giving feedback to a rude intern, my CEO is saying I was fired but I quit, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Giving feedback to a rude intern

I am a relatively new manager who is having an odd issue with my current intern. He has been with us for about 2 months, and in that time I have noticed that his basic professional manners are incredibly lacking–much more than I might reasonably expect for someone his age (just out of college) who has never worked in an office before. He is very abrupt in his questions and requests, especially over email; he never says (or implies) “please,’ rarely says “thank you,” and does not apologize if he inconveniences me or anyone else on our team–in this case, he’ll offer an excuse and thank us for understanding. He does this most pointedly with our most junior full-time staff member; for example, instead of politely asking her to print a non-urgent document from her machine when his connection to the printer suddenly went down, he recently sent her an email from across the room saying only “Print this.”

His hard skills are perfectly fine; he does a decent job on the tasks that we give him, but his tone ranges from a bit to incredibly snotty (a second example: when I asked him what he thought of a senior board member’s recent presentation, he told me only that he thought it could have been shorter). I definitely appreciate that managing interns is part manager, part professional etiquette instructor, and I have enjoyed this part of working with the other two interns that I’ve supervised. However, I never thought that “please,” “thank you,” and not barking orders to colleagues (especially those senior to you), would have to be part of this. How can I bring this up to him?

(Additional background that is somewhat relevant: I hired this intern because my boss’s boss asked me to and I really couldn’t say no. He is the son of a professional connection.)

You’re certainly not wrong to be taken aback by this guy’s manners and basic way of being in an office, and you’d be doing him — and his future employers — a huge favor if you addressed it with him.

I’d sit him down and start the conversation this way: “One of the biggest benefits of internships is that you learn a lot about how offices operate and how to get things done in them. I want to talk with you about some things I’ve noticed about your approach with me and other coworkers. I’m sure you don’t intend this, but you’re often coming across as very abrupt in your questions and requests. Saying please and thank you and acknowledging when you’re asking someone to you a favor or to do something that might be inconvenient will make people a lot more receptive to you. For example, when you asked Athena to print a document for you, you sent her a message that simply said, ‘print this.’ Most people don’t like that level of abruptness even from their boss, and you definitely can’t do that when you’re dealing with a peer, let alone someone senior to you.”

You can also point out that these are things that will really hold him back in future jobs, but they’re also really easily fixable.

2. My CEO is telling people she fired me, but I quit

I’m in California. This is a small, disorganized nonprofit with less than 10 staff. I submitted a paper letter of resignation, as well as an email to my boss stating that my last day was March 13. I also talked about my resignation with her and my CEO.

However, I’m now hearing from coworkers that my CEO is telling people she fired me. She never indicated this in our conversation. What should I do? I was never handed any paperwork and I was never told I would get unemployment if I was fired.

To be clear, I wanted to quit and I’m not looking for unemployment. My worry is that future potential employers would call her and she’d tell them she fired me, even though I quit. Yes, I have a paper and email trail, but how do I actually prove that to them if this becomes an issue?

Email her and say this: “Miranda, I’ve been hearing reports that you’ve informed people that I was fired from the organization. As you know, this is false; I resigned voluntarily, as is well documented in emails and my letter of resignation. Falsely telling people that I was fired is defamatory and could have real impact on my ability to find work. I’m hoping we can resolve this ourselves without having to resort to legal action. Can you shed any light on what’s going on?”

CC the board chair, if you have that person’s contact info, since the board is the CEO’s boss.

If that doesn’t work, then you need to involve a lawyer to make it clear that this is defamatory. Or you could skip straight to the lawyer step, but talking to her on your own first gives you a better shot of solving it in a less adversarial way and thus preserving the possibility of other references in the organization.

3. Asking for a temp manager’s help with a job search without signaling I wouldn’t want to go permanent

I was hired on a 5-month contract with a nonprofit in a development position, specifically to work on their big yearly event. A total of 9 of us are in this position, and they were very clear that it had a precise end date throughout the interview process.

I realized after I started that a few people from members of current full-time staff were formerly in a similar position, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to have an offer extended. I have really enjoyed working here so far, and there is a clear void that I could fill if they were to keep me on. There are, however, 9 people hired for this event (though none in my exact position).

The contract ends 4 weeks after the event, and I would ideally like to start looking for a new position about 2 months before my end date. As I said, I would be happy to stay, but between the event and some senior-level staffing changes that have taken place, I don’t think that hiring lower-level staff is on anyone’s radar right now. How do I approach looking for a new job with my current supervisor? We have a very good working relationship, and she seems to be happy with my performance. If I’m not going to stay, I’d like to ask her to look over my resume, serve as a reference, etc. I’m concerned, though, about writing myself off as a candidate to stay if I indicate that I’m moving on before anyone starts looking to hire at my level. I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m think I’m entitled to a full-time position after the contract. How would you suggest I handle this situation?

Making it clear that you’re starting to prepare to find your next position and expressing interest in staying on there aren’t mutually exclusive. You can and should do both — and your manager isn’t going to take your job search as a sign that you’re not interested in staying there if it turns out to be possible; she’s going to take it as a sign that you’re being realistic and practical and not relying on something that might not happen.

I’d say this to her: “Jane, I’m starting to gear up for looking for work for after my role ends in May, and I hoped I could ask you to serve as a reference and maybe even look over my resume if you’re willing. I also want to be clear that I’d love to stay on here if that ever turned out to be an option — I love the work we do and I’ve really enjoyed my time here — but I want to make sure I have all my bases covered with a job search since May isn’t too far away.”

4. What does entry-level really mean?

At what point is someone no longer considered entry-level? I see the term used all the time, but it seems to be somewhat open-ended. Does it have to do with the length of time someone has been in the workforce or is it tied more to responsibilities?

Entry-level is supposed to mean that the person has little to no work experience. It’s literally a role that is their entry into the professional world. Of course, like any term, it gets used and misused in all sorts of other ways, and in recent years many companies have started requiring one or more years of experience even for entry-level roles.

5. Providing two weeks notice in a company that asks for four weeks

I am at a workplace that requires four weeks notice when resigning. However, I have not actually signed the contract that states this and no one has followed it up since working here. As the contract is not actually signed, can I just provide the normal two-week notice period?

Yes, although what really matters here is what the norm is in your field. Two weeks notice is considered professional and sufficient in many fields — but in plenty of other fields, especially for more senior roles, you might find that three or four weeks is considered the norm. You really need to know your own industry and your own office to judge what’s reasonable.

Of course, legally, you don’t have to provide any notice if you don’t want to. This is just about what’s going to be considered reasonable and professional by other reasonable people (which may or may not include your current employer).

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #3 – If things are going well and the interest is mutual, your boss is probably expecting this conversation. At the very least, if she says there’s no possibility of conversion, you have a definitive answer to go ahead with your search.

    #4 – On occasion, I do see things that are entry level for the particular organization that require experience gained elsewhere.

  2. Artemesia*

    I have a relative who was pretty much raised by wolves. Nice wolves. High powered professionals, but their idea of raising kids didn’t include basic manners or professional social skills. This relative was taken under the wing of a senior colleague when she was in graduate school and explicitly instructed on how to conduct herself in professional settings like research conferences and such. She was doing first class research and producing fine papers but her boorish behavior wasn’t helping her. It made all the difference.

    I really think Alison’s advice here is spot on. No hinting here. This guy needs very blunt instructions on how to behave in a social setting. He is either arrogant and dense or was never taught manners — or probably both. It will be a major help to him to understand what appropriate behavior looks like and keep the staff from wanting to skin him.

    I also really appreciate the statement that the junior staff member he is ordering around outranks him.

    1. Elkay*

      I also really appreciate the statement that the junior staff member he is ordering around outranks him.

      I liked that too, I think it’s a very useful distinction to make for him.

      1. Meg Murry*

        It’s important, however, I think it should also be mentioned that he needs to be polite with everyone, professional staff or no. Otherwise he may interpret the message as “I have to be polite to the people above me, but I can still be blunt and order around the janitor, mail room guy and secretaries at my first job since I’ll out rank them”. I’ve experienced one too many new grads who thought they were ” better” than lower level staff, and its a horrid attitude to have.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Yes, I meant at his first full time job after college, as some new grads [wrongly] get an attitude that any one with a degree is “better” than staff without one. One of my friends tells the story of how he set a new engineer straight after the new employee referred to “just a secretary” . My friend clarified that the woman had been with the company for 20 years, was executive assistant and right hand to the company president, and to never, ever refer to “just a secretary” again if he valued having a job, especially in earshot of the company president and referring to this woman, and then made the engineer shadow one of the other administrative assistants for a day to see how hard she worked and how thankless her job was – and how polite and appreciative the rest of the staff was.
              The new employee got it, and developed an appreciation for a good, efficient admin.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I love the shadowing thing. A lot of people who’ve never done admin or other supportive jobs have no clue what it’s like. And you cannot run a company without them. You just can’t.

              2. jamlady*

                My mom was a personal secretary for a CEO of a huge (and well-known) company for yeeeeears. I’ve had a few people say something like “oh just a secretary” – and then they meet my mom and realize she’s an absolute force. That woman carried a company for decades. “Just a secretary” – pah!

              3. catsAreCool*

                Good point, Meg.

                People who are only nice to people above them are really irritating. They’re capable of acting like decent human beings, but they aren’t willing to bother if they think the person is somehow lower than them.

                The funny thing is, this doesn’t even always work very well.

          1. Oryx*

            He doesn’t right now, but correcting his behavior now by saying “You need to be polite to those who outrank you” may instill bad behavior going forward when he *does* outrank people but doesn’t think he needs to be polite to them because they are “beneath” him.

        1. Dan*

          Truth is, the only people you outrank are those that report to you. Your first job out of school? You out rank nobody.

          Even at companies that have some sort of rank or leveling system, it’s pretty much meaningless to compare yourself to some one outside of your reporting structure.

          Hell, just for the same of conversation, our administrative staff have a completely different leveling system. I don’t know if I outrank the department secretary, and I’m not sure I even care. If I want or need help, I just ask nicely. Saves an ass chewing from my boss for being rude to people.

          1. some1*

            As an admin at a previous company I actually “outranked” supervisors and managers on the org chart. I had to tell a new manager that she couldn’t ask me to stay late to do something for her — she assumed I was under her umbrella in the hierarchy.

            1. The Office Admin*

              I refer to myself as “being an island.” I don’t report to anyone except the owner of the company and no one reports directly to me, but I’m considered a manager with manager powers(like magical powers ;) if ever necessary.

              1. Anna*

                Exactly the same here. It can be good to be a manager without actually managing anyone, or it can be frustrating because nobody understands where you fall on the org chart.

            2. Lily in NYC*

              Ugh, I recently moved to a new dept. and am dealing with this right now. I outrank all but 2 people there and the junior staff don’t seem to realize it and have been dumping their crap work on me. I’m biding my time before I say something but it’s getting annoying.

              1. Amy B*

                DON’T bide your time! Figure out ASAP a polite way to say that while you can help out in a pinch if they need help, your role is X and you really need to focus on that.

                1. Mabel*

                  I agree with Amy B! You can tell the junior staff that you’re so busy with your own work that you don’t have time to do the thing they just tried to dump on you. It would be helpful if your manager backed you up and made it clear that you support her and not the whole department.

          2. fposte*

            And then there’s cultural rank, where even the top brass don’t mess with the admin who’s been there forever and who knows everything.

          3. Vicki*

            And even when you “outrank” them because they report to you, you still need to be polite to them. This is something many managers forget. :-(

        2. Graciosa*

          This is really important – there is no reason to be rude to anyone, including people you outrank. The attitude that you can reach a height from which you are entitled to disregard the feelings of others is not one I want to encourage.

          If anything, I think it needs to go in the opposite direction. A person who is either subordinate to you or in a position which may lead them to believe (rightly or wrongly) that they are not free to tell you where to get off if you overstep (service people, administrative staff, etc.) needs to be treated with extra consideration.

          1. Sarahnova*

            Exactly. Your worth is proved by the way you treat those YOU have power over, of whatever sort.

            1. Jessa*

              This so much. I cut loose friends and coworkers who are nasty to waitstaff at business lunches, because how you treat the people at the bottom of your ladder says as much or MORE than how you treat the ones above you, who as you said can tell you where to head in and what to do when you dock.

              1. catsAreCool*

                I’ve never understood why people are rude to the wait staff. Maybe it’s a power trip or something. Maybe that’s how their parents act. Why be rude to someone without a good reason?

          2. Observer*

            Of course. But, I don’t think that what Alison suggested gives the idea that it’s ok to order even subordinates around. I would probably add that ticking people off, even if they ARE lower than you on the org chart / totem pole /whatever scale, is not a very good idea. What goes round comes round, and sometimes at the most inopportune times.

        3. Puddin*

          Aye, there is the rub. Being polite to everyone also includes knowing that you are not ‘better’ than anyone.

      2. Anonsie*

        Agreed. I would highly suspect anyone who thought it was ok to order around a junior staff member was doing it out of that lovely blend of snobberies that drives some folks to think junior staffers are not deserving of basic decencies because they’re there to mop up.

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I have to wonder if it was already known that this intern has no manners, and was sent to this workplace to learn a few hard lessons.

    3. Ella*

      I think he knows, though, because the OP says that he is the most pointedly abrupt with the most junior staff member. That tells me that while his baseline awareness of proper conduct is wonky, his awareness of hierarchy is not. Also the fact that he is rudest to the people whom he perceives to be lowest on the ladder does not bode well. This guy is going to be a terrible manager someday.

      1. Observer*

        On the other hand making him realize that this “low level” person actually OUTRANKS HIM will probably be good for him. And the fact that he’s getting called out by his manager – who he knows outranks him over his behavior to a “low level” person will be good for him, too, if he has any brains.

    4. A Teacher*

      My grandma was a 25 year school secretary. Best tip she ever gave me: always be nice to the secretaries and custodians.

      1. Observer*

        And the receptionists. It’s incredible how often people don’t realize how much of their fate in c company depends on the “just receptionists”.

        1. Mona*

          They are the first person that you come in contact with when you come in for an interview, and believe me the hiring manager does follow up with them to see how interviewees acted while waiting to be interviewed.

