my intern is a rude jackass

A reader writes:

I’m not a manager, but I could use some outside advice. I’m an entry-level engineer who’s been with this company for just over a year. I’ve found this to be a great place to work with very friendly coworkers and exceptionally accommodating management. I feel I’ve gone out of my way to help the team out, improve our internal operations, and generally be a positive influence in the office (so much so that I’ve received a 10% raise after my first year — not sure if that means anything, but I’m super proud of myself). But I’ve recently run into a problem with one of the new interns we’ve hired.

Some background: We’re an event-based service, and I’m part of the production department. That basically means sometimes things ramp up to insane levels and I pull 30-hour shifts, while other times things are so quiet I have nothing to do but to work on outside projects (this is one of the benefits of the job my boss stated in our interview process). Our corporate culture is basically that you get your work done, you cover for others’ mistakes, you make sure the client doesn’t notice screw-ups, and nobody questions what you do. Our dress code is “yes, be dressed.” I could practically run around this office with my pants on my head screaming that I’m the king of Australia and nobody would care as long as I don’t interrupt an event or client call. (I just asked my boss if I could do that and he joked “as long as you don’t do it on the security cameras” — just to stress that we’re a really chill office.)

This intern I’m writing about has started asking me some uncomfortable questions that I feel are inappropriate. Yes, I’ve told him explicitly that I don’t want to answer them, but he persists. He’s asked me the following:

* “How much money do you make?” (an innocent enough question by a young person, but asked several times after I’ve said I don’t want to answer that)
* “What do you do — do you even do anything?” (implying that I don’t do any work, again asked several times)
* “Don’t you feel bad for not doing any work?” (outright stating I don’t bring anything to the table, again asked several times)
* “Why don’t you exercise more?” (referencing my weight)

Here’s what really annoys me: it’s not as if these questions even come up in a conversation — he just shows up next to me and asks me. I’ve tried to explain some things to him (I can only do the work that’s available, we’re currently in the summer downtime and will ramp up again in September), but he keeps asking these questions, and it’s getting to the point that I’m starting to get annoyed that an intern is questioning my value at this company.

Given that, I have two questions for you. First, am I being a jerk? I have some social awkwardness history that I don’t want to get into, so I honestly need to know. It’s been my experience that you just don’t ask people “what do you do here?” or “how much do you make?” I’ve been taught that’s a bit of a business faux pas. Am I wrong?

Second, as someone with managerial aspirations (and I realize I’m probably a long ways off), I’m curious how a good manager — someone who cares about the company and its employees — would consider to be the best way to handle this situation. I think my options are:

– Talk to his boss about the uncomfortable questioning. (I don’t like this option as I feel like I’d be interfering in their business.)
– Talk to HR about this (but I feel that’s overkill and taking things “outside the business,” as it were).
– Talk to the intern about it privately and politely explain I want him to stop asking me these questions. (I’ve already done this out in the office, but perhaps a more private conversation would work? I doubt it myself.)
– Suck it up, wait for his internship to end, and let it go (with the knowledge that this guy may one day land on his face out in the real world).

I would think “suck it up” would be the best option for this particular situation.

What the hell?!

This guy is being incredibly rude. You are not being a jerk by having a problem with these questions! You are actually being way too nice by continuing to answer him and not shutting him down.

His behavior would be incredibly rude for anyone, but the fact that he’s an intern — someone who’s supposed to recognize that he’s there to learn from other people — gives this a whole additional layer of WTF-ness. It also means that “suck it up” isn’t something you should even be considering. You should never have to put up with this behavior from anyone, but if it’s coming from above you, it can sometimes be harder to shut it down. When it’s coming from the lowest person on the totem pole, though, it’s very, very easy to stamp it out. (Or at least it should be, in an even halfway functional company … even in a 25 percent functional company.)

You should do two things, and neither of them involve sucking it up:

1. The next time this guy makes one of these rude comments to you, say this in the sternest tone you can muster: “Why on earth would you ask someone that, let alone someone at a company where you’re an intern hoping to make a good impression?” Some other phrases to use in this conversation: “That is shockingly rude. Do not ask anyone here a question like that again.” (And if you don’t trust yourself to be appropriately stern in the moment, we need to arrange to have me talking into an earpiece in your ear and feeding you lines like Cyrano de Bergerac, because I really, really want you to shut this down.)

2. Relay all of this to his boss. You mentioned that you’re worried that this would be interfering in her management of the intern, but it absolutely would not be. Any manager would want to know that her intern was being openly rude to other employees — and in fact would be upset if you didn’t tell her about this and then she found out after the fact. By not telling her, you’re actually denying her crucial information that she needs to manage him effectively. Tell her what’s going on and don’t pull any punches.

I would say it this way: “Hey, I need to let you know that Rupert has been repeatedly rude to me. He’s told me several times he doesn’t think I do any work here, has asked why I don’t exercise more, and has asked over and over how much money I make, after I’ve told him to stop. To be clear, this isn’t typical intern naïveté; it’s intentional and aggressive rudeness, and I’m pretty appalled by it.”

If you find yourself feeling guilty about doing this, remember that not only is it a favor to his manager, but it’s also a favor to the dude himself; he’s far better off getting this lesson now, as an intern, rather than at a regular job where the stakes are higher.

And last, can we talk about your assumption that you had to put up with such flagrant mistreatment? It worries me that you felt like you probably just had to accept it, because that likely means you’ve been assuming that you have to accept other things that you actually shouldn’t put up with (and which good managers wouldn’t want you to suffer in silence about). Sometimes that tendency can be traced back to past bad bosses; if you’ve had a string of employers who expected you to tolerate really inappropriate behavior or who shot you down when you raised legitimate issues, it can lead to a sort of workplace PTSD where you hesitate to ever speak up again. Other times it can have even deeper roots, like a family who didn’t teach you how to advocate for yourself in a healthy way or who taught you through their own behavior that it wouldn’t matter if you tried. Sometimes that results in not hugely important personal-style differences (maybe it’s not a huge deal if, for example, you decide to stew silently rather than ask your loud co-worker to stop taking all his calls on speaker phone), but other times it really matters, like if it makes you reluctant to speak up about harassment, or safety issues, or fair pay — or yes, really horrid colleagues.

So it might make sense to take this jerky intern as a flag to revisit any other crappy things you’re putting up with. Every job comes with a certain amount of less than awesome elements, but when something feels mean-spirited or makes you feel deeply uncomfortable or mistreated — and especially when it’s also part of an ongoing pattern — speaking up is often the right move.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 206 comments… read them below }

    1. Charlie B.*

      Hi, to update and possibly clarify some points:

      I’ve had some serious background problems in my life. It’s not job related, but it does affect my job in ways like this – I end up being exceedingly polite and end up getting rolled over. Charlie Brown syndrome, my therapist calls it.

      The other problem is that I also have autism and because of it I try to make myself hyper aware of how I’m behaving. This ends up with me doing some really stupid/awkward things. I try to get past it, but much like a beauty mark it’s just part of who I am.

