should I invite my lonely intern over for dinner?

A reader writes:

I am a female in my mid-30s who is fairly new to managing. I am currently supervising an intern, “Fergus,” who is a grad student in his mid-20s. His home city is an eight-hour drive away (or a one-hour flight away), which makes it a bit impractical for him to travel home every weekend. Fergus’s internship lasts for seven weeks. He’s been here for three weeks, and has another four weeks left to go. He is also single, and doesn’t have any friends or family in our city. Currently, he is staying in a bedsit in the suburbs, and I get the strong impression that he is at loose ends during evenings and weekends.

While our organization currently has around 20 interns, I gather that HR has not organized any social events for them (and in any case, most other interns live locally and already have their circles of friends, and social lives, etc). My branch normally has Friday work drinks, which I mentioned to Fergus on his first day. He seemed really eager to attend (to the point where he brought up the topic several times, and excitedly asked other people in our team if they were going), but unfortunately Friday drinks haven’t gone ahead since Fergus has been with us (not sure why — I think the person in our office who normally organizes them has been busy).

I also belong to a weekly pub quiz team, and invited Fergus to attend. Again, he eagerly accepted the invitation, but unfortunately it transpired that my team’s regular venue is temporarily closed, and we haven’t got around to finding a new one yet. So Fergus has been spending his evenings and weekends alone, watching TV, or checking out my city’s few tourist attractions (my city is relatively small, and the attractions don’t really take long to see). It’s reached the point where Fergus has asked me if he can take work home with him, for something to do. (I kindly but firmly told him no, firstly for security reasons, and secondly because our organization encourages a healthy work-life balance).

As Fergus’s supervisor (and noting that he is a young, out-of-town intern), do I have an obligation to ensure that he isn’t lonely during evenings and weekends? Should I invite him over to my house on the weekend or after work for dinner or a BBQ? Would this be kind, or wildly inappropriate? I should add that I am happily married, but my husband would be okay with this. There are a couple of complicating factors, however. Firstly, Fergus doesn’t drive, and our city’s public transport is lousy. I live across town, and it would be a 90-minute round trip to pick Fergus up from his bedsit, and another 90-minute round trip to drop him back afterwards. Secondly, despite his eagerness to socialize, I find him a little socially awkward. He is a perfectly pleasant person, but it’s sometimes challenging making small talk with him. However, if you (and the readers) consider that it would be a kindness to host him for a meal, I’m fully prepared to do so.

Poor Fergus — he does sound lonely.

I do not think that managers have an obligation to ensure that interns aren’t lonely during evenings and weekends. Your obligations are about work things — providing clear expectations, giving useful feedback, helping interns adjust to office life, etc.

That said, I also think that if you notice your interns are lonely and starved for something to do, you should try to ensure that at least one or two events are organized for them with other people in your office. That can mean putting together a happy hour or trivia night yourself, or it can mean nudging someone else to.

So in this case, I’d say you should (1) ask HR if they’d organize something social for all the interns, (2) ask someone to organize another Friday drinks thing or organize it yourself (don’t feel like you have to wait for the usual organizer, if she’s too busy to do it right now), and (3) if those effort don’t result in at least one social event, organize some other activity yourself.

But I don’t think you need to invite Fergus to your house. I mean, you certainly can if you want to — it wouldn’t be wildly inappropriate or anything like that — but it sounds like it would feel obligatory on your side, and you really aren’t obligated to do it. Plus, a 90-minute drive each way is a really long drive … and a long drive with one-on-one time with you and/or your husband is maybe a little too intimate for the context. (It would be different if you were already having a BBQ with other people and you invited him to that … but even then, that’s a hell of a lot of time in the car together.)

However, you could instead take him to lunch one day during the workday to talk about how things are going in his internship and get to know him more outside of a work context. You could also invite him and a handful of other people to dinner after work one night — somewhere close to your office so that you’re eliminating all those long car rides to take him to and fro.

{ 292 comments… read them below }

  1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Ask the other interns to take him out after work. Offer to pay for a round of appetizers as an incentive. Not drinks, that could be problematic.

    1. Emac*

      I don’t know about asking the other interns to take him out – that seems a little too forced. But I think organizing something like that for all of the interns in general is a good idea. Even if most of the other interns already have their own social circles outside of work, I bet a lot would still be interested in meeting and networking with other interns at their company. You could even facilitate it a little in a “learn how to network!” way (since the OP mentions that Fergus is a little socially awkward, and I know I wouldn’t have had any idea of what to do at a networking event at that age).

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        This is a good idea. Learning how to navigate workplace-culture stuff like this isn’t strictly within OP’s purview but the interns will definitely be glad they got help.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Yeah–definitely don’t do that. But definitely focus on something for all interns together!

  2. MsChanandlerBong*

    Totally OT, but I thought the title was “Should I invite my homely intern over for dinner?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Someday I want to run a blog based on all the misreadings of question titles there have been over the years. Once when the subject line had “man buns” in it, some people didn’t realize it was about the hair style.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Lol! Yeah, I glanced at it quickly and thought, “Way harsh, Tai” when I thought the OP called the intern homely.