        2. Jessa*

          And the librarians (especially in a law office.) Support staff can save your life if you’re nice to them and you’re in a bind. Be nasty to support staff and suddenly your work life can become very, very difficult. Good support staff can ruin you and still be doing their jobs beautifully so that nobody ever believes you when you try to call them on it. There’s a huge difference between taking a message and putting it on your desk, or dropping it to voicemail, and spending 20 minutes to run you down because x is important to you.

      2. Vicki*

        Grad school. I made it a point to be very nice to the secretaries. You new know when you might need to rush in with “Help! I need 14 copies of this in 5 minutes and Argh!”

        If you ever need a favor, being known for being nice and helpful in the past makes a big difference.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: You’d definitely be doing this guy a favor by talking to him about this. I wonder though if some of it is unintentional. Like sending the email saying just “Print this.” If he’s used to communicating via text or IM, then perhaps he’s using that same abbreviated method. And I don’t mean that as some kind of slam on millenials. I catch myself doing it too in emails sometimes…being very brief and to the point, then remembering that text-speak can come across as rude in that format.

    And regarding the comment about the presentation…is it possible he was being faceitious? There are people in our company that are known windbags, and everyone kind of internally groans if they give a presentation at an all-hands meeting. Maybe he heard someone saying something about that and thought he could be in on the joke too, but his comment fell flat.

    Or maybe the guy is just a boorish oaf.

    1. Gene*

      Even I use basic manners in my communication.

      But regarding the presentation, you asked what he thought and he replied with what he apparently thought. Did you ask any followup questions to clarify what you were actually looking for in his answer? Can’t fault him for being honest to you, it’s not like he stood up after the presentation and said, “Well, there’s a half hour of my life I’ll never get back!”

      1. MK*

        On the other hand, it does show a certain obtuseness. Most people would realise that, when your manager asks you what you thought of a higher-up’s presentation, it’s not the time to make a joke. And that your answer should be about the content, not a critique of the higher-up’s presentation style.

        1. AnonieGirl*

          Or maybe he just didn’t know how to critique. Or is afraid his comments will make it back to the higher up. I would guess besides it being too long, maybe he didn’t know what else to say.

          1. MK*

            But if he was afraid the comment would make it back to the higher-up, it makes no sense that he would make only a negative remark.

        2. Anon for this, just in case*

          At more than one job I’ve had, there was tension between different levels, and my supervisors definitely would criticize communications from the higher-ups behind their backs. But even then, you had to kind of watch which way the wind was blowing when you were new.

        3. Mike C.*

          That doesn’t sound like a joke to me, I’ve made similar comments about similar presentations in my professional career.

        4. Not Here or There*

          As an entry-level employee (esp an intern), I would have found it very difficult to critique or comment on the content of a senior board member’s presentation. I probably would have felt I was not informed enough on the content to give an honest opinion; however, if I was pressed to give some answer, I probably would have either erred on the side of, “it was informative” or said something about the presentation style.

          I’ve frequently had bosses/ presenters ask me specifically for suggestions on how to improve or what I would have done differently, and one of the most frequent answers is that the presentation needs to be shorter. Presentation time creep is a real and pervasive issue in the work world. People who only have 15 minutes to speak will get up with 25-30 slides packed with information. And if he started to notice people’s eyes glazing over, it might not be that offbase a comment.

        5. INTP*

          Was it a joke? My assumption was that he genuinely thought the presentation was not concise enough.

          1. OP1*

            It really wasn’t a joke. It came up in our 1/1 meeting the afternoon after the presentation that morning. To clarify, it was about a major issue publicly facing our organization that even national press has covered and that people outside of our organization are paying attention to. My exact question was “So what did you think? Take anything away in particular?” His response was, “Well, it was really long. I think it could have been shorter.” I asked if there was anything else. His response was “Not really.” I followed up with some context about why it was important and we moved on.

            I definitely appreciate that sessions like these can be boring, but it really seemed like an immature and snarky response, especially given the significance of the issue being discussed.

        6. Vicki*

          I don;t think it was a joke. From my reading of this description, the intern is tone-deaf to certain “acceptable white lies” we want people to tell at work.

          You asked; he answered. I’ve heard plenty of presentations that could ave been shorter.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If OP finds out this is his sense of humor then she can have a talk about appropriate humor in the work place. In his case, he needs to know that any joke that leaves another person feeling belittled/put down is totally, totally inappropriate. And that does not matter what rank you are at. If you are the CEO, this still holds true.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I wish that were true of all workplaces…although considering the OP knew enough to write in to Senior Blogger Green, I think they are probably trying to maintain that level of professionalism, whether that’s the standard for their office or not. :)

    3. Anony-moose*

      I don’t buy it. I am very informal with my colleagues and my manager, and even if someone issued a short email, it would be “print this plz” at the very least. Or “print this” followed by a shout of “thank you! I can’t print!” from the next cube over. Just “print this?” Rude.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Oh yeah, this is very possible. But it’s worth considering if the guy is just socially inept, which makes him look rude and condescending. But like I said maybe he’s just a tool.

      2. Koko*

        IA. The most brusque, abbreviated message I could see myself writing would be “Can you print?” or “print please!” (note the cheerful exclamation point!)

    4. Jake*

      Agree 100%.

      Certainly possible that he is just a jerk, but this could easily be ignorance, not malice.

      I’m a very short and to the point person, and I could easily see myself doing some of this without knowing better when I first started.

    5. Observer*

      It doesn’t fly. Plz is plenty common is text speak. The text speak form of request like this would NOT be “print this” but “plz print this” or “cud u print this”. Beyond that, I’m seeing a lot less of text speak because of the advent of smart phones with really good auto-correct keyboards. In any case, I’ve seen plenty of text speak, and no one with basic manners ever overlooked “plz” or the like even in the most brief text.

      1. Bunny*

        Yup! The call-centre/office I’m in right now operates on skype-based team comms – if you close a job off someone else’s queue for them you skype to let them know. If you move an email from one of their clients into their box, you ping them on skype so they see it. Even at the shortest, most rushed of conversation everyone manages to type out a pls or ty.

        “Cld u print? TY” or “Pls print this” really isn’t much more work.

  4. Lucky*

    “I hired this intern because my boss’s boss asked me to and I really couldn’t say no. He is the son of a professional connection.”

    Yeah, I didn’t even need to read LW1’s full letter to know this was coming. Time to take that child to school.

    1. Ben Around*

      I saw that coming too. And realistically, for this snot-nose intern, he may already know that he doesn’t need manners to get ahead in life — it may be that daddy, daddy’s friends and his frat brothers will always set him up in jobs.

      The sad truth about a lot of financially successful people is that their path is greased by connections, and forever will be, whether or not their abilities and personalities justify their success. That fact limits social/employment mobility for many minorities and people who weren’t born affluent.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent point.
        I would add that those people who had an easy ride sometimes are oblivious as to how things could fall apart for them so easily. There are too many people that have worked too hard to over come obstacles. These people will have no problem calling him out on what he is doing.

        1. fposte*

          The saying I like for those are people “who are born on second base and think they hit a double.”

          1. Adam*

            Nailed it. I don’t like to bag on people more successful than I am because many of them earned it. And while being constantly brag-a-docious about your assets may not be the most positive attribute, I can at least respect the person who built it themselves. But it REALLY grinds my gears when someone flaunts accomplishments they had nothing to do with.

          2. Lucky*

            My mom used to say “born with a silver spoon up his a$$.” She rarely swore, but that one was a favorite.

        2. nona*

          Yep. And I’ve had some friends who had something of an easy ride (connections, rich parents, etc), and didn’t know how to cope when that ended. There were some obstacles they’d never learned to deal with. This could be a good chance for OP’s intern to learn.

      2. Artemesia*

        I know lots of people like this as well and this may well be him. But since he is the OP’s intern, I think it is best to proceed as if he were teachable. He may be imitating the jerks in his life but he may also be clueless. The relative I mentioned earlier was I think clueless; she was also the daughter of a prominent researcher in her field although her own work stood on its own two feet. It would have been easy to see her as trying to coast on Daddy’s coattails but it wasn’t really true. She was just oafish — more abrupt and unpolished than overtly rude — and she was able to change that behavior when someone told her how she needed to behave. No everyone figures it out by observing others.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          I wonder if she was doubly penalized because of gendered expectations of collegiality. Even reading the phrasing – boorish, oafish – is not something I associate with women because I’ve been conditioned not to. I’m guessing her abruptness and lack of polish would have been seen less negatively if she were a man, because that’s just a guy who is efficient and wants to get things done.

      3. Monodon monoceros*

        This is true, but doesn’t mean that the OP has to be part of it. The only really terrible intern I ever had had some connections to our CEO. That didn’t stop me from talking to him about his clothing and work ethic. And when he asked for a reference at the end of the internship, I told him he would be better off not using me as a reference and referred him back to our discussions about clothing and work ethic, and how those never improved. He might have had friends in high places, but I wasn’t going to play along.

        1. Observer*

          This is just the kind of thing I was talking about. If he doesn’t get a clue, I suspect things won’t go as well for him as he thinks. Daddy’s friends are only going to go so far for a brat who won’t pull his weight. It’s one thing to push an (unpaid) intern into a program, it’s another to take him on in a job which might affect your success.

      4. Observer*

        That’s true to a point. But, these kinds of people either grow up, or they wind not being all that successful. Ultimately, if you don’t know how to behave, and don’t learn how, it will almost certainly come to bite you, no matter how many friends daddy and mommy have.

      5. Jessa*

        That or maybe this one has the kind of setter-upper who really does hope this particular placement will help the guy. Not likely, but potentially.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah, I got the vibe that he was a rich entitled brat even before that sentence.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, this stuck out at me, and is the one thing that would give me pause about schooling the kid. I’d have a talk with my manager about how important the connection is and whether we could risk it if it turns out the rude intern has never been said no to in his life…and neither has his powerful parent. Then I’d school the intern if my manager and I decided it was safe to do so, and if not, I’d inform the REST of my team why little Johnny gets special treatment.

      Unfortunately this happens quite often in my industry — a client wants their kid to get some work experience, so the agency coughs up a job. And because the client’s business is worth so many OTHER jobs to the agency, for self-preservation we end up treating the client-spawn with kid gloves. (See what I did there?) Because it’s so common, telling the rest of the team we have to be nice to little Johnny even though he’s not nice to us rarely gets much resistance.

      Sad but true.

      1. Steve G*

        This is so weird to me that your job would do that! If you are implying to staff that they need to use “kid gloves” you are also implying to the “Little Johnny” that it is ok for him to act in a way that requires kid gloves.

        This sssssooooooo wouldn’t have happened at my last 2 jobs (though I could picture it happening at Motorola when I was there because it was too big and no one knew what the other person did, so you could assume someone was rude because they were stressed and busy, even though they weren’t…..)……….but at my last 2 jobs? Even if the management told us to wear kid gloves, “Little Johnny” would have been driven to tears by the social ostracizing, the awkward non-responses to his emails, and the sarcasm he is gonna get if he tried to dish sass to some of my coworkers, not to mention that we sooo would have shielded him from any interesting and meaningful work. Also, our Jewish Hasidic business partners (not sure if culture fits into it or not, but I know they would have been more direct than anyone else) would just call me and say “we don’t like him isn’t it annoying working with him? We are going to call you instead.” They seemed to have a lower tolerance for working with unnecessarily haughty people….

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          It’s absolutely not ideal, and it stems from the fact that we have clients rather than customers — to me the difference is that you can lose a customer without a huge impact to the business, but losing a client means that an entire team of 10-20 people may not have billable work (and, depending on the agency’s ability to absorb the loss, may be out of a job).

          When I say it happens “quite often” it’s not like there’s one on every team, fortunately — but it does happen enough that most people I know have experienced it at least once or twice. Sometimes it’s a client’s child, sometimes it’s a best friend. Fortunately the ones who intern tend not to choose a career in advertising — I suspect it’s because once they see what client service looks like, they want to be in the position of the client and not the service provider!

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            One more thing — not only is a client in a position to influence a lot of people’s jobs *now*, the client can also have influence over the long term. In the niche of advertising I work in, marketing managers on the client side tend to move to jobs on other brands or at other companies every few years. If a marketing manager considers your company her favorite agency, that can mean many years of doing business together, sometimes without having to do new business pitches. Agencies LOVE getting business without having to pitch, because it’s so expensive to put together a pitch.

            This is why you don’t piss off the client. Even egregiously rude ones get treated well. It’s only when the client’s demands start to cause damage to profitability (pitching a fit over perceived issues in work quality and refusing to pay) that an agency will drop a client.

            “Babysit the client’s kid” is just part of “don’t piss off the client,” which is why we don’t bat an eyelash at occasionally having to do it.

        2. Ops Analyst*

          I also used to work at Motorola and I don’t see this sort of thing happening there. However, there are 2 divisions of Motorola and one is no longer Motorola, so it depends which you are talking about.

          Where I worked, there were definitely a lot of people at all levels getting jobs because they had family there. But there was a big difference. These people were expected to behave with extreme professionalism and to live up to the expectations set by the family members who got them the job. No one slacked off and entitled little brats didn’t last long. Moreover, the family members that got them there would have been mortified if someone they recommended behaved this way.

          It’s entirely possible that this intern is behaving this way because he’s a brat and thinks he can get away with it because of who got him hired. It’s also entirely possible that the person who got him hired has absolutely no idea that intern is acting that way and would be miffed if he/she knew about it.

          1. steve g*

            I was in the holtsville ny location. Me and my coworkers definitely had people there have attitude, not overt, but people going out of their way to not smile and not be helpful, but we never really questioned it because there were so many people there…there were a lot of people you only dealt with only once every month or less…so we just assumed they were moody because they were busy….however I’m not trying to start a thing about motorola in particular, but all of the other places I worked had less than 600 employees so people had a much better idea of what the other person did, which changed the dynamics of dealing with people.

            1. Ops Analyst*

              I was in Holtville too! Wow, my experience there was totally different. Perhaps it was the department (I was in DCS). My husband works there now and he has some issues with employees attitudes but its an individual thing, not something I would attribute to nepotism. That said, I understand you weren’t trying to make it a Moto thing. I didn’t mean to make it sound that way. If I did, I apologize.