      So, given these two things, I reached out to ask about this particular situation. I honestly didn’t know if I would be a jerk for pointing this stuff out or not.

      Follow-up to what has happened since: this is currently an ongoing situation. Things are kinda weird. I can’t discuss every aspect of what’s going on, but here’s a breakdown:

      I spoke to my boss about this, and he agreed that I shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of stuff. We’re talking to the intern’s boss this week about it. While the questioning has stopped, he decided to be super creepy and find all of my social network accounts and add me there – linkedin, facebook, etc… – meanwhile he’s added nobody else from the company (not even the other intern he works with).

      I can’t tell if it’s because he thinks I’m his friend for putting up with his questions or if he’s trying to crawl through my social media accounts to find stuff to get me fired with.

      Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now.

      1. Sami*

        Thanks for the undate and more info.
        Do NOT feel you have to connect with the intern on any social media platform! Not even LinkedIn. In fact, given what you just wrote, I’d block him completely.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Ditto. I’d block him / ignore him / make sure your Facebook profile is locked down (there used to be a way to restrict “find me in search” to only “friends of friends” or “friends” so that a random 3rd party can’t find you). This intern is a major jerk.

        2. designbot*

          +1 to this! You are never under any obligation to ‘friend’ ‘follow’ or ‘connect’ with anyone you’re not comfortable with, and (with the exception of LinkedIn since it’s more professionally-oriented) many people have personal policies against connecting with current colleagues on social media. Consider that he may have tried to add others, but they likely rejected his invitations.
          Unfortunately from what you’ve said his motivations do not sound like they are friendly, and so I’d agree with Sami that you should outright block him on any social networks that give you that option.

        3. Amber*

          Agreed. Do NOT add him. My guess is he’s looking for ammunition to use against you, don’t give him any. If he asks when you didn’t accept his requests, you can be honest. “I don’t actually know you that well.” and if he continues to push asking why you still don’t add him “because I choose not to.” and leave it at that, don’t allow him into your life unless you actually want him there.

          1. BostonKate*

            +1 That he’s looking for ammunition, this guy sounds like he has something up with him. Definitely block him and if he asks, tell him you didn’t want to connect on social media and leave it at that.

          2. JessaB*

            Or even just “I do not add people from work, I keep my social life and my work life separate, thank you.”

      2. Dovahkiin*

        You blocked him on social right? (or at least have your privacy settings on social networks set to code creepy coworker?

      3. animaniactoo*

        If you by any chance *accepted* any of these invitations, unaccept them. Right now. Before you make another phone call, fill out another form, research another tablecloth.

      4. CMT*

        Ewwwww, he sounds terrible. I did just want to comment on the social media part that there’s a very big spectrum between “he thinks you’re actually his friend” and “he’s trying to find stuff to get you fired.” That behavior’s definitely creepy and inappropriate, for sure. But neither of those explanations are the ones I’d jump to first.

        1. Charlie B.*

          I did mention that I have some social awareness problems, and I don’t assume my conclusions are the right ones. What explanation would you surmise first?

          1. animaniactoo*

            Question: Does he ask those questions of anybody else in the office?

            At this point, I suspect that you’re his target, and he’s not looking for stuff to get you fired with as much as stuff to harass you about.

            “Don’t you find it hard to listen to Band X?”
            “What’s up with that gardening club?”
            “Did you do this little when you worked at [Previous Company]”
            “Did [Previous Company] fire you or did you want to leave?”

            1. Charlie B.*

              I’ve spoken to a couple of other employees that I’m friendly with. He’s asked some strange questions, the strangest of which was:

              “Is this a poor persons job?”

              I was dumbfounded.

              1. SquirrelsJustWannaHaveFun*

                Wow, I’d expect Will Ferrell to whisper that to a co-worker in a movie. This should not happen in real life.

                What a gem of a person.

                1. FoodieFoodnerd*

                  This is actually a great way to help OP and others with interpreting social cues and situations:

                  Play it back in a Will Ferrell stage whisper, and if you’re laughing, you know it isn’t you.
                  At the very least, you get a much-needed smile to lighten your day.

                  As to this pinhead:

                  PH “Is this a poor person’s job?”

                  OP (pointing) “Are those an idiot’s socks?”

                2. FoodieFoodnerd*

                  To clarify, that’s play it back inside your head, not re-enact it for your idio– er, intern. :^D

              2. designbot*

                Based on what you’ve said, I would consider that he may be dealing with some social issues of his own, and not be nearly as self-aware as you are.
                It might be worth mentioning in a friendly-ish way something like “hey, I know it can be hard to sense what the norms in the office are, but the questions you’ve been asking don’t come off as friendly or inquisitive, they come off as undermining and dismissive. I think it would do you a lot of good if you could reign that in going forward.”

              3. AR*

                What on earth??? I keep picturing a 6-year-old intern because I can’t fathom anyone older than that asking questions like this.

          2. BRR*

            Well it sounds like he also has some social awareness problems which makes it tough to figure out why he’s doing anything. I would just think of it as “he connected with me on social media because he has social awareness issues” and end it there. There are a billion reasons why and you will never be able to know unless he tells you.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep — and it’s really fine to just totally block him. If he asks why, you can say, “I rarely connect with coworkers on social media.”

          3. Ellie H.*

            As to the explanation – I think it is unlikely that he is trying to get you fired, because there is no logical motivation – it won’t benefit him for you to get fired, unless he is just a sociopath. His behavior, as you describe it, is very, very strange and unusual so it’s actually difficult to guess at what the explanation might be for adding you on social media. It sounds like he’s asked some other people questions before (if I’m understanding correctly that the “is this a poor person’s job” is something he asked another employee at your company), but maybe they have been more forceful in discouraging his questions, and so he has become more interested in you as a result. It sounds like he has some kind of fixation on you for whatever reason, and this might likely be because you were initially less discouraging to his weird questions than other employees were. That’s my best guess based on what you’ve described!

          4. Wendy Darling*

            My admittedly uncharitable to the intern read on it is that the he is a bully and since he got shut down re: asking you rude questions in the office has decided to change venues to social media, possibly under the incorrect assumption that he can’t get in trouble for being a jerk outside the office.

            That said, sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice. He may not realize he’s a jerk, but the end result is the same.

            I don’t add coworkers on any social media except LinkedIn, and I don’t even add everyone on LinkedIn. So feel free to block the heck out of this guy.

            1. Whoopsy*

              “sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice”

              In the future, they are going to make a clone that is 33/33/34 Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov, and this quote will be that clone’s magnum opus.

          5. Elizabeth West*

            Explanation? That he’s bullying you.

            Block him on all social media. You did the right thing by going to your boss. I hope his boss and yours shut him down or fire the little asshole.

          6. Whoopsy*

            At this point, I would argue that the reason he’s doing this doesn’t even matter anymore. Whether it’s him acting out a (truly strange) idea of what it means to be friends, trying to get you sacked, or literally anything in between, there’s really no reason for you to do anything other than hit block at this point.

