refused to let me make up the exam or take it earlier (didn’t have a baby sitter) Even though, I told her at the beginning of class that my child would be getting a tonsillectomy, so we could make arrangements.

          After the class was over, I filed a complaint against her to the department chair and flamed her on the course evaluations. My evaluation coupled with multiple other complaints led to her dismissal from the university.

          1. YaH

            So you knew at the beginning of the semester when your child’s tonsillectomy was scheduled and when your exam was scheduled, and yet you still didn’t make alternate arrangements for your child’s care?

            1. PoB

              Exam schedules aren’t necessarily posted at the beginning of the teaching semester. At our institution they are released about 2-4 weeks before they start.

            2. Cleopatra Jones

              ahh, if only it was that simple…
              1) I was single parent who had set up her work/school schedule so that I was available for my child and did not have to constantly rely on a baby sitter or daycare (cause that stuff costs money that I did not have).

              2) I told the instructor as soon as I found out that she needed to have the surgery so we could make arrangements in the class. I offered to take the exam the week before so that I would not miss any work in the class. It wasn’t like I had 16 weeks, it was more like during week 2 of the class I found out she needed surgery & it would have taken place in week 4 or 5 on a test day. I knew she didn’t allow make ups on exams hence the ‘please let me take it earlier’.

              3) I had a signed doctor’s statement regarding the surgery & recovery week. It wasn’t that I was making up excuses to get out of class.

              4) Even if I knew about it before the class started why is it unreasonable to make arrangements with the instructor so I didn’t inconvenience her or miss class work? I provided all of the documentation that you would present at any job. I wasn’t expecting her to handle my life or feel sorry for me, just be a reasonable accommodating human being because ya know…shit happens that is sometimes beyond our control.

              1. CB_212

                The thing about exams though, is the professor actually has to write a whole other exam for the makeup, or the test is blown for the rest of the class. Writing a good exam can take hours, so you aren’t sparing her any inconvenience compared to writing only one exam for the class. And if it’s a proctored exam, she has to get a room and the hours of her time to sit with you. Exams are really a one-time event.

                1. Connie-Lynne

                  That’s not universally true. If an instructor believes students will be honest, they don’t have to make a new test. Also many universities have test proctoring centers.

                  I went through this when I got married and my honeymoon was scheduled during midterms.

        4. AW

          He must have had tenure because I can’t imagine anyone giving this guy a decent course review.

        5. Ad Astra

          Yikes. I think these days most universities have campus-wide policies that allow you to miss classes, including tests, as long as you have some kind of documentation that you were sick or attending a funeral or got into a car accident on your way to class or something.

          They relaxed the doctor’s note thing when Swine Flu hit, and have encouraged teachers to be a little more lenient about illnesses since then, because too many students were coming to class when they were contagious — and dragging themselves into the campus health center for notes when they’d be better off staying in bed.

          1. Phoenix

            My college campus had a pretty bad swine flu epidemic while I was there. Professors were instructed to drop any and all attendance requirements for class, make class materials available online wherever possible, and make special arrangements for immunocompromised students to take classes digitally wherever possible, even if they were on campus.

            The dining halls also set up a program where you could bring a friend’s student ID to swipe for their meal plan and carry away a huge container of food for them, so that they didn’t need to come to the dining halls themselves if they were sick.

            1. TL -

              …I’ve never heard of a dining hall that actually checked IDs; I’ve always been able to grab a friend’s ID (or lend out mine) when necessary.

              1. Ad Astra

                I imagine the reason you’d use your friend’s ID is so it would be charged to the friend’s meal plan and not your own.

                1. Charlotte Collins

                  I’ve never heard of a college cafeteria that didn’t check, since meal plans can be different, and they are paid in advance.

              2. afiendishthingy

                I’m sure I could have used anyone’s id in my college dining hall, but it was buffet style so we couldn’t walk out with a container of food. and if you want to eat your own dinner and get a to go box for your sick friend that’s two meals so two IDs.

              3. april ludgate

                I just graduated last year and my college had machines where you swiped your card and then it scanned your hand so you couldn’t use anyone else’s id card.

        6. aebhel

          Right, because it’s definitely preferable for people with serious communicable diseases to drag themselves into class and spread them far and wide.

          What an asshole.

        7. Lobster in Dixie

          This. I will always remember (and abhor) the french professor who held class on September 11th and made us discuss our feelings and reactions…IN FRENCH. I went to college in a major US city on the eastern seaboard (Boston), so there were very legitimate and lingering concerns all day and week about other potential targets nearby.

        8. Shelly

          My mom had a Professor like that. She went back to college to earn a nursing degree when she was in her late 40’s so she was a “non-traditional” student. She had good grades in all of her classes and rarely ever missed a class. But she had a heart attack towards the end of one of her semesters–thankfully it was minor and she only missed a week of classes. Well the one professor wanted to fail her even though she had documentation that she was truly in the hospital.
          She took it over the professor’s head and took the matter to dean who promptly told the professor that if she failed my mom she (the professor) would be out of a job.

          1. Cactus

            That’s even more egregious in a nursing program professor than in would be anywhere else.

      3. Weeping Willow

        A friend of mine in grad school had to teach a class and they had the hardest time making some of the students understand that missing a specific number of classes without a medical reason would result in a failing grade. Same with turning papers in on time. The stories they told made my brain hurt.

        1. Moksha Maginifique

          Ergh, papers. I was the TA for a 1st year World Lit seminar for two years running. Two 3-5 page response papers, due in my pigeonhole by 5:00 P.M. EST on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No exceptions. You might get lucky–I might be running late from a meeting–but once I cleared out the box and had the papers in my hand, any other incoming papers were late. Period. End of Story. Even if you run up to me while I am exiting the mail room papers in hand.

          If there was a valid reason why your paper might be late, email the professor. I will not accept it. And these first year jerks were always complaining to the professor and the Humanities Chair about how I was mean because they were “only, like, five minutes late!”

          None of them seemed to realize or care about the fact that for minimum wage I was spending my Tuesday and Thursday nights going through a stack of 80+ 3 to 5 page papers, highlighting key sections, and annotating them for the professor. Add in my own homework, and I normally did not wrap up until about 9:00 a.m. the following day–just in time to shower and make it to my 9:30 Critical Theory seminar.

          1. Lucy

            How would first year students possibly know what sort of work conditions their TA is working under? Many people assume that professors, and assistants to professors, are making good money. How can anyone ever automatically know what someone else’s job is like? Isn’t that the point of going to school – to learn things?

            1. Kerry

              I think the poor work conditions of adjuncts and TAs is fairly well known – there have been lots of news and magazine articles about it. I don’t know anyone who thinks TAs make good money!

  11. Gogo

    This really isn’t that bad, but I will share here. I had an intern this summer who was tasked with sending out emails to schedule interviews (social science research interviews, not job interviews) to very high profile populations – the intern got confused between the email TO line and the SUBJECT line, yet somehow managed to actually send several emails where the subject line was the persons email.

    1. Kelly L.

      Hoo boy, that means they were all going to whoever they were about! I see lots of potential for disaster there.

  12. Tasha

    Oh, this is on me as much as the intern but . . . one summer I hired an intern to re-write some of our canned customer letters. And we started dating. He was 21, I was 30. :)

    Honestly, it didn’t affect his work, or mine, and we continued the relationship for some time after he returned to college for his, yes, senior year.

    1. rory

      Um, you really should not have done that. Definitely should have waited until his internship ended.

        1. Tasha

          I take responsibility for the relationship! My first phrase just meant it wasn’t really a story about a bad intern. Should have written “about” instead of “on.”

    2. Lily in NYC

      I “cougared” an intern at an old job, but we worked in different departments. No regrets, and we are still good friends 15 years later!

    3. AnotherAlison

      I did have a dream I was marrying one of our new grads a couple weeks ago, and it was very disturbing. (37 to 25). Can’t imagine doing it in real life, given how disturbing the dream was. Props to you for pulling it off.

  13. LQ

    The worst was really my own fault. It was my first intern. My boss had left so I was handling things basically alone. Intern was going to take the lead on planning an event I’d done 3 years in a row, most of the people were already lined up, it was–for me– just a matter of finalizing things, doing a theme and publicity. She wanted to be an event planner and said she’d done things way bigger than this. Great here’s the package, run with it. Let me know if you have problems or questions. (WORST IDEA EVER.) I assumed everything was fine. (EVEN WORSE IDEA.)

    I basically didn’t hear from her until the Friday before the event when she said, um, I don’t know how to do this. I had to personally cancel the event, lost the money, lost the grant for the next year. She said, yeah I guess I’m not really a self starter. I learned to not wait for people to come to me with problems. We both apologize and went our separate ways.
    (I don’t think she was deliberately bad at all. I think she might have been fine if I’d been much more hands on.)

    1. Alice

      But it says something really good about you that you noticed your mistake. Interns are definitely people you need to be on the verge of not exactly micromanaging but very hands on, just like you said. I can’t imagine attempting to do that project all alone as an intern.

      1. LQ

        A part of the problem is I’ve always been extremely hands off, I ran an entire news show when I was an intern, they didn’t have anyone else, just told me to go with it, so whoohoo! I had assumed most people who would seek someone out to offer to intern with would be like that. Apparently not.

        I got much better after that at working with interns.

        1. Elysian

          I think we all make the mistake sometimes of thinking that our coworkers/interns would handle a situation exactly as we would handle it ourselves. Sometimes I forget there are different learning/working/coping styles and then get an abrupt reminder.

    2. NickelandDime

      I made a similar mistake with an intern. It wasn’t as serious, but I would assign her things and ask her to send it directly to my manager. She had problems with hole punching documents (sigh). Now, if I have an intern, no matter how small the assignment, I will double check it. I was really busy and made sure I explained things to her and checked to see if she had questions – I just didn’t go back and review the final product.

      1. LQ

        I think interns are often the first people that managers learn how to manage on so that can end up being a mess!

      2. Dan

        One thing I’ve found over the years is that most things from most people should be double checked before they go out the door most of the time. Interns or not.

        Yeah, you can trust certain people with certain things after they’ve *earned* that trust. But even now, I *ask* for feedback or a rubber stamp before things go out the door — and that feedback can be hard to get.

        1. Stone Satellite

          So true. Fortunately at my job it’s deeply ingrained in the culture and strongly encouraged by the tools to have someone qualified double-check your work before it goes out, regardless of who you are or how good your work is. Everybody screws up sometimes, and it’s way better to catch it internally than externally.

    3. Beancounter in Texas

      We had a temporary employee as a receptionist who impressed the heck out of our boss with her professional dress (which is all he appears to believe it takes to be professional). Then, after she was gone, I discovered the stacks of payables filed together. We manage over 30 companies in our office, so we paperclip or bind payables of the same company together for filing. She took the whole stack, looked at the vendor on the first check and filed the entire stack in that vendor’s file. It was something I assumed would be obvious, but apparently, some people need more guidance and don’t know when to ask questions.

      1. Happy Lurker

        I just fixed all my files (well, my intern did) from a previous employee. They just couldn’t be bothered to file correctly. Similar story to yours (my miscellaneous file was half the drawer – lol). I am such a stickler that I just cannot imagine not filing correctly.

  14. LBK

    We had an intern once who was completely incapable of even basic problem solving – any scenario that hadn’t been programmed into his robot brain caused immediate shut down and required assistance. My favorite instance of this was when he brought me over a form that had been mailed in with ostensibly only the odd-numbered pages included. He stared in amazement as I flipped the pages over, revealing that they had been printed double-sided and the even pages were on the back.

    1. Anie

      My boss had this particular malfunction last week. He could not understand why the printer was only printing every other page….

      1. 42

        Stuff like that is hilarious to me. It’s like that particular synapse just shuts down for a few hours, and all you can think is NO IT ONLY PRINTED EVERY OTHER PAGE.

        It’s happened to me a few times–brain unable to wrap around the obvious. and when it’s pointed out…”oh.”

      2. DaBlonde

        I’ve had it go the other way where my boss only copied the front pages of a double-sided document, so it really did print only the odd pages.

    2. SevenSixOne

      Stuff like this is so sad to me because people like this probably grew up with overprotective parents who sheltered them from everything unpleasant and handled every inconvenience for them… they probably have no problem-solving skills because they’ve never NEEDED them.

      1. Rebecca

        Sadly, this is not even restricted to young people. I work with a woman in her mid-50’s who is not new to the work force and is like this.

        1. Rebecca

          In fact, I literally just explained to her how she could do something that she thought she had to manipulate manually. But I can hear her doing it manually.

      2. snuck

        Over protective parents possibly…

        Or more likely a person with something like Dyspraxia or Autism (Aspergers included) or other neuro non typical wiring. This sort of difference isn’t the result of parenting, parenting doesn’t control your world view to the point of never seeing double sided print.

    3. NotAnInternNow

      This tends to happen to me in new job environments. It’s like the stress of the new environment and fear of getting.it.wrong. makes that lizard brain panic override logic. Angry Customer On Phone. Policy Sheet Disappeared. Does Not Compute. Commencing Shut Down. And yeah, policy sheet was right in front of me on my (very tidy) desk.

  15. other rick

    The interns from my alma mater are generally good, if a little unfocused in their career planning. (It’s the entertainment industry–everyone starts out wanting to be a little bit of everything.) One intern from my alma mater was just the worst. Completely unprofessional. Bragging about his personal life and sexual conquests. Would listen to constructive criticism, make all the right noises, and then continue his behavior unchanged.

    We asked him to do a technical evaluation on an episode of broadcast television–picture quality, sound quality, etc. He came back with notes about the story structure, plot holes, and poor acting.

    One day near the end of the internship, we had him sit with and learn from the most chill, easygoing freelancer in the department–because hardly anyone else would work with intern at this point. In the middle of the day, said freelancer turned to garbage intern and asked, “Hey man, are you hungry?” Intern thought for a moment and smarmily replied, “Yeah, you know what? I am!” Our freelancer then told him exactly what he could eat.

    Intern did nothing but make-work errands after that. Freelancer took his chewing out gracefully and continued to work for us for a few more years. Intern left the industry six months after being unable to find work to suit him.

    1. RG

      I don’t think I understand this story. The freelancer asked him if he was hungry around lunch time and the guy was smarmy for saying yes?

      1. Nelly

        When she said ‘Our freelancer then told him exactly what he could eat’ I’m assuming that was a dick.

        1. other rick

          A bowl of dicks, actually. And intern initially replied “I am hungry” like he expected the freelancer to treat him to lunch.

          This isn’t the best story, because nothing the intern did was really outstandingly bad. He was just very arrogant, grating and entitled–so much so that after six weeks he provoked the most relaxed guy in the company to curse him out loudly and flagrantly.

          1. Stone Satellite

            Gah, I knew that guy in college. Except he wanted to go into finance or something. Totally convinced he was going to rule the financial world by 25, rude, inconsiderate, totally full of himself. Ended up graduating on time (my college strongly encouraged 4-year completion) but with some “general” major because he couldn’t finish the actual economics program. Every bad grade he got was someone else’s fault …

  16. I had a major screwup

    I am a very level headed person but had an alcohol fueled adventure in front of some very important people one night. I was a political intern and there is an annual “convention” that in all honesty is just a a big drunken booze fest, and I did partake. My biggest embarrassments of the night were falling over drunk on the GOVERNOR (his security detail had to step in because I was so tipsy) and being kicked out of a hospitality suite for reasons I don’t remember but all I recall are the words “we don’t use that language around the Congressman.”

    Thankfully this is one of the few events where this type of behavior isn’t a career killer, I went on to a fruitful political career after that, but boy was I ashamed for a while….

    1. Sara The Event Planner

      LOL at “we don’t use that language around the Congressman.” That is freaking hysterical.

      1. Retail Lifer

        I’m reading this at work (and I’m obviously supposed to be, you know, WORKING). Blew my cover by laughing out loud at that sentence.

      1. JMegan

        I was going to say it sounds like something from the Simpsons. I can totally see security saying that to Homer as they escort him outdoors!

    2. Lily in NYC

      hahaha! Don’t feel too bad -there was a notorious story in NYC a few years ago about an intern at a law firm who got so drunk at a work event that she passed out and pooped on a white couch in front of everyone. And then showed up the next day like nothing happened. I would have died and then moved to Greenland.

    3. Paige Turner

      Glad you weren’t scarred for life by the experience! “We don’t use that language around the Congressman,” classic. To paraphrase Clue, You don’t know what kind of people they have in Congress, you might go up in their estimation.

    4. Stranger than fiction

      Ha for some reason I’m picturing you as the assistant to the Secretary of State on the new HBO show the brink early in her career

  17. Gogo

    I worked in a law office a few years back where one of the law clerks (which is basically a law school intern) had his own small office space in the back and decided to spend most of his time watching pornography instead of doing work. He got caught when someone eventually walked in during one of his viewings. Instead of firing him, the firm just installed web filters.

      1. Gogo

        Surprisingly, no! It was a small firm with no HR dept. I don’t think they really knew how to handle it.

          1. BRR

            Thank you, I needed that today.

            Seriously not even fired?!? I’m on a PIP for good but not great work. Why do I have the one office that is doing things right?