              1. Steve G*

                No apologies ever needed with me, I just didn’t want to be forced to disclose too much, especially in a public forum:-). Howdie former coworker! I also just realized you are a frequent reader, so its weird to think that out of the whole country, with “only” a couple of hundred regular commenters, we worked in the same place.

                As per Motorola, it was nice while I was there, I just had higher hopes, but came during the worst possible time, 2008. I was a contractor, and then because of the hiring freeze, became a permanent contractor, and left in 2009 for a higher paying permanent job. It would have been nice to be there during boom times, I bet, especially as its so convenient to work there and live in the nice rural areas of eastern LI, where business jobs are hard to come by.

                I’m surprised we had such different experiences in the same place! I don’t want to get specific, I don’t even remember what DCS means, but I was in the “enterprise mobility division,” if that’s different.

                Oh, since you know LI, I then went to Medical Action Industries, which is where G Fried carpets used to be…..lovely building, work, etc., opportunities (long term) but I needed big $$$ NOW because I had credit card debt so I gave in and finally moved to NYC in 2010 and have been here for 5 years and my career really took off when I got here……….

                1. Ops Analyst*

                  LOL at G fried carpets. When I was a kid I used to say “Gee, fried carpets??” Made me giggle to read that. I’m literally relocating off LI this Friday and I’m happy to be moving on. LI is so expensive it’s hard to NOT end up with credit card debt. I completely understand the need for more big money. I used to be in nonprofit education and moved corporate for exactly that reason.

                  I was actually surprised to see a company name even mentioned and I also thought it was crazy to stumble across someone who worked for that Motorola since it’s fairly specific / different. I’ve been reading this blog for about a year but only started posting in the past month, with the exception of a few anon questions in the past. Never thought I would see another Motorolan.

                  I won’t elaborate too much. My husband works in EMC, which is the department you were in. The two are pretty divided and seem to have fairly different working environments, strange for being in the same building, but lines up with our two distinct experiences. Hope I didn’t make you feel forced to say anything. Nice to “meet” you.

          2. catsAreCool*

            I work at a software company, and they will hire relatives and friends of their current workers, but that’s because they expect their workers to only recommend good people. Relatives/friends don’t get a free ride any more than anyone else does. Also, most of us would be very embarrassed to recommend someone who was rude or not a hard worker.

        3. V*

          I see this happening frequently at mid-sized and large law firms. Client’s kid needs an intership? Oh that’s great, the firm is looking for a filing clerk and we’d loooooove to have little Johnny work with us. I have seen this work out really well — the client’s kid is bright and hard-working — and I’ve seen times when it was essentially brat-sitting. But either way, it’s good for business, so you do it and you treat the kid well.

        4. Connie-Lynne*

          I think I’ve told the story before of how I fired our CFO’s son? He was a summer intern, supposed to be doing inventory and cleaning off computers for me. I had wanted to hire a couple other people and was basically told by the CTO, “we have to give this kid a try, also he’s willing to work for minimum wage.”

          So, I noticed his pace was really slow. Then I caught him updating LiveJournal when he was supposed to be working. And I sat him down, and I told him he needed to get more machines checked out and sorted, and was there a problem? No problem, it just took longer than I expected. Was he parallelizing wipes? Yes. Did he have enough monitors for that? Yes. OK, then, perhaps it was all the LiveJournalling he was doing when he was supposed to be working. Oh no, he was only doing that on breaks.

          Then the pace didn’t pick up and I observed him LiveJournalling three times in an hour. Spoke to the CTO just to be clear what I was going to do. “No more LiveJournal at work; it’s clearly happening more often than during breaks. If this happens again I will have to fire you.”

          _Later that day_ the same deal happened. So he was fired.

          I sure covered all my bases but in the end, we couldn’t afford to pay anyone to sit and play on the internet.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t.

        I’d leave the job if I had to walk on eggs around some entitled brat who treated me like crap. I just couldn’t do it. If it were my company, I’d tell the parent (client or not) that we don’t do that here–if little Johnny works here, he’s expected to adhere to the same professional standards as everyone else, including manners. If he needs instruction, he’ll get it. If he can’t do that, he’s gone.

        If you’re the sort of client who would expect me to let your kid treat my staff like shit, I don’t want you as my client. Goodbye.

      3. Dynamic Beige*

        One summer, we had a similar issue at the last place I worked. Some client said his son (I think it was his son) needed a job and was interested in multimedia… etc. I don’t know if it was a “do this favour for me, I throw a lot of business your way” or implied/inferred and the senior partner who agreed was just scared. After all, it’s not like that guy was going to have to deal with the kid. Anyway, we got this guy. He wasn’t rude but he was… unusual. You know how some people wear vintage inspired T-shirts? His T-shirts must have been vintage, as in he was given them when he was 11 and was still wearing them. The fabric was worn down so much, they were almost see-through. Also, very tight. It was not a flattering look. The pants he wore seemed dirty somehow and frankly, he smelled. It was as if he didn’t understand the directions for how to use soap (of any kind, laundry, dish, shampoo). He did not seem to be big on personal hygiene. There was a while there when I considered leaving a stick of deodorant on his chair anonymously because being near him was that hard but I did not do it. It was honestly difficult to figure out what his deal was, he obviously seemed to be poor but he was the special hand-picked request of some client important enough to be feared. And, as I said, we were stuck with him for three months. It’s not like I was the manager and I didn’t know how far my authority for training extended. I probably should have asked but I didn’t.

        So we tried training him in what we do and even when given specific do it this way, A, B, C these steps in this order, he seemed to think that he could do it in Z, greek letter tau, 47 order and it was just as good. It was not. It was like he was trying to impress everyone with his brilliance. He would have to be told to do it again, but he would try some other way and seemed to be annoyed by being told to do it over. Even if he did manage to do it somewhat correctly, his work was atrocious and had to first be checked over and usually completely redone because he had no design sense at all. Nothing anyone said made a difference in his performance and while he wasn’t a malicious little snot, he didn’t exactly have charm or panache or social graces that would help him along/make him easier to deal with. This was a company that didn’t have formal HR or formal management or formal much of anything so I wonder if there had been someone this kid respected that could have sat him down, explained all the issues and came up with a plan to correct them if he would have clued in. It was sadly enjoyable when it was his last day and we all knew he was never coming back, even though he had spoken more than once about how certain he was that he would be offered a full-time position.

    4. Ella*

      I wonder if the kid doesn’t want to be there either. Maybe he wants to be a lumberjack, gracefully leaping from tree to tree, and not trapped in an office. Anyone who will ask someone else to hire their kid as a professional favor may not be the sort of parent who lets their kid make decisions for themselves.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        Maybe he wants to be a lumberjack, gracefully leaping from tree to tree, and not trapped in an office.

        I just busted out laughing in my quiet office. Thank you for this.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        I agree with you completely. That was how I got my first job. My mother asked a friend of hers who had a business to hire me for the summer, without even asking me if it was what I wanted or was even mildly interested in. No discussion, just “I got you this job, you start on this day.” My mother would have tried to control how often I breathed in an hour if she could have figured out a way to do it. Seriously.

      3. LBK*

        Oh my god. The image of this kid zoned out in a meeting while lumberjacks dance in his mind is too damn funny.

      4. Anonsie*

        HAH! Funny you should mention that because when I worked in that industry, seemed like there were two kinds of people that went in: 1) Young people from wealthy families who loved being outside and just wanted to be outdoors all the time and didn’t want to be part of the rat race and 2) young people from blue collar families who did manual labor because that’s what they were qualified to do and didn’t really enjoy it.

    5. Leah*

      Me too. However, hiring someone through a personal connection can also end well. We have one to two interns interns every summer, who are always the niece/family friend of one of the higher-ups, and they’ve been great workers.

      If the OP can be straight with the guy, and if he’s not a complete d-nozzle, she could end up really shaping him.

  5. Shell*


    Yeah, I think you’d help out this person a lot by taking him aside and going “hey, your work is pretty good, but your mannerisms are holding you back.” I mean, I was a generally polite, overachieving, not-troublesome kid, and during my very first co-op experience/internship my then-boss give me a talking-to about my attitude. Some things you just don’t learn anywhere else but the school of hard knocks.

    The intern might not be ready to hear it at first; I know I wasn’t. But it might still sink in eventually. After three months and a different boss (the first one left the company rather abruptly), my second boss had nothing but glowing things to say about me. (To a point. I still had lots to learn, and remain so today.)

  6. quix*

    And then there’s the possibility that this is the equivalent of working the mail room a month before your dad makes you an executive. So that might also happen.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking along those lines. The kid may have been interviewing for internships and couldn’t get one, because all the interviewers could see that he was a jerk. So Daddy steps in and makes a colleague give him an internship. He probably needs an internship to complete his degree and that’s all it is, just going through the motions to graduate and work for the family company after touring Europe for a year.
      Yeah, I sound bitter. This happened at Old Job with the boss’s son. Except his son couldn’t pass the bar exam after 17 attempts, and I live in a state with a relatively easy bar.

      1. Leah*

        He tried taking it 17 times??

        I don’t get why anybody would bother that many times – at some point he should reconsider if being a lawyer is a good career for him. However, a “relatively easy bar” is still the freaking bar exam. It’s incredibly difficult in any state. I’m more SMH at 17 TIMES. And you have to pay for each time and register and get fingerprinted. Wow.

        1. Stephanie*

          Whaaaaaa? My best friend took it three times (passed on the third), but said she was done with law if she didn’t pass it the third time.

          States don’t have limits on the number of times you can take that thing? Like five times in two years or something?

          1. Decimus*

            It depends on the state. In Pennsylvania I think you need to petition to take it more than three times, but a friend of mine went to law school with the reason – a guy would take the first half of the bar exam but not the second, and claimed this was so no-one could say he failed the bar. He did this at least six times.

            17 times seems excessive but if it’s somebody’s son I can see the bar not feeling they can change the rules.

          2. Meri*

            There is, in my state, a woman who is relatively infamous for her accusations towards our state government after her husband failed the bar exam… over 30 times.

        2. bridget*

          In my state with a relatively easy bar (which I’d classify as pretty much all Uniform Bar Exam states), the average pass rate is between 85-90% for any given test. I know that the bar exam has had some bad press about not really being representative about what lawyers do day to day, but I honestly think it does a reasonably good job at testing for minimum competency. Lawyers need to be aware that certain issues exist when a client walks in and tells a story and asks what she should do about it, and then to be able to coherently organize thoughts about it in writing. If one is in the bottom 10-15% of takers 1-3 times, it could conceivably be chalked up to test anxiety, sickness, being right on the bubble, etc. I suppose that’s life and one may well be able to work reasonably well as a lawyer. But if you are in that group seventeen times in a row, that’s a pretty sure sign that you will be an incredibly poor lawyer, and I think any bar association worth its salt should deny you admittance.

      2. Lee*

        Nah, the kid has never had to interview for an internship, ever, and has never been turned down. He gets cream assignments. Time Inc., for example, used to hire interns primarily from the Ivy League, and there were students there who had never covered sports ever — not even for their student newspaper — covering the Olympics for Sports Illustrated as their summer internship, for example.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I used to work at Sports Illustrated and I just can’t agree with you, even though I hated that place with a passion. We did not send interns to cover the Olympics and we had plenty of interns who didn’t attend an Ivy. The place I work now is way worse in that regard.

  7. S*

    #3 – I am currently a fellow in a very similar situation. I did something similar to what Alison suggested re: saying firmly that I’m actively job-searching, but also open to any opportunities that come up within the organization. It hasn’t gotten me the offer I want (yet), but because I made my professional goals clear to my manager, she was able to spot a lateral shift opportunity for me when it came up. Plus I’m now getting job offers elsewhere because of the glowing references my managers/co-workers are giving me!

    #4 – I’ve seen “entry level” jobs ask for 1-2 years of experience, but I’ve also seen that for some hiring managers (some, not all!!!), internships during college can count as one of those years. I interned my full senior year, and I’m doing a fellowship right now that I started after graduation–and would you believe it, that’s almost 2 years of experience right there, and I’ve gotten interviews with organizations that asked for 2 years of experience in the job posting.

      1. jamlady*

        Yeah… my field has a 3-tier per level kind of thing.

        0-1 + Some College = entry-level
        1-3 + BA = mid-entry level
        3-5 + BA, some Graduate = upper-entry level
        5-7 + MA = mid-level

        and so on.

        I worked a million contracts for the last 5-7 years with the last 2 years doing mid-level work with an entry title/pay and actually JUST moved into mid-level with a dream job offer today. I will likely spend the next 10 years working my way up through the mid-level tiers haha.

    1. HR Generalist*

      For our entry-level positions we count internships but we also give significant weight to education. When applying for an admin role, years of experience in administrative is counted year-for-year (and internship would be included here) but we give almost equivalency to education.
      So four years in admin coming straight from high school would be a good competition against someone with a BBA just coming from university.

      1. HR Generalist*

        My grammar is strange today. Maybe “we grant equivalency to education” or “education is ranked at equivalent”

        “Someone coming from high school would be a good competitor against..”

  8. Alex Hagan*

    Excellent advice re #2. I wonder if this manager’s lack of discretion and professionalism was a factor in the resignation in the first place?

    1. jamlady*

      Yeah it seems strange/petty/immature. Like someone getting dumped and walking around telling everyone “No I totally dumped her first”. Except in this case, she could be ruining OPs career (and doesn’t seem to care) – I feel like there were probably some behavior red flags to begin with.

    2. OP #2*

      You and jamlady are correct, although I also had another reason I left (moving out of state, which I thought would yield a peaceful departure in her eyes).

  9. Billy*

    #1. I’m getting flashbacks from my 2008 summer internship already by reading Op’s letter. The first 2.5 months were a nightmare to the point where the boss couldn’t trust me; and as a result,I missed the opportunity to do higher level work. The lowest point of those 4 months was receiving a late afternoon phone call from the promotions director that I might be fired-I wasn’t.

    This intern needs to turn it around by showing up with a better attitude. He doesn’t know better,even as an adult. Then tell him that his manners are unacceptable,see how he responds,and then go from there. His boorish ways are gonna kill his chances with connections,co-workers and supervisors. ‘Print this’?…How about, You’re fired!