      2. AthenaC*

        When I’m reading things for work, my brain likes to misread “manipulating” as “mansplaining,” and also likes to misread “haphazardly” as “happily.” Makes for some rather hilarious reading.

        Ex: “We observed Lucinda pull the report and noted that there was no mansplaining of the data provided. As such, we happily selected X items for testing.”

        1. BPT*

          Often when I have a bunch of tabs open and I can only see part of the title of the webpage, this one shows as: “Ask a Man…” and then I get really offended and am like “I will NOT” until I remember it’s Ask a Manager.

          (No offense to the men out there – I ask men plenty of things, haha, I just don’t like the idea of specifically being told to ask a man.)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ha, yes! When I search for my own comments, I sometimes type in “ask a man” so I don’t have to type out the whole thing, and then I’m like, what am I really looking for here?

            1. Phyllis B*

              Do it!!!!!!!!!!! All these comments are cracking me up. However, if I read a whole blog of this, my family may cart me off to the funny farm. (They already look at me funny when I’m sitting here dying over some of the things that set me off.)

              1. Phyllis B*

                I have already learned not to read AAM at the library. One day I just had to get up and leave; I was afraid I was going to be banned for making a ruckus.

            2. Liane*

              This must be one of the few sites beginning with A that I visit on my iPad. I don’t type past A before AAM is in the top 3 of the dropdown, and the rest have As in the middle.

              But please, do the misread titles. Perhaps April 1 would be appropriate? I know I have misread my share.

          2. Any Moose*

            I’m in Accounting and in a past job, one of the general ledger accounts was abbreviated to “fur and fixed ass.” (Furniture and Fixed Assets) It was like that when I started their and I never changed it. Don’t know if they are still in business but I got a chuckle out of it every time I saw it.

            1. orchidsandtea*

              One of our clients is Associated Wholesale Teapots. They’re not the friendliest to our customer service department.

              A coworker over in Lids sent an internal email with the subject line “order #3.14159 — ass. whole”. I took a screenshot and sent it to my boss. “Well, depending on the contact…”

              1. Chaordic One*

                When I worked in HR, I had a particular contractor who was never prepared before an assignment and I always had to nag her to get appropriate forms and paperwork turned in on time. She once turned in her paperwork in an envelope addressed to me, followed by my title, abbreviated to: Administrative Ass.

                I think she did it on purpose. I never confronted her or said anything about it to anyone, but I was kind of p.o.’d.

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  Oh my god, I am cracking up at this. There is a really mean admin here and this is very tempting.

              2. Mrs. Fenris*

                I was trying to label a prescription “Add one packet…” My fingers were in the wrong place and I typed “Ass one packet…” It was a diarrhea medication. I actually printed it, but caught it before I stuck it on the box.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Our company name at Exjob was something like “Founder Name and Associates,” but the Internet Explorer tab would cut the intranet page title off to “Founder Name & Ass.” I found it endlessly hilarious.

            3. Kyrielle*

              That’s better than the Sales and Marketing group at a previous job, and I thought they were hilarious. Only because their assigned group email was s& – seriously, did no one read that even a little bit before creating it?

              1. NoMoreMrFixit*

                That’s priceless! Years ago I taught computer studies courses part time. Went to a conference to discover that the department field on the name tag had truncated the last few letters so I had to walk around all day with a name tag of First Last Computer Stud. Got teased about it for months afterwards.

                1. Susan*

                  That’s the situation where you just own it. Stride around with head held high and a smile on your face =)

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This is amazing. I had a friend who was given the title “management assistant” for the sole and exclusive purpose of ensuring his abbreviated name would be “Man. Ass.”

              1. Liane*

                LOL. Last time badly proofread resumes came up in the Friday thread, there were several people who had Ass. Managers apply for openings.

                Wait–are you saying your friend asked his boss or HR, “Can we rename my Teapot Lead job as Manager Assistant because I always wanted ‘Man. Ass.’ in my email sig?” and they said “Sure”?

            5. Nerfmobile*

              In one of my early jobs, they were in the midst of renaming a bunch of the IT positions, and the role I was in was newly designated as “Computing & Informations Systems Associate” (IT minion, in less formal terms). When the new titles were rolled out, this one surely appeared as “Computing & Info Sys Ass”, which garnered me a lot of ribbing from the people I supported. If I recall properly, we effectively lobbied HR to re-abbreviate it as “Comp & Info Sys Assoc”.

            6. bohtie*

              my job’s shortened title in our payroll system is “business admin,” which is shortened to “badmin,” which sounds like someone you should probably avoid at all costs!

      3. cleo*

        I did that! I thought it was going to be another work pool party question about speedos or something. For once, the real question was less outrageous than I expected.

      4. AD*

        That made me LOL Alison. I picture something like “AAM After Dark” with questions about man buns and NSFW topics.