            1. JessaB*

              Exactly. It’s not about the why, it’s totally about the what. Innocent or not, awkward or not, deliberate or not, it’s hurtful to the OP. It needs to stop. In fact the less the OP speculates on the why when talking about the behaviour to the bosses, the better. Let the bosses worry about that stuff. You want it to stop, that’s the whole goal.

      5. themmases*

        Wow! I just want to echo that this intern’s behavior is outrageous. I can see why it makes you doubt yourself. I think many people when they see behavior like this feel disbelief and start to wonder if they’re the one misunderstanding something. If there are things in your background that would amplify that, it’s even more natural.

        Your description of this intern sounds to me like a would-be bully– he basically just walks up to you randomly during the day to insult you. These aren’t real requests for information, they’re cruel remarks phrased as a question. I would block him on all those social media platforms. Whether he realizes he’s doing it or not, no good can come from having someone mean and intrusive be this interested in you.

      6. Charlie B.*

        To answer everyone: yes, he’s blocked from my social media accounts. Thanks for the concern!

      7. Purest Green*

        Ugh. I would not accept any of those social media requests, or remove him if you already added him. Maybe I’m paranoid but someone who doesn’t have enough sense not to ask rude questions at work probably doesn’t have enough sense to behave correctly toward you on social media either.

      8. lowercase holly*

        block block block.

        i would definitely want to know if any of my interns were doing this stuff because it isn’t ok. also i wouldn’t want to be the person inadvertently giving them a good reference on soft skills.

      9. NCKat*

        My suggestion re: the social network accounts – BLOCK him. You have a legitimate reason to do it.

        I have multiple disabilities which render me a wheelchair user and deafened. I have to guard myself against thoughtless people who seem to be undermining me.and my ability to do my job. The last one I had to deal with was laid off four years ago but believe me there have been quite a few. So what do I do? Ignore them and ignore any efforts on their part to invade your social networks of friends and supporters.

        No one will question your decision especially as 1) it’s not a good idea to have work colleagues in your social networks and 2) he is not your superior or at your level. So do it.

      10. Pwyll*

        Also, and slightly off topic, EVERYONE does really stupid/awkward things at work sometimes. I’ve said some agonizingly stupid things at work, and thought about loooong after (ugh, thinking about them again). It’s incredibly normal to for awkward things to happen, and pretty normal to be hyper aware of one’s own mistakes as well. What you’re describing sounds more to me like being human, than anything related to autism.

        It can be hard sometimes to figure out whether something is normal or not, and I think you’re right to ask the question. In this case, this intern’s behavior just seems weird and not normal to me. So good on you for questioning it and asking your manager about it. It sounds like your boss is addressing this appropriately.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. Charlie B., it can be hard to figure out what is and isn’t appropriate, but this is one of those clear-line rules.

              1. Leslie Howard*

                Yes. This is one post where an update would probably be gratifying for everyone but especially for OP.

      11. Trillian*

        “Why are you asking me that?” or “Why would you like to know?” are also good diagnostic questions if you are unclear as to whether a question is appropriate.

      12. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Thank you for the update and I am glad you spoke with your boss.

        The intern’s behaviour is unacceptable and I am sorry you were put in this situation!

      13. Marillenbaum*

        BLOCK HIM! Block him with the strength of Captain America’s shield! This humanoid is genuinely, seriously terrible, and I think you are well within your rights to have nothing more to do with him. If he comes into your office, “Fergus, please leave; I’m working.”

      14. ArtsNerd*

        Your letter was a good one, and I’m so glad you asked Alison for advice! Definitely check in with your boss if other things at work feel “off” to you like this. Or us :)

      15. SusanIvanova*

        IANAL, but if you’re in California, the social media stuff might count as cyberstalking. We take it seriously out here because of incidents involving actors.

      16. snuck*


        Thanks for the background, it helps a little…

        I think I’d be handling them all similarly, but in different stages:

        * “How much money do you make?” (an innocent enough question by a young person, but asked several times after I’ve said I don’t want to answer that)
        I would respond with a generic response ” A job of this qualification level and in this industry usually has a salary of $X-$Y. If you want to know where to find out salary information for the industry then look on …Website details…” and if they ask how much YOU make in response then “I’m sorry, but that is a very rude question, and it’s considered very unprofessional” and turn your back. Call it like it is. You’ve answered politely, they’ve been rude, you don’t have to be exceedingly polite anymore. If they pester further I’d just raise an eyebrow and escalate to “I am sorry, I am not your parent, this is a professional office, now please leave” and walk away yourself if you have to.

        * “What do you do — do you even do anything?” (implying that I don’t do any work, again asked several times) and
        * “Don’t you feel bad for not doing any work?” (outright stating I don’t bring anything to the table, again asked several times)
        Again, I would say ” Yes, and your question is unprofessionally phrased. If you would like to know the duties of my job description then let’s set up a time to talk about that and I can show you what a person in my role does” if he replies something along the lines of “oh no, it just looks like you do nothing all day” you can reply with “Well that’s a bold statement from an intern. If you have professional feedback for me please take it up with my manager.” and if they continue, walk away. You don’t engage with little whiny children in the workplace!

        * “Why don’t you exercise more?” (referencing my weight)
        “Wow! Did you really ask me that? No don’t answer, I will chat to Manager about some more professional boundaries training for you ok? Now please go away and check there’s enough paper in the copiers and whether all the exit lights in the building are working” (or some other menial task that takes him away from you and doesn’t take any skill)

        And… talk to your manager. Say “Look Intern is being really rude to me in the way he talks about things. He obviously doesn’t understand social norms about talking about how someone spends time or their personal appearance. Can you please talk to him and explain that I don’t appreciate his general snarky and rude attitude, and I will do the same by pushing back a bit too, but I’d like you to have my back on this if that’s ok?” and if your manager asks what Rude Intern is saying, then tell him what you’ve put here… it’s all pretty black and white to me … Rude Intern needs a bit of a kick up the pants – you push back with a few ” Wow, that’s really rude, now go away” type things, and the manager can pull him aside and explain this isn’t the way you play cricket (an English euphemism about not following rules and social etiquette).

      17. snuck*

        Oh wow. Just realised the social media thing. Do NOT engage. Block him everywhere. Just block, don’t talk about it. You don’t intend to friend him (who friends their interns at work???!!!) and thus you are fully able to block. What on earth does he need access to your social media about???

        Ok. Here’s a question. Is this intern even close to be able to aspire to your role at some stage? Is he trying to line up to get you fired on some misguided assumption that he’ll come in and save the day and get your job? Trust me -t hat only happens in bad super hero tv shows – what will actually happen is he will be tainted as a weird unprofessional person, but he COULD damage your reputation too. Tighten up. Don’t show him anything but firm boundaries, professional courtesy, and whenever you can – the door out of your workspace. Talk to your manager about the social media thing to and explain that it’s creeped you out, particularly if he’s gone beyond Facebook and LinkedIn… if he’s found your Deviantart and your Livejournal or other more obscure platform then yeah… say something, because that’s shows concerted effort.