    1. OriginalEmma*

      What about it was a nightmare? Do you think it was your behavior or that of your boss and coworkers? If it was you, what’d you learn from the experience?

  10. Cheesecake*

    OP #3, Do speak up and be direct. There is nothing “entitled” or awkward about a) your wish to stay with the company b) your need for reference in case you can’t stay. I have recently heard so many similar questions from my friends about how to reach out about a job opportunity but not being too direct about it. But you need to express you interest without being vague. Ain’t nobody got time for guessing.

    1. BRR*

      Exactly. It’s like people are taking the job hunting is dating thing too far. It’s better to be direct, just don’t be pushy. State you have enjoyed your time there and would be interested if any opportunities become available but don’t expect them to hire you just because they have hired from these positions in the past.

      1. some1*

        Right, the LW is cold contacting this company since she is working there. She’s proven herself while there, so she’s coming from a position of strength that an outside candidate doesn’t have.

        If management there likes her but simply doesn’t have a role to offer, it’s likely they will be a good reference and even go as far as offering to pass along her name, and certainly will not have an issue with her taking time off for interviews.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Very often outside candidates do it very wrong. They reach out to the contact, organize a meeting and spend person’s time with “how are you doing” chat. So again, be direct. Not “so what will my new salary be” direct but “i know about an opening in your company that i really like and respect. i have experience in x so though it would be good to discuss…”

  11. Hanna Marin*

    OP1, maybe also print out some information for your intern about manners and professionalism. I know when I am cornered and am being given constructive feedback, often I will shut down and freak out I’m about to be fired so may not take it all in – so perhaps something he can take away and read later might be useful? I’d also offer to be available for further coaching if he has any follow-up questions.

    1. Leah*

      She could also reassure him that he’s not going to be fired, but rather that she’s talking to him so that he can make these changes and avoid being fired.
      But what if OP has no power to fire the intern? What if his connection is too solid? If he’s just a jerk, he’ll have no incentive to change because he knows his internship isn’t in jeopardy, and that one of the higher ups could be a reference.

  12. SJP*

    OP 1 – Yea Alisons advice is spot on because there is nothing worse than being spoken to by someone above you, but even worse when it’s someone below you/an intern and they speak to you like something that smells on the bottom of your shoe.
    You can tell him and coach but something like this may be really engrained. I hope not cause one day people like these will speak like that to the wrong person and they’ll wish the ground was opening up to swallow them…

    I’m glad you’ve noticed it and that you’re going to help them do something about it. Good for you OP 1

  13. jag*

    On #1, yes this intern sounds rude, but this comment seems strange to me: “when I asked him what he thought of a senior board member’s recent presentation, he told me only that he thought it could have been shorter”

    The OP asked for a comment about a third party – it seems great that he didn’t beat around the push to temper his comment. Sure, he needs to know how to say it more if the was talking to that person, but the OP asked and he answered, clearly. Not bad and maybe even good in the clarity.

      1. Dan*

        Perhaps that was a euphemism for “it was so long winded I couldn’t follow the content.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Am chuckling. That is what I thought, too. I would have said, “Yeah, we all thought that. What other thoughts did you have?” Yes, kind a nosy question, I’m trying to find out if there is any thinking going on there that has substance to it. But I will do that from time to time. I will ask people a question in two different ways to get at their thoughts on matters.

        1. jhhj*

          Maybe, but it just shows that the guy needs some office etiquette (and politics) help, even if it is true that the presentation was too long.

          1. LBK*

            Yes, and it’s fine to say something felt long but you need to be able to say more than that – which parts you thought were particularly relevant and which ones you weren’t sure were necessary, for example, because that shows you were putting some critical thought into what you were hearing instead of just staring at the clock.

    1. BRR*

      That one struck me as more of a lesson in being careful what I say about a senior board member’s presentation. But many interns need office etiquette as it’s usually different than school etiquette and different than minimum wage job etiquette. I’m also curious if a slight bit of this is because the LW was forced to hire this intern. The intern sounds a little rough around the edges but nothing is striking me as terribly awful. At least he didn’t ask anybody to plunge the toilet for him.

        1. BRR*

          I totally think it’s unacceptable. I think what I was going for pre-coffee was that in my opinion this falls in office etiquette 101 and shouldn’t take a lot of coaching to fix. I can’t cite any examples off hand but this appears to be more of an easy fix (as well as a common problem).

          1. fposte*

            I agree. If you get pushback, that’s another issue, but given that he’s performing the other work tasks okay and not slacking, I think he might well accept the information and learn from it.

      1. LBK*

        What school did you attend or minimum wage job did you work where 2-word orders are acceptable? I learned to say please and thank you when I was about 4 years old. There’s no context where barking orders at people is okay except maybe the military.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have seen jobs where this is done- no pleases or thank yous and people barking orders. Am not saying it is acceptable, I am just saying that crappy work places abound. I have been that sole voice in the wilderness saying please and thank you. It takes time, but people do catch on, even in toxic work places. It’s rough, though.
          OP could say that if you have to work in a place like this it is very tough to do day after day.

          1. BRR*

            This is partially what I was thinking in that there are place where everybody is just rude. To me it happened where I was working because my coworkers were trying to get by on whatever minimum wage was at the time and I think it stressed them out/they felt undervalued which affected their attitudes.

        2. Blue Anne*

          Yeah. Even at my absolute most curt, I’d still be saying “Could you print this?”

          I just can’t think of a healthy work environment where this is okay.

          1. Judy*

            I’ve certainly had contacts at work who would send cryptic text speak emails. Maybe 4 words, with no vowels.

            Most emails like that came from managers, although never my manager.

          2. CA Admin*

            Even at his worst, the Partner I support will still say “please print” rather than “print this” and he’s a super senior guy not known for his email etiquette. If an intern or associate tried that? Oh hell no.

            1. LBK*

              “Please print” honestly wouldn’t razz me too badly, or at least not anywhere near the level that “print this” would. If it was from someone I knew I probably wouldn’t bat an eye – I used to get “Please submits” all the time from my coworkers.

        3. BRR*

          I meant more in the broader sense of etiquette in minimum wage jobs vs. office jobs because they are usually different environments. And that because often times it will be an intern’s first time in a professional office environment they need to learn.

          But looking back on my comment please and thank you should be part of any etiquette and shouldn’t have to be part of “this is how an office works.”

          1. LBK*

            Yeah…I’ve worked my share of minimum wage/non-office jobs and we were still expected to ask someone to do something rather than commanding it. Telling my coworker “Ring this person up” might be okay if there’s a rush or something, but “Could you ring this person up for me?” would still be preferable in every scenario.

    2. LBK*

      Even if the presentation was a load of hooey, that can’t be the only thing he got out of it – and I don’t mean that in terms of probability, I mean constructive criticism is a minimum requirement in the working world when being asked for an opinion by a manager or peer. This isn’t your friend asking you what you thought of the movie you just saw – it’s not for the purpose of making conversation.

      1. JMegan*

        Exactly. It’s for the purpose of demonstrating that you understood the content, and hopefully learned something from it. It’s a little mini job evaluation, if you will – the OP was assessing his ability to speak intelligently about the work going on in the organization. Even a question like “I didn’t understand X” or “I thought Y was interesting” would have been better.

      2. Puddin*

        I thought the same thing. Perhaps the questions was meant to be “What did you learn from the presentation?” but in an effort to be open ended and not condescending it turned into “What did you think”.

        His answer speaks to what he paid attention to…the length, as in “omg this is sooo boring, when he is going to shut up.” If one of the interns I work with gave this kind of answer, that is exactly what I would think they were preoccupied with during the meeting, rather than content and how it connects to his/her job.

        Oh and we have had an intern who brought a pillow to work to take naps under his desk. We had to explain how this was unacceptable. He did not understand and failed to correct his behavior. He had to go (this was not the only issue either).

        Soooo, yes teach them the lessons they will need about office and life etiquette. Some of them appear to rather roughly finished. Let us know how he does!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Man, I wish I could take naps under my desk. This needs to be a thing.

          We had a coworker at Exjob who would nap in his car on his lunch break. He had to be setting a phone alarm–he’d go out and then come back right on time. I’ve been tempted to do that on occasion after a restless night or a big lunch.

          1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

            I do that on lunch breaks myself. Unfortunately these days, I’m usually rudely awoken early by my work cell phone that I’ve been ordered to carry on me at all times during work – including lunch breaks. Yay.

          2. Revanche*

            Sleeping in the car on an actual break feels acceptable in the way that crawling under your desk with a pillow really doesn’t :) I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to take a nap after a bad night but the image of an intern cat napping under a desk strikes me as both terrible (professionally) and hilarious.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          His answer speaks to what he paid attention to…the length, as in “omg this is sooo boring, when he is going to shut up.” If one of the interns I work with gave this kind of answer, that is exactly what I would think they were preoccupied with during the meeting, rather than content and how it connects to his/her job.

          This is exactly how it reads to me.

        3. Cheddar2.0*

          I have a coworker who does this. He doesn’t even go UNDER his desk, just naps on top of it, for at least an hour a day. It seems to be regarded with amused tolerance, as he is the type to stay 14+ hours a day. Although, I personally feel that his extremely long days are more a sign of the lack of efficiency, but I am not his manager so it’s not something I can comment on. Once, I did tell him he should probably at least shut the office door while napping, in case anyone very high up comes for a visit.

          1. Beezus*

            We had a visiting contractor who worked for one of our service providers, at their home office several states away. He decided to take a nap one day, on a loveseat in what probably looked to him like a little casual meeting area down the hall. That little area was actually the waiting area outside the company president’s office. Guess who was in the office that day? Guess whose visit got cut short?

    3. Mike C.*

      I’m with you here – discussing the presentation length or communication style seems perfectly acceptable to me when asked to critique a presentation.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think the reason the OP might have expected something more detailed is because the presentation was probably supposed to be a learning/training experience for the intern. Imagine if the company paid to send this intern to a training class and they came back and said “it could have been shorter”. While there was no external charge for this, the company saw fit to have CEO, the OP, the intern, and the rest of those attending spend their time on this presentation instead of whatever they normally do, and that is still a business expense.

        Of course, it depends on the presentation, it could have been totally useless, but the OP seemed to hint that the intern should have learned something impactful from it.

        1. fposte*

          I also think we’re overfocusing on this specific a little–this response was part of a bigger picture of how the OP sees this guy, and it might not be a great example on its own.

          1. jamlady*


            I was just thinking that. Another person could have said this and it may have come off as a joke, but with this individual’s behavior as a package, it’s just another rude comment (and, as someone else mentioned, one that shows he didn’t care about the content of the presentation but rather that it was long and boring).

      2. jhhj*

        If you are asked to critique a presentation — doesn’t sound like that was what happened in this case — you are presumably expected to critique it on multiple axes, not just “gosh it ran on”, but was the speaker engaging, was the content interesting, was it aimed at the audience, was it organised successfully, etc etc. A response of “it could have been shorter” isn’t critique, it’s snark.

        The guy might be a good guy who needs to learn business etiquette. (Or he could be an entitled jerk who walked into the internship because of his parent’s role.)

      3. LBK*

        I don’t think it’s a problem to critique those aspects of a presentation, but one short sentence about one aspect of the presentation with no follow up? That’s an unacceptably lacking in detail or constructiveness. You can absolutely say “It was too long” but your follow up should be “Because we all obviously already knew the Teapot 2.0 basics, we’ve been working on them for a year now so that section was unnecessary. Also, I thought the Teapot Schematic Interface Module description was insanely technical when really all we needed to know is that there’s an algorithm in it that determines which way the handle goes on, it’s not really relevant to the customer service department to know the details of how it works.”

        That kind of response shows you were paying attention, you understood the subject matter and you understood what pieces were important to get out of it, while ultimately still coming to the same conclusion about the length. If literally all you can say is that it was too long and you can’t identify why, that signals to me that you just wanted to get out of there and that it was too long because you didn’t give a shit about sitting through it.

    4. TeapotCounsel*

      All these comments are showing to me the lesson I’ve learned the hard way since my entry into corporate America three years ago: it is more important to seem nice than it is to actually be nice. Nothing about OP’s description of the intern indicates bad motives, negligence, or malice. OP’s problem is **all** about the delivery. For example:
      1. When asking a colleague to do a task, supply additional words that serve no other purpose than to make the recipient feel better.
      2. When asked to comment on a colleague’s presentation, don’t actually speak the truth if the truth may hurt the presenter’s feelings.
      And, sadly, those are necessary lessons in corporate America. Those among us who are somewhat Asperger-y have to learn the unfortunate lesson that efficiency and truthfulness in communications are not valued. I see it all the time on this board, in which people regularly post that that so-and-so shouldn’t say such-and-such.
      I’ve learned this lesson (finally), and it has enhanced my career. Sad, but true.
      So, OP#1, please draw the intern aside and let him know the sad fact that human beings are silly, irrational creatures who place more value on social appearances than actual efficiencies. Because that’s true, and intern needs to learn it.

      1. Ops Analyst*

        This is not a corporate America thing. I have worked in non-profits, educational institutions, and corporate America. I’ve had to be a polite, professional employee in every one of those environments. This is just being a polite human being. No one is saying the intern should lie. Just that the intern should learn how to communicate with people in a less abrasive way. I think that’s fairly universally considered to be a desirable personality trait.

        As to #2, see my comment below. But I don’t think the issue here is that the intern should have been less honest, but that he didn’t say anything thoughtful or of any value. And it is generally rude to phrase things like that. If you’re going to criticize something you do it thoughtfully and constructively. Not in a trite, joking manner.

        1. TeapotCounsel*

          I don’t disagree with you.
          I suspect that intern is Asperger-y. And if that’s the case, the best way to explain the situation to the intern is how I explained it above. Because Asperger-y people just don’t “get it” when it comes to linking social inefficiencies with “desirable personality trait[s].”

            1. Technical Editor*

              You can tell he might have Asperger’s from a few paragraphs? Some people are just socially inept.

            2. Ops Analyst*

              Using the term “asperger-y” to describe general social ineptitude is akin to using the word “retard” to describe people or things that you think are stupid. It’s offensive and these kinds of comments can really hurt people. Please don’t do that.

              1. Mints*

                Yeah, I have Aspergers, and I’m not hurt by this comment, I’m just like ????