    1. bridget

      I am aware of at least THREE separate individuals who did almost the exact same thing as clerks for either law firms or judges. In at least one case, the um, unauthorized use of the computer systems was not discovered for several months, and only when it became apparent that the clerk had been doing literally zero work the entire time. In 2/3 of the cases it resulted in firing, but in one it was similar to yours; supervisor just kept a closer eye on his browser history and hoped it didn’t come up again.

    2. Former Museum Professional

      Dang. And I thought my former interns napping behind closed doors was bad.

    3. lawsuited

      Law clerks aren’t law school interns. Law clerks are (usually) full-time professionals who provide high-level support for lawyers in law firms. My current law clerk has been doing it for 10 years, my law clerk before that had been working in the field for 30 years, so although we sometimes have law clerk students do a placement, being a law clerk is not usually a short-term gig.

      1. kozinskey

        I think that varies by region. Where I am right now, law clerks are law students who are short-term employees at firms. Where I went to law school, judges had their own clerks who were long-term & were JD holders. Here, judges have bailiffs who are long-term employees, but as far as I know they don’t have JDs.

        1. bridget

          In my city, the younger attorneys call law students “summer associates” and the older attorneys call them “clerks.” It can be a little confusing, because “clerk” is used for judicial clerkships as well (which is a full-time position, either in one or two year terms, with a few “career clerks” who stay longer).

          lawsuited, I have never heard of a “career clerk” at a private firm, only for a judge. That might be specific to your region. What you describe as a “clerk” sounds like what I would call a paralegal.

    4. Hermione

      My favorite example of this is from my boyfriend, who at the time worked at a (niche) chemical company doing customer service over the phone. They hired a man who was classified as legally blind, but who with his glasses could see the computer screen when zoomed in 300x enough to do the job. He had a host of other problems with getting the work done properly and without complaint, but it wasn’t until he was there six weeks when his manager came into his cubicle to one large, pierced and very, very, pixelated breast on the screen that he was let go.

      1. Alison Hendrix

        Reminds me of Robin Hood: Men In Tights, where Blinkin was on the toilet “reading” his adult magazine in Braille.

  18. Sara The Event Planner

    We had an intern that I swear was a robot. He did good work and was polite – he was just the most socially awkward person I’ve ever encountered. I actually felt quite bad for him. If you said “good morning, Andrew,” he would stare directly into your eyes for a full 5-10 seconds before muttering a hello, then immediately turn and book it away from you. If he had a question or needed something, he wouldn’t knock or say hi or anything. He would just stand silently in the doorway of your office, slowly inching his way closer, until you noticed him. I almost fell out of my chair on multiple occasions when I suddenly saw him standing there – he scared the crap out of me! He also almost never talked. 75% of his communication was done through nodding and shrugging.

    Weirdly, I ran into him at the grocery store a few months later, and he was perfectly friendly and chatty. I wonder if maybe he had just been nervous about being in a professional setting for the first time? It was very bizarre.

    1. S

      It sounds like nerves and general confusion about how to act in the office when you’re an intern. I can see someone taking intern horror stories (like the ones in this thread) to an extreme where they decide that shutting down and shutting up will spare them the mortification of being That Intern Who Messed Up.

      1. Sara The Event Planner

        That’s what I think, too. We all tried to make conversation with him, ask about his weekend plans, etc. We even made little comments about our casual environment, hoping it would help him relax a little. I wanted so badly to just say, “hey, you can’t talk to us, we’re not scary!” Looking back, maybe I should have. Poor guy!

          1. Andrew

            Was this at a library? Cause I can totally see someone getting this impression from me in my first internship. I have gotten a lot better since those days, but I’ll never be the super talkative type.

    2. Alicia

      I feel like I got this guy as my employee, but 30 years later. He’s in his early-50’s and he STILL does this stuff.

  19. majigail

    We had one last semester who on his first day brought in pictures of him and his dog and him with his sister at prom AND a Walking Dead piggy bank with Rick (the main character) holding a bloody gun. He was heartbroken when I told him that statues holding bloody or any guns didn’t belong in any workplace and it had to go home. Same intern was a recent grad in English but couldn’t write to save his life. His idea of writing a press release was copying other documents and pasting them together differently. I spent more time fixing his mistakes than it would have taken me to do it myself.

    1. Amy

      The second one I think is pretty typical intern stuff. If he majored in English, he had probably never been taught how to write a press release. Interns almost always decrease efficiency, IME.

      1. rory

        English departments have tech writing courses, and someone with an English major has spent their undergrad writing papers constantly. If the intern was just c/ping other people’s work and moving things around, he was probably doing that with his school papers, too. Which could have gotten him thrown out for plagiarism.

        1. amaranth16

          I don’t think this is a fair statement. Lots of companies and organizations want people to use consistent boilerplate in different materials. In any of the jobs I’ve had, if I were putting together a press release or other standardized piece of collateral, it had damn well better match the language that’s already on our website/other collateral. Sourcing from the company’s existing content is, in a lot of situations, standard practice. Academic writing is profoundly different from marketing writing and it’s not fair to expect a student to know how to write a press release just because they wrote a thesis on Chaucer.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            That’s a good point. But rory is right, too. English majors don’t only do things like write a thesis on Chaucer.

        2. Anna

          Both my majors were writing heavy and I still had to teach myself how to write press releases. And not every English major I know took the technical writing courses. It’s not a given he was copying other people’s work because he didn’t know how to write a press release.

          1. Anx

            I was not an English major and wrote press releases for one of my jobs. I was never taught; I pretty much just modeled them based on reading a few from an affiliate organization.

            I reused several of my own sentences or even excerpts for ongoing topics.

        3. Jenna Maroney

          Tech writing classes are pretty rare I think – neither the Ivy where I started nor the state school where I finished offered them.

            1. Anony-moose

              Same here. I had to basically learn an entire new skill set when I started freelance writing out of college.

          1. alter_ego

            All these English majors talking about the lack of tech writing is making me laugh, because my degree is in Electrical engineering, and the ONLY English class I had to take to get my degree (because I AP-ed out of Freshman English) was a Tech writing class my Junior year.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              In some programs, technical writing and business writing are taught as separate classes (as they should be – but sometimes they are lumped together). However, there are a lot of different writing classes an English major can take, so you can graduate with a degree in English without taking either.

              For a lot of people, technical writing is considered the most difficult type to learn and to teach, because it is very different from most other writing. I was once told that (good) poets make the best technical writers, because they understand how to illustrate complex ideas in the fewest words possible.

              1. announcergirl

                Business communication classes are usually taught in business departments. Technical Writing is usually an elective in an English department. However, neither have to teach press releases. That is usually taught in journalism or public relations courses and those are in communications.
                It is not unusual for a student to not understand press releases or be able to write one without being taught to do so.

        4. Anyonymous

          I took one technical writing class the first semester of my freshman year in college, and that was only because my major was communications. I think the English majors didn’t have to take it. They could take Freshman Comp and then it was a LOT of classes learning how to analyze written material and not so much writing.

          1. Tamina

            This is why, although my major was journalism, my actual degree was Media and Communications. A lot of journalism skills transfer well, but it’s really useful to know the difference between a media alert and a press release, how to mimic corporate styles, that kind of thing.

        5. Elizabeth West

          I never learned how to write a press release. My English major was all literature-based. I didn’t learn any tech stuff until I attempted a professional writing major at a larger university. (I still don’t know–I quit before I got to that.)

        6. Ad Astra

          I took a tech writing course through my university’s English department, but most of the students were STEM majors and we never talked about press releases or any kind of business writing. That’s more the purview of strategic communications, which at my university was located in the journalism school.

          Every English major I’ve known has had to drastically change his/her writing style to work in communications, journalism, PR, etc. Strong writers are quite capable of adjusting, of course, but they didn’t learn these formats in college.

          1. announcergirl

            English course writing and communications writing are two different things. For instance, a paragraph in English usually has to be five sentences; a paragraph in communications might just be one sentence. Communications teaches you to write to be heard or so that others will continue to read what you have written.

    2. Shore Leave

      Would be weird to bring it the first day but I actually have a Walking Dead poster and a Rocket Raccoon action figure holding a gun in my office. And one of my co-workers is big into horror and has a lot of horror pictures and posters in her office as well. Nothing graphic but I don’t think it’s a big deal. No one was even bothered that for our winter holiday door decorating contest, I did a Nightmare Before Chrismas theme with little skeletons wearing Santa hats and a killer wreath eating an elf.

      1. AnotherAlison

        My desktop background at the moment is a picture of my son with his dead turkey and shotgun. I had a pic of my other son and a dead deer and rifle before that. I never really thought about the fact that it could be offensive – -dead animals, guns, you know. No one has been offended so far, but I work at a pretty conservative kind of place.

        1. Tiny Box Tim

          Personally, I’d find dead animal photos more offensive than guns from fictional stories. But I wouldn’t say anything, just avoid going into your office.

          1. AnotherAlison

            Right, yeah, I see the difference between fake blood and real blood, too.

            You probably wouldn’t really ever see these pics in my office, because I always have files open on my screen, and I do clean up and de-personalize my desktop anytime I’m using my laptop for a presentation. They’re probably not really blatantly offensive photos, other than to people who are just personally opposed to hunting on principal, no blood or anything gratuitous, but I’m okay with people who are opposed to hunting on principal and if someone asked me to not have this up, I’d take it down. (Considering some of the client trips we do are hunting trips, I’m pretty sure I’m not violating any policies or anything like that.)

          2. Specialk9

            Me too. A Facebook friend posts pictures of hunting and deer butchering, which I’m actually ok with… but it’s a certain kind of awful to be ambushed out of the blue with something so upsetting when not expecting it:
            Baby picture
            Dog story
            Selfie
            BLOOD GORE CARCASS!!!
            Baby picture
            Photo montage

            I unfollowed her.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I have the original Star Wars poster in my cube, but it’s back in the corner where you can’t see it as you’re just walking by. It’s the one with Luke with the open shirt holding the lightsaber high and Leia flashing some leg. No one has ever said anything–and we DO have cubicle police. I don’t remember the last time they did a walkthrough, however.

        1. Sophia in the DMV

          I think there was two separate photos – one of him and his dog, one of him and his sister at the prom

  20. Katie the Fed

    Whoever posted about the intern who brought in a cot – please re-post it here. That’s the most amazing story I’ve ever heard.

    1. Aunt Vixen

      About the intern whating a what?

      If the previous poster doesn’t repost, please link. That sounds like lunchtime gold.

    2. AVP

      I have told that story at parties in a fake “a friend of a friend told me this story….” way because it’s too good not to.

    3. BRR

      I’m replying with a link. I feel like their needs to be an AAM trivia game for how we remember certain posts.

  21. cupcakes...but not for everyone

    At Old Job, we often had interns roaming around. They weren’t paid, but we did give them other perks, like free parking in our downtown office (which the employees didn’t even get). Plus, it was part-time work (15-20 hours a week).

    We had one intern (“Melanie”) who was scheduled to be in the office 2.5 days a week. The internship was 12 weeks long. Her first week, she called in sick. From that point on, she called in sick every single day for about two weeks. She finally came into the office and the Internship Coordinator had a conversation with her (basically making sure everything was okay, there weren’t any problems, that she was still able to participate in the internship program, etc.). Melanie reiterated her interest in the program and promised she wouldn’t miss anymore.

    The next week rolls around and – you guessed it – Melanie called in sick again. The Internship Coordinator called Melanie the next day and let her know that this was her final warning and if she missed again, she would be let go.

    Melanie called in sick again the next day, but came in the following day. As soon as she arrived at the office, the Internship Coodinator asked to speak with her privately. The IC let her go and explained why. Melanie burst into tears and started babbling about how “she needed the internship for class credit,” and “she goes out every night of the week and that’s why she’s been calling in ‘sick’.” She even went as far as asking the IC to be a reference for her for jobs she had been applying for! (Melanie was a recent graduate.)

    1. Katie the Fed

      “she goes out every night of the week and that’s why she’s been calling in ‘sick’.”

      Was that supposed to be a reasonable explanation? Hahahahaha

      1. LBK

        Seriously, what!? But furthermore, who goes out and parties so hard that they have to call out every day for WEEKS straight? I’m no stranger to accidentally going overboard on a weeknight…but we’re talking maybe once every 6 months, and even then I usually try to drag myself into the office anyway. Not multiple times a week. That is insane.

        1. fposte

          I’m guessing it’s somebody who hasn’t figured out that going to work isn’t an “if I feel really up to it” thing.

        2. Splishy

          Not an intern, but my first college roommate was like this. She was underage for drinking at the time (US drinking age is 21, she was 19 if I remember correctly) and her biggest bragging point was that she made a fake ID. Anyways, her drinking had drastically increased after spring break that year until finals week where she was passed out drunk and missed one of her core studies finals. She calls the professor with a story that she just felt unprepared for the final and begged to take it at one of the other scheduled times. The professor agrees to allow her to take it later in the week. (I was in the room and heard her half of the conversation, including her confirming the date and time.)

          What does roomie do? Apparently she took Arlo Guthrie’s advice in “Alice’s Restaurant” and got good and drunk the night before the re-scheduled final and *slept through it again*. I moved to a different dorm the next year. Last I heard she was on academic probation.

          1. Elizabeth West

            We went to class many times so hung over we could barely stand. We’d sit in the back with sunglasses on looking like death. Our music professor in our 8:30 class had a really, really quiet voice, so soft that you could barely hear her half the time. She would start to say, “Now we’re going to talk about the–” and we’d be like, “PLEASE STOP YELLING. OH GOD.”

            But we made it to class!

            1. Katieinthemountains

              Once we were expecting a big snowstorm that didn’t materialize. Many students stepped up their usual Thirsty Thursday consumption in anticipation. So I’m sitting in my 11:00 class the next day, annoyed about being there, as my classmates trickle in. “I am so hungover,” one moans. “Hungover?” giggles another. “I’m still drunk!”

          2. Not helpful

            When I was in college Virginia drinking age for about ten years was 18. One girl in the dorm get every fraternity that had a party. Never made it to any class before 10AM and rarely the others. She never game back after the first quarter.

        3. Elysian

          My only sick day related to this kind of behavior was on a Monday after a Sunday event with some friends, and was a reminder that I’m definitely not 22 anymore. And I’m still kind of ashamed I needed to stay home, but… ugh. For weeks? No way.

          1. Rebecca

            Yes, I had to call in sick once after “Sunday Funday.” I said I had a migraine, I left out the part that it was triggered by the excess of drinks the day before. I was thirty. And that has *never* happened again!

            1. Elysian

              Yup, that is pretty much exactly what happened to me! Migraine triggered by too much fun at dinner with friends. So it technically WAS more than just a hangover, but still… definitely don’t want THAT to become a habit.

        4. aebhel

          I mean, I’ve definitely gone to work hung over in my younger days, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so hung over that I needed to call in sick.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler

            I vividly remember the first (and only) time I saw my dad with a hangover. I was in college (probably a junior, maybe a senior, so of age) and we were having drinks and playing board games and whatnot. I’d never seen my dad have too much but he got a little drunk. The next day he stayed home “sick” from work… It can happen to even seasoned workers. He never admitted that he was hung over, but the whole family knew.

      2. The IT Manager

        Her alcohol logged brain was unable to make the leap that since I’m on thin ice and promised I wouldn’t miss any more days of work that I cannot go out tonight.

        I party all night and am sick the next day, I don’t see causation.

      3. Minister of Snark

        I’ve seen the opposite and it doesn’t make sense either. When I was interning at a small publication, one of my fellow interns went out and got absolutely off-her-face hammered drunk the night before she was supposed to work the morning shift. Rather than calling in “sick,” she just stayed up all night and went to work in her smokey, sweaty club clothes and messy hair and smeared make-up. The internship coordinator came in and found her sleeping, and asked her what the hell she was thinking, coming to work smelling like a brewery and sleeping at her desk, intern got defensive and pissy and insisted that showing up in this state was the mark of being a “pro.”

        She was super-shocked when an offer for long-term employment was not forthcoming.

    2. Sara The Event Planner

      “she goes out every night of the week and that’s why she’s been calling in ‘sick’.”

      Ha! What did she think the response would be? “Oh, why didn’t you say s0?! In that case, carry on.” Seriously.

    3. John

      The best part is asking the IC to serve as a reference….someone who can speak to her complete lack of professionalism , drive and common sense. If I were the IC, I’d have encouraged her to use my name!

    4. Anonsie

      Man, this one is concerning. Either she really needed to start rehab or she had some other issue she was trying to cover up, but either way she’s got a serious problem.

      1. cupcakes...but not for everyone

        The thing is – I really don’t think she had a drinking problem or needed to go to rehab. I got the sense that she was a bit entitled and had been coddled a lot – in short, she had never really had to work for anything before. She was a bubbly, charming, attractive girl and I definitely think she had used these qualities to get ahead, if you know what I mean. I honestly just think she was used to be charming to get out of trouble.

        1. TL -

          Yeah, I have a friend like that. A really hard worker and he wouldn’t do that, but gets a lot of opportunities because he’s charming and people like him. He has a lot of trouble now because he’s finally getting to a point in his life where that’s not a good strategy anymore and he doesn’t know how to cope.

    5. HKM

      Not an intern but a coworker: I work in VFX and at the end of a project we have a wrap party. After the party on a particularly notorious show, one of my colleagues called in at about 11.30 saying, very quietly, that he had ‘a little bit of a headache’ and would be asleep today.