        And is he trying to be your friend? Well… I say no. Because he wouldn’t be saying things to you that are rude… he wouldn’t be questioning your daily habits. If he’s not neuro typical and has some social gaps too then this might explain it, but as you well know… that doesn’t mean you two have to be chummy and friends. If it’s not happening naturally it’s not happening right?

      18. CM*

        Sorry you’re going through this! I don’t have autism, but I can definitely relate to the “is it just me, or is something weird going on here?” feeling. I think you should mention to your boss and the intern’s boss that the intern has tried to add you on all the social media accounts — to me, that’s an escalation of his inappropriate and intrusive behavior, and I agree with those below that it sounds like he’s looking for additional ammo to continue bullying you.

        I’m a little surprised at how many comments below are looking for ways to excuse the intern’s behavior. Making comments about somebody’s weight alone is incredibly rude, and when combined with “Do you even do anything around here,” I think it goes way beyond first-job cluelessness. (Also, I love Alison’s headline.)

        So anyway, OP, you are in no way being a jerk about this, and you can and should be firm about refusing to answer these questions and calling attention to the intern’s behavior.

      19. That Marketing Chick*

        I was actually wondering if the intern has autism; interesting that you have autism. It sounds like he has a disconnect with social norms. Have you tried simply stating “I’m sure you don’t mean it to be, but that’s a rude and inappropriate question. Please stop asking”. It gives him a chance to learn and understand if he indeed has autism, and if not, hopefully it will also shut him down.

      20. Annonymouse*

        Sounds like this guy wants your job (not realising that you are a very valuable team member and that in the busy season you are indispensable)

        Or he thinks he can do what you do (nothing much at the moment/own projects) and is going about getting hired alongside/instead of you in the worst way possible.

        Unfriend him, block him and change your privacy settings so he can’t view your stuff.

      21. Annonymouse*

        Perhaps he is gunning for your job?
        “Charli B doesn’t do much and gets paid tonnes. I can do that!”

        Except they don’t know about the busy season and will presumably be gone by then.

        If you want another way to shut him down next time he asks “What do you do?” Reply with:

        During the busy season I often work 30 hour shifts doing (insert incredibly important and complex task/s here) that requires years of training and experience.

  1. Gene*

    I’m imagining the AAM side business “Alison In Your Ear” for when you know you are going to be having a difficult conversation. She ships you an ear bug, and at the appointed time she starts listening and feeding you things to say.

    I don’t think I could afford what she’d have to charge to manage the demand.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Actually, with some of the messed-up scenarios we read about, I was thinking something more along the line of Ray Donovan without the father issues.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Just as long as she isn’t a firefighter who just got a call about a fire a few blocks away #roxanne

    3. Wendy Darling*

      I would pay really good money to bring Alison along to some of my 1:1 meetings with my boss, because I know some truly outrageous things are going down but 1. some of them I kind of have the boiled frog thing going on where I don’t even realize how screwed up it is because I mean the water isn’t much hotter than it was before, and 2. when she’s really, REALLY outrageous (like the time she got legitimately angry at me because she demanded that I prove a negative and I tried to explain that this is not actually possible) I’m so flabbergasted it’s all I can do to form a coherent sentence.

      1. JaneB*

        Oh, me too. I have never had so many probably-inappropriate conversations with colleagues along the lines of “did he really say that?” and “am I unreasonable/over-reacting when I feel X in response?”

        I got laryngitis last winter. My boss emailed me that I just had to “stop being ill as it is very annoying” and when I got back to work pulled me aside to tell me to just talk normally because it wasn’t very professional of me to be whispering. Oh gosh, I never thought of that as a solution!

        1. Anonymity*

          Ugh. That reminds me of my boss when a nasty virus was making its way through the cubicle farm last year. She would talk loudly about sending people home when they were clearly sick, around the people who were CLEARLY SICK, and then just go about her business, completely ignoring the sick people who probably would have gone home early or taken the next day off if encouraged to do so, but no – boss would just rather talk than follow through because it was crunch time.

    4. Whoopsy*

      She could probably end up affording to hire Morgan Freeman, so she could share the workload

    5. snuck*

      Many a time while trying to parent my two young fiesty children I pretend to be Mummy Pig*, rather than Homer Simpson. I totally can see play acting or ear budding AAM Alison as a possibility!

      (Mummy Pig is from Peppa Pig a wildly popular young children’s show. She never loses her cool, always has a non-inflammatory solution, and is the polar opposite to Homer Simpson.)

  2. Eric*

    Slightly off-topic blog related question: It seems that the NY Mag letters are longer than the ones that you post here (the question, not the answer). Am I imagining that?

  3. Ruthie*

    Aside from the question about working out, which is unacceptable, these actually seem to be perfectly reasonable questions from an intern observing colleagues working on outside projects in the office. I actually completely understand the level of disbelief here. The office is unusually casual, and I would have a hard time wrapping my head around it as well. I don’t read it as an intern questioning OP’s individual value at the company, but trying to get a sense of workplace norms. I’d be curious if I saw someone sitting and doing outside projects. To me, internships are about asking these questions and exploring how workplaces function. My response would be less, “Why on Earth would you ask me that,” and more, “You’ve actually asked me this a few times now and my answer isn’t changing, is there a reason you keep repeating this question?” I would hope that could gather some more insight into why he is really asking.

    1. Newby*

      Asking about the casual environment can be done in a way that is not rude. Asking “What do you do” is very different than “Do you even do anything?”

      1. Chocolate lover*

        I was going to say the same thing about “Do you even do anything?” That’s not reasonable, that’s rude.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        “How much money do you make?”

        “Do you mind if I ask about what typical salaries are like for ____ position?”
        (Ask just once)

        “What do you do — do you even do anything?”

        “What are the primary responsibilities you have here? What’s your day-to-day like? Does it vary based on the time of year?”

        “Don’t you feel bad for not doing any work?”


        “Why don’t you exercise more?”


        Had trouble rephrasing those last two…

        1. LizB*

          You could try “How’s the work-life balance here? Do you have time for self-care outside of work?” for the last one… but that’s clearly not what the jerk was trying to ask about.

        2. Coco*

          “What’s the policy on doing personal activities when work is slow?”
          “Are you into any sports?”

    2. Artemesia*

      There is a world of difference between ‘Can you tell me/show me what you do here?’ from an intern and ‘Do you even do any work around here?’ from an intern. An intern naturally wants to know how the place works but disparaging weight, repeating a question the employee has indicated they don’t want to discuss, and questioning their value as an employee are all out of line. The money question is actually something interns need to know — it would be useful if the manager of the intern did a session with them on the range of pay in the organization. They don’t have to divulge individual salaries but to say ‘Generally our squints average 80 -100 K a year based on their experience and expertise, our nudnicks usually make 50-70 and our poobahs make anywhere from 120 to 250 K. People starting out usually come in at the bottom of that range or slightly below.’ is the kind of information people should be able to acquire in an internship.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh, how do you handle the downtime? I’ve noticed there are times when you’re not doing much, does that happen a lot? Is it always rush like crazy then sit around?