                Aspergers kids probably recognize more than anyone how useful it is to be nice, it’s just harder to learn. (Me, not that long ago: “Wow focusing on eye contact makes everyone like me better even though I’m acting the same. I should focus on eye contact all the time”)

                I was just talking about this on another thread (IT guy needs email coaching). And being concise really isn’t in opposition with being nice. In the letter, “Print please? Thanks!” reads 1000% nicer, and is probably what I would say (three words!)

                And I’m just going to ignore the whole corporate America bit. (Blue collar people are overwhelming nicer in the aggregate)

              2. Tau (UK)*

                Yep, another person with AS who was pretty confused at the “social inept = asperger-y”.

                There seems to this idea of AS people as hyper-efficient robots with no patience for human foolishness floating out there and that… may match up to some people’s experience but definitely not mine. I like people and want them to like me, I don’t want them to come away from interactions with me feeling confused, angry or insulted because of something I said or did… it’s just that figuring out how to get there and what things might make people feel confused, angry or insulted is trickier for me than it is for many neurotypical people.

                Also, on a completely different note – I find equating social ineptitude with AS frustrating on another level, namely that autistic spectrum disorders have components other than the social stuff that can have an even bigger impact on autistic people’s lives but that hardly ever get talked about. Personally, I find sensory hypersensitivities and processing issues harder to cope with than the social difficulties, and executive dysfunction is the bane of my life, but whenever I see people not on the spectrum talking about AS it seems like it’s social skills issues all the time.

                1. Ops Analyst*

                  That is an interesting perspective. I honestly have not thought of that, but then I don’t actually know that much about Aspergers and Autism. Just what I have heard through conversation, news, and general reading. I have never done extensive research as I think is probably the case for most people. Generally you don’t start learning finer details of disabilities or diseases until someone you know is affected by them (or you study them for career purposes or something). Case in point, my husband is a cancer survivor. I thought I knew a lot about cancer treatment before he was diagnosed. But there is so much you just don’t know unless it touches you in some way directly.

                  People make a lot of assumptions (more so with developmental or behavioral disorders) based entirely on limited knowledge of the one, most widely discussed attribute. Like with the cancer example, people always associate hair loss with cancer treatment (as did I). But apparently that is a side effect of only certain chemotherapies. My husband did not lose any hair. His major side effect was peripheral neuropathy and an inability to handle cold temperatures. After 6 months of chemo his hands were going numb and cold temperatures caused extreme pain. People were constantly asking me about his hair and assuming he was going to go bald. People even asked me how I would feel about him going bald?!?! As if that would change my love for him. Meanwhile, coworkers would thoughtlessly hand him a cold bottle of water even after explaining the side effect. Just really focused on hair loss.

                  I imagine that might be similar to how people get really focused on “social ineptitude” when it comes to autism. It really sucks when you’re dealing with someone and people just apply generalities to the situation without taking the time to ask about the individual. Not trying to compare cancer and autism or anything, just the way people learn about disabilities and diseases and make assumptions. Which is why it’s important not to characterize people generally or apply labels to people.

                  Anyway, I think as a general rule of thumb it’s inappropriate to turn the names of disabilities, diseases, illnesses, etc. into a pejoratives.

          1. Observer*

            Except that being polite is not a “social inefficiency” and it’s worth while helping someone see this.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        “it is more important to seem nice than it is to actually be nice.”

        “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

        Sad but true.

      3. Koko*

        I have to take issue with this description: “supply additional words that serve no other purpose than to make the recipient feel better.”

        This is like saying “supple additional words that serve no other purpose than to explain the task.” Your coworkers aren’t DOS terminals. It’s not about making them “feel better.” It’s about treating them with respect and dignity as humans, and treating others with respect is *just as important* as getting work done. It’s not an optional, fluffy, nice-t0-have extra thing, and using the phrase “serves no purpose other than” implies that the purpose is an unworthy one, which is not the right message to be sending to someone who is already rude.

        Treating others with consideration is also not about “seeming nice” or “social appearances.” You should actually, inside yourself, value people enough to think they deserve 2-3 words that acknowledge they are an autonomous person with their own priorities who you’re asking a favor of, not a servant or robot taking commands.

      4. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        it is more important to seem nice than it is to actually be nice.

        Telling someone to do a task for you without saying please or thank you is not nice. Niceness is caring about the feelings of others and acting accordingly. Niceness is not the absence of vitriol.

      5. Serin*

        I’m not particularly Asberger-y, but I was well into high school before someone explained phatic communication to me in a way that made sense. (My younger brother: “It’s like cats purring at each other.” Me, awestruck: “Oh!”)

        People really should be taught when they enter the workplace, “How can I make sure the subtext of what I say is, ‘I value you as a professional colleague’?”

        Not only would it help with the brusque types who don’t care to use more words than they need to communicate the message — it would also help with the letter writer who couldn’t figure out why it was a bad thing to tell a female colleague who’d made a mistake that it was a good thing she was pretty.

    5. Ops Analyst*

      I doubt the manager was asking the question in order to gain feedback that would help the presenter develop his/her skills. It was more likely intended to see what the intern got out of it. Which is why the question was poorly phrased. Therefore the intern saying “I thought it could have been shorter” is not a helpful response. Someone just our of college should be capable of critically thinking about and discussing their learning process. That’s what college is all about and it should be second nature after 4 years of that.

    6. Onymouse*

      I’m surprised that many of the commenters are pointing to the question as a “test” of sorts.If you were assessing their knowledge, say so. If you’re walking to the water cooler and casually pop a question like “What did you think?”, well, why have a – for lack of better word – hidden agenda like that?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not a test. It’s opening up a conversation with someone who is there to learn. “It could have been shorter” says “I was bored and uninterested in what he was saying.”

        1. TeapotCounsel*

          Which I think could be a valid observation by the intern. Perhaps the presenter is a poor presenter and uses ten words when one would do.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Which is probably true. But unless you’re clueless or an idiot, you don’t say to a colleague or manager/boss something like that. It may be true, but it’s also not wise as you don’t know if that feedback will be passed along to others, especially the one who gave the speech. You say something like “overall, I think he had some good points but I do wish that he had structured his presentation better. There was a lot of repetition that really made it longer than it needed to be.”

          2. Observer*

            Maybe. But (even absent the OP’s further explanation) it’s hard to believe that this would be the ONLY valid observation. And, even assuming that the presentation was longer than it needed to have been, it’s also hard to believe that there really was nothing there that the intern could have been expected to learn. Thus focusing only on the fact that you he was too uninterested to bother to hear what was being said does not speak well of him.

        2. Beezus*

          He gave the impression that he wasn’t engaged, though, which is not ideal for him. If you asked me to critique the last talk our CEO gave to my group, I might say that it was frustrating to have my project’s goals revamped for a fourth (!) time. Or that he didn’t seem to understand why we’d linked in the finance team, but it was possible that he wasn’t completely up to speed on some recent initiatives they’ve undertaken that are parallel. I would not say that he sure yelled a lot – that would be true, and a valid observation, but I found a way to get past that and get something more out of the talk, and that’s important.

  14. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    My personal record for job postings was the one that described it as an entry level position but wanted 3-5 years of experience. I would hope that after five years in the workforce you would no longer be a good fit for entry level, but that is me.

    1. Dan*

      I applied for a job where they asked me what I expected to be doing in five years. I said, “uh, be a senior analyst here?” Their response was, “it takes ten years to be a senior analyst here.” I held my tongue, but certainly wondered what kind of response that wanted to that question.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I guess you were supposed to say, “I want to be half way to being senior analyst here.”

        wth. I think you ask a stupid question, you can’t be surprised when people struggle/flounder to find an answer.

    2. BRR*

      My first job had that list (I had 6 months of internship experience but it was at that organization). They really just wanted some experience. A lot of people who were hired had one or two internships. But it’s so misleading because the salary and duties were definitely entry-level.

    3. Chloe Silverado*

      I once applied to a job that wanted 3-5 years of experience. I had 4, and while the job description made the role look like a lateral move for me, I was very interested in getting into that industry so I applied. During the phone interview, the interviewer told me that the role was entry level and the salary and duties would reflect that. She asked if I was still interested. I was unprepared for that revelation, and didn’t actually NEED the job, so what came out of my mouth was “Actually, no.” The interview came to an awkward end, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be working for that company ever.

    4. Mike C.*

      I saw this ALL THE TIME! Holy crap, and folks wonder why I tend to give most unpaid internships the side eye.

    5. LittleT*

      About 2 years ago, I saw a job posting that said it was entry level and they wanted “8 to 10 years of experience”.
      No joke. How the hell is that entry level???

      This was an admin-type role that actually sounded complex and far more experienced than entry level.

      1. AW*

        You know, I’d assumed this sort of thing was an IT thing. I don’t know whether to be relieved or horrified that it happens for other job types as well.

      2. Mike C.*

        I have a darker suspicion in mind – they list a million different requirements so that when they offer someone the job they can say, “well you don’t have experience in flying twin-isle jets, you haven’t passed your Series 7 and we’re still waiting on a food handler’s card – we can still offer you the job but at a reduced rate”.

        1. Stephanie*

          Hahaha, I’m trying to imagine what company would need a pilot cum broker cum caterer. Some super niche area of a private jet company? “Our pilots can oversee your trades AND serve a lamb chop with a demiglace.”

          The job hunt cynic in me also wonders if these crazy postings allow them to justify offshoring (or bringing in cheaper foreign workers on visas). “We couldn’t find anyone domestic with 8-10 years experience who wanted to work for $32,000 a year, so we just have to go get an H1-B worker.”

          1. BananaPants*

            “The job hunt cynic in me also wonders if these crazy postings allow them to justify offshoring (or bringing in cheaper foreign workers on visas).”

            Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!

            1. LittleT*

              I found out about the role through someone who had recommended me, saying that I had far more than the “8 to 10 years” they were looking for. I had an initial pre-screen phone meeting with a recruiter and said I wanted to clarify that it was really entry level, because my understanding of the term was very different.

              She told me that any of their jobs that were not “professional level” (i.e., requiring multiple degrees and industry designations) were all considered “entry level”. I said that made no sense, because someone with 8++ years of experience was, in my mind, reasonably experienced at that point. The industry was investment and actuarial related, if that matters.

              Our conversation was pretty short, because once she mentioned the salary, well it became clear that the salary was certainly “entry level” and an insult for anyone who actually had the years of experience they wanted.

              I later found out that they hired a TFW (Temporary Foreign Worker) to take the role and they turned it into a temp job that just kept renewing. Bullet dodged, I guess!

          2. Mike C.*

            Oh yeah, I totally forgot about this. My OldCrazyBoss would also only take out certain job ads in very, very tiny local newspapers asking for jobs like, “Head of Petrochemical Development”. He was running a food safety testing lab in the greater Seattle area…

    6. Joey*

      That sometimes means they have no true entry level and this is their entriest level so that’s what they call it.

      For example, I’ve worked at places where the entry level duties were done by someone who also had higher level duties so that was their entry level job even though it really wasn’t entry. Make sense?

      1. Adam*

        I’m starting to think that “entry-level” has universally changed to mean “entry into the company” as opposed to the work force. I think the only holdover at this point is entry level still means crappy pay.

        1. Joey*

          That’s absolutely true. Chalk it up to companies cutting jobs in response to the economy. Most businesses I’ve seen cut the lower level positions first assuming that the skills required make the job easier to distribute to others. And to boot there’s usually more lower level positions in a company which makes it easier to justify.

    7. Kat M*

      After my post college AmeriCorps year, I remember being curious about the 2-5 years I was seeing on entry level positions. I asked a recruiter and she told me, “Essentially, we just want you to have done SOMETHING,” and that my past experience as a waitress, campus leadership experience, two internships and my AmeriCorps year were more than sufficient to qualify for most entry level positions. She, and others I have spoken to, just didn’t want to have to start from complete scratch with someone who has never held down a job, internship, or even volunteer work of any kind. From my understanding, “entry level” seemed to be “entry into the field” rather than “entry into work” and, since then, I haven’t had any issues.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I used to be in customer service and that was fairly common…its still an entry level position for the company usually and often the next step up is manager, so in my case I was sometimes applying to “entry level” positions after 10 years experience because I’ve yet to be lucky enough to get to that next step (due to companies being small and only having one manager for the dept therefore making it unlikely anyone move up unless they’re hit by a bus or due to getting laid off or things like that)

  15. OP #3*

    First, thank you to everyone who replied, so far; that’s great to hear affirmation all around.

    Second, on #4 — when I had just graduated from college, a job came up with the “entry-level” tag but required a PhD. So as Allison said, it definitely gets misused.

    1. LBK*

      That could actually be “entry level” if the field or role is one that requires a PhD to enter – minimum education requirements aren’t typically factored in when something is “entry level,” it’s just about years of work experience.

      1. Mike C.*

        Wouldn’t a postdoc position fit the description of being entry level but needing a PhD?

    2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of stuff billed as “entry level” and the job description is basically “be a secretary” but they’ve asked for Master’s. When I was trying to work in the Folklore field I saw a job for “recording interviews” that asked you to have a PhD. It’s a frustrating world out there.

      1. LBK*

        Oh yeah, as a corollary to my comment above there are definitely positions where the education requirement is mismatched for the role (just as an experience requirement can be mismatched). But that still doesn’t inherently contradict the “entry level” descriptor, since that’s a measure of experience, not education.

    3. Michele*

      We have entry level Ph.D. positions. The requirements are a Ph.D., but no experience required. Some jobs just require a Ph.D. to get your foot in the door.

  16. Felicia*

    The majority of entry level jobs I see in my field in my geographic area say 2-5 years experience required and usually go to people with 5 years experience, sometimes 6-7. Apparently this didn’t used to be the case and started happening in 2010 which left about 5 years of people not able to enter the field and who now do various other things. I was lucky enough to get a permanent full time fairly good job in the field 8 months ago, but this is no longer the norm, and happened due to multiple unpaid /barely paid (and totally illegal) internships and some volunteer work for 2 years while i also worked at something unrelated for money. Other people get that elusive entry level job by doing short temporary contract after other short contract, finally getting one in the right place at the right time. I’ve seen entry level mean 2-5 years experience in admin jobs around here too. Probably because they get like 500 candidates for every position like that. I’ve actually never seen an entry level job that meant no directly related experience, but that might be because I graduated university in 2012 in a very big, competitive city, in a competitive field. I feel like paying office jobs that require no office experience are a dying concept.