  22. Anie

    Just had an intern issue this summer. Our paid marketing intern was told our hours were “flexible.” This clearly was not explained well-enough, though I really feel we’d given examples. We meant that if you had a six hour shift and showed up at 8:15 instead of 8, it wasn’t a big deal to stay until 2:15 in order to work your full shift.

    He was only supposed to work 3 days a week. His first week, he showed up Monday and asked to work Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Tuesday, he asked to leave early Friday, but then ended up showing up Thursday, without approval, instead.

    His second week was much of the same jumping around. And then he gave two week’s notice because “he had to go back to school.” Riiiight. Well, we had two whole months of summer left empty.

    1. Some2

      To be fair, the example you gave of “flexible hours” isn’t really flexible at all, and you should stop describing it to prospective employees/interns that way.

      1. Anonsie

        Yeah I could see someone whose jobs might have been shift-type work misinterpret this if they’d previously been in the type of job where flexible quite literally means “any time the place is open” as long as you can fit it in the schedule or swap with someone.

        Also I had a flexible internship where that was true, actually, and the manager tended to work 8am-9pm so it was wide open.

    2. inkstainedpages

      I’ve had several interns do the jumping around schedule thing too. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like towards the end of the internship, a lot of intern schedules deteriorate to emailing five minutes before their shift to say they won’t be in because they need to study for a big test the next day, or simply not showing up one day and then showing up a different day instead because it better suits their personal schedule that week.

    3. LizNYC

      yeah, that’s not flexible hours, that’s “we won’t react negatively if you stroll in 15 minutes late because you’ll make up that 15 minutes later in the day.”

  23. nona

    We’ve only had good interns. In fact, each summer that we have an intern, I realize that in college I was the bad intern.

      1. nona

        Blah blah surprise health problems etc. I didn’t drop the internship or the class, and I definitely should have.

        I would also do things like point out typos in programs that had already been printed. So helpful, right?

    1. jmkenrick

      I don’t think I was a terrible intern, but kind of mediocre. In fact, I think I was decent in some ways…but in retrospect, it’s amazing to me how little I made of the opportunity.

      I just honestly didn’t process all the avenues that were open. (That might still be true now, but hopefully not to the same extent!)

      1. OfficePrincess

        I was also solidly mediocre. I never did anything wrong, I just never had anything real to do. I was the org’s first intern. The person who agreed to take me on ended up relocating before I started (accepted in the spring to start in the fall) and no one else knew what to do with me. It was an org that does case management, but I rotated through everyone, so every week or two I was meeting new clients. I didn’t get to know any of the cases all that well, so I couldn’t contribute anything or even watch any of them progress.

    2. BananaPants

      I wasn’t a bad intern at all, just not particularly distinguished or special. I look at the projects that our summer interns do now and what I did looks sort of cheesy and simplistic in comparison. To be fair, our intern program was far less formal 14 years ago and I think is probably a lot better planned and managed now.

  24. GS

    I was the intern manager (among other hats) at a professional services firm that was just in the process of opening a remote office in Washington, D.C. At the time, two consultants were working out of that office, but there was no management or administrative staff. So, I was tasked with hiring an intern through our home office’s program to be based in the DC office. We hired a young woman who had pretty significant professional experience prior to this, with fantastic references, and she was to be remotely managed by me as she served as basically a de facto office manager.

    Fast forward a few months, our consultants were fairly displeased with her work product (though refused to give any real actionable feedback), and insisted she was simply the wrong fit. I finally cornered one of them on a visit to the office and they informed me that they suspected she was using the office as her personal after-hours party spot, but had no proof. We pulled the keycard records and showed she entered the building after 8 PM most days of the week, and spent much of the day there on Saturdays as well. Our building was in a high crime area, so it also had cameras. We pulled the (horrific) video. She clearly wasn’t aware of the cameras.

    Not only was she having drinking parties most nights, she was using the office as her personal sex room(s), with multiple partners, to very graphic detail. Perhaps most horrific: when compiling enough documentation to begin the termination process, we asked the building to provide us with a copy of one of the tamer but still unacceptable videos. It was delivered by the building engineer, who admitted (he thought, humorously) to have slept with the intern himself, and he and his buddies had enjoyed attending her sex and alcohol parties. Quite possibly the most uncomfortable termination conversation ever (as we didn’t have a female manager in her group at the time) and I also had to notify her school (because this was a very formal internship program in partnership with them, and terminating her early required an explanation). Yikes.

      1. GS

        They were obviously horrified. No idea what they did to her, we explicitly did not want to be involved after the termination meeting where we discussed why she was being let go, what was standard professional behavior, and why she was so wildly off-point. They dragged me and our CEO into a meeting with some senior official to impress upon us how nothing like this has ever happened before in the double-digit number of years they’ve had this program. I did my best to assure them that we didn’t take it as a reflection on the school, because we’ve had dozens of fantastic people from this program (before and after). After they tried to setup another meeting I reminded them that I was an alum too, and kindly asked that we not be involved in anything related to this woman ever again. It’s been almost 6 years now, though.

        1. Nina

          Goodness. That is just all around messy. I can see why they would try to clean this up, no one wants a situation like that reflected on them.

          1. GS

            To be clear, none of our staff participated. It was effectively a 3-person office, and our 2 consultants basically worked from home. Unfair to her, really, though we certainly didn’t expect this would be her response to that.

            1. LizNYC

              I could see her reaction being “goof off” but not “hold wild sex and alcohol parties.”

              How did you respond to the building manager?

              1. GS

                I didn’t, actually. That one ended up above my pay grade as we were also in the middle of a lease dispute at the time.

        2. Anon Lawyer

          Based on your description of the program, I’m really worried that it was someone from my own college. Do they perhaps have a dorm in D.C. where the students live, and this is part of their required externship for that semester? I lived in the dorm while I had my own college internship (not in law) and thought nothing but great things about the program itself.

          1. GS

            Nope! She was living with a distant Aunt or Uncle or somesuch, and the school actually re-evaluated their policies related to far-away internships based on this incident.

      1. GS

        I never considered that and I most certainly hope not. Yuck. But I honestly think it was more about being in a new, remote city (it was like a domestic study abroad) and wanting to fit in and make people like her to the extreme. And the office was pretty much deserted all the time.

        1. AnotherAlison

          ?!?!??!

          Or, hit up a bar for happy hour? Join a gym in the cool part of town? Throwing parties at the office and making oneself a human playground would not have crossed any sane person’s mind.

          1. Chameleon

            Not to be a downer, but I really dislike the use of the term “human playground” and find it unnecessarily slut-shaming. Presumably her actions were because she was enjoying it herself. ( Of course it goes without saying her actions were wildly inappropriate…)

            1. AnotherAlison

              My comment was based on the presumption by GS that she was trying to fit in and make friends, which is a little different from your presumption that this was just her standard way to pass an evening and have a good time. I may not know much about the term. It’s not one that comes up in my day to day life, and honestly, if it’s a commonly offensive phrase, I was not aware. I was trying to use something that was G-rated language to describe the behavior. Sorry you dislike it. I do feel you’re over-reacting a bit because I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are innocent, rather than every comment on the Internet is “shaming”, but that’s your right to feel that way, too.

              1. Chameleon

                I guess I came off as a bit sharper than I intended. I just dislike the idea that she’s doing something wrong by having sex with multiple people (I mean, if she weren’t doing it *at work*) since I doubt there would be that same idea if it had been a guy bringing a bunch of women to late-night office orgy raves.

                1. LBK

                  I didn’t read slut shaming there in the context of Another Alison’s whole comment – which was that having sex parties is a pretty outlandish way to try to make friends and get people to like you, not that it was an unwholesome or “unladylike” act.

                2. Ellie H.

                  That bothered me a little too, sex in the office is bad, no difference whatsoever if it’s with all the same person or not (inviting a lot of random strangers into the office is a separate issue but there were a lot of random strangers there just to party, anyway)

    1. RVA Cat

      Ummm I really hope the building engineer and employees who “partied” with her got fired too!

      1. GS

        No idea. We didn’t renew the lease, and the office management company was really shady to begin with.

          1. GS

            She said all of three words to us in the 2 hour long exit meeting, they were “Okay.” and “I’m sorry.” She packed up silently, and we never saw her again. She was clearly in shock, but I was actually impressed that she didn’t burst into tears or try to defend her conduct.

            1. kozinskey

              Not to be dense, but what on earth did you have to talk about for 2 whole hours? I imagine that being a pretty short conversation.

              1. GS

                We treated the entire thing as the end of an internship term. This was a young woman, so we wanted to address it as a learning experience and not just fire her and escort her out. So, we started out with an evaluation of her work product. Then we played a video for her (it was one without sex) so she knew we had video. We discussed how entirely unacceptable her behavior was, we offered to put her in touch with our employee wellness program if she needed to talk to someone (we debated this one, but felt she was putting herself in such danger that it was worth it), explained that she’d be dealing with the university next, paperwork, final paycheck logistics, watched her pack up her desk, etc.

    2. Anjum

      lol this is so crazy! I’m resisting the urge to make a joke about “professional services consulting”!

  25. Regular Reader

    We had an intern who wrote a blog post for our institution and shared it on her blog, unbeknownst to us. However, we saw the link had been shared, followed it to her blog, realized it was our intern, and saw posts criticizing our workplace, staff members, and clients. We talked to her about this being extremely unprofessional and damaging. Soon after her school pulled her from the internship anyway because she was on the verge of failing her classes. It’s one of the most bizarre intern experiences we’ve ever had.

    1. Big Brother is Watching

      A few jobs ago, I worked with the child of a sitting president. To say this President and his policies were extremely unpopular in the city where we lived would be an understatement. Our summer intern started on a Monday. On Tuesday, my director took me aside and said, “Intern’s not coming back.” The intern evidently had a blog where they had posted all about the first day at the internship, including mentioning that they would be working with the President’s child, who “didn’t seem that bad.”

      Not only was the intern banished, but the blog disappeared from the internet, and the following semester a “social media/internet” policy was added to the intern handbook/guidelines.

      1. Big Brother is Watching

        Oh, it’s probably best to not publish this one.

        By the way — does this site mess up anyone else’s browsing? It slows everything to a crawl for me and affects any other sites I may have open simultaneously. (I’m using Firefox.)

        1. The IT Manager

          Yes. I often have trouble with this site loading and I blame some of the ads. But I do especially have trouble on the posts with lots of comments which I’m sure will include this one.

        2. Ama

          I don’t know if it will help, but I disabled Flash on this website only (I use Chrome), and it took care of the problem — for me it was apparently the Flash heavy ads that slowed me down.

        3. april ludgate

          I used to the same problem with the site, but then I added the adblock plus extension (I use google chrome, I’m not sure if firefox has something similar) and I haven’t had any problems since.

          1. Claire (Scotland)

            I use AdBlock with Firefox. I turned it off for this site originally, but since the ad provider changed I’ve had to re-enable it. :(

        4. Journalist Wife

          Yep. I ALWAYS have problems, and it’s always when there’s video ads on the sidebar. I also use Firefox. I could use another browser, but…I’d rather slow browsing than give up Firefox. :)

          1. Evan Þ

            I don’t think it’s worth trying another browser – I have the same problems in Internet Explorer.

        5. Julia

          YES! Oh wow yes. My computer is lagging so badly right now but I had to read the comments on this post. I mostly try to read everything in Feedly for this reason.

          The articles at US News also tend to load slowly so I honestly skip all of those.

      2. Elysian

        So, not that I would ever do that, but what did your company find to be the big offense there? Did the intern disclose too much company info, was it off-limits to comment on working with a famous co-worker, or was it the “didn’t see that bad” comment? Maybe I’m just jaded after “My intern used our office for sexy parties with the building staff” but this one seemed to deserve more of a stern talking-to about discretion than a full on banishment.

        1. Big Brother is Watching

          I’m not sure — the entire thing was very hush hush. We weren’t allowed to discuss it and the blog had already vanished by very next morning. Maybe it wasn’t the company but a directive from the Secret Service? The President’s child did occasionally talk about their “dad” and family (nothing political, more along the lines of “when I was little, my dad did this….” so maybe they thought there was the potential for that kind of stuff to be blogged about. My director was also annoying over-effusive with the Presidential child so perhaps is was a self-important, overprotective overreaction on the director’s part.

          1. Big Brother is Watching

            Another thought — it could have been a security issue. It wasn’t necessarily a secret that the child worked there, but publishing a blog with the name of the company and broadcasting they worked there probably wasn’t the best idea. It would have made it easier for crazies to call/harrass/stalk if they knew what department this person was in, etc. (It was also a company and department that dealt with the public all the time.)

      3. BananaPants

        A high school classmate of mine dated the child of a sitting President during college (he was similarly unpopular at the time). The classmate and their family members were vetted by the Secret Service – I know this because my younger brother was very close with my classmate’s younger sibling. It was kept fairly quiet at the time but I learned from several mutual friends that a few people who had been close with the classmate were actually interviewed. Given the level of vitriol exhibited towards the President, I’m not at all shocked that close tabs are kept on monitoring Internet references to them and their families.

  26. Intern Story

    Do not use in an article please. Just for our fun here. My husband’s office had a male undergraduate student intern. This is a federal law enforcement agency. After his internship he sent unsolicited inappropriate text messages to a married full time female officer he had worked with. I do not know if he also did that during his internship, I just know it escalated after. When she told him to stop, he got very angry. She almost had to get a restraining order against him. He is barred from entering their agency’s building now. These were also sent to her government phone.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Assuming the guy was planning for a law enforcement career, that’s particularly horrible.

  27. S

    My favourite was the high school interning with us for a few weeks. Since he had no prior experience in anything really, I looked for the easiest task I could find and asked him to file a pile of documents.

    He came back to my desk about two hours later (the task should’ve taken about 30 minutes), waving a sheet of paper and proclaimed, “I am unable to file this paper because it doesn’t have any holes!” … I was so speechless that all I could do was point at the hole punch on my desk and ask him if he knew what that was and what it did.

    And there was a similar incident involving another intern who had been unaware that staplers have mechanism that allows them to be refilled once they run out of staples.

    My second favourite is the intern who, after four weeks of delivering rather mediocre work, declared that “the balance between being offered learning opportunities and having to do actual work” was off. He ended up quitting in a huff before I could finish explaining the concept of learning on the job.

    1. MsM

      I had to teach a recently graduated administrative assistant about the hole punch, too. I guess people just don’t use binders any more!

    2. Anonsie

      He ended up quitting in a huff before I could finish explaining the concept of learning on the job.

      tbf though, the entire point of an internship is that you are being taught rather than used just to produce.

      1. zora

        yeah but after only 4 weeks? Also, if it is taking you a long time to learn simple things, there’s not much chance I’m going to be able to give you more complicated stuff right away.

        1. Anonsie

          Wouldn’t it be especially after 4 weeks? If I’m a month into an internship and I need guidance and the other folks there are telling me “learn it on the job, chump” I’m probably going to be worrying about whether or not I’m going to ever be taught anything.

      2. S

        I agree completely. But that guy was asking for more “glamourous” work because he didn’t like the basic tasks I gave him to teach him about our systems and procedures. I did give him context and explanations along with the assignments, but he still thought these tasks (organising training courses, making sure all documentation was meeting the auditors’ standards) were too menial for him. But honestly, if you can’t master the basics, I’m not going to trust you with higher level stuff.

    3. moss

      I’m picturing someone looking at the stapler all “Welp, no more staples” and just pitching the stapler in the trash.

      1. pandq

        Yeah, really! Everyone knows you put it back on the desk you borrowed it from, and go find one that’s full!

      2. S

        It was even better: she threw a fit because “none of the stupid staplers in this office are working!”

        We then discovered that she had been going around and taking one stapler after the other from the desks in our open plan office, used them until they were out, put them back and took the next one… After my colleague taught her how to refill the stapler, I politely suggested that she refill all the staplers to get some extra practice.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          I envision her planning her day – “Well, I ran out staples yesterday, so I better get in at 7:45 this morning to go shopping for a new stapler before S gets in.”

          1. LizNYC

            No, no, “Well, I ran out of staples and can’t do my work. I should take an extra long lunch break till they fix the problem!”

  28. The Final Straw

    My old team was “forced” into hiring an intern because he had a relative who was a political figure in our town and management thought it would be a good idea to ‘get in good’ with political figure.

    In addition to being a terrible intern (i.e. not listening to his managers, showing up late to work every day, talking back to employees, etc.), he would also complain on social media about the company on a daily basis. Social media was a fairly new thing at the time. I can’t even type most of the things he said (they were that bad), but basically, he trashed our company, trashed his managers, said our products sucked, etc.

    When I found out about this, I pulled my manager aside and showed him and asked if we could let him go. If an employee had done this, they would have been let go – no questions asked. My manager didn’t want to let Intern go because of his “political connections.” I ended up taking the intern aside, showing him his Twitter account, and asking him if he had any problems/concerns that he would care to discuss with me. The Intern froze up and didn’t know how to respond. I gave him a stern talking to about how whatever you post on social media can come back to haunt you.