        I think the biggest piece here is that the intern is either NOT seeing the rush like crazy part, or is ignoring it, not understanding that the work goes that way.

        Some people have pretty much been indoctrinated that “you have to always look like you’re working on something, all the time, even when there’s actually nothing to do. Don’t just sit around on other projects, pretend you’re working, because if you look like you’re not fully, actively working for every second of the work day you’re BAD BAD BAD.”

        Intern handled that very, very badly and in an inappropriately confrontational kind of way, but in that one I’m not sure that the issue is the substance of the question vs the delivery of it.

    3. fposte*

      There is no way “Do you even do anything?”, “Don’t you feel bad for not doing any work?”, and “How much money do you make?” are acceptable questions from an intern either. The first two aren’t really acceptable from *anybody* at work (the people with status to inquire in that area should know the answer to the first and have precluded the necessity of the second), and the third is acceptable if your boss is figuring out her budget or, with some tweaking, if you’re researching for labor reasons.

      Interns can want to know things (though I’m skeptical that that’s the motivation in most of those questions), but the obligation to not be a jackass trumps the desire to learn.

      1. themmases*

        I agree. I have had interns ask me about pay in ways I have been happy to answer. They were definitely not phrased as “what do you make”. That is way too direct for someone above you that you don’t even know!

        I was happy to answer questions like, did I feel my former company paid well or what was a ballpart for what I did there. Or similar questions about my current job… In the context of a conversation where I was telling an intern about my career and asking what her goals were.

        You can’t just walk up to people ask them what they make. I don’t consider it particularly private, but many people do, and in any case it’s akin (at best) to just demanding advice out of the blue. You need to know the person and have some indication that they are interested in you and want to help you.

        1. bridget*

          I can see asking what someone makes as an intern (because they are after all researching a potential career path). But this was a horrifyingly rude way to put it, and even worse when paired with questions like “don’t you feel bad for not doing any work,” because it strongly implies that Charlie B. doesn’t really “earn” the money. AND he kept asking after Charlie B. said no!! An intern could ask “would you mind sharing with me the general salary range someone in your role can expect?” but this is not that situation at all.

          1. fposte*

            Right. Context suggests that the intern is being a real jackass across the board, but even if it was just this one question, that’s not an acceptable way to phrase it, and it’s absolutely kosher to shut the intern down for approaching a legitimate information inquiry very wrongly indeed.

      2. Mel*

        I get the intern questions and don’t see them as rude given its an intern. It’s easy to understand that they might say exactly what they’re thinking – no filter. i think they’re logical questions given that it is probably confusing to see someone with little to do at that time without seeing/understanding the context.

        1. Mel*

          Obviously I’d help the intern understand my role and how he’s coming across in his delivery of the inquiry.

        2. Suzanne*

          Interns are not magically excused from, nor incapable of, basic politeness. It is NOT “easy to understand” that they would act in this way! I teach 11 year olds who understand that it is not OK to behave in this way.

        3. Legalchef*

          From the way it’s described, it doesn’t sound like the intern was asking reasonable questions about the schedule/workload and then when he found out that there are slow periods asked if the LW felt bad about working on other things at work. That I could (kinda) understand. These questions, however, sound quite accusatory and confrontational.

        4. Observer*

          See my comment above.

          I’d like to point out that the idea that being young enough to be an intern in your first position does NOT mean that it’s acceptable to not have a filter. By the time you hit voting age, it’s time to have developed a filter. (Honestly, this should start well before then.) And, you don’t need to know about “workplace norms” to know that you do NOT question people’s weight and exercise habits, nor do you repeat a personal question multiple times once you’ve been told that the other person doesn’t want to discuss this. It’s just rude.

        5. aebhel*

          Well, then he needs to develop a filter! And if he’s so dense that polite deflection isn’t doing the trick, OP needs to hit him with the clue-bat of ‘that is incredibly rude, please don’t speak to me like that.’

    4. justsomeone*

      I agree to a point. Those questions *could* be okay, delivered differently. Asking how much money someone makes -once- could be okay. But OP has repeatedly said “No” to talking about that. And my reading was that the “what do you do here” questions have been delivered pretty abrasively. When I interned, I asked people what they did, but it was always with an inquisitive tone and a follow-up comment about how I was trying to understand different kinds of roles and how they interconnected, so it was obvious what I was doing. Coupling these persistent questions and the intern’s other obnoxious questions about weight and not working on “actual” work I’d say the intern is being a jacka$$, like in the headline, rather than asking what might be reasonable questions in a reasonable way.

    5. Kiki*

      I would have phrased it as, “what do you do during slow periods to relax/learn/improve stuff”.

      I had a coworker like this, she was more junior than me. When we had a deadline, we worked until we met it, sometimes 24-20 hours at at stretch. Then we slacked off to recuperate. Coworker took our cooling off periods as not doing our jobs, and she voiced her concerns to upper management. This resulted in very low raises for everyone except our coworker the following year. We all left. I hope she’s still there and enjoying those deadlines…

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t care how casual your workplace is, implying someone isn’t doing anything at their job (repeatedly!) is incredibly rude and absolutely unacceptable from an intern. At minimum, the intern needs a lesson in professional interactions and tone. A casual workplace does not excuse rudeness.

      Since the office culture, as described, includes not allowing one’s hypothetical declarations of kingship and unconventional pants wearing to interfere with the work of others, I would assume that there is an expectation that respect be given to one’s coworkers. “Do you even do anything?” doesn’t meet that standard.

    7. Temperance*

      I think this intern needs to work on his social and communication skills, if that’s the case. He’s coming off aggressively. I think he may be doing this on purpose; LW posted upthread that he or she has autism and I can easily imagine a scenario where a person who, say, wants to take someone’s job would pounce on any perceived weakness. (Which is not an insult to LW or people with autism. Of course.)

    8. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Where I agree that internships are a time for people to explore and learn about workplace norms, his questions are inappropriate (salary and weight are highly personal topics)…and also, nothing in the nature of the questions seems to be curiosity. If it was, why didn’t he accept the OP’s answer the first time?

    9. AstroDeco*

      I agree that certain questions are understandable, albeit very rudely asked. In such a casual culture it could be difficult for an intern to really understand how things work. Ideally, this would have already been covered during interviews & orientation (if there was one). If so, it’s possible what the intern sees conflicts with what was conveyed in the beginning.

      Possible, although with this intern not probable. And asking personal questions about salary and working out are unacceptable. My suggestion is to develop broken-record replies and keep repeating them. If possible, get your colleagues to do the same.
      eg: “Although our office is casual, this is a professional environment. Asking about salary is not acceptable. You can find salary ranges for the jobs here at [url].”
      “How often do I excercise? I was wondering the same about you although I’d never ask such a personal question, especially not in a professional environment! What are you tasked to do right now?”