    1. einahpets*

      It is the same in my field (clinical trials) – entry level jobs all seem to be 2+ years experience within the field. I got lucky to get an ‘entry level’ position 3 years ago (with a Masters of Science and 5 years academic research bench lab experience).

      My company is in deep need of ‘experienced’ workers now (positions with 3-5+ years experience), but I honestly wonder where they expect to get these workers if they don’t take the time to hire and train new grads or have true entry level positions. It is good for my job security, I guess.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes and I think also things like restaurant or retail work can count towards experience for jobs like receptionist or customer service or heck even sales

  17. Lia*

    Around here, I see “entry level” used to mean “lowest ranking position in the organization, with no/little chance of advancement in that line” – and often, 2-5 years of experience are required in the tasks or responsibilities. It basically seems to mean a foot in the door at a particular organization.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yeah that’s kind of how I see of it. Some places won’t or don’t want to hire people straight out of college- maybe it goes along with companies just not wanting to train people anymore. I wouldn’t call it a red flag or anything but just realize that you’re probably at the bottom rung of org but they want you to be able to work and operate on your own with limited training

  18. "I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea."*

    On #4, I see a lot of advertisements in the UK advertising entry level positions but requiring X years of experience and/or Y degrees. I’ve come to realise that they really mean they want an awesome candidate but want to pay entry level money to someone who will come ready trained. If the position were reversed, of course, and the same candidates were to apply for the same job without it being described as entry level, they would likely be dismissed as being over-qualified. So when a non-entry level job is being wrongly described like this, it is the employer trying to hire staff on the cheap.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      In this situation the decision about whether the candidate is over qualified is more down to how much the organisation is willing to pay instead of how well they can do the job or how long they will stay.

  19. VictoriaHR*

    It’s possible that #1’s intern has a disorder that impacts his social skills. I’m autistic (Asperger’s) and I see some red flags, such as answering 100% honestly to the question about the presentation and not reading between the lines to know that the asker was asking about content, not the presentation overall. That’s definitely something that an Aspie would do. Also being very abrupt and blunt is a hallmark of Asperger’s, as well as not using “please” and “thank you” if he hasn’t been taught to use those in a professional setting.

    Not saying that he is autistic, of course, just offering an example of something that could be causing the behavior without him just being a jerk (as others have said). I think that often, people just assume that others are jerks without trying to understand why.

    That said, Alison’s answer is still spot on. Just sit the boy down and explain to him where he’s been going wrong, in a constructive criticism way and not an offensive “you are terrible” way, and give him blunt instructions on how he needs to correct the behavior.

    1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

      I’m also curious about one thing and there’s really no delicate way to ask this…but is there potentially a cultural component to #1’s intern’s social behavior? In my experience, I’ve discovered repeatedly that those from certain cultural backgrounds (outside the US) lack the social niceties that those of us (in the US) tend to take for granted and consider basic common courtesy in our day to day lives.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        I wondered about this too. Since he’s the relative of an important professional contact of the OP’s organization, there’s a good chance that his behavior is evidence entitlement and not a cultural difference or misunderstanding. That said, if it is based on a cultural difference, the OP would still be doing the intern a favor by telling the intern how his behavior is being interpreted by his co-workers and explaining some professional norms. I know if I was working internationally and was regularly behaving in a way that caused my co-workers to take offense, I’d want to know.

        1. VictoriaHR*

          Yes. There’s really no viable scenario that I can think of where the OP should NOT be sitting down with the intern, spelling out where he’s going wrong, and giving him constructive criticism on how to fix the behaviors.

        2. BananaPants*

          Frankly, if the intern has a sense of entitlement because of having a very senior parent (who got him the internship to start with), I wouldn’t risk my own hide to try to school him in proper workplace courtesies. There would be little potential upside for me, and potentially a lot of risk if he decided to complain to Daddy.

      2. wanderlust*

        This was my first thought too. We had an Eastern European intern a couple semesters back who was genuinely a really nice, smart individual. His English was excellent; however, there are nuances to professional speech across cultures that they don’t teach you in your language classes. He was blunt to the point of rudeness at times (especially in e-mails). Working in a customer-facing field, it was difficult to find work for him to do because I just couldn’t use him to answer phones or write e-mails for our organization (he was being coached on proper decorum, but it wasn’t really taking).

    2. GOG11*

      I would have struggled a bit with answering that question, as well. If someone asked me that, I’d assume they wanted to know what I thought. If you don’t want to know, or if you think I’m not qualified to comment on the work of someone more senior, why ask in the first place?

      1. VictoriaHR*

        Right? I would have answered “well it was longer than it needed to be, he could have condensed slides 4 and 7 into one, blah blah blah.” I might have thrown in something there about the content if I’d learned something new or something.

        1. Artemesia*

          It seems presumptuous to me for an intern to be critiquing style and not substance of a talk by a senior in the company. And it seems to suggest an intern who is not very with it substantively. I would think that this question would elicit something about the substance of the talk even something as bland as how interesting a certain topic within it was. A supervisor who asks this is interested in the interns learning rather than his opinion of the senior’s style of presentation.

          1. VictoriaHR*

            My point is that if the intern has a disorder which impacts his social skills, he answered a question honestly, as would I. That includes his/my impression of the style of the presentation. He might not have realized that the person asking was wanting to know what he thought about the content.

          2. RG*

            Except that they’re talking about a situation in which the intern has Asperger’s. VictoriaHR explains above that in that scenario, the intern most likely wouldn’t read between the lines for the presentation question. It’s not being obtuse, it’s literally a difference in how your brain functions.

            1. HR Generalist*

              I’m 23 and just realised in the last year that I exhibit a lot of the sign/symptoms of Asperger’s. I haven’t been formally tested but I suspect a lot of my “quirks” over the years can be attributed to the autism spectrum. I’d rather give the employee the benefit of the doubt and try to walk him through changing his behaviour than assume he is an entitled brat and treat him like a child.

              1. HR Generalist*

                I should note that issues with email etiquette/manners have not been an issue for me, but being “too direct” or “too honest” is something that has tainted my personal life on more occasions than I could count. This could be a situation where the intern is on the autism spectrum and might not understand exactly how the office works/proper etiquette and manners in the department. Some companies would stand for behaviours like this, others won’t.

              2. nona*

                I’d rather try to teach the intern, whether he has Asperger’s or another explanation for his behavior or entitled brat-ness. It could be incredibly helpful to him, and just seeing somebody try it might make coworkers feel better about working with him.

              3. Cheddar2.0*

                I highly recommend getting tested! Mr. Cheddar did and it has been very helpful, both for his own personal understanding of his own brain, as well as being able to find and utilize resources to help him (such as coaching, therapy, etc).

                1. HR Generalist*

                  I’ve gone back and forth about actually getting tested. I took some online assessments and scored really high on all of them (I think I did 7 or 8 from different sources) – I’ve basically confirmed in my mind that I’m on the spectrum because my experiences so closely line up with a lot of the literature on Asperger’s. I’m very high functioning and really only experience minimal difficulties in my close familial relationships and with friends, as far as I can tell, so I haven’t sought out any treatment or coaching.

                  When I spot myself doing something that I can now recognize as an obvious symptom I will sometimes explain it and say something like “I’m sorry if I offended you (or weirded you out, or something) – I think I have Asperger’s and one of the symptoms is [being too blunt] [not recognizing social cues] [seeing things as black/white] [being terrible at small talk] [specialised interests].” In general it’s taken positively, I’ll often hear “Oh! My [friend, brother, daughter] has Asperger’s and they do that too!” in response.

                2. VictoriaHR*

                  If you have any questions about the testing procedure, feel free to reach out to me :) I was diagnosed last year at the age of 39. The Asperger’s forum on Reddit is also a helpful, nonjudgmental place.

          3. GOG11*

            Perhaps it is presumptuous – but if this is someone’s first job and they take what’s being asked at face value, I could see how this answer would be offered up. Luckily for this individual, their manager wants to help them and has come here for advice on how to approach coaching the intern on behaviors that are coming across as abrasive and are off-putting for Intern’s colleagues.

      2. Tara*

        I dunno, as an intern, if my manager asked me what I thought of a presentation by someone senior, I would assume she was looking for me to give my thoughts about the content and how it linked to my work or to ask clarifying questions. I wouldn’t think she was looking for a critique.

    3. Ella*

      I think this only works if he’s managed to get this far in life without being diagnosed (which isn’t out of the question). Every autistic person I’ve met has been the opposite of a jerk, and some painfully polite, because they are so diligent about keeping to what they’ve been taught is good manners. For example, I work in a public library and one of our regular customers is autistic, and he’s been taught that greeting people is polite, so he goes up to every employee, every time, and says, “Hello how are you today.”

      Also, if he was diagnosed when he was young and had an IEP and went to public school, probably part of his IEP in the last couple years of high school would have been “life skills,” including professional expectations. My sister had an IEP all through her schooling, and her senior year of high school was almost all professional training, for her and her entire class.

      Maybe I’m just reacting to (neurotypical) people saying, “(popular television character) sure is obnoxious. He must have aspergers.” No, popular television character is a jerk, that is different. You say you have autism so I’m definitely not trying to second guess you or say that I know more about your life than you do, just throwing another perspective out there.

      1. allisonallisonallisonetc*

        +1 to your last paragraph. It’s certainly a possibility that this dude has aspergers, but far more often I’ve seen people give men (specifically white ones) the benefit of a doubt when they are really just being entitled jerks. And hey, maybe this intern is both a jerk and has aspergers. Regardless, the advice is the same: explain things to him and see where it goes from there.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          It could also be that White boys are more likely to be diagnosed on the spectrum and thus given that pass, whereas girls, women and people of color either do not have access to diagnosis and treatment for ASDs or are not being considered for ASDs because they don’t “fit the type.”

          Women and girls are only relatively recently even being considered for having ASDs – because female presentation might be different, female socialization may cover for certain symptoms, because doctors and the public thought it was a boy’s disease.

        2. VictoriaHR*

          Yes, definitely. The difference with this kid will be if the OP#1 sits him down and explains the inappropriate behavior, tells him what he needs to do to resolve it, and he either blows it off or doesn’t do as he’s told. THAT means he’s a jerk, entitled brat, etc.

          I was diagnosed last year at age 39, but I’m female, so it’s easier for females to go undiagnosed. I learned in 20 years of working without knowing that I was autistic, that I needed to be extremely open to feedback and constructive criticism. When I was in my early 20’s, I would do a lot of things “wrong” by social norms, but I never knew until someone told me. I guess that’s why I relate so much to this kid. Again, he could just be a jerk. We won’t know until/unless the OP comes back and tells us what happens :)

          1. Ella*

            I know a woman who self-diagnosed as an adult in 2004, and then had to go round and round with doctors for a few more years convincing them that autism fit her symptoms way better than OCD and bipolar disorder, which is what they’d been telling her she had. One doctor told her he’d never met a woman with autism. So yeah. It’s a problem. Mostly white males get diagnosed, so docs subconsciously fail to look for it in non-white non-males, and the cycle continues.

            1. LDanoa*

              Oh yikes!

              I think next-time I go to the doctor I’m going to reassert my concerns about possible ADHD/DSPD as an explanation for my anxiety and inability to concentrate. I haven’t filled any medication scripts because deep down I think there’s a neurological component that I only discuss with non-medical (non prescribing) people.

              I’m a white female who spends 85-95% of my effort on management (getting places on time, losing items, staying organized, getting ‘in the zone)

      2. Anony-moose*

        A good family friend has Aspbergers. His mom owns a popular brunch restaurant and bar and he’s worked as a host and floor manager since he was a teen. It’s amazing how good he as it. He’s worked with his mom on what it takes to offer KICK-ASS customer service and lives and breathes it. He also never gets flustered because it’s like he knows what he has to do to make a customer happy, and then does it. No amount of tantrum throwing on the part of an ill-behaved customer has ever ruffled his feathers. The soft-skills training he worked on was really remarkable.

      3. Adam*

        I volunteer with a young man who has said to me straight at least twice that he has a mild form of autism with a dash of Asperger’s. I didn’t know this for the first few months I was around him and I have limited experience in this area so for I while I just thought he was really socially awkward. He fixates on specifics subjects and tells the same stories over and over again and has a tendency to interrupt people (loudly) when they’re in the middle of talking. While this can be frustrating it was apparent to me there was no malicious or entitled intent behind his behavior, even before I knew he was in the spectrum somewhere. So when I learned that he was it made interacting with him much easier.

        Once again even though talking with him can be kind of tiresome for me after a while, I have never thought he was intentionally being rude. For me rude feels much easier to pick out because the tone involved is harsher, more self-centered, and lacks the innocence the guy with autism exhibits.

      4. Tau (UK)*

        yeah, I’m another autistic person and although like VictoriaHR I *can* see autism as a potential explanation, especially with the answering questions honestly and not considering context (I could have totally done the “it could have been shorter” thing as a teenager), I also want to +1000 your last paragraph. I’ve seen the “but what if he’s behaving like a jerk because he’s autistic?” tossed out so so many times and it seems like it generally just ends up excusing bad behaviour (in white guys, as allisonallisonallisonetc. pointed out) and further stigmatising autism. Like you said, most of us do have some handle on basic manners – seriously, the idea of sending anyone an e-mail just going “print this” is making me want to shrivel up in shame – but you end up with this stereotype of what autistic people behave like out there that’s really gross and makes me at least hardly want to disclose to anyone anymore.

        I will however say that it can be pretty easy to end up undiagnosed, especially if you’re a little older. Asperger’s hasn’t been around as a common or commonly known diagnosis all that long. I’m in my late twenties, never even heard of Asperger’s until I was sixteen and only got diagnosed a few years ago.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          My train of thought: “I wonder if this behavior is consistent with an autism spectrum disorder.” And then: “I hope the comments don’t armchair diagnose that and give him a free pass for it.”

          But this is AAM so of course there’s a thoughtful, nuanced discussion of the possibility and its implications. Love.

    4. SallyForth*

      Sorry I didn’t read your response first, VictoriaHR. That was my first thought as well.