    1. Artemesia

      I have had as a teacher over the years the children of many well known politicians, business people and celebrities (including one of John Ehrlichman’s kids over 40 years ago when he was in power) and every one of them has been a decent human and hard working student including those whose parents were IMHO somewhat loathsome. Lucky I guess. I have had colleagues elsewhere who have been pressured to coddle or accept poor work from the children of big shots because they might be important donors or attract donors. Certainly did those ‘kids’ no favors in their development.

      1. Brrrrr!

        I know this super late, but just recently started a job, and my HR compliance training has informed me that providing internships or employment to family members of political figures (particularly foreign officials) in hopes of garnering political favor is considered bribery. The individual may be hired if selected as part of a regular hiring process and is selected based on merit, not to curry political favor.

  29. Revolver Rani

    I was a graduate student in a physics lab at a Prestigious University. We always had a couple of undergraduate students working in the lab. Some of them were terrific, bright and hardworking, and contributed a ton of good work to the lab. Others had over-inflated senses of their own value to the lab coupled with a poor sense of how experimental science actually works. These are the folks who seem to imagine that studying physics at Prestigious University means sitting around thinking Important Thoughts and winning Nobel Prizes. They take offense at projects like soldering, managing liquid nitrogen and liquid helium fills for the experiments, repairing broken equipment, and so on – stuff that is essential to the operation of the lab, stuff that graduate students do all time, stuff that you kind of have to master on the way to learning how to design, operate, and maintain the complex apparatuses that we worked with in our precision-experiment lab.

    I had one guy whom I asked to make some power coils for the experiment I was working on. The idea was to coil up a piece of thick wire and attach a coaxial cable to it by soldering the cable shielding to one end of the coil, soldering the cable core to a conductive strip, and soldering the other end of that strip to a point partway up the coil. Then the coil is placed around a gas tube, and signal from the coax is inductively coupled into the coil, which lights up the gas in the tube, kind of like a fluorescent bulb. (The goal of the experiment was to make precise laser spectrscopy measurements in the lit-up gas. The lighting-up itself wasn’t the important result; it was just a way to put the gas molecules in the right state for the actual measurement.)

    Well this guy wasn’t satisfied with the simple design of the coil, even though I’d built one previously and it was serving the purpose of the experiment just fine. He was constantly messing around with new designs that had no basis in the actual physics of inductive coupling, and often made no sense. It’s not like he had a real legitimate idea of how to make the coupling more efficient; he was just messing with stuff to see what happened.

    So after he’d faffed around for a week and I asked him to please just make a coil the way I’d shown him, he said, “I don’t understand. This is a science lab. Isn’t experimentation and discovery the purpose of this lab? What is the point of just making a coil like the one you have already made? What does anyone learn from that?”

    Yeah … okay, guy. A few more interactions like that and he was kicked out of the lab.

    1. the gold digger

      soldering, …, repairing broken equipment, and so on – stuff that is essential to the operation of the lab

      May I add that these are also skills that make for an excellent spouse? The ability to repair one’s own furnace, car, air conditioner, etc, is priceless.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Now, if he had made you one the way you had asked, and then tried to make others his own way, no matter how weird his way was, that might have been at least tinkering, if not experimentation. But this was a lab assistant assignment, not his own personal design or engineering class.

    3. Elizabeth West

      That actually sounds like the most fun internship EVER. I used be the office clerk for a materials lab and I LOVED it. I didn’t even mind doing Igor crap and washing glassware when I wasn’t at the front desk. They taught me how to do water pH tests in case one came in while the lab people were out (you couldn’t let those samples sit around). The day I discovered stir bars was a great day. I just could not get over how cool they were. :D

      If I didn’t have this damn math LD, I would have been a scientist of some kind.

      1. Alison Hendrix

        LOL I recall when I interned in a QA lab, my favorite setup was the Soxhlet extraction, mainly because I get batches of liquid ice cream shells (chocolate and purple yam), and extract and measure the fat content in it and make sure it is consistent with their average levels. The leftover chocolate syrup is no longer needed, so we grab the leftover crackers (that we also do tests on) and just had chocolate-coated crackers.

        Not to mention sometimes the R&D lab had an excess of pancakes or fried donuts (I know – pancake R&D sounds awesome!) and they would share the pancakes with the QA group.

        I wished I was an R&D intern back then because their lab smells so good and they have a huge fried donut machine in one room. They offered me a job in QA but seeing that my lab co-worker gets impromptu overnight shifts (she always had a change of clothes in her car in case this happens), plus the slow career advancement, I declined.

      2. Anx

        So, I’m unemployed in the field, but despite having seriously wondered if I’ve had dyscalculia and math not being my strong suit, I’ve actually become the Math Person in my lab just because so many other of the scientists struggled with it. I’ve also discovered I’m not nearly as incompetent in physics and chemistry as I thought I was, it just took a long time for me to realize that I understood many of the concepts just fine but was struggling with finishing the problem solving in a timely manner due to the math aspects, and my confidence in those subjects plummeted.

        There are a lot of reasons I’d discourage going into science, and I don’t mean to dismiss your LD as not-really-an-obstacle, but there actually a lot of scientists who struggle with math (not just academically, but with numbers in general).

        There are certain disciplines where it matters more than others, but I’ve found that doing simple office work can test my math skills just as much as some lab/science environments.

        I’m not saying that a math LD isn’t on obstacle or a liability for a scientist, but strong verbal skills in the sciences are pretty undervalued, despite many scientists’ success being dependent on them.

    4. Knitting Ca Lady

      I’m a nuclear physicist. I did accelerator experiments. Those run ages to generate enough data and need constant monitoring. Nightshifts at the lab are fun.

    5. Artemesia

      My very first GA helped me create a new graduate level class of some complexity; it was taught weekends so it required tremendous curriculum development — no lecturing for 8 hours at a clip — I had her assembling readings, researching topics for me etc etc (it was not in the area of my best expertise) She was a wonder and so helpful which spoiled me for the next few GAs I had none of whom had their thermostat set for excellent. It was so disappointing to have students of this caliber at this level who produced shoddy rough draft work instead of their best.

      But all was redeemed when I hired a GA who was a military sgt. retired to run a national research project which required incredible levels of coordination at 20 data collection sites. We would never have gotten it done without her.

    6. Nieve

      Jesus.
      That guy probably left thinking ‘But I have AMAZING innovative skills! They just let me go because they didnt see my innovative potential! They’ll regret that in a few years when they see me getting a Nobel prize for my creations…’
      HAHAHA

  30. Clever Name

    This story isn’t all that shocking or bad or anything, but we had an intern who wore very short shorts (like 2-inch inseam short) and t-shirts with a wide scoop neck or v-neck, such that several inches of cleavage were visible at all times. People started talking about how she dressed, including one male manager, who bluntly wondered aloud why her boobs were hanging out all the time. On her birthday, the intern arrived in a sparkly sequined dress that was short, tight, and showed lots of cleavage. In other words, clubwear. I was getting concerned, so I spoke with our 1-person HR department, who shrugged and said something along the lines of, “Well, that’s the culture she comes from. For them it’s totally normal to dress like that” and suggested I say something to her myself. I honestly have no idea what culture she was referring to, or why she thought I, a technical person who tends towards bluntness who was neither her manager nor particularly close with her, would be the best person to relay the news that she was dressing inappropriately. She must have been spoken to because she stopped wearing shorts and she wore slightly more modest tops to work. One thing that did come out of this is we now have an official dress code that specifically prohibits shorts, tube tops, halter tops and visible cleavage.

      1. Specialk9

        I think ‘gypsy’ is a pejorative for Romani. Though there are several tv shows with in the title. (!)

    1. Beti

      When I hear inappropriate clothing stories I think of Liz Lemon telling Cerie to stop dressing in revealing clothing: “Cerie, seriously. Take that off. And, you, stop encouraging her. You’re an enabler. You need to dress like you have a job. And parents who raised you in some kind of shame based American religious tradition. Here. “

    2. Ad Astra

      Was the intern Hispanic? I’ve been told the Spanish-speaking world has different standards for professional dress that may seem immodest to more conservative firms. I’m not sure that makes the “culture” comment appropriate, but perhaps that’s what HR was alluding to?

      1. Marcela

        Not all Hispanic countries are the same. In mine, Chile, we are extremely conservative. Too much, to the point of being pompous and ridiculous, to be honest.

        1. S

          Hell yeah, Spanish is the biggest first language in the world. There’s a world of difference between a 25 year old in Madrid and a 60 year old in Bilbao, let alone between a Spaniard, a Mexican, a Nuyorican etc

      2. Clever Name

        Maybe? I honestly am not sure. It was such a ridiculous thing to say, though. I mean, who cares if her clothing is appropriate for her culture? It wasn’t appropriate for an office. I really didn’t care why she was dressing that way.

  31. Jubilance

    This stories are already sucking away any hope I had in the next generation. Also thanks to whoever suggested the DC Intern blog – I know how I’m going to spend my free time!

    1. CanadianDot

      Don’t lose all hope! We had a co-op student here in the spring – normally we hire Masters or PhD students, but she was so impressive that we hired her as an 3rd year undergrad. And while there were some normal challenges about professionalism, etc, as this was her first job, she was bright, keen, and a very hard worker. We were all very impressed by her work ethic and her intelligent, creative way of looking at things, and were very sad when her term ended.

      1. Artemesia

        I placed dozens of interns who were so effective they were offered jobs at the companies they interned — at both masters and undergrad level. But there were those and they make it to stories here.

    2. rory

      These are the Intern Horror stories, not the Great Intern stories. It’s not a representative sample of the next generation…

        1. kozinskey

          +1! (Especially since I had to sit through a two-hour lecture about how all millenials are worthless yesterday. I am a millenial.)

          1. Connie-Lynne

            Every time I hear an anti-millennial rant I want to counter with a “the boomers wrecked it for my gen” rant.

            (I come between the boomers and millennials)

    3. Beancounter in Texas

      My father tells me of a story from when he was in high school, about 1964. His father was perusing some old letters that had been stuffed inbetween pages of the family Bible, which is a Martin Luther Bible (in German). One of the letters was from an ancestor’s friend, written about 1860. After exclamating about “things move so fast these days – you can send a telegraph instantly from village to village!”, he lamented that “young people are lazy and have no respect for their elders”, and “that stuff they call music is nothing but noise!” His prediction was that the very fabric of society was unraveling and that chaos would ensue soon.

      But, we’re still here.

  32. anonanonanon

    I posted about my current intern problem a few weeks ago, so here’s a copy+paste AND an update:

    “We have two interns this summer. One from a $40K+ private university and one from a community college. The intern from the community college is amazing and has gone above and beyond our expectations. The private university intern is the complete opposite. She routinely talks about how she’s getting a degree in X from Y University, so she should be given better work because she deserves it and spent more money on education. They’re both paid, and their weekly salary is a little less than what our Editorial Assistants earn.

    Both interns are working on organizing a focus group for one of our medium profile books. Part of their work includes creating spreadsheets of reviewers, book reviews, sales predictions, and other metadata and creating some packets to hand out at the focus group. I’ve given them free reign to design the packets, order food, pick out pull quotes from the manuscripts to use in marketing materials, and other small duties as long as they send the materials to me and my boss for final approval. This work is basically what they would be doing in an entry level assistant position. The good intern has pretty much taken over most of the work because the bad intern complains that she should be editing manuscripts and working with authors (which is something that rarely happens at my current company without at least 5-10 years of experience in the industry, and even then it’s not guaranteed). She has a lot of entitlement issues based on where she’s attending school, and I’ve even overheard her making comments about how the company would be smart to hire her over the community college intern.”

    Update: I went to my boss’s boss and listed the problems with bad!intern and she gave me the go ahead to tell the intern the lay of the land (we can’t fire her for HR reasons I’m not privy to, and the most they get is a recommendation, though the boss’s boss did say if she was a normal employee they would have let her go). I sat the bad intern down and basically told her to stop being an entitled brat, that she was getting a front row seat as to how the publishing industry works and was working on a major project instead of photocopying, and that NO ONE cares where she goes to school or how much money she’s spending a year to go there. I also mentioned that if she wasn’t an intern, she would have been fired for her attitude long ago. I think it startled her enough, since she called out “sick” the next day and then sulked for another day, but finally pulled herself together. If she’s still being a brat or complaining, at least it’s not where anyone at work can hear her. She’s stepped up her involvement in the focus group work, but good intern has done most of the important work at this point anyway. I think bad intern realized that publishing wasn’t sitting around talking about books all day and that, you know, actual work was involved in creating, marketing, and producing books.

    To end on a good note: we did offer the good intern a chance to continue her internship into the fall semester and a job offer for when she’s graduated, so there’s that.

    1. Ad Astra

      It sounds like Bad Intern did learn something from the experience, and that’s awesome. Maybe she’ll be less trouble for her next manager.

  33. AVP

    We had an intern who was in her first professional setting, and she talked all the time about her boyfriend from college and how he was going to come visit her in August and she missed him so much. About a week before he was due to arrive, she got a Face of Doom and started acting really flaky. We had a one-on-one meeting to see what was going on, and she said, “I think he’s coming down just to break up with me.” Fast forward to the next Monday…

    She calls in sick, bawling. “He dumped me, I’m a mess, I can’t come in.” Okay. By Wednesday, she comes in but she’s still a mess. We give her something easy to do. In the afternoon, I find her in a small private office of a middle-aged man who is assigned as her sort-of-mentor. She is sitting on his couch, crying, hard. “He dumped me…I lost my virginity to him! He came down on Friday and we had sex in the bathtub at my sublet, and now I HAVE AN A VAGINAL INFECTION AND THEN HE DUMPED ME AFTERWARD.”

    We were so dumbfounded by the TMI that we just sent her home. She worked out her last two weeks very quietly.

    1. NickelandDime

      What do you say to folks in the office after you just announced to them you got an STD?

      1. Ad Astra

        I would guess it was probably more along the lines of a yeast infection rather than an STD, but… still. wtf.

        1. AVP

          I’m totally blanking on what she had. Less common than a yeast infection but not quite an STD…I forget what it’s called.

            1. Zillah

              You can get a UTI without having sex, though. I’m kind of confused about why that’s so much grosser than any other infection. TMI regardless, but…

          1. The IT Manager

            UTI? Urinary Tract Infection? Which is not quite the same, but I guessing this because a friend came down with one on a Monday and a doctor friend turned to her a said, “You had lots of sex this weekend, didn’t you?”

          2. kozinskey

            +1 for UTI and that they can happen after sex. (Ladies: always go pee right after! And keep a stash of Azo cranberry tablets on hand just in case.)

    2. Diddly

      Wow. Lol I was an awkward temp who started out all chipper and nice and was going to move overseas to live with boyfriend, then he dumped me and I ended up bitter silent person cursing these ppl I was working with all who were buying houses, having babies and getting married (some doing all at the same time.) I think they must have noticed that I was way chillier – and unfortunately there were tears – but I managed to do that in the bathroom. Luckily didn’t do anything to this intern’s extreme. But am embarrassed to think about it….

    3. peanut butter kisses

      I worked with a guy who told me all about the various std’s his ex-wife had given him when she cheated on him. He told me when we were working an event with a high profile author was giving a speech and I was trying to hear it all the while with his going on about his medical issues. A few months later, he asked me out. I said no. There is just no forgetting that conversation – ever.

      1. NickelandDime

        He’s completely out of touch with social norms for this kind of thing, isn’t he?

    4. Biff

      A coworker got dumped about 6-7 months ago. We saw it coming, but they had a two year plan and had actually made some SERIOUS life decisions around the fact that they thought they were getting married. Needless to say, when coworker found out about cheating going on, they were a wreck for about a week. And yes, they did take a couple of days out.

      Losing your presumed life partner is kind of a big deal and one I’d make exceptions for unless it’s an “every three weeks I have new guy/girl and every three months I go into full-on-wreck mode.”

      1. jmkenrick

        I agree with this. I’m not in the business of passing judgement on other people’s traumas. If something shakes someone up emotionally, and they’re not operating at 100%, I totally get that.

        Regardless of the event, I think it’s best to reserve judgement until someone has shown a pattern of histrionics.

        1. Stephanie

          Everyone’s had that friend at some point. I remember I was with my embodiment of that friend. We were at a bar and she’s all distraught over a relationship and sobbing whilst eating something fried like “I don’t care! I’ll get fat! No one will ever love me again.”

          I ask how long they were together.

          “Three weeks.”

          My reaction face was the real-life version of -_-, but I think there was too much sobbing into cheese fries for her to notice.

  34. skirtyintern

    My favorite intern was the one who wore very, very short skirts. My assistant and I pointed this out to her boss, and to her, but for them, it was no big deal. It was fashion! We’re in the arts!

    For us, we got a good view of her underwear on a regular basis. She’s gone on to a decent career, but I can tell she has a different boss who cares more about professional image. I’m so glad she got some feedback she listened to somewhere!