      Good luck with your managerial aspirations, OP!! For what it’s worth, stating the situation and proposing solutions are good managerial skills, which is what you displayed in your letter to Alison. And knowing one’s weak areas (a lot of us are socially awkward) is a good thing for reasons too numerous to mention here.

    10. Annie*

      Aside from the fact that you can Google a lot of salaries (something I would suggest an intern do first), its the way the intern is asking. Hes asking REPEATEDLY after the lw said he didn’t want to answer. Interns need to learn boundaries which the lw has tried (by telling him he didnt want to answer) and the intern is insisting. Theres a way to get a sense of workplace norms and this isn’t it.

    11. Observer*

      Firstly, the question about working out says that the intern is rude, at best. Secondly, the OP has told the intern more that once that he doesn’t want to answer the pay question. Repeating it is rude and invasive. And “do even do anything here?” and “Don’t you feel bad about how little you do?” are in no way reasonable ways of trying to figure out what’s going on – especially when repeated multiple times.

      1. Isabel C.*

        Yeah, this. (And, as people said above, if you’re old enough to have an internship, you’re old enough to figure out how to phrase things better or keep your mouth shut.) If they wanted to ask about workload, something like “Does this place get a lot busier sometimes, or is it pretty much always laid-back?” would be better, although even that’s a little judgey, and I’d suggest something more like (as above) “What’s the workflow like for this position?”

        Given the exercise thing, and the fact that OP has already answered or said they didn’t want to answer, I think this kid needs a firing and a good swift kick.

  4. Newby*

    Wow. That goes beyond not understanding how to interact with coworkers. There is no way it is not intentional rudeness given that you have already said you don’t want to answer.

  5. fposte*

    I think the OP is still thinking of herself as somebody work decisions happen to rather than as somebody with agency in the workplace. And hey, I’m not pretending that entry level anybody can come in and change the way the whole place works, but you can tell people to not be rude to you! So this is an excellent first step on the road to management–asserting your own agency in guiding (firmly, if need be) this intern who is stepping on your foot big time.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Exactly! And OP mentioned getting a 10% raise–that’s not something you just give to someone; they have clearly worked hard and developed a pretty solid reputation at the office. That gives you some clout, ESPECIALLY over this little toe-rag.

  6. coffeepowerrd*

    OP’s rude intern reminds me of a similar, and nearly-cost-me-my-job-mistake I made when I was in my early 20s: Assuming people who are sitting around don’t have as much work or are avoiding work (or who don’t pitch in to the team). When I was young, I worked in an environment that was go-go-go, so I would perceive some of my coworkers as lazy or not-working and I told my supervisor about this. He basically told me to mind-my-own-business and focus on my own productivity, which has been good and lasting advice ever since.

    OP doesn’t have to put up with it, though, I agree. OP’s intern probably has no idea they are being so offensive and snarky or does and thinks they can just get away with saying anything

  7. Nico M*

    My instinctive reaction to many AAM posts is “Just Tell Them To Fuck Off”

    This is of course rubbish advice, and why im reading AAM avidly.

    But in this case….

    1. neverjaunty*

      Soft skills are often just about expressing “fuck off” in an appropriate manner.

      1. Grumpy*

        Agreed. My first thought was to reply:
        “My salary ranges between GFY and get lost. Seriously, who the ‘ell asks stuff like that. Where are you from… Gawd.”
        “Because GFY, that’s why. If you and I are going to get along you need to asking thing like that. Or I beat the crap out of you. Either way is good.”

        You get the idea.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I joke, but a not insignificant part of litigation s being able to phrase sentiments like “kiss my entire ass” in professional and appropriate language.

      2. wendelenn*

        I think there’s a saying that goes something like, “Tact is the ability to tell someone to ‘go to hell’ in such a way that they’ll enjoy the trip.”

    1. Kirsten*

      Yes! Although as a musician, I was surprised that they chose a French horn player. There are other instruments that are stereotypically more of the “I’ll practice whenever and wherever I want to” mindset. ;)

    2. Megs*

      I was going to comment on that if no one else did! Whoever is pulling those photos is doing a great job.

  8. NotAnotherManager!*

    Even if you address this directly with the intern, I would take a few minutes to let his manager know about this. When my folks are interacting inappropriately with other people, particularly at an intern level, I’d really want to know that so I can provide guidance on appropriate professional interactions and also keep an eye on him/her to see if that’s someone I’d want to avoid hiring/recommending.

    1. fposte*

      Yes! OP, this is important information for your workplace, and it’s possible that they won’t have it if you don’t tell it to them.

        1. Camellia*

          Do they also know about the social media stuff? If not, you should let them know that also. It seems like this has gone into creeper/stalker territory.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, I think he’s picking on Charlie B. and now is looking for another avenue to do that. Definitely inappropriate and yes, it should be brought to their attention.

    1. Rey*

      If you can pull off a facial expression that’s a mix of confused and off-put, phrasing it as “Why would you ask that?” can shut it down even faster.

    2. E*

      Or treat as a child. “What did I tell you the last time you asked me that question?”…”Answer hasn’t changed.”

  9. WhichSister*

    I am wondering since you are in an entry level position, if the intern is gunning for your job. And yes, by basically focusing on what he views (with his limited, nearly blind vision) as your lack of value. If he is asking you these direct questions, what is he saying behind your back?

    Also, if he says something rude, tell him. Correct him. “do you even do anything around here?” I would respond with “That’s a rude thing to ask. Do you mean what is my role and what outcomes am I responsible for? ” Treat him like the child he is acting like.

    1. Art_ticulate*

      Yup, my first thought was that the intern is trying to muscle their way into a job by making OP look bad. Which, if that’s the case… This is so not the way to do it. As if the boss is going to say “Gosh, intern, I can’t believe we hired useless OP when we could have you!”

    2. The Strand*

      Ding ding ding. I agree. I think that he is clueless and this is his way of looking for ammo – precisely because you’re a kind person who thinks hard about whether he’s being polite and how his comments are being interpreted.

  10. Art_ticulate*

    OP, come sit next to me and let’s talk about what Alison called “workplace PTSD”. I’m so glad that your manager told you that you shouldn’t have to put up with this. I know you said your issues are from outside work, but it still affects you there. I’m sympathetic to your awkwardness, because I am too, and was conditioned into putting up with a lot of mistreatment from my former workplace. Fortunately I’m somewhere now that’s much better. But those habits and ideas stay with you. So I’m glad you’ve got someone on your side at work, OP. Hope it gets better, and I hope you continue to stand up for yourself! It’s not easy, but it makes things so much nicer.

  11. LibraryChick*

    Maybe if you follow through with the idea of running through the office, screaming “I’m the king of Australia!” with your pants on your head, the intern will think you are way too crazy to mess with.

  12. Leslie Howard*

    Hmmm. The OP has shared that he/she has autism. Is it possible that this workplace hired an autistic intern as well? The types of questions this intern is asking might indicate another socially challenged individual. OP seems to be handling the social interaction of the regular job well, but the intern–not at all.