  20. Not Today Satan*

    #2–I wonder if maybe your email should be a little softer in tone. Maybe even, “I’m sure you’re not saying this, but I wanted to confirm this because if you were, it could greatly harm my future prospects.” (And if you wanted to be harder, “My attorney wanted to send you a cease and desist due to this defamation, but I wanted to reach out to you first, because I’m sure it’s not true that you’re saying this.”)

    Only because if this CEO is like other horrible employers I’ve had, I can see him saying, “I never said such a thing. How dare you! There goes any reference I was going to give you,” etc. Sometimes I think giving someone an “out” works out better.

    1. Mike C.*

      If that’s the case, there was never a reference to begin with. By using the lawyer, you inform him that he cannot get away with petty power plays.

      1. fposte*

        If you actually use a lawyer, yes. Referring to a lawyer without having one actually send a cease and desist is like saying that your girlfriend in Canada supports you with the additional fact that you’re making the conversation adversarial without having a defense.

        In other words, don’t threaten lawyer unless you’ve got one locked and loaded.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I was thinking something similar it might not be a good idea to be so hard-lined straight away, asking for clarification first might be enough to stop the out right lie, people don’t normally carry on with bullshit when they know they have been caught out.

      If I were the OP I’d contact HR to make sure that the reason for leaving was correctly reported to them and recorded in the HR system as well as getting a friend to call and ask for a reference, to see what was said about my leaving.

    3. Graciosa*

      If the OP were “sure it’s not true” that the CEO is saying this, there would be no reason to send this letter (let alone get an attorney involved). In a defamation case, the OP is going to have to prove that the CEO did in fact say this.

    4. OriginalEmma*

      Eh, I’m not OK with women pre-emptively using disempowering language to achieve an end. Things like prefacing statements with “Just,” “I’m sorry but…” and “I’m sure you didn’t mean this, but…” We are entitled to our perspectives and subjective reality and shouldn’t be softening or apologizing for it with these meek words.

      “It’s come to my attention that you are telling people I was fired when I quit. Please stop spreading this misinformation, or I will be forced to engage my lawyer to send you a cease-and-desist letter. Thank you for your cooperatio.”

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I think the point Not Today Satan was making is that unless they are 100% certain the CEO has been spreading misinformation a softer approach might work better.

        Such as asking a question like “have you being telling people I quit?” rather than “You’ve been telling people I quite, you must stop doing that” if you ask the question and the CEO gives a credible explanation as to why that is incorrect you haven’t made an accusation where as your advise would be a direct accusation.

        I don’t disagree with your phrasing, just personally I would want to try a slight less confrontational approach first.

        And also what makes you think the OP is female and what difference does gender make to the advise anyway?

    5. OP #2*

      Hi everyone, and thank you for the advice. Thank you, of course, to Alison Green for responding to and posting my question. I am the OP from #2. I’m still not sure what the best way to go about this is, but I’ll be reflecting upon all of your comments.

      If it helps to give a little more information about my situation: Unfortunately, the agency is so small it doesn’t have an HR. I’m not planning on asking for any references from this CEO; I am though concerned about a basic employment check from a potential employer. I am indeed female. I am 100% sure that she told some people she fired me, but I also don’t have (paper) evidence as it was all verbal, so it all ends up she-said, she-said.

      1. Apollo Warbuks*

        Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Even if you’re not going to ask for a reference you don’t know when someone might ask, and getting a friend to call will give you a useful insight to what she is saying about you.

        As you’re 100% sure she has been telling people you were fired I’d skip the questioning part of my advise and move on to directly telling her to cut it out.

    6. Golden Yeti*

      I’ve actually seen more the opposite happening lately: someone quits with notice, they agree with the boss on an end date (either verbally or in the notice letter), and then the boss comes back the next day and tells them to go ahead and leave. Except lately, people have been filing for unemployment because I guess that switches the situation from a quitting to a firing?

  21. AnotherAlison*

    I took a peak at our job postings to see what we were making “entry level” candidates do now. It is funny that we have postings that say “entry level accountant” that require 3-5 years experience, while we have department manager positions that require 7-10 years experience.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      dammit, peek not peak.

      One other point I noticed is that all departments do their own job listings. One group’s mid-level is another group’s entry level, and some seem to jump from entry to senior.

      Also had to laugh that the entry level accountant needed to have SAP experience, but mostly because our SAP billing system is horrible, and if someone had that experience they would probably run screaming in the other direction.

  22. Lanya*

    OP #5, I was in your boat once. My company asked for four weeks’ notice, but I only gave two. It has never come back to bite me. I’ve never since been asked in interviews about how much notice I gave when I left that job.

    Of course, my supervisor was ticked off that I would not stay on for a full month, but I wasn’t concerned because I felt that 4 weeks was excessive and unnecessary for someone in my position, and the company hadn’t treated me well enough to want to help them any longer than the industry standard of 2 weeks.

    The only penalty I encountered was that I didn’t get a cash payout for my accrued vacation time. But that was fine with me, because I had planned ahead and carefully pre-used most of my accrued vacation time before I gave notice.

    1. Colette*

      No one is likely to ask about it in an interview. The issue is what your supervisor would say when she is asked for a reference.

      1. Lanya*

        That’s just it. My company had a policy that no information would be shared with outside requests for references except for salary history and dates of employment. And I never used that supervisor as a personal reference, either. So it worked out well in my case.

        1. Colette*

          You can control who you use as references. You can’t control who the hiring manager know, though, so it could still cause problems. It worked out for you, but it may not work out in every situation.

    2. Former Usher*

      This happened to me, too. It turns out my former employer expected 4 weeks notice for all non-exempt employees. My supervisor at the time speculated that it might even be illegal to give less than 4 weeks notice.

      What’s particularly annoying is that they eliminated my position with 2 weeks notice, and I was given 6 days to choose between severance pay or staying with a demotion and pay cut. I chose to stay (while looking for another job, of course), but I’m not sure why they’d expect 4 weeks notice, especially given my circumstances.

  23. the gold digger*

    OT, but Miss Manners is trying to play in Alison’s sandbox and she gets it completely wrong:

    DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper method of finding out more about your job application when the employer states that you can only check the status online? It has been over a month with no news, and I feel like I am left hanging. What time limit would be appropriate before I could contact them to find out more, even though they stated not to?

    GENTLE READER: It may be that you already have an answer, and not the one you hoped for. Miss Manners disapproves of employers leaving applicants hanging, and forbidding them from following up themselves exacerbates the rudeness.

    Since you have been waiting for such a long time, she suggests you call the employer and politely inquire if it is the company’s policy to notify all applicants — even if the answer is negative. You may learn in passing if the position has been filled. Such a call does not technically violate the employer’s ban, since you are not inquiring about the status of your own application.

    If the employer does not recognize this distinction — and treat you politely — you will at least have learned something about how your prospective employer treats the help.

      1. VictoriaHR*

        Ugh, the Reddit jobs subreddit has been awash lately with this question – when should I follow up on my online application, etc. They don’t like my Alison-approved answer.

    1. Mike C.*

      I do find the response interesting. From a business perspective, she’s absolutely wrong. From a manners/culture perspective, I think she’s absolutely right.

      1. some1*

        I think you may have missed the part of the letter that allows a candidate to view the status of their application online — the LW wants to go around that because it’s been a month with no update, which isn’t uncommonly long in job searching. I don’t necessarily think it’s rude for a business to ask people not to call in this case.

        1. Mike C.*

          No, I saw that and it’s useless at this point because there’s been no update in a month.

    2. Fabulously Anonymous*

      Not trying to be argumentative, but for some reason, I thought that Alison did allow for one contact if a significant amount of time had passed?

        1. some1*

          She also has written over and over again about how you should try to put a job out of your mind and continue your search while you wait for an update so you don’t feel as much like you’re “left hanging”

      1. hayling*

        If you’ve just submitted an application (and don’t have any other connection/introduction to the org) then you shouldn’t contact them.

        But if you have already had at least a phone screen and it’s been a while, totally okay to drop an email to follow up.

        But really, don’t call recruiters or hiring managers, it’s just going to annoy them and push your resume even further down the pile.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’m sure I read something in the ask me anything about running the blog thread a few weeks ago. Where she said originally that was her advise, but now she thinks differently.

    3. Steve G*

      The question is kind of funny too….if the employer is saying “check the status online,” that means that they gave you a login to do so on their website or jobvite…so just look there…………..yeah, they usually only have a few generic statuses, but what else do you really need?

      1. some1*

        Right. It sounds like that LW checked online and a decision hasn’t been made yet so he wants to go around their protocol.

  24. lrs5066*

    When I was first looking for jobs in Detroit, I would get all excited when GM would post a job for an ‘Entry Level Engineer’ only to click through and find out entry level means years of experience just at GM-they still want you to have 20 years in the auto industry.

  25. Xarcady*

    #3. In a similar situation, I approached my temporary manager to see if she’d be willing to be a reference. I treated the whole thing very matter-of-factly–you hired me for a given period of time, that time is coming to an end, of course I’m starting to look for other work. She seemed surprised, and it led to a conversation where I realized she simply had forgotten that I was a temp and was supposed to be leaving in a month.

    I’m guessing panic ensued behind the scenes, because I had a very nice job offer from that company a week later.

    #1. Talk to the intern. Basic manners are important. If you can’t get along with your co-workers, your work life will be much harder–no one will cooperate with you, no one will help out when you are in a pinch, they may even make things harder than they need to be.

    My story: I was interviewing for an open position. I happened to be in the office behind the receptionist’s desk when a candidate came in. He was incredibly rude to the receptionist–barking orders at her, “Take my coat!”, didn’t say please or thank you, complained when he was told he had to take a proofreading test first. I heard it all.

    That one first impression colored his entire interview with me. He was lovely with me, polite, helpful, smiling. But I couldn’t forget how demanding he was of the receptionist–who was also the office manager and the person who kept the office functioning smoothly on a day-to-day basis. He would not have fit in with our office or my team at all.

    After that, I always checked with the receptionist to get her take on all the candidates. It was an eye-opener.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Your experience proves that people can’t read our minds or can’t hold all the info so something slips the mind. That is why we need to stop assuming and say it matter-of-factly.

      1. A*

        This is a *great* idea. Treating support staff well or not is a great indicator of personality and demeanor.

    2. Artemesia*

      One of the best signs of a person’s character is how s/he treats people perceived to have no power. Of course in many offices they misjudge that when they come in and are rude to the staff.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        This is true when dating — someone who treats waitstaff poorly is not someone you want to be with, unless you are also someone who believes waitstaff are below contempt in which case you’re perfect for each other.

    3. Stephanie*

      Yeah, especially if you’re on a longer contract somewhere, I think people do forget you’re technically a Temp R Us employee and not an Acme Corporation Employee.

    4. Sunflower*

      I will never understand how people do not realize your interview starts the minute you walk in the door(technically 5-10 minutes before considering being on a time is also a factor). In college, when companies came to campus to interview, one of the recruiters was ALWAYS sitting in the interview waiting room. I knew they were watching people, seeing how they acted. I never understood how people did not notice that’s what they were doing in there. Of course, people should just be nice anyway and I really don’t understand the whole rude/power thing but that’s for another time another thread

      1. TeapotCounsel*

        When I interview, not only do I send my handwritten thank you notes to the interviewers, but I also send one to each admin I encountered.

    5. Revanche*

      In most places I’ve worked, the hiring manager always asked the receptionist how their interaction went with the applicant/candidate. At one place, back when paper applications were a thing, the receptionist pro actively attached notes about the applicant’s demeanor and personality/manners observed at the time the application was submitted. It made a big difference in who was hired.

      There are times when I’ve been the mid level mgmt hiring mgr and happened to meet candidates on arrival, I always note who assumed I was “just” the receptionist and treated me differently because of it. In those cases, it’s a stark contrast between when I walk them to the room and offer a refreshment before sending in the first interviewers and when I later come in as the last and final arbiter.

  26. Mandi*

    RE: #5

    So kind of a spin on this. In the last year, I switched jobs twice. My previous role (the one where I left last March), I completely took my manager by surprise and he led me to think that he wanted more than 2 weeks notice. I felt bad, but my new company had a start date in mind which was 2.5 weeks out (I had a few days in-between jobs, which I needed/wanted to decompose, ya know) I was in this position for 4 years.

    Fast forward to last week. I accepted a new job at another company and put my notice in at this “new” place of work where I’ve been for a year. (It’s not working out — I was bait/switched in the interview process). When I told my manager here about my resignation, he’s shocked and when I told him my last day of employment here would be X (a date exactly 2 weeks out), he seemed peeved. “That’s not much time…” Then he kept pressing me for my start date and I told him. This start date leaves me with a week between jobs. And then he goes, “oh….so you can’t stay for another week?” I said no, that I wanted a little time off between jobs.

    These are not director-level positions but not entry level either. It’s just that in both of these cases, both managers are completely shocked and seem to want more than 2 weeks notice (although they don’t come out and say it).

    Or….Am I reading too much into this? Am I doing something wrong? Both of these managers were completely blindsided when I told them I was leaving. But it’s not like I should’ve been telling them I was job searching….

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s not your fault they had a poor reaction. My guess would be that they had no contingency plans in place. When you resigned they suddenly realized, “whoops. Forgot to make a contingency plan.”

    2. VictoriaHR*

      “which I needed/wanted to decompose, ya know”

      Teehee, I think you mean decompress :)

      You’re not reading too much into it. He’s trying to put the blame for him having to replace you onto your shoulders. He should be realizing that people leaving is just business, and it’s part of his job to replace them when they go. Don’t worry about it.

    3. Sunflower*

      You’re not being ridiculous. Sounds like they are trying to guilt you into staying longer and just say NO.In most organizations, 2 weeks is not enough time to interview and hire your replacement much less train her. But everyday, many people give their 2 weeks, leave after 2 weeks and the company has no replacement and life goes on just fine.

      I think in the UK they give much longer notices- like 3 months which does make a lot of sense. But I also assume when companies hire someone there, they expect/plan for a 3 month start date. In the US, it just doesn’t work like that. When they hire your replacement, they’re going to want her now and I doubt they’d be willing to give her extra weeks because his employer wants her to- which is basically what they are asking you to do.