      1. 2 Cents

        heh, my dear friend (before we knew each other well) was “that girl” at our office. She truly, honestly had no idea how to dress professionally and chose to wear what “made her feel happy” that day. Unfortunately, that included a tight, short white skirt…with electric blue underwear. V-necks that provided an ample view of her ample view. Platform heels that were better suited for clubbing, not walking around an office. Another friend and I eventually went over to her house and segregated her closet into “work clothes” and “not work clothes” so these fashion mishaps would stop! (And yes, when we’d point out at the office that her clothes were a bit risque for the day, she’d be horrified — and started keeping a long cardigan in her desk just in case :P)

        1. Rolld20

          ‘Another friend and I eventually went over to her house and segregated her closet into “work clothes” and “not work clothes”… ‘
          I’m picturing this as an undercover operation: “Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to save us all from excessive cleavage…”

  35. Name redacted for this one

    Not an intern horror story in the usual sense…

    I hired interns each semester to help with the data entry part of my job, and frequently included them in office outing invitations. Our office participated in a charity event each year involving beer and burgers at a sports bar. (I only hired college seniors, and all old enough to drink, so there was never an underage issue.)

    My boss was lecherous on a good day, and the owner of the firm. On this particular evening, he indulged himself in extra drinks and started talking to my intern and me about work. We had an appointment the next day with an 80 year old client who was known for being particular and easily dissatisfied. In lieu of saying anything professional about impressing her, he went on a five minute monologue about how we really needed to “bang her p*ssy”. I explained to our intern the next morning that the owner was NOT indicative of office norms and was probably an anomaly in terms of successful businessmen.

    Extremely embarrassing to be associated with that office. Ugh. Intern fabulous and managed to not be corrupted by our shit tier office culture.

  36. KT

    I have had many, many interns of horror at my previous employer. This was a very large company where competition for internships was fierce because of the extremely generous pay ($20 an hour was the norm). Good interns were frequently hired (including me! That’s how I got started).

    1. One did zero work, ever. Instead, she took advantage of my large company’s offerings (gym, cafeteria, etc). Because our company had them, she thought it meant that she could spend the whole day at these places, working out or eating. When we talked her about the lack of work she was producing and how often she was going to the gym, she responded ‘That’s what you’re paying me for”!

    2. Another wore horribly inappropriate clothes. Skirts that were so short, plunging necklines, cut-out sides. One dress was something that could only be described as a wiggle dress—skin tight, just covered her butt, and slit down the front to show her breasts. We had MANY conversations with her about appropriate dress, to which she responded, “I can cover my boobs OR my ass. I can’t cover both!”. She continued to wear clubwear, so we had to ask her to leave.

    3. We talked to one intern about the importance of networking within our large company, how it was important to understand the different facets of the business. She was a bit ditzy but actually a good worker–we hoped that if she understood more of the business, she might get more grounded in the work. She took this to mean setting up one on ones with EVERYONE, including Vice Presidents and CEO. She would use our department head’s name to get the appointment…we only found out when the CEO called the department head to say this person had had a meeting with him, and had stared at him and asked him what he did. Our department head was livid…she was a Vice President, but even she had never personally met the CEO before. It was horrifyingly embarrassing for the department.

    4. Last one was a group. They used our company email (which, being in a very regulated industry, was frequently monitored by external trade groups and some emails would end up on the front page of the New York Times) to set up drinking parties or talk about how to sneak drinks into work. They copied their manager.

    1. Kelly L.

      “I can cover my boobs OR my ass. I can’t cover both!”

      Oh, wow. Was there a fabric shortage? LOL.

    2. anonanonanon

      Re #3: I had a coworker at my last company who thought that sharing the same alma mater as Editor-in-Chief made them best friends. My coworker scheduled a monthly recurring one-on-one lunch meeting with the EIC and then stopped by the EIC’s office to “confirm their appointment”, while bringing by some gifts – one of which was a pennet flag from the school. This led to me overhearing the most awkward conversation. The EIC had no idea who my coworker was, was obviously annoyed by the gesture and intrusion, and my coworker had no idea why the EIC was annoyed.

      I had a lot of secondhand embarrassment for my coworker that day.

    3. Elkay

      I’m sure there was a commenter on here who did similar to #1, not realising that the classes were not in addition to your paid breaks.

      1. Alli525

        I work in finance, and every single one of our emails is screened by our compliance department (we outsource some of them to a private company, but the majority are read by our compliance officer or her team), and FINRA regularly audits finance firms as well, which can literally mean printing out every single email sent – internally AND externally – from a person, group, or time period. It’s obviously meant to help prevent insider trading/etc., but if I email a coworker about how sweaty I am or a one-night-stand I had, there’s essentially a 99.9% chance that that email will be read by someone at some point. I’ve gotten yelled at for emailing my roommate (with whom I did not work and have never worked with) about how hot I thought the latest job candidate “John Smith” was and to look him up on LinkedIn/Facebook.

  37. Gwen

    I’m sure this will pale compared to other tales on this blog, but earlier this summer we had an intern come in who seemed very promising, had done internships with other organizations in our area. She came for her first day, part of which was getting information from HR about parking (we work downtown and provide parking to staff, including interns, in a structure across the street, which is awesome). She then did not show up the next day and resigned from the internship because “the parking situation was too confusing”???? I’m sure it had to be an excuse of some kind but what a bizarre one.

    1. Robin

      I had a new loan processor once go out to her car for cough drops and never return. When I finally reached her later, she told me the guidelines manual was too intimidating.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        I knew someone who had a trainee leave her workstation and never come back. Turns out her CRT (remember those?) screen had frozen, and she just gave up. (This was a common problem that could be solved by hitting one function key. The trainer, who was a lovely and approachable woman, would have shared this information in a heartbeat.)

          1. NoCalHR

            We had a HR program (Master’s program) intern come in for orientation on Day One. She seemed fine, asked the right kinds of questions, went out for standard hour-long lunch. Never came back. Called the school to see if something had happened and got this feedback: “BigCo has way too many rules; I have to park in the back of the parking lot*; they don’t stock Mt Dew in the vending machines.”

            * the parking lot was 3 rows deep, and the front row, closest to the building had handicap and guest/client/visitor parking. ALL the employees parked in the other rows!

            1. 2 Cents

              Well, if there’s no Diet Coke in the vending machine, I’d go ballistic some days. But seriously!?

    2. Alison Hendrix

      Wow. Some people just cannot even LIFE.

      I hate driving downtown because parking’s hellish, and if I can get away with it I would, otherwise I’d rather drive there during slow days, but if I had to get there for work, I’d learn how to go there. Given my sense of direction I’d probably make mistakes along the way, but I will be there.

  38. businessfish

    Had an intern once who decided that the company’s (Fortune 100) vision statement/manifesto was too wordy and rewrote the whole thing. This was of course a document that had been crafted over 6 months of arguing over every. single. word. with the communications department, marketing, HR, and the CEO.

    thanks for taking initiative, but let’s talk about a little thing called political landmines…

    1. Vex

      Did this intern yell LEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOY JEEEEEENKINSSSSSS while rewriting it? That’s hilarious.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        +1000 man I had totally forgotten about that. Thanks for cheering up my Thursday!

    2. Artemesia

      I don’t doubt for a moment that the intern was absolutely right here; it is hard to imagine anything stupider than ‘mission statements’ unless it is ‘mission statements that take months to craft with C level input and long meetings.’

      That said — of course it was a stupid move on his part politically.

  39. Anon Accountant

    I was an intern 11 years ago in a small university office that dealt with agricultural and community development issues. I was asked to research, design and singlehandedly coordinate a series of workshops to get more community members to volunteer with non-profit organizations. My supervisor was often out at various board meetings and networking.

    My duties were to find a location to host the workshops, find a caterer to provide dinner during the workshops, design brochures and work on spreading the word. The total budget for 8 planned weeks of the workshops including facility location, meals, and other supplies was less than $2,000. The workshops were to be free to encourage more to attend and they had to cap the total at 30 people. I called places securing quotes on free to low cost facilities, caterers and there was no way that budget could accomodate all the people.

    There weren’t any more funds allocated to the budget so with the meager budget to work with I drew up a proposal that showed that at the cheapest location in town there was no way to pay for just hot dogs and soda for everyone. They weren’t willing to charge a small fee to attend the sessions and for the meal they wanted options for vegetarians, dietary alleries etc. They weren’t happy.

    This internship was unpaid yet they wanted you to work 8-5 and attend evening community meetings with them. I bluntly told them “I have to work evenings because I’m not getting paid here and have to pay bills”. They were getting unhappy that there wasn’t any progress on making their pet project work. Finally I called the local Holiday Inn and broke down crying to the hotel manager that we needed a meeting room and meal options for 30 people for 8 weeks and here’s our budget. He took pity and created a proposal that included a light deli buffet and cheap conference room rental.

    During my last week they had an exit interview with me and expressed disappointment with me on not attending evening networking events and community meetings. I told them I was sorry that I couldn’t meet their needs but as I wasn’t getting paid holding an evening and weekend job was a necessity. This internship lasted 3 months to get enough required hours for school.

    Not one of my finer moments!

    1. Meredith

      Yeah, I think that’s a ridiculous internship. They assigned you a really challenging task ($2000?! 8 weeks!!), and you were basically putting in full-time hours for free?? Thank goodness for that Holiday Inn manager!

      1. Anon Accountant

        I’m still grateful to the Holiday Inn manager. When I called I was crying so hard it’s surprising he didn’t just hang up on me. He really went above and beyond with accomodating.

    2. SL

      I was an event planning intern for a while, and whenever I was told to set up stuff like that on my own, I at least had a list of previous vendors that we’d worked with before as well as a budget that was more than enough to cover the event. If I saved us money, then it was good work and smart thinking on my part, but I was never given an impossible budget to work with… not to mention I was a paid intern. I’m sorry that was such a terrible experience for you, Anon Accountant!

    3. Viktoria

      Hang on, not one of YOUR finer moments? You are the hero of this story. You and possibly the Holiday Inn manager.

      1. Anon Accountant

        Thanks! When I’d called the Holiday Inn I started crying so hard and pouring out to the manager “they gave such a tiny budget and I need this intership for school and don’t know what to do”. He was great about it – especially on making a dinner menu work for the budget.

  40. HRKey

    I worked in the entertainment industry in the mid 90’s and a member of my company was a prominent TVactor at the time. We had a young woman apply to be an intern from a country about 18 hours away which was very unheard of for us. After many conversations with her and her parents, we accepted her as an intern and helped find her an apartment for the summer.

    Shortly after she started with us we began to notice some questionable stories and behaviors. She started talking about how she was getting mistaken for an actress who had recently been romantically linked to our TV actor. The stories escalated from simple mistaken identity to being stalked by someone who was threatening her. It culminated with the alleged stalker getting into her apartment, attacking her and breaking her arm. I spent 6 hours in the ER with her getting her arm taken care of and then assisting with filing a police report.

    The police investigation determined that nobody had been stalking her or had attacked her. They found evidence that she broke her own arm in her apartment. It turns out she was actually stalking the TV actor and had fabricated everything in an attempt to gain sympathy and get close to him!

    Needless to say we sent her back home and had a long conversation with her parents about all that had happened. They assured us they would get her help, but I never found out whatever happened to her. I’ve since left that industry and have never had an intern quite like that again!

      1. Former Museum Professional

        Too bad she didn’t apply that kind of dedication to something productive.

      2. Dana

        I often wanted to fall/roll down the grassy hill on purpose to get out of training workouts for track in high school…and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m dumbfounded.

    1. Minister of Snark

      I would say, “that’s insane,” but a classmate of mine in college insisted that the college’s president was stalking her because he’d made eye contact with her TWICE in the course of a week. TWICE.

      Yes, that emphasis is sarcastic.

      Particularly when you consider that she worked in a campus office that was directly across the hall from his.

      1. Anonynon

        In college, one of my friends remarked that her roommate was constantly typing on her laptop — not unusual for college in general, but the roommate would do it practically 24/7 and her classes didn’t really align with that much writing. One day, my friend happened to glance at the roommate’s computer (which had been left on and open) and saw things like “I know she’s stalking me…Must plan revenge” and “If I don’t kill so-and-so, they’ll get me first!” Super scary and bizarre.

  41. Mrs. Walter White

    Intern #1: His daddy set up the internship “because [ he thought] it would be a good learning experience for him!” in a super-top secret arrangement with one of our VP’s (who wanted to curry favor with this client) and who neglected to tell anyone, including our CEO, what was going on. First day the “intern” comes in with his college T-shirt on and jeans (we are business professional office), so absolutely no one knew who this kid was ambling around our office looking for work to do. Second day, comes in 4 hours late, with a polo on (complete with upturned color like he was walking the streets of Georgetown, D.C.), hung-over and with his hand still stamped with the previous nights clubs (yes plural) he had visited. Third day, he no showed. End Scene.

    Intern #2: Lasted much, much longer, to our chagrin. Keep in mind, we are located in downtown Washington, D.C. Some classic “no-show” excuses we heard from him were: “My foot got stuck in a hole at the ranch and I couldn’t get it out. Now its swollen.”,
    “My motorcycle broke down on the way to work.”, “I was corralling horses all weekend.”
    This one is my favorite: After 11 am passes with another no-show, no-call, and supervisees are waiting on him for deadline work and he has missed meetings with them, he emails me and states: “I am in the office building, I have been stuck in the public restroom since 9 AM with a stomach virus and cant leave the bathroom. When I can leave I will be going home.” (My male colleague checked the bathroom, no intern to be found).

      1. Nina

        LMAO! These excuses are cracking me up.

        If only there was some type of balm designed for chapped lips…

        1. Sparky

          He was somehow a really good salesman but also really stupid. I think what he actually said was, “I can’t come in, I have white stuff all over my lips.” He was also a bodybuilder who had to be told he couldn’t heat up frozen fish dinners in the kitchen microwave. He is not the other coworker who heated kim chee in the cube next to me every day.

            1. s

              not usually on its own, but for some dishes it would be, like kimchi fried rice or kimchi stew.

      1. Ama

        I do, too — but did he think no one would check? Or was he just planning to claim he’d already left before they did?

        1. OfficePrincess

          Everyone knows the fake stomach virus hits while you’re on the way to the office and you’re forced to pull off at the nearest (fill in the blank) and then once there’s a break in the “action” you call to relay your graphic tale and head home.

          1. BenAdminGeek

            Oh man. I used to work 90 minutes from home. This happened to me for real one morning, and I called my boss and could tell he didn’t believe. I wanted to shout “I just finished pooping at a rest area! Leave me alone!”

            This was at least the event which taught me that if you’re sick, you shouldn’t try to go into the office anyway.

  42. Amber Rose

    I have two.

    The first was somehow distantly related to the owner. He was hired to help me sort and scan our archives so we could stop storing them in boxes in the office.

    When he would come across pages that were stapled together he would either not scan them, or jam them through and bust the feed. When I asked him to remove staples and repair torn edges and such, he complained that it would take too long. Later he commented that he was “sorry, it’s just that none of the other guys have to do office work. It feels like I’m doing women’s work.”

    A few days later he found some spilled paint in the garage, took it on himself to clean it, then whined all day that the fumes made his head hurt and it was so awful how he HAD to clean up.

    His whining became so intolerable he was eventually shuffled off on the field crews, where he did jack, annoyed everyone and got paid overtime.

    None of us were sad to see him go. What a spoiled little brat.

    The second is a short story: he spent three days working on something that should have taken 3 hours, spent most of his time taking personal calls and quit after a week because he got an offer in another city.

      1. Amber Rose

        I went blank with shock, before pointing out that we all did it when we didn’t have other things to do.

      2. Three Thousand

        Yeah, what a twit. But I predict his sexism and entitlement will bring him exactly zero negative consequences in life.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          I would guess this is also the sort of guy at work who wants to tell you how all 3 of his ex-wives were terrible and didn’t appreciate him.

    1. Colette

      We had an intern quit about halfway through a 16-month internship to drop out of school and take another job. Since he was being well paid (although possibly not as well as he would have been if he were not an intern), it was an odd move. I wonder if he’s ever regretted it.

    2. Former Museum Professional

      It’s not “women’s work.” It’s “crappy intern work.” Regardless of your sex or gender.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        In the workplace, there is no such thing as “women’s work” or “men’s work.” There is just work.

      2. Amber Rose

        It was everyone’s work. We all had a couple boxes of it shoved under our desks to work on.

        Most of our office staff was male, even. For females there was pretty much just me, the owner’s daughter and the office manager. Out of 20 or so staff.

    3. Menacia

      What kills me about this is that he was actually “promoted” to a better job (did nothing for more money), and will probably go through life moving steadily up the ladder without actually doing anything of merit.

  43. wanderlust

    (I don’t know that this is story-worthy, but please don’t publish just in case)

    We had a college student earning course credit with us for a semester. He had terrible attendance, was constantly leaving for weird family-related emergencies (we finally began to suspect they were fictional), bragged about his many job interviews, and had an uncanny knack for returning to work five minutes before his supervisor got back from her meetings/lunch breaks/whatever.

    He was incredibly arrogant and unprofessional, interrupting senior staffers during meetings and inflating his own qualifications (one of our other departments almost murdered him after he misrepresented his ability to use their database software independently). We work in a fairly high profile industry and sometimes have celebrities come to our events. While working an event, he stole a staff member’s phone to go take a photo of himself with a celebrity that came that night, abandoning his work at a crucial moment. Another time he was asked to bring a phone charger to a VIP suite (for a REALLY high profile person, like on par with the President of the United States). He decided it was a higher priority to first leave the building to find a staff polo shirt to wear before delivering the charger. It gave me deep satisfaction to learn that he massively screwed up his first job less than a week after being hired (a job he got based mainly on the strength of his work with us) and was fired and now works in a completely different industry.