    1. Leatherwings*

      1) It’s not typically helpful nor kind to armchair diagnose people, and can stigmatize conditions.
      2) Even if that’s true, it doesn’t change the advice to OP – he should still handle the situation the same exact way.

      1. AMT*

        Also, the pattern of questioning makes me think that the intern knows exactly what he’s doing. I want to give the intern the benefit of the doubt, but I think this goes beyond a lack of social skills.

    2. Temperance*

      Comments like this further stigma against people on the spectrum. I know plenty of rude jackasses who are not autistic, and frankly, most people with autism/Asperger’s that I know are kind, introspective, and thoughtful. Like the LW.

      From the material included in the letter, it seems that Rude Intern is targeting LW, not that he is unable to manage social interactions effectively.

    3. Not Karen*

      It’s not relevant, because people with autism are just as capable of learning social rules as people without autism.

      1. JessaB*

        Not to mention that if a company is deliberately and with forethought open to hiring people with a certain set of differences, it’s extremely important that they have in place methods to appropriately teach needed skills. Whether those are social skills, or how to work a machine with one hand, or the most adaptive way for a deaf employee to know that there’s an emergency on the production line.

        A company that likes hiring/chooses to for social justice reasons/chooses so for tax break reasons, to hire people that are considered disabled by the government (whether or not they consider themselves to be so,) would absolutely want to know if they hired someone who needs extra help navigating the office norms.

        1. JessaB*

          Mind you my above comment was not meant to armchair diagnose the intern in the above letter. Because I don’t care about that. A company with interns in particular, disabled or not, has a duty to teach what we call “general office norms and professional behaviour,” whether adaptively or just in general. That’s part and parcel of what being an intern is FOR and I think it’s a major issue on the part of the bosses if interns are not learning this.

    4. Mustache Cat*

      As you’ve noted, OP has autism…and yet is going out of his way to be as polite as possible. Autism has nothing to do with this.

    5. Leslie Howard*

      Calling the comment “armchair diagnosis” seems a bit passive-aggressive to me, and I don’t believe the comment was stigmatizing in this situation. When analyzing numerous workplace issues for clients I have discovered problematic ADD, ADHD, dyscalculia, and dyslexia, and immediately encourage them to consult qualified professionals for consideration–NOT to behave in a condescending or discriminatory way, but to become better educated on managing workers in a diverse workplace. The difference in the way management deals with workers (and the effectiveness of those interactions) once professionals have counseled management can be astonishing. And if the intern did happen to place somewhere on the autism spectrum the OP might end up being that intern’s best chance at really learning something, as long as management doesn’t continue to allow the wildly inappropriate intern behaviors the OP is listing. Assuming that the intern is ‘just a jackass” without a bit more consideration of what might be going on seems a lot more like “armchair diagnosis” to me.

      1. Temperance*

        The LW is on the autism spectrum. It’s not his or her responsibility to teach this jerk how to behave, especially when it’s causing so much stress to LW.

      2. Leatherwings*

        Yeah, it is.
        You speculated based on rude or awkward behavior was due to a condition – that’s the definition of an armchair diagnosis, which is something Alison has asked we don’t do here. And attributing rude behavior like that of the intern to a specific diagnosis like autism IS necessarily stigmatizing, as Temperance said. It implies that rude or awkward=autistic. That’s not true, not fair, and not helpful.

        If the interns’ family or friends want to mention to the intern that they get diagnosed with something, that’s different. You, who are receiving a story third hand via a stranger on the intern don’t get to speculate on that.

        And again, even if you’re right that doesn’t change Alison’s [excellent] advice to the OP, management would be the only people who might want to change their behavior, and they didn’t write in. Furthermore, even if they did, we wouldn’t want to speculate because that’s up to the intern to disclose.

        The only thing this speculation does is stigmatize people with autism [and break Alison’s commenting guidelines while doing it].

        1. Leatherwings*

          *third hand via a stranger on the INTERNET, not intern – That typo might actually cause some confusion.

        2. Leslie Howard*

          Well, we obviously don’t agree about analyzing possibilities or the rights of commenters to pose questions, and since this comment thread is devolving into your need to “correct” someone and have the last word, how about we let Alison decide when her commenting guidelines have been broken, and leave the matter at that? Helping two godchildren and a nephew through childhood into their working lives with ADHD and dyscalculia has clearly left me with a different perspective then yours.

          1. Leatherwings*

            Yo, I’m not the only one who said something, so maybe it’s time to cease the conversation, yes?

      3. Leatherwings*

        Sorry, one more. Calling someone a jackass is a description of behavior, not of condition. So that’s not an armchair diagnosis.

      4. fposte*

        If you have a look at the commenting guidelines, Leslie, one of them is explicitly that we are asked not to armchair diagnose, so that’s what people are referring to. That doesn’t mean people with various divergences, both neuro and mobile, aren’t facing specific obstacles in the workplace–it’s just that it doesn’t help the person asking the question.

      5. BuildMeUp*

        It’s not the OP’s responsibility to teach this intern how to behave like an adult in the workplace. The OP did not write in asking how to help this intern; they wrote in asking how to get these rude questions to stop. Trying to come up with reasons behind the intern’s rude behavior is not actually helpful in this situation – it doesn’t change how the OP should respond in order to get the intern to leave them alone.

      6. Muriel Heslop*

        I used to run an adolescent autism unit within a school. Please stop drawing conclusions about possible diagnoses based on limited information. It’s not passive-aggressive to call it an “armchair diagnosis” as you do not (as far as we know) see the intern on a professional basis. Because you don’t think it’s stigmatizing to refer to someone with horrible workplace demeanor as possibly on the spectrum doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

        Personally, I think the intern seems like an ill-mannered bully. And it’s not the OPs job to teach him anything.

    6. Marillenbaum*

      You can be autistic without being an asshole. This kid is clearly, demonstrably an asshole, and all the armchair diagnosis in the world does nothing to change his appallingly rude behavior.

    7. Observer*

      Aside from the issue of armchair diagnosis with inadequate information, I think your making a generally incorrect assumption. Generally, people with autism can (and DO) learn how to behave withing many social norms, such as not asking highly personal questions and not repeating the same question of a person once they have been told it’s not up for discussion. Thus, even if I were going to look for some pathology, autism is not where I’d be looking.

    8. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

      No where did I read the LW stating they have autism. They said ” I have some social awkwardness history that I don’t want to get into”. I, as I am sure a lot of people, have some social awkwardness history without having autism.

      1. LQ*

        The OP responded to the first comment and said that he does. Charlie B. (And it is a helpful update with more information anyway.)

  13. Grace*

    In regards to the money question, I had clinicals as a student (internships in the medical field) and I wanted to get lots of opinions on salary expectations in different settings so I could be well informed for future salary negotiations. I never asked any of my clinical instructors how much they made, even though I was secretly curious. Instead I asked “As a new grad, if I worked in this setting, what salary range would you think I should expect?”.