    4. Mike C.*

      They need to suck it up.

      They also need to learn concepts like “have enough employees” and “cross-training” and “proper documentation”.

  27. Allison*

    4) Typically when an entry-level role calls for some work experience, it’s because the employer wants internship experience rather than someone who’s never worked in the field before. And because so many recent grads have worked at least one internship in school (or in some cases after graduation), managers know they can get away with it.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think the earlier comment that ‘entry level’ means we want lots of experience but don’t want to pay for it, sums it up pretty well.

  28. sittingduck*

    A lot of people are jumping on the kid/intern and making a lot of assumptions about him, from very little information. Just because he was hired as a favor to someone does NOT mean he is entitled and stuck up. Yes I know this happens a lot with well off families/businesses, but we just don’t have enough information here to assume that.

    As for the question the OP asked, I think it really depends on a lot of things. The office I work in now actually operates a lot like this intern seems to be. We send short emails all the time with a basic message, without formalities like ‘please, thank you, etc.’ It was actually a big adjustment for me coming into this environment, because I have been taught to always use formalities, and write full sentences, and always use please and thank you, but as I’ve assimilated into this office environment I’ve realized why those things aren’t always necessary.

    In a fast paced environment typing out full sentences, and formalities takes time that sometimes you don’t have. It is understood in our office that those things aren’t necessary, and that short emails are not meant to be rude or demanding, but just a nature of the limitlessness of email communication.

    I guess what I”m trying to say is give the guy a break. Maybe he’s had a internship/job before where this is the case, that people communicated briefly via email, etc. Maybe he’s not a rude stuck up kid, maybe he just doesn’t know better.

    By all means teach him how things work in your office, but please don’t go into the meeting on the defensive assuming that he is just wrong and a rude person.

    As for the comment about the meeting, you asked what he thought and he told you. You think it was inappropriate, but what kind of answer did you expect from him? You can mention this when you talk to him, but be careful that you aren’t fishing for things that he does ‘wrong’ because you’ve decided in your mind that he is ‘just a rude kid.’ If one of the other interns you have had answered the same way would you have had the same reaction?

    1. TeapotCounsel*

      Please allow me to pile on to sittingduck’s last comment.
      OP#1 asked for an opinion. OP#1 got an opinion. It’s not an opinion OP# 1 liked. If OP#1 wants honest feedback from her reports, then OP#1 needs to get in the habit of letting reports speak their mind without fear of reprisal. Criticizing the intern about feedback on the presentation will simply teach the intern not to give honest feedback.
      Sadly, that’s probably the real lesson here.
      I, personally, expect my reports to provide negative feedback and consistently ask them how/what could be done better. A person learns a lot by doing that.

      1. Sunflower*

        I don’t think the issue was the negative feedback. It was that the only feedback was ‘it was too long’. Ok why did you feel it was too long? What would you have done to make it shorter? What about the content? Given OP didn’t mention if she asked additional questions but seriously ‘it was too long’ period. is not a good answer to that question.

      2. OP1*

        It wasn’t that I didn’t like his opinion or his honesty. Thoughtful critical feedback would have been welcome and I would have been happy to discuss it. Plus, this was a discussion after the fact–no one was providing this board member with constructive feedback. I took the ‘it was too long’ comment to mean ‘it was a waste of my time,’ which is a disrespectful thing to say to your boss.

        1. M*

          If you wanted thoughtful feedback then you should have asked a different question. He’s an intern not a mind reader. His response was not disrespectful as YOU asked for his opinion ( vs. what him sharing those thoughts on his own would have been). You can’t hold him responsible for the question you didn’t ask.

          Better questions – what we’re the main points you took away from the talk? Did you understand the discussion about teapots? If you had to critique the talk what did you like? What would you improve? His comment that the speech was long may be shadowing bigger point that to a non insider the point of the speech was not clear or enlightening which speaks to a hole in his training. This would be opportunity to direct intern to other sources for learning.

          tl:dr Stop holding grudge over how the intern was hired and look for ways to better improve your training capabilities.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wow, I totally disagree.

            His response was disrespectful because it basically said, “I was bored and think I’m in a position to judge when someone far senior to me should stop talking on a topic I’m far from expert in.”

            I’m shocked that anyone wouldn’t read it that way.

            1. Shell*

              Yeah, I’m with Alison here. And back when I was a co-op student/intern, if I was bored by a presentation my immediate assumption would be that I was too green to understand the nuances of the topic they were discussing, and every bit of the lengthy presentation was actually highly relevant.

              This might not be true in all cases, but an intern is hardly the best judge for that.

            2. Mike C.*

              Well at least in my case I can think of plenty of times where a much more senior person spoke at long length while being tone deaf and completely missing the point that everyone in the room wanted addressed.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Sure. But it’s rare for an intern to be in a position where they’re the one who should identify it and address it, or where they should share that kind of snarky remark of their own volition.

            3. Observer*

              I’m totally with you here, as well. We ARE talking about an adult. Yes, a young adult, but NOT a child. If the ONLY thing you can think of to say about a speech from a senior member of the team is “it was too long”, then you clearly didn’t bother to listen.

          2. LBK*

            Who asks that many directed/specific questions of a coworker? This isn’t an interview or a personal reflection from a 5th grade field trip. The professional world uses all kinds of shorthand questions that are intended to illicit longer, more in-depth answers because it’s assumed that when asked for feedback, you’re going to be specific and constructive.

            Sure, you might ask a couple specific follow up questions for clarification, but the discussion is almost always going to start with “What did you think about the teapot schematic we discussed in the meeting this morning?” not “What did you think? Did you understand it? How would you improve it?” because those questions are implied as part of the main question.

    2. some1*

      The LW might not have mentioned the fact that the intern was hired as a favor to say “So of course he’s a privileged, entitled ass” but more along the lines of explaining why she hired someone who is rude.

      1. OP1*

        some1–exactly. And also information that would feed into the kind of feedback I could reasonably give him without repercussions. Some people might say we should fire him without that qualifier, which wouldn’t be useful in this case.

  29. AndersonDarling*

    #1 It may help to sit with the intern and tell him that if the internship ended today, he would not be considered for a position because of x, y, and z.
    Also, his rudeness may be a result of all those bad articles on “how to get ahead” and “establish yourself as the big boss” and he may need to be brought back into reality. He may genuinely be thinking he is getting ahead by being rude.
    It would be nice to have the conversation now so the intern has a chance to change before the internship ends, if he chooses to change.

  30. Cubicle Joe*

    I work in the tech industry, which is notorious for having socially inept employees. People who are strong on “book knowledge”, but often lacking social skills.

    The problem with calmly taking one of these types aside and having a word with them, is that they think YOU have the problem. Being able to name all the components on a circuit board, gives them the right to comment on your weight, make sexist jokes, and steal your lunch from the fridge. After all, they’re “better” than you.

    1. Colette*

      I work in high tech, and I rarely see socially inept people – at least not in the way you describe. I have seen people who are obviously painfully shy, but that’s about it.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      Those people tend to languish in the lower rungs of companies, though. Everyone I know above a help/support desk role are incredibly sociable.

      1. NacSacJack*

        I am not very sociable. I also do not have Aspergers. And I am far from being a help/support desk role. I do think that not being very socialable has caused me problems, but can I help it if the kids in elementary, junior high, and senior high did not want to be friends or be nice to me? No one taught me how to be sociable. Most definitely not my parents who banned me from playing with any of the boys in the neighborhood due to they either being perceived as jerks or their older brothers and sisters were druggies. Word to the wise – those with handicapped kids and those that live way out of town – do try to facilitate your kids’s social interaction.

  31. Niki*

    Going out on a limb here. The description of this interns actions reminds me of my boyfriend’s brother that has Asperger’s.

    1. blackcat*

      The description reminds me of a family member of mine, who does not have Aspergers and is simply an entitled asshole.

  32. Mockingjay*

    #4: My industry (fed contractor – engineering and software) is having quite the downturn, as funding dwindles each year. To compete for these fewer dollars, companies are lowering costs anyway they can, including manipulating labor categories. It’s not uncommon to see a job post for an entry-level person requiring a bachelors and 3-5 years’ experience. Except that, when you read the detailed requirements, you realize they really want a mid-level person with at least 7 years, but at the price of a more junior employee.

  33. OP1*

    Wow! OP1 here. Thanks for all of the responses. So many things have been brought up that I never really thought about. A few points of clarification and then an update:

    1) I don’t think this is a cultural issue. We are in the US and this person was born and raised here (his family is well known). As for whether Asperger’s or another condition might be part of it, I’m really not sure. It is something I’ve considered.

    2) The board presentation was to update the entire junior and senior staff about a major challenge that our organization is facing–so major that it has been covered in the press–and answer questions. When I asked him what he took away from it, I thought he’d respond with something like “I did not know X” or “I wish he had more to say about Y. It seems like a crucial point.” His response about the time–while it technically answered my question–was just really tone-deaf and kind of disrespectful. I would never respond to a question my boss (or anyone whose opinion I valued) asked me in that way. I was really surprised that he chose not to come up with anything critically interesting to say, and it really drove home to me that this kid did not care about impressing us at all. This is also not the only instance of this sort of thing.

    3) He is aware of the hierarchy–the snottiness comes out mostly with our junior assistant, much less with me, and even less with my boss.


    The situation has actually improved a bit since I wrote Alison. It seems like the brusqueness was in some part a misguided attempt to seem professional and authoritative. Now that we’ve modeled how we communicate in this office, his demeanor has gotten better–he does say “thank you,” though “please” and “I’m sorry” are still few and far between. It also seems like his behavior worsens when he feels frustrated or does not know or remember immediately how to do something; he lashes out barking accusations instead of taking a breath to figure things out or politely asking for assistance (again, usually with the junior assistant; I’m not within earshot). I do get the impression that he thought that this job would be easy for him and wasn’t prepared to have to put in effort to perform well. I’ve addressed some other performance issues directly with him and have empowered the junior assistant to calmly call him on his snottiness on the spot (she has become a pro), so he has gotten better. However, I will definitely apply Alison’s script if things deteriorate with her or with the rest of the team.

    Thanks again!

    1. Cheddar2.0*

      Glad things are getting better!
      Regarding #2, it may a cultural thing, you might have to explain to him what kind of critical feedback you’re looking for. Honestly, at my job, people makes jokes about how long and ridiculous meeting are, all the time. My supervisors especially. It can be hard to learn to focus on a long-winded presentation if you have a critical task you’re trying to figure out as a new employee. Also, he may have thought that the meeting wasn’t applicable to him as he is just an intern. Whenever I interned somewhere, my presence was only needed at departmental meetings to have a high butt-in-seat count, not because it was something I actually was able to be involved with.

    2. Michele*

      Good to hear. Your statement in the original letter of “He does this most pointedly with our most junior full-time staff member” really made me think that he was a spoiled brat. Your follow-up confirms that, but it sounds like you are teaching him some basic manners. Who knows, maybe he will even learn to stop being a jerk to his server at a restaurant (’cause I bet he is).

    3. Leah*

      I think it’s especially great that you specifically empowered the admin assistant to call him out, and that she is doing so. Would be the worst if that manager felt she couldn’t call out the obnoxious intern because of Daddy or Mommy and told the admin to just take it.

    4. NacSacJack*

      Good! Glad to hear he’s made some improvements. I, too, suffer from frustration when I am feeling stupid. My frustration pops up when I’m struggling because I found school (and most/not all of college) very easy. I never had to struggle to learn a concept. He might also never have been taught how important it is to say “please” and “thank you” in the office. He might have been taught to say “I’m sorry” when he’s wrong, yet in today’s culture, especially on the East Coast, its taken as a sign of weakness. Here in the midwest, we say it all the time, but I had to be told, literally, knock it off, when I talk to home office. It showed up in one of my reviews. Also, I hate to say this, but do the people in your office say it within earshot of him? Are they modeling good behaviors for him to see? My first job didnt. They instead showed me it was okay to get ripped on, but when I ripped on someone, boy, did I hear about it.

  34. AW*

    He does this most pointedly with our most junior full-time staff member; for example, instead of politely asking her to print a non-urgent document from her machine…

    Might want to point out that this behavior can be perceived as sexist as well, especially if she’s the only female employee he interacts with.

  35. mel*

    Generalized unconstructive comment> I’m so sad to read so many letters concerning office drama or the inability to be polite and considerate to coworkers, and people otherwise screwing up this golden chance for a living wage. Yet blue-collar people (whose literal jobs are to be polite and accommodating btw) don’t even get the chance to do entry-level data entry because we lack 2+ years experience and an administrative diploma. Just…. SIGH. <End Generalized unconstructive comment

  36. Nanc*

    OP 1, Emily Post’s The etiquette advantage in business : personal skills for professional success is a fantastic book. Yes, it’s a bit old school but taking a read might help you prepare for this conversation.

  37. SallyForth*

    #1 Is there a chance he has Aspergers and has chosen not to disclose? This doesn’t mean that he can’t learn social skills, but that he might need more coaching than some people in office etiquette.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      This is a good question, and I think it’s useful even if OP can’t really know. I have a very close friend who has aspergers, and I appreciate that I’ve learned from that relationship how to deliver matter of fact feedback and ask clarifying with zero judgment Or sarcasm….it’s basically a good skill for dealing with humans, diagnosis or not.

  38. Taylor*

    I quit a job abruptly one time (story for another day), and the owner of the company left me a frantic voicemail asking why I had quit, what he could do to get me back, etc etc. Over the next few days it came out that the same owner was telling people in the company he had fired me. I just laughed and played the voicemail for my ex-colleagues.

    In my case at least, this was a very small fish in a big pond, and it made me take pity on him (his business was floundering and we all knew it). The fact that he “fired” me has come up exactly zero times in the years since, and I doubt it will come up ever. Unless you’re dealing with a much bigger fish, I think laughing this off would be your best course of action.

  39. Marine*

    #4 – I saw it described once as “the minimum qualifications required to enter this specific company”.

    Say company XYZ requires every junior, manager and senior in certain branches have MBAs or Ivy league education. A. In their case, “entry level jobs/junior positions” still require MBAs. For some other companies, it’s 5 years of experience in the workforce.

    Companies well known in their industry can afford to be picky.

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