      1. wanderlust

        Yeah the weird thing was, his boss really liked him. I have no idea why since he was universally disliked. Probably because she never witnessed his bad attendance. He didn’t return the sentiment – I found his review of the program on the shared drive a few months back, complete with an unflattering description of her work.

  44. KT

    I FORGOT ABOUT MY INTERN WITH THE COT!!!!

    Thanks for the reminder…I must have repressed it.

    Our office was one of those super modern open floor plan models, where everyone sits at a table, regardless of title. Our office did have a lot of those luxe amenities, like a gym, hair salon, and convenience store, so a lot of interns viewed it as their own take on Google.

    I worked in a separate building but came over to building B to speak with a coworker…only to find coworker at a table alongside e a very neat cot made up next to the large common table…complete with sheets, pillows, and even shams. Our company did frequently have health observance week displays (like “eat 6 servings of vegetables a day! Try green smoothies) so I thought maybe it was a sleep hygiene demonstration…but no. An intern had decided he needed a midday nap and had purchased and set up a cot.

    His manager worked in a different area and rarely came to building B…when she did and saw the cot, and found out it was the intern’s sleeping place, her rage was epic and horrifying.

    1. Prismatic Professional

      On any other day, this would be horrifying. But we already have someone using the office for sex and drinking parties and someone who broke zir own arm to lend verisimilitude to an accusation of stalking. O_o

      Also – now I want a nap! I’d love a cot in my office…

      1. Carmen Sandiego

        I worked for a company that had an honest to goodness nap room, complete with twin beds – not cots – a lamp for soft light, and an alarm clock. No one abused it (that I know of), but if you were sick, in the early stages or pregnancy, or whatever….It was HEAVEN.

        1. AcademiaNut

          Most of the office staff, and some of the postdocs, at my job have a brief post lunch nap at their desks. And we do have a folding futon in one of the computer rooms.

          The first is a cultural thing – a half hour post lunch nap is common at high school. The second is for when people have to do remote work at night (usually after a normal day at work), so they can have a nap before driving home .

    2. Elsajeni

      I. Love. This story. It is genuinely my favorite ridiculous workplace story I’ve ever read on here, Hanukkah balls and wizard curses notwithstanding. It’s the pillow shams that do it.

    3. Kflemin3

      Oh God. This reminds me of an intern I worked with who asked if it was ok to take a nap on the couches in our lobby. At first I thought she was kidding, but I ended up having to explain that no, you can’t sleep in the lobby.

  45. Bee

    I was working with a co-op student who left a destructive path after they left. While they were there they were completely awkward and shy. After she left, her manager and supervisor found out that during the months she was working, she never really did anything and that the files the team were working on had been deleted. Her supervisor tried to get in contact with her but she seemed to have completed disappeared. That department did not hire any co-op students the next year.

      1. Specialk9

        I mean, you had routine daily tape backups of all your files so could reconstruct, right? Basic disaster recovery? Hopefully?

  46. Mel in HR

    Not a horror story exactly, but right after graduating with my BSBA in HR Management I landed an unpaid internship for a local government contractor. It didn’t exactly fit the perimeters of legality as I was unpaid and was handling the recruiting/hiring of employees, but I was getting valuable experience so I didn’t mind. A few months in, most of the interns left but I asked to stay on longer while I job searched. They agreed and let me help find the new batch of unpaid interns. About a week after the interns were hired, my boss put in her two weeks notice and told me I was responsible for teaching the interns. So basically I, an unpaid intern with 3 months experience, was responsible for teaching these unpaid interns who were still in school. I did my best and they all said they learned a lot from me, but to this day I still feel horrified that I was teaching people while I was still learning!

    1. Specialk9

      Wow!!!

      I had an unpaid internship once. I was mid career, wanting to make a major switch so was doing online courses at night. I reached out to a company that did what I wanted to do, and offered to be their unpaid intern. They ended up having me be PM of some ongoing projects, and Proposal Manager for all new work… until I got an email from a friend who had seen a notice on Facebook that they were closing shop. They didn’t inform me, never responded to any attempts to contact them or return my company phone, and I couldn’t even serve as a reference. It was very bizarre.

  47. Jen

    I hired interns at a past job. My job title was manager, I was in my early 30s. I never had anyone be confused about the fact that I was theri boss until one intern. I was the person who interviewed her, gave her the call that she was hired and filled out the paperwork for her school internship program. She eternally thought my boss was her boss. During her first day I told her I’d like to take her out to lunch – this was customary and no one ever questioned it. She asked “WHY?” and I said “Oh I always like to take our new interns out to lunch to get to know them better and talk to them more about our office environment. At the restaurant she overtly flirted with the waiter. It was really uncomfortable. She told me about how she wanted to be on a reality show one day. When I paid for the meal (with my corporate card) she kept saying “It’s so weird you’re buying me lunch! I’ll get you back sometime!”

    She was super casual with me even though I was always very official and professional. She called me “Girlie” and I had to talk with her about how it was not appropriate to address people as “Girlie” or other terms of endearment at work. At the end of the internship she gave my boss a good-bye gift and a thank you note even though my boss never spoke more than two words to her. It was odd.

        1. fposte

          Okay, not a man vs. woman thing then; not sure if that makes it better or worse, but either way it’s weird.

    1. Beancounter in Texas

      My father owns and brother helps him operate a cotton gin. Many of the workers are migrant Mexican (legal!) workers that follow the harvest seasons from south to north Texas. With drought after drought, most seasons had been only one shift. Then we hit a good year and two shifts were needed (12 hour shifts, running 24/7). Since my brother speaks more Spanish than my father, he hired the night crew (never had worked for us) and my brother worked “nights”, while my father worked “days”. What really happens is that my brother goes to bed around 10am and gets up at 5pm and works all other hours, and my father will catnap around the clock, maybe sleeping for two to four hours in his bed at the house at night.

      The first week, my father began to notice a pattern of being awoken by an employee from a catnap, only to see him run off and see my brother coming that way (often to speak to my father). He didn’t think anything of it.

      After the first week had passed, my father was making his rounds and found an employee sleeping on the job. Understanding that when you’re not accustomed to working nights (or 12 hour shifts for that matter), my father tapped him on the knee to wake him up, and then went on his way. No disciplinary action. The awoken employee became indignant. “Who does he think he is?” Other employees told him, ‘El patron’ (The Boss). The guy argued with them, saying that the tall one (my brother) is the boss. Apparently a number of the night shift employees thought my brother was The Boss and my father was just another employee, so they had been waking him up when The Boss was coming so he wouldn’t get fired!

  48. Seal

    I had a student intern who unbeknownst to me brought her brother in to do her work while she studied. She had been assigned to shelve items in our library stacks; when I went out to check on her I found sitting at a table reading while her brother was off shelving. Aside from the legalities of having a random stranger doing the work that had been assigned to a paid intern, this guy had no official training whatsoever; apparently she just told him what to do. I didn’t even want to know what their family dynamics were; all I know is my brothers would never, ever do my job (if they were even capable of doing it) without getting paid.

    Even better – a few days after I thought I had laid down the law on this mess, she and her brother pulled the same thing AGAIN! Apparently no did not mean no in that family. I ran the brother off for good this time, but needless to say his sister did not last long with us.

    1. The IT Manager

      This might be a winner because like you that family dynamic is really weirding me out.

      1. JMegan

        Seriously. I feel like I missed an opportunity here, by not getting my sister to come to my office and do my work!

    2. Cleopatra Jones

      I kinda feel like you should have offered the brother the internship and fired her.

    3. Ama

      That’s crazy. I had a summer temp (college age) bring her roommate to work for a whole week before we noticed (academia in the summertime means lots of empty desks — and we had a non-circulating library nearby that was always being visited by random students). But she just sat quietly and read while the temp worked — I don’t think they even talked to each other except when they went to get lunch.

      We couldn’t let it continue because unauthorized guests were against our security policy, but I kind of felt bad we couldn’t just find her some work, too. The temp other than that was awesome.

    4. Marissa

      One time, my sister kindly did my job for me. I was “manager” of a small, family-owned, seasonal garden centre. I was the “manager” because I scheduled everybody’s hours, but I essentially performed the same tasks as everybody else on a day-to-day basis. I suffer from migraines, and I got a terrible one on one of my days off (which also happened to be a national holiday). I thought, “Well, this is crap, but at least I’m not scheduled to work!” I got calls from all of the three other employees saying they were “sick” (yeah right) and could I cover for them. I couldn’t because my migraines make me nauseous and give me vertigo; but I knew if no one came in to water the plants, the plants would all fry and be dead the next day (we were located in the middle of a parking lot).

      Soooo, my sister kindly offered to water all the plants for me. I ended up driving us both to the centre; parking in front of the entrance gate so no customers could come in; lying prone in the front seat trying not to hurl, telling all customers that we were closed but we were taking care of the plants; while my sister watered. Thankfully, all other stores were closed on this day, so it didn’t seem out of place that we were also closed.

  49. AndersonDarling

    Not to publish…it’s too soon. We had an intern who was awful at his work, but that wasn’t the kicker. He would party every night and come into work hungover and smelling like booze. His trainer reported this, but management didn’t want to terminate the internship. Then he started getting into fights when partying, and would show up with bruises and black eyes. Management still didn’t want to terminate him.
    Then he came to a meeting smelling like weed and booze, and choose to sit next to the CEO. He was canned 15 minutes after the meeting.

  50. Lobster in Dixie

    I have a couple! I also miss the blog that used to document all the shenanigans of summer interns on Capitol Hill. It had great stories, but seems to be defunct now. And now for my stories:

    At a large consulting firm, we once had an intern who was pretty great, except for one day. One day, he came in (late) to work, reeking of alcohol and apparently still drunk from a party the night before, and fell asleep at his cubicle (sitting in the chair, arms dangling, forehead on desk). He sat right by the kitchen and by a major hallway that led to the stairwell and elevators so EVERYONE on the floor walked by him on a routine basis. Needless to say, once we confirmed that he was alive and breathing, we sent him home.

    When I was in graduate school, I interned with a group of fellow students for a small-medium size non-profit. One of my fellow interns fell asleep during (!) a meeting with ten people. I should note that all ten people were sitting around one, not so large conference table. At one point, she even pulled her feet up into the chair, to get more comfortable I suppose. None of us could believe what was going on and wide-eyed looks were shooting around the table. The guy leading the meeting (a full-time employee) was way too nice to call her out (or was so nervous leading the training that he didn’t notice) and the meeting concluded without comment. When we joked about it afterwards, she flat out denied falling asleep.

    Finally, back in my own college intern days, I had just finished freshman year of college and considered myself somewhat of a hotshot ready to take the business world by storm (ha!). I interned with a local political campaign that was just getting started so it was pretty casual in general, but certainly still an office environment. As a college student with no previous work experience, my business casual wardrobe wasn’t very extensive so I had to wear a lot of the same things over and over again. One particularly warm summer Friday, I hadn’t done laundry and was running out of my “big girl” clothes. My 19 year-old mind decided that Bermuda length walking shorts were certainly appropriate since they were the same length (if not longer!) than the skirts I owned. Plus, they were seersucker, practically formal wear, I thought. I sauntered into work that morning and as I walked to the kitchen for coffee, a co-worker gasped and said aloud “are those SHORTS?!” My face instantly turned bright red and I learned a valuable business wardrobe lesson: shorts are not the equivalent of skirts, even if they are the same length.

    1. Jesse

      OT, but: Oh god, when I graduated from college in the 90s, I got a set of “professional” clothes that included coordinating jacket, skirt, and SHORTS. I still can’t believe I wore them to a pretty conservative office, and no one told me not to ! Someone made a comment like “that’s brave,” but I still didn’t get it.

      1. NickelandDime

        Shorts at most work places are a no no – but I think those jacket and shorts combinations are cute and in the right length, professional. I wish the powers that be would lighten up in this area, but alas, no. I had a pair of white dress shorts, lined, that I would wear on Fridays at a super casual office I worked at. They were knee length and I thought they were cute with a nice sweater or button down.

        Maybe one day.

        1. CoffeeLover

          I agree. I was riding the elevator with my manager when a girl that worked in the building came in wearing shorts. She looked completely professional to me. The shorts were like khakis and they weren’t inappropriately short. After the girl left, my manager commented on how inappropriately she was dressing. This is definitely one of those things that isn’t inherently inappropriate, but is learned inappropriate (if that makes sense). I feel bad about this for guys, since they really have no way of wearing shorter stuff in the summer.

        2. ArtsNerd

          I’m a big fan of business shorts in really hot weather. I’m trying to make them more acceptable in society.

            1. Also an Aussie

              My dad was a high level administrator in a hospital and used to wear the same long sock/business short combination (though his shorts were longer than the ones in this picture). Maybe it’s an Australian thing?

              1. Annonymouse

                I’m Australian and work in a pretty casual office and I’m allowed to wear shorts.

                But many fashionable stores have business shorts / culottes that coordinate with a jacket or blazer.

                On a side note temperatures have consistently been in the 30 – 40 degrees Celsius (86 – 104 for you Fahrenheit people) for the past two weeks.

            2. Specialk9

              Those are short shorts! And an undershirt and tall socks hiked up… he looks like he’s taking a call before dressing for the day. *How* is it famous in Australia? (What’s the reaction?)

      2. Leetaa

        Oy! I worked in the main office of a school district in the early 90s and part of my wardrobe consisted of corduroy shorts with matching tights and paisley shirts. The shorts hit right above the knee and were cuffed. I didn’t think anything of them and wore them frequently. IIRC I had them multiple pairs in solid colors.

        The only person who ever said anything to me was the HR director who told me if she were my supervisor, she’d send me home to change. I just assumed that since the HR department was so much more professional looking than the other offices (wall-to-wall plush carpeting, dark wood furniture – all much nicer than the Superintendent’s office) that was her reasoning. It never occurred to me that I was actually dressed unprofessionally.

        1. Specialk9

          Isn’t it amazing, the ability of youth to hear something so clear (“if I were your manager I’d send you home to change” by the *HR Director*) yet sail totally unruffled onward, not processing it at all.

          And yes, that was totally me too, so this isn’t a “youth today” but a “yeah we were all idiots”

    2. Elysian

      I’ll admit it – your second story reminded me of a one-day job shadow thing I did during law school. We were supposed to shadow a business lawyer. Most of being a business lawyer is reading things, and then writing about them (most of being any kind of lawyer, actually). Fascinating when you’re doing it… but its basically like watching someone use the computer. I definitely fell asleep in this person’s office at one point… I don’t know if she noticed. I hope not!

      1. kozinskey

        Um, that’s super weird. Obviously you couldn’t give anyone something confidential to read, but surely she could have dug up *something* for you if she was just going to be reading all day….

        1. Elysian

          I think she gave me something, but it wasn’t very long and I finished it quickly? I think this was tossed on her at the last minute, because the person I was supposed to shadow got called away for something in the morning. I was only with her for half the day, and then for the other half was in meetings with the other person. I was awake for the meetings, at least, even if I didn’t know what was going on!

    3. Katie Pi

      Any fellow California readers around? Curious on their take. The coastal city/town I live in is pretty much on the casual side of Business Casual. If you see someone in a suit you raise an eyebrow. I’ve seen young professionals wear normal-length shorts (maybe a 4-5″ inseam) in a nice fabric, and it seems totally normal, as they pair them with nice tops and sandals or flats. Anyone experience this?

      1. manybellsdown

        I worked for a high-end real estate agent in Santa Barbara, and I am fairly sure he wore shorts on a few really hot days. Nice, pressed, longer shorts with a belt and a short-sleeve dress shirt. He was in his early 40’s at the time.

    4. Anny

      My job involves both office work and fieldwork. I was working outdoors on a hot day and wearing shorts. The project got delayed due to some equipment issues, so I headed back to the office. My boss said something like, “Shorts? That’s your field attire?” and I said something like, “Yep, you’ve got to wear shorts when it’s hot out.” This is a small office where jeans are common and my boss sometimes walks around in his socks, so I was surprised about the shorts comment. Maybe “no shorts” is more ingrained than I thought. But he didn’t seem accusatory or upset about it, just surprised.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        If you work somewhere with a lot of insects or underbrush, shorts might not be a good idea, though, so I can see a point with that. But everyone has different ideas about what’s appropriate. (And I see so many people where I work who follow the letter of the law with the dress code but not the spirit. Unfortunately, this has led to a revised, stricter dress code…)

    5. Hlyssande

      Ugh, bermuda shorts.

      For a year or two, Lane Bryant was selling suit separates that included a blazer and bermudas that matched. I bought a pair because they looked okay on me but ended up never wearing them to work for that exact same reason.

  51. Paloma Pigeon

    We had an MSW intern from a very prestigious university. When an emergency project came up, he was asked to put together a very simple a 1 page brochure about our services that had been promised to a community partner and never delivered. His response? “No, I don’t think I’m going to do that.”

    1. AMT

      I’m a social worker and can confirm that M.S.W. interns are a mixed bag. You have students over forty who have been in social services for years and you have kids just out of college who have never held a full-time job. And a prestigious university is no guarantee of a good employee, since these universities tend to be much more selective with their undergrads than with cash-cow master’s students.