    I’ve seen a lot of students fail their clinicals. You do no favors by not reporting an intern’s bad behavior. They need consequences for their actions. I saw a student get pushed through his 1st clinical only to fail on his 2nd clinical for the same behaviors. He wasted money, time, and effort because his 1st clinical instructor should have failed him but was “being nice”.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      As a new grad, if I worked in this setting, what salary range would you think I should expect?”.

      This! I had an intern once ask something akin to “I read starting writers generally make between x and y, would you say that’s true here?” It was such a great jumping off point to discuss salary expectations by market.

      1. JessaB*

        Yes, and that’s a more than reasonable question, they wanna know if the work they’re going into can pay them a living wage, and it’s a far different discussion than what the OP makes, which is actually not relevant, beyond, hey do you get decent raises, is there an up in this job or is the trajectory flat?

        Although at least in the US (and I don’t get that the OP is in the US,) in general I’d be leery of stopping salary talk beyond “I don’t want to talk about what I personally make, but we can discuss trends if you want,” because in the US it’s specifically protected discourse. It’s the rude way the intern is asking, not the actual “is the money in this good,” question that’s the issue here.

    2. AnonNurse*

      Could not agree more about seeing people who should have failed earlier, still end up failing. When I was in nursing clinicals, one if my fellow students should have failed a rotation but was pushed through. She failed the next round, which was our last, and did not graduate. She was riding the struggle bus and could have saved herself the money and time had the prior instructor just made the hard decision to fail her at that point. She never did end up completing her nursing and I believe ended up in another field, which I do think was for the best.

  14. Hermione*

    I have to say, my heart always soars whenever my own thoughts are echoed verbatim in Alison’s “What the Hell?!”

    OP – Please don’t ‘suck it up’. This intern is a jerk. I hope your managers shut this dweeb down quickly.

  15. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP I’m glad you raised this with your boss. Alison is right – it’s a kindness to the Intern to learn this lesson now, as an intern, rather than when he’s got a full-time job (and salary) at risk. This isn’t even remotely acceptable – my jaw hit the floor that an intern would be so rude!

  16. Temperance*

    LW, I’m sorry that this jerkwad has chosen you as the target for his shit behavior. You don’t deserve that.

    I’m not … as nice as you are, or thoughtful, so I have nipped similar situations in the bud by saying things like “you don’t get to speak to me that way” and “Wow”. I think “that’s not appropriate tone for a work setting” could also be fine, but I understand if being so blunt wouldn’t work well for you.

    It’s good that your manager is looped in. Could you develop a strategy of wearing headphones when this jerk is around, so he can’t target you (if they are not intervening)?

  17. Lizabeth*

    This actually gave me an idea – have a one or two side sheet for interns to read before they start. Sort of a FAQ except “What you should NEVER ask someone as an intern working for us”.

      1. Leslie Howard*

        Yes. If a client went to the trouble of creating a list, the usefulness of it would be probably predicated on a mandatory “you have to sign here acknowledging that you have read this stuff during your first hour of work here, if not before” process. In front of the intern’s manager. With direct eye contact. I haven’t encountered much of this until after some kind of lawsuit settlement with the owners/management swearing “Never again”. But–don’t see how it would hurt.

    1. Temperance*

      Honestly, in my experience – the kinds of people who need this sort of training are also the kinds of people who will ask a horrible question (“what color are your panties?”) and then use WELL IT’S NOT ON THE LIST OF PROHIBITED QUESTIONS as their defense.

      1. fposte*

        Right. The more things are on the list, the more the expectation is that if it were important, it would be on the list. And the people who don’t need the list will wonder what kind of maniacs they’re working with who all had to be told not to ask horrible questions.

        1. A Bug!*

          Both of these. And the bigger the list, the less likely it is that anyone’s ever going to read it, or retain anything useful about what they do read.

  18. LadyOdette*

    As a fellow autistic person (asperger to be precise), I can get behind not recognizing social cues and the stuff. I can easily pick up the behavior while I’m reading your stuff.

    However, you are starting to catch those cues that this intern is being invasive, and it’s wonderful that you boss has your back. I would ignore intern from now on, except when it comes to actual working matters.

    And when it comes to questions:
    “This has nothing to do with work.”
    “I am not answering that, that is incredibly rude.”
    “Wow. That is entirely inappropriate to ask.”
    “You do realize that that this is completely inappropriate to ask, correct?”

    Chances are, intern is gonna be defensive or call it a joke.
    “That joke was not funny. Don’t ask that again.”
    “Don’t do that again.”

    As for the intern simply shadowing you, you need to ask:
    “Is there anything you need?”
    “Do you need help?”
    “How can I help you?”
    Keep an ye on what he’s doing. Is he trying to look over your shoulder? He might be trying to look over your shoulder at your work or at your smart device (ipad and/or iphone) to get any dirt.

    It sounds like the intern is trying to bully you out so that he can get the job. You need to show him no reason that you could ever be bullied by such a jerk, and let his own actions lead to his downfall. He’s probably already in hot water for the invasive questions, so just let him burn his own ship.

  19. LQ*

    I’m glad you asked if you were being a jerk rather than assuming you were and keeping silent. It is easy if you’ve got awkward backstory to go, I’m just going to always assume I’m the jerk. But that doesn’t help you learn. Asking here was awesome so GO YOU!

    You are not the jerk. You do not need to suck it up and be quiet. (And if you want, because I know this helps me, but speaking up when you are able to do so, may help someone who does not feel they are able to not have to speak up later.)

  20. BethRA*

    I’m so glad AAM and some of the other posters gave you helpful advice, OP, because I’m still cracking up about the idea of a Pant-less King of Australia (thank you for making me smile today)

  21. Lily Rowan*

    Alison, I just have to note that I thought the end of your advice was so kind, taking it a little beyond the specific workplace question.

  22. specialist*

    Charlie B welcome and I hope to see more of you here. Your problem is both interesting and appropriate.

    With your permission I will share a few of my responses:
    That isn’t an appropriate question for work.
    When I say that isn’t an appropriate question for work you need to stop asking it.
    Please discuss the question with your supervisor. That is why you have an assigned supervisor.
    Calling it a joke still doesn’t make it appropriate for work.
    It isn’t necessary to explain why you asked. Just apologize and move on.

    Most of the time anymore, I am the one stepping into the conversation and telling the recipient of the question that they are not required to answer.

    1. Camellia*

      This is awesome! Especially this one: Calling it a joke still doesn’t make it appropriate for work.

      A variation of this will work for all those times when someone, in any situation, says something negative/hurtful/sexist/racist/etc. and then says it was just joke/they were just joking in an attempt to cover themselves by making it seem like you are a bad sport/can’t take a joke/not a team player/whatever.

      “Calling it a joke doesn’t make it appropriate.” Beautiful in its simplicity.

  23. stevenz*

    This guy is beyond rude, he actually has a problem, as in he’s not playing with a full deck. It would be rude if he asked them once. It would be incredibly rude if he asked them twice. More than that? Back away very slowly and call 911.

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