      I had an M.S.W. intern for a couple of months as an officemate who constantly complained about the awful court-involved youth she had to work with (we’re a public defense agency) and how she just wanted to work at a private school in the suburbs with upper-middle-class kids when she graduated. It got really old.

        1. AMT

          I don’t know! But she actually wasn’t the first social work intern of that type I’d met. One had put on her internship application, “I do not want to work with…” and then listed categories of people she found distasteful, including homeless people, the elderly, and people with HIV. Ugh. (She ended up being removed from the program.)

          1. MP

            I used to work in an integrated Special needs child care program. Many teachers in training (“Interns” for all intents and purposes) would take a rotation through our facility. I gradually grew less shocked about the roughly 25% of interns who openly expressed that they never wanted to work with special needs children (not their words, they were far less PC), only “normal kids”.

            1. Anonymous Teacher

              I used to swear up and down I’d never work in Special Education, though only because I felt like General Ed was where I fit better. I even had a similar field placement and felt like it wasn’t for me.

              Long story short, I’m now Special Ed teacher and I absolutely love it.

      1. OfficePrincess

        The upper-middle-class kids can be just as much of a court-invloved headache as any other. The main difference is some of them have mommy and daddy thinking poor little snookums can do no wrong and they’ll just pay for it to go away.

      2. Artemesia

        This is something lots of people don’t realize. Even very prestigious schools like that one ‘out East’ have relatively low standards for masters programs. It is hard to get into undergrad and also hard to be accepted into PhD programs (which come with a full ride at elite schools and are very competitive). Masters programs though are cash cows; they are cheap to run, generally don’t provide much in the way of student aid and so there is an incentive to fill them to the brim with paying students.

      1. TychaBrahe

        Bartleby the Scrivener. From a story by Herman Melville. It’s available online, but I can’t link to it because the site keeps eating my too-short posts with the link.

      2. Rebecca

        Haha, my friend and I love to quote Sterling Archer. “I’d prefer not… Bartleby the Scrivener? Not a big Melville crowd?”

  52. WhiskeyTango

    About 10 years ago, I worked in a law firm who hired a summer intern (I believe he was paid.) He was the college age son of one of the shareholders of the firm. He was mostly assigned to basic filing, copying and other routine administrative tasks.

    One day, I was coming back from lunch and waiting for the elevator in the lobby. When the doors opened, the intern strolled out of the elevator and clearly didn’t see me standing there. I got on and all of a sudden, he turned around and jumped back in. He looked surprised to see me and he made some comment about trying to get to floor ten. He literally did not know where he was.

    When I got on the elevator, it had the lingering smell of pot. When he got back on the elevator, it smelled overwhelmingly like pot. This was long before it was legal in Colorado and I think I’d be safe saying I’m sure his father wouldn’t have approved.

  53. Legal Eagle

    When I managed summer undergrad interns in a small corporate environment, I often had the owners’ kids or kids’ friends as employees. Most were good, a couple were just not ready for the real world. One particular high school student was forced by his owner father to interview before we formally offered him the job. I started off with a softball question since I could tell he was nervous – “Tell me a little about yourself.” Absolute silence followed. We got through the rest of the interview with minimal trauma and his dad asked for a rundown after he left. I gave him a soft and polite version of events (remember, this is my boss’ boss and I’m talking about his son), and ended with, “but he’ll be better prepared in the next interview and we’re hiring him anyway this summer, right?” His father looked surprised and a little put off, and said, “Not if he’s an idiot!”

    I felt bad for the kid, until he started asking his dad for lunch money every day in front of other staffers. He’d borrow money from secretaries when his dad was out of the office, but he didn’t carry a wallet, so he would forget to pay them back. The secretaries had known him since he was a kid, and he was genuinely so sheltered he didn’t realize that wasn’t a good idea, so they felt bad saying no to him. Then he decided a funny prank would be waiting in my darkened office before I got there in the morning. He damn near got a cup of scalding hot coffee to the face that day. He was smart, just needed a few years to mature.

    1. Diddly

      Wow about the lunch money although I worked with a temp on a database entry job – which I’d interviewed for (!) and someone’s college graduate child had been given the job and would constantly be given lunch money by their parent… Just so weird…

      1. Artemesia

        I think if I were giving one of my kids lunch money, I’d have the good sense to do it in a lump sum once a week and not where employees could observe.

        1. Diddly

          Yeah understandable that they might not have much money (although the job paid) just don’t dole it out like allowance.

  54. Snowglobe

    One year I had a group of about 4 interns. One day, I was asked to lend the interns to another department to assist on a very high priority project. There was a meeting scheduled at 2:00 pm with the other department manager, a few higher ups, and the interns, to discuss the overall project and what the interns would need to do. They were all sent an Outlook invite, and I personally spoke with all of them to let them know what was going on.

    One intern, we’ll call Chuck, didn’t show up until about 2:45, briefly apologized for being late, but offered no explanation. After the meeting wrapped up, I had to hurry on to other things, deciding to talk to Chuck later. Then, back in my office I got a call from my HR contact. Chuck had stopped by her office at around 1:30 to discuss getting hired into a permanent position after he graduates the following year. The conversation went on for over an hour. She was quite impressed with Chuck and wanted my opinion. When I told her that he blew off an important meeting to talk to her, she told me she would be marking him down as “do not hire” on his profile.

    FWIW, even before this incident it was apparent that Chuck was one of those interns who thinks boring, entry-level work is beneath him, so this wasn’t a huge surprise.

  55. Fashionish

    I work for a clothing manufacturer in NY and we get a lot of international interns from one fashion oriented college here in the city. Many of them are amazing and have far better workplace practices than some U.S. students we’ve had here, however one intern was the WORST. She constantly did projects incorrectly and at a mind bogglingly slow pace, however the best part of her time with us was the day she was found sleeping in the fabric room not once but TWICE. Granted she didn’t get fired which says more about our company than her…

    1. Elsajeni

      Oooh. I bet the fabric room was a really nice place to nap, though. (I worked at a fabric store for a couple of years and was always tempted to sneak into the back when it was slow and take a nap on the backstock of fleece.)

  56. Kimberly

    I once had an intern who was the kid of a friend of a friend of my Chief of Staff. It took him three weeks to respond to my calls/emails about an interview. About halfway through his internship, I asked him to write and mail a letter. He came up to me with a printout and said, “Um, how am I supposed to fold this?” (Answer was “in a trifold so it fits in the envelope, just like everything else you’ve done in the last six weeks.”)

    My favorite day was when I had just received an assignment from my boss that wasn’t terribly difficult, but she wanted it done in a specific way. I gave him explicit instructions and left him to it. Three hours later, we’re all getting ready to leave and he drops a folder on my desk and says “Oh yeah, I’m done. I did it my way because your way took too long” and waltzed out the door. I got to stay at work until 8pm to redo the entire thing.

    1. Lingua Franca

      A recent intern of ours, after being handed a stack of mail to fold and send, would roll up the letters in a small tube, then flatten them before putting them in the envelope.

      She was nearly 30 years old with professional office admin training.

      1. Former Museum Professional

        Not an intern story, but I worked at a large university for nearly 10 years. The absurd things I saw in the post office line blew my mind.

        -A student once bought an envelope to mail something and was confused because it wasn’t self sealing. The guy at the post office said to him, “you have to lick it.” And the kid went “that’s so gross, you do it.” AND HANDED IT TO THE POST OFFICE GUY!! Who promptly laughed in his face.

        -There was a display with comic sans font that instructed you how to address and stamp an envelope to mail through the USPS. It looked like it was for a kindergarten class. I was mailing something else, noticed it, and asked the woman behind the counter about it. Since it was a large university with many international students, I thought maybe it was for their benefit, not being familiar with how mail in the US works, or whatever. She told me that 99% of the questions she got were from American born and bred students who’d never had to mail a letter on their own in their lives because their parents had always done it for them.

        1. Anonsie

          For the second one, is it… Maaaybe possible that he knew that they have those little water dabber things behind the counter at most post offices and wanted them to use that? Maybe? Please?

          I had to teach a friend how to mail a letter when we were in our first year of college. He needed to send a birthday card and it had been sitting, stamped, on his desk for a while. I asked why he hadn’t put it in the mail yet, and he said he hadn’t been able to get to the post office when it was still open. I told him you can just drop it in the mail box, and he had no idea what I was talking about. We had a long conversation, my favorite part being where he asked how the mail carrier can know whether mail in your mailbox is outgoing or just mail you haven’t picked up, and I explained how they mark over the stamp and you can also raise the little flag. He sputtered “I THOUGHT THE FLAG WAS JUST DECORATION!”

          This was after I’d had to actually point at the exact spots on the envelope for where the address and stamp go… He thought they used people’s names alone and the post office had a registry of where everyone lived and would just find them when you used their name.

          1. Stone Satellite

            I knew that same guy in college, who didn’t know that you could put outgoing mail in a mailbox. Maybe if you live in a large, dense city your entire life you could just never have an individual mailbox and therefore never encounter this situation?

          2. Nelly

            You can’t do that in this country, not anywhere. Outgoing mail goes into post box. I’ve seen what you’re describing on TV, but I always thought that was a quaint 1950s thing… had no idea it was real and still happening!

          3. Specialk9

            He thought he could just put the recipient’s name, not even city, and they’d just know which John Smith he meant, in the whole county. Wow.

        2. TychaBrahe

          I was standing in line at the post office with a woman behind me who had closed the box she was mailing by tucking each flap under the next one. She didn’t know she was supposed to fold the opposite ends together and tape them shut.

          1. RG

            That’s a convenient way to close a box with tape, for sure, but yeah, I wouldn’t really think that would stand up to be mailed.

        3. Observer

          American born and bred students who’d never had to mail a letter on their own in their lives because their parents had always done it for them.

          Or maybe they have never had any occasion to send anything in the mail. So many of the things that the mail has been used for are just as easily – or even more easily – done on line. It’s not for nothing that the USPS is hurting.

          1. Gnora

            I would buy this answer, if it were not for the fact that I was taught how to write, address, and mail a letter several times from kindergarten through high school. Seriously, every few years they’d go over this process with us, and every few years after first grade I’d roll my eyes that people still needed to be taught it.

            1. Alison Hendrix

              This. Our English classes included teaching us how to write letters, and we were quizzed on how to write different types of letters, and how to address envelopes. It was taught year to year until high school. I rarely mail letters out but I just can’t imagine not knowing the basics of how snail mail works. It’s just… wow.

              1. Kate Heightmeyer

                Last year, my college roommate came home furious and upset at the post office because a package she’d mailed had arrived back at our address. Not only did she write both addresses in the same size writing, but ours was on the bottom and the recipient was on top. It took two more times to get it where it was supposed to be. Nothing surprises me.

            2. Stone Satellite

              I remember learning how to write checks and keep a ledger in elementary school. Handy for those 1-2 times per year that I actually write checks (grr, DMV that charges extra to process credit cards! At least at this rate I’ll never run out of checks in the complimentary book my credit union gave me when I opened my account almost a decade ago.)

            1. Charlotte Collins

              Or birthday/holiday cards?

              At the very least, didn’t they have those Valentine’s Day boxes where you had to address and deliver valentines in grade school? Pretty similar concept…

    2. alexa

      We had a high school intern who didn’t know how to address envelopes…and stamped a stack of mail with the stamp in the left corner.

  57. SystemsLady

    Man, we’ve only had the stereotypical “lol I’m better than everybody else here” intern and I’m here feeling like that’s milquetoast!

  58. Pickles

    When I did my internship, one of my fellow interns brought in a box full of baby bunnies. To a federal building, no less. After about a week, someone finally told him to take the bunnies home.

      1. fposte

        I would have loved to ask the legally allowable question of what support tasks the bunnies were trained to do.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        Granted, I would love a box of bunnies at work. I even have room for some on my desk. But I would never assume that would be OK without explicitly being told so.

    1. AMT

      I will admit to having a poison dart frog in a terrarium on my desk, but I cleared it with my officemate first and they’re not poisonous in captivity. He’s now the office darling.

      1. Pickles

        Oooo, a poison dart frog would be awesome! I have a Venus fly trap and it’s hilarious to see grown men get freaked out by it.

        Unfortunately, I don’t remember why the bunnies came to work. Mama bunny wasn’t in the box, so maybe something happened to her – but that doesn’t sound right. This was almost 20 years ago, well before therapy animals became common.

        It was so weird seeing him bring the box in and out of parking lot, though….

        1. Rebecca

          Maybe they needed to be bottle-fed? My friend found an orphaned kitten and had to bottle feed her every 2 hours. She is a realtor, so for the most part she could do this between appointments, but I think there were a few times she had to take the kitten to her office. I met her for dinner one evening and she had to bring the kitten with her (we were sitting outside on a patio). Everyone loved the kitten!

    2. alter_ego

      I’m not going to lie, my work day would be SO. MUCH. BETTER. if it involved a box of baby bunnies. I would never do it, but if someone else did, I wouldn’t complain at all.

    3. Turanga Leela

      This is my favorite! Was he trying to give them away? Did he feed them carrots? Tell us more!

      1. Pickles

        I wish I remembered more! I’ll see if one of my former roommates does. We avoided this guy as he had a crush on the third roommate. I don’t recall sad feelings about mama bunny, so I really think he just wanted to bring his pets to work….

        1. Pickles

          Sadly, the roommate I asked doesn’t even remember this nutcase, and I’ve lost touch with the third entirely. So no more details….sorry!

    4. chiascuromom

      When she was in a previous management role, my boss had to instruct a grown-up full-time employee that she could not bring premature fostered kittens in to the office for regular bottle feedings. She either needed to find someone else to care for the kittens from 9-5 or find a different place to work.

  59. Jackie

    The software company I used to work for had a couple of terrible interns.

    1) The guy who was hired the summer before Y2K when the company was swamped who refused to try t figure out anything he hadn’t explicitly been taught in classes. He bragged to a mutual friend after that it was the “easiest” job he ever had. All he did all day was sit at his desk and pretend to work and no one bugged him. No one bugged him because they were working 80 hour weeks and were willing to answer questions but not hold his hand.

    2) I was an intern along with this woman. We shared an office but reported to different people. Her boss was very busy and often on the phone with clients. If she got to a point where she had a question for him and he was on the phone, she refused to ask anyone else or find something else to do. It was a small company (20 employees) so there was always something that someone had that you could do. I was even so busy that I had stuff that she could have done. Instead she called me a “sucker” for doing things like reading help files and figuring out things on my own while she played minesweeper and spider solitaire. I got hired on to work part time during the university year and and then permanently once I graduated. She did not. I kind of wonder if she ever figured that out…

  60. Bad Intern

    I was the bad intern twice:

    1) I was working for a well-known celebrity magazine in the spring. I got assignments to help the assistant editor research and draft articles. But I didn’t understand how to pitch pieces of my own in a way that she would accept, nor how to research when she had come to a dead end. Saying that I didn’t understand and asking for more information mostly got a me a repetition of the assignment instructions. I got really sick after 2 weeks on the job, and had to quit both the job and school for the semester. I’m sure I made a horrible impression.

    2) I was working for a very small luxury manufacturer in a communications/marketing capacity the following summer. I discovered in the last two weeks of my job that I was owed a few hundred dollars’ worth of overtime. After bringing it to the owner’s attention, they said that their corporate policy was that they didn’t pay overtime, to anyone. I told them I wasn’t finishing my term, and just didn’t go in the last 3 days. I wish I hadn’t burnt that bridge, but I also wasn’t the only intern to quit early that summer. There were only 4 summer interns. Later I found out I was making more than my boss there.

    1. NickelandDime

      Nasty. My nephew wanted to experiment with cologne and I bought him a nice age appropriate bottle from Sephora. He was in middle school at the time. No way was I about to let him stumble into the drug store and buy that Axe mess and try and wear it.

    2. s

      i have a housemate who uses axe liberally (sometimes to the point that the fumes leak into my bedroom). he is around 30 and has a professional job.

    3. nutcase

      Our fire alarms recently got set off at work because one of our apprentices was spraying a load of body spray around one of the sensors. The whole company had to stand out in the car park for about 20 minutes until the fumes had cleared! I think they must have been trying to bathe in it or something…

      1. Colorado Girl

        This guy was young, fresh out of college, and (I think) used the spray cover up the evidence of whatever it was he drank the night before seeping from his pores. He would absolutely reek of Axe in the morning then go home for lunch and refresh it. I was so glad I sat on the far side of the floor from him!

  61. Former HR Lady

    I once lost an intern from a local high school for a short time. He was a sweet young man, but generally clueless (I had to teach him to address an envelope, for instance.) We had important client come in, and we needed someone to pick up a food tray from the cafe directly across our parking lot. Literally, you could walk out of our doors, and walk directly across the small shared parking lot and straight into their door. There were no other restaurants or cafes in the area. I sent him out in the Las Vegas summer heat, and expected him back in 10 minutes, max. Time passed, and he didn’t return, so I called around our building and called the cafe to ask if he was still there. They informed me that he’d never arrived. I went out into the parking lot and looked around for him, and then went to the cafe and picked up the food, and returned to the office. I asked the cafe to let him know to return to our office if he ever did arrive. Unfortunately, he was still missing when I got back, and I called the cafe again after a while to see if he’d stopped by. Over an hour after he first left, he arrived into our office, sweaty and disheveled, and informed me that he’d gotten lost and couldn’t find the cafe, and then had trouble finding his way back to the office. We were not in a dense urban area with a lot of small streets, we were a medium size building across from a casino on a long, wide street with nothing else nearby, so I’m unsure of how he got lost, but he his story seemed true. The next time he needed to pick up food, I walked him over to the cafe and introduced him myself to make sure he never went missing again.

    1. MsM

      As someone who has managed to get lost in a part of downtown where I worked for nearly a decade, I kinda sympathize with the guy.

      1. One of the Sarahs

        I’m laughing at this story, which is mean of me, my partner has pretty much no spatial awareness, to the point I think it’s some equivalent to dyslexia, but she doesn’t help herself… I had to explain to her, after she got lost pretty much every time she was in the middle of the town we’d lived in for 5 years, that no, don’t use the bunch of fundamentalist street evangelists as your major landmark, because they *move*. We both still crack up about this, over a decade later!

        1. Cath in Canada

          LOL!

          The teacher who took a group of us hiking/camping and taught us to navigate using map and compass (part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, for any Commonwealth readers!) gave us a similar warning – she lost a group for a few hours one year because they took their bearing off a sheep, and it moved, so they went off course :D

    2. OfficePrincess

      When I first started reading, I was trying to figure out what lost was a typo for. But no, you really did lose him. Wow.

  62. WolfmansBrother

    I’ve had one who started coming in late. We’re pretty flexible on our hours so it wasn’t a huge problem. But then for about a week she couldn’t come in at all for various reasons: because 1) her bangs weren’t turning out, 2) her boyfriend was leaving at the end of the summer to take a job in a foreign country and it was too much for her to handle (keep in mind she told me this in June) and 3) the spirit presence on the upper floor of the office was freaking her out.
    At the end of the summer, just before her boyfriend left she stopped coming in for 2 weeks and finally came back hoping to finish up the rest of August. ugh. [please don’t use for a future post. thanks!]

      1. Ama

        Oh, man, that takes me back to when I had those poofy mall bangs in junior high and the panic that would set in when my cowlick refused to fluff properly and I had five minutes to get out to the bus stop.

        1. Carmen Sandiego

          The wallpaper in my childhood bathroom still has squirt marks from the Rave hairspray I used by the gallon in jr high.

      2. Anonsie

        I’m not even going to lie, as someone with bangs and cowlicks I have wished many many many times that I could cancel an entire day when my bangs were not behaving.

    1. Elsajeni

      Had she mentioned the spirit presence before, or was the call-in the first mention of it? Because, I mean, you can’t just manufacture a spirit presence the day you want to call in haunted. You have to lay some groundwork.

    2. alter_ego

      I’ve definitely been tempted not to come in when my bangs were being obstinate. I just clip them back though. Bangs are tough!

    3. Shortie

      lmao. I’m going to start calling in when my bangs don’t turn out. I will never be at work again.

      1. Julia

        I had a friend in college who wouldn’t come in on days she didn’t like the way her hair looked. If I did that, I’d leave the house maybe twice a year. (Although my new haircut is pretty low maintenance.)

  63. Chloe

    I will never forget that one post called “When Satan’s Intern Comes to Stay.” What a story that was.

    1. zora

      I had forgotten until I started reading, but then I remembered! Seriously that was definitely the worst intern story ever. If you can’t even get them out of your house!?! That would be so awful, I would die.

  64. Lizzy

    Because I have not complained about my current place of work enough, here is my story: around mid-July, the Board President at my organization hired interns, without telling me. My coworker–the one she likes–at least got a heads up email the day before they arrived. They were the kids of some of the Board members, and as nice as they turned out to be, they were pretty inexperienced and really had no interest in what our organization does. These kids come from well-to-do backgrounds and have the type of parents who are always insisting they participate in some extracurricular activity, like a sport or music lessons. They were high school aged–probably freshmen or sophomores–and the Board President had promised their parents they would be doing things like program development, budgeting and accounting, and grant writing, among a huge list of lofty tasks we could not teach them in a short period of time.

    Since we knew from the beginning they were not interested in grant writing or anything else related to our work, we had them do filing, stuffing envelopes, and going over our marketplace inventory. They were perfectly content with their tasks and it allowed us to do our work without having to constantly provide oversight. A few days later, however, one of the intern’s mothers (and Board member) start insisting that her daughter should learn grant writing. She bombarded my coworker with emails until I told my coworker to let me deal with it since I am the organization’s main grant writer.

    However, instead of emailing me, the intern’s mother called my cellphone. At 10pm. I was watching a movie on Netflix and didn’t recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail. A little while later, as I was getting ready for bed, I saw a notification pop up on my phone. The intern’s mother left me a very lengthy voicemail about why I should be teaching her daughter how to write grants. She basically gave me a detailed overview of her daughter’s future, which includes communications, development and fundraising at a top national nonprofit organization and then eventually working for the government or the U.N. Stunned, I emailed my supervisor who is out on maternity leave.

    The next day, I got to the office early and stressfully threw together some notes in hopes it was good enough to teach an inexperienced 15-year-old about grant writing. I also drafted an email to the Board President and had to keep revising it because it was quite obvious I was coming from a place of anger (I never sent it). When the intern arrived, she was incredibly apologetic about the entire situation. I guess my supervisor made a late-night phone call to the Board President and gave her an earful about the situation. The Board President likely called the intern’s mom/fellow Board member to let her know it probably wasn’t feasible to teach her daughter about grant writing in such a short period of time. As the intern was telling me all of this, she got a little teary eyed. I asked her what was wrong and she admitted to me that her mom pushes her to do too many things: clarinet lessons, soccer, debate team, and volunteering at different homeless shelter and nursing homes. On top of her internship, this was basically her entire summer, with no time for friends, going to the movies, festivals, etc. I felt so bad for her and bought the interns lunch that day to boost morale. The other intern basically had a similar things to say; the list of activities was just slightly different.

    The Board decided maybe the internship was not a good fit and they ended up leaving a few days after the fact. My coworker and I were partially relieved, but at the same time we felt horrible about the expectations placed on them at such a young. :(

    1. Hlyssande

      I don’t understand what goes through parents’ heads when they push their kids to do ALL THE THINGS EVER. It just makes them not want to do those things and rebel later on because they never had a chance to do what they wanted.

        1. Kat M

          I don’t understand it, but it makes me angry. They act like their kids are products they’re developing, not people. It’s just….such an unforgiving and infantilizing atmosphere.

        2. Rebecca

          I think we had a conversation about this in a comment thread once. I agree that kids should have time for fun, but I also don’t think it’s a bad idea for them to have a part-time job or internship to give them a leg up on office/workplace culture or to have extra spending money. No need to have their entire careers already planned out, though!

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        The best advice I ever received in high school was “enjoy your summers now, because you’ll likely be working them for the rest of your life.” I did this to the extent I could, but I enjoyed working at the family seasonal business, which cranked up August 1st.

    2. Specialk9

      That’s really sad. I’m going to make sure I go stomp in mud puddles with my kid next time it rains. But not every puddle, cuz good enough.

  65. Abby

    Years ago I worked at a symphony orchestra as the marketing director. Our city newspaper listed individuals who had done something significant professionally i.e. winning employee of the year. The symphony would send those individuals two free tickets and a letter of congratulations. I had the intern do this task one day. There were several employees who were employed by a bank called Bank One (no longer exists.) I gave her the draft of the letter, the list of employees and a phone book (this was a long time ago) and asked her to prepare letters to send out. She came to me an hour later and said she couldn’t find the bank listed. I asked her if she had looked at the Bs?

    We had another intern who came in one day and asked me if he could leave early that day. I said yes without asking why. He then preceded to tell me that he needed to get a new driver’s license because he had had his wallet stolen last night while he was in his car waiting at a drive thru. He was so drunk that he passed out but woke up when someone knocked on his car window. He thought it was the drive thru cashier and had handed over his wallet but it was a thief. Perhaps could have happened to anyone but his boss didn’t really need to hear that story!

    1. Artemesia

      Having been brought up in one of those shame based religious traditions, I am always amazed at things people will admit. I would be so covering up this sort of thing.

  66. Anon31

    We had an intern who annoyed everybody off the bat by following people around and badgering them all day. Then one day he showed up to work stoned and wearing a wife beater and I kid you not flannel pajama bottoms. He was let go, and then several weeks later we discovered a YouTube video of him ranting about our company and how he was so much better than us. K.

  67. Anon for this

    Well, I had a bad internship experience?
    I struggle with social anxiety. Nowadays, I mostly have it under control, but back then it was very bad.
    When I was fresh out of High School I managed to get a 2-week-internship at a renowned ad agency. I gave it my very best, including trying to be approachable and polite, but I was still new to a professional environment.
    On my second day, I got a good telling-off for what was, in hindsight, a very minor mistake. Welp, not the most appropriate way to talk to a young intern, but fair enough. Still rattled socially anxious teenage me to the core, but I kept a stiff upper lip.
    But two days later, I rode the train home. There I overheard the same employee who had chided me before bad-mouthing me to their coworker. They talked about how I always looked mean/bitchy, how stupid my clothes were (mind you, not unprofessional, only mostly black) and how I wouldn’t answer when I was greeted (not true). Yeah.
    I left the train in tears and called the agency the next day to tell them I quit. Because of ‘personal reasons’. Not very professional, but I consoled myself with the notion I had only one week left anyway.
    My internships after that were better. And I never cut one short again. :)

  68. KAM

    We had a TFA teacher one year (Teach For America). They can be sort of like interns so I’m going to share.

    Benny was a graduate of a good west coast school and never let anyone forget it. Instead of wearing the staff shirt on Wednesdays like everyone else, he wore his USC shirt and told everyone it was part of a “lifelong promise” to always wear that shirt on Wednesdays and he could never, ever break it. He ate cereal one morning in a before school parent teacher conference and couldn’t understand why this was unprofessional. He once spent an entire class period (he taught ELA) having kids fill out an NCAA tournament bracket. His justification for this was that it would help the kids decide where to go to college. He mandated that his students (middle school age) all sign up for Twitter so “we can talk about homework and life outside of class.” He would skip department meetings to nap on the couch in his classroom if he had what he called a “media event” that night (he was trying to be a professional food critic and said teaching was a good hobby). The only time I ever saw my principal lose his professional composure was around this man. At the end of the year, he announced he was done with this hobby and would be going back to school for his MBA. In his words, “I’m going to start my own magazine, because I’m tired of having bosses – I can supervise myself.”

    (Disclaimer – I know not all TFA people are like this).

    1. Turanga Leela

      As a former TFAer, I’d like to apologize for this guy. In retrospect, I guess I was kind of like an intern too… I used to drink Diet Coke in class and forget to clean out my staff mailbox.

    2. AMT

      That reminds me of my wife’s cousin, a social work student who apparently wants to start her OWN social services nonprofit because she doesn’t get along well with supervisors.

    3. Artemesia

      I love that inner city kids who need the most competent teachers are often stuck with dilettantes like this who even if lovely committed people have virtually no preparation for teaching and particularly for teaching in difficult circumstances.

  69. Sunshine Brite

    I’m starting to feel a lot better about my internships even though I’m awkward and it took me quite awhile for some social norms to be figured out. A lot of face time with a lot less actual working but I was trying.

    Tanking on a project they gave me after the first thing they told me was that this hadn’t been figured out in a decade but hey, have fun this summer. This company previously had had a really strong internship program, lots of job offers associated with interning, get there for orientation and learn that they’d gone from 40 interns to over 400 between last summer and mine. I think they grew too fast too soon because my project and some of the other interns were ridiculous while some others got really solvable actionable things. Plus, my manager only worked well with the male business majors vs the female liberal arts majors and he had a 50/50 split.

    One of my grad internship supervisors would act very strangely in supervision sessions. Turned out with the other intern she always ended up crying and with me becoming confrontational and deflective all at the same time. Later she quit her job and left for a far off state with little explanation to anyone.

  70. Beebs

    Oh dear, the tale of Cocaine Betty…
    A few years ago at OldResearchJob we hired a summer student to do some basic data work. Our boss was very hands off and not often in office, especially in summer. We never had any strict policies because most people were able to function within professional guidelines, our start times were fluid but people generally came and left between 8-6, took their appropriate lunch, etc. Well, after about 2 days on the job “Betty” started coming and going at her pleasure. She came in on day 3 after 11am and when asked, explained it was because she had yoga, we told her that 11 is way too late to start. She often took 90 minute or longer lunches. She claimed to be making up the time at night, but no one was there to supervise her and keep track of when she was leaving. I was usually the first in/first out of the office and one day I was at the grocery store after work and guess who was in there with a group of her friends! I mentioned this to the boss who then explained to her that she did have some flexibility in her start/end time but had to work while other staff were present. She adjusted her behavior for about a week before going right back to her old ways. We eventually got a hold of her time sheet and saw the hours she claimed to be working and it was clearly falsified. This person did not care about the job or her reputation and was just looking for some extra cash to float her summer activities, she did not seem concerned of any consequence. Finally, the reason for the moniker was that she was “sick” almost her entire time with us, always took really long bathroom breaks every single day, and displayed other signs that could suggest she was involved in certain extracurriculars. We don’t know but that is what we referred to her as. What a nut.

    1. Nanc

      Cocaine Betty is the title of the comic relief number sung by the Older [not yet but will be by the finale] Couple support characters in Ask A Manager: The Musical. It comes right before the big Interns Gone Wild dance extravaganza!

      1. AMT

        “Ask A Manager: The Musical” tells the story of Wakeen, a young teapot polishing intern at Chocolate Teapots, Inc. who must do battle with his evil twin, Joe-a-kwin, who has impersonated him and stolen the company’s secret dark chocolate formula.

        1. Yet Another JD

          AMT, I love you (in a completely platonic random internet stranger kind of way). This is genius.

  71. LeisureSuitLarry

    Not so much a horrible intern story so much as a funny one.

    We had an intern a few years ago from some college in Idaho. He was a nice guy, a bit too much on the ‘bro’ side of things, but overall okay to be around. He might have been a little arrogant, but he managed to get hired for this internship and that was an accomplishment in and of itself. So one day about a week before the end of his time with us we all came out of a department meeting where he and his co-intern had just delivered a very respectable presentation on their time with us and what they learned. We’re walking back to our desks and I’m moving along in my typical saunter, so he decided to strike up a conversation. It was probably the second one we had all summer. “Larry,” he said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something all summer.”

    “Hit me,” I said.

    “Is ‘Larry’ short for something… like, ‘Larold’.”

    I was flabbergasted. I mean, who would have ever thought something like that? Are there people that don’t know that ‘Larry’ is a nickname for ‘Lawrence’ (not in my case, but still). So I said, “Are you kidding me?! No, it’s just ‘Larry’. I’ve never heard of anyone named ‘Larold’ before.” Of course, having said that I had to go check to see if it was an actual name. You can’t imagine the chagrin I felt when I found three different people named “Larold” on the first page of my google search.

    1. JMegan

      Excellent! Now we can add Larold, along with Wakeen and Chavon in the AAM employee roster.

    2. V2

      Ha, that reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Bart’s looking through a bunch of novelty license plates for a Bart plate, but the closest he can find is Bort, so he grumbles about it. In a later scene you hear an announcement, “Attention customers, we’re all out of bort license plates.”

    3. AcademiaNut

      I had a classmate once who, when Star Trek the Next Generation was at its peak, very earnestly aked why the guy who drove the ship was always named Hensen.

      Very bright guy, good at his job, but he would occasionally come out with stuff like this.

    4. Sophie

      I have to sadly admit that I would have never guessed that Larry would be short for Lawrence! I thought it was just a standard, regular name – not a shortened version of anything.

      Kinda like Barry…. unless that is short for Barold :P

      1. Charlotte Collins

        Barry is short for “Barack.” :)

        OK, actually it’s a surname (as in Mme. du Barry), but “Larry” is not. (Maybe someone’s named Mr. Larry, but I’ve never met one.)

  72. Jayne

    I was an intern my senior year of high school at my mom’s office. She was a therapist at a counseling center and I assisted the front office, a few counselors and the finance department. I did a little bit of everything, but one day I volunteered to organize the supply closet (something I would later regret). The next day, the CEO went to my mom and accused me of stealing her leprechaun stickers. Yes I had run across some holiday themed supplies, but I never saw any leprechaun stickers. My mom’s response was basically just “…what? Why would she want to steal leprechaun stickers?” The CEO was furious. Everything was incredibly awkward from then on.

    Also, they had me assembling condom packets at one point. I was a very innocent high-school student so that was fun.

    1. Batshua

      I’m trying to imagine how *I* would handle this. I think in my case, [because I think bonkers begets bonkers,] I would find as many different kinds of leprechaun stickers as I could reasonably afford, assemble them, put them in a gallon ziptop bag and label them “CEO’s Leprechaun Stickers” and put them prominently in the supply closet.

      I mean, who steals stickers? Who freaks out about people possibly stealing stickers? But especially, who steals stickers and then returns with even more cool stickers?!

      I figure that’d confuse the hell out of the CEO. :D

      (Sorry that the CEO was an ass.)

      1. Charlotte Collins

        Also, why leprechaun stickers specifically?

        Somehow, if it wasn’t March, that would make this story even crazier for me.