      5. H.C.*

        now I’m getting the imagery of some dude interviewing/working while exposing his other “man buns”

  3. rubyrose*

    I feel sorry for Fergus and think AAM’s suggestions are good.

    But if this is in a field where Fergus might find himself on the road as a consultant, supporting a client, this is a good opportunity for him to learn how to take care of himself in such circumstances.

    1. caryatis*

      I think it’s a good opportunity for him to learn to live alone, regardless of the field. Fergus is “mid-20s” according to OP, therefore an adult, therefore someone who should be able to take care of himself. Whether he ever learns this or not, it’s not his manager’s responsibility.

      1. Yep*

        As someone in her mid-20s who ended up moving 600 miles away from her family and friends for a dream job…yep. Sometimes you end up in a situation where you have to learn to be comfortable with being alone and/or (usually and) learn how to meet people outside of a school or work setting.

        1. bohtie*

          ditto, I did the same thing at the same age (and I’m a super intense introvert with major anxiety problems). Luckily my hobbies include swing dancing, which is an extremely great way to meet strangers without having to talk to them in-depth about your life unless you want to.

      2. Koko*

        Yes, this. I was a grad student in my mid-20s and to be totally honest, I would have been mortified if I thought one of my supervisors was trying to take on responsibility for my social and emotional well-being. I had been living on my own for 4 years, was financially independent, and considered myself an adult responsible for myself and my own well-being.

        (In fact, I also was living in a small town without many social opportunities. I muddled through best I could and eventually withdrew from my program in part because I wanted to live in a less isolated place and couldn’t bear the thought of another 4 years stuck in that small town. That was a decision I made as an adult to take care of myself, and I even told my supervisor that it was the biggest contributing factor to my decision to leave, which he understood. I wouldn’t have wanted him to try to talk me out of it by offering himself up as a social opportunity!)

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Seconding. It’s a hard thing to get used to, but it’s such an important skill to develop.

      4. Amber T*

        I agree with the caveat that an 8 week period is awkward. If this was a permanent move, I’d 100% agree with you. But 8 weeks is short enough to still feel temporary but long enough to miss normal life. Even as it is, I’m not sure it’s the managers responsibility to schedule fun times for the interns (especially if this is the only intern).

        Is there one central person who’s in charge of hiring all the interns? If so, that’s a good person to schedule something. If not, call up another manager of an intern and try and schedule the four of you to go out to lunch or something.

        Also, if your team is used to having after work social events, I don’t think it’s out of line for you to say to your team “hey, let’s grab drinks on Friday!” and see who shows up.

        1. Amber T*

          I’m thinking of myself in this case – I’m a major introvert and making friends as an adult sucked. I can totally see myself thinking “why bother” when trying to make friends because I’m just gonna leave them in a few weeks, then sorta kicking myself because 8 weeks is still a pretty long time to not have friends.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is very true—the art of making friends as a grownup is hard, and it really takes being in a place where there’s no organized fun or pressure to hang out to learn how to navigate it all. When you’re bored and alone, it’s also a good incentive to look up things to do, schedule adventures, etc. I think Fergus has to do that work, though, not OP.

        OP, you could take him for lunch sometime (although that will be inherently work-related), but I agree with Alison that it’s better to try to make one of the organized fun events happen than to bring him to your house.

      6. Em too*

        True, but he’s learning that anyway on the other 6 days of the week! And it’s pretty unusual to be thrown somewhere with no network at all and an office which is having an inconvenient run of cancel-all-the-social.

        Definitely seconding arranging something social & casual, possibly with a plan to duck out as soon as everyone’s settled and leave the interns to socialise away.

    2. Temperance*

      I am having a weird reaction to this letter, and I think it’s because of the emotional labor involved.

      1. Marisol*

        I kind of went on red-alert when reading it, afraid the OP was setting herself up to be the office mom. Hopefully that’s not a danger here.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s exactly the feeling I had. She definitely means well, and is frankly a far kinder person than I could ever hope to be.

    3. Bwmn*

      On the flip side of this – my friend worked for many years at an institution that had its headquarters in a somewhat remote part of the country. While the institutions many branches was seeking people who were happy to live in more removed areas – they also needed staff would were good with people – essentially like being hotel staff in a hotel on a mountain top.

      For staff that would invite interns and new employees to happy hours, trivia night, home cooked dinner, etc. reflected well on staff with upper management. Obviously no one was penalized or required to do this – but it was seen as a plus and reflected well on people during their evaluations and reviews for management/increased management opportunities.

      So while a independent contractor expected to work on their own a lot – this might be good training, the flipside could also be said where making interns feel welcome can ultimately benefit the OP.

    4. Notorious MCG*

      This amount of time really is awkward to try and make outside of work friends. My husband and I relocate fairly frequently, and I have to ‘pick up women’ (I’m a woman) at the dog park, at networking events, at work, at the store, literally anywhere just so I can start to build a social circle. But at least I know I’ll be sticking around at least a year or two

    5. seejay*

      Yep, agreed with this. :/ I feel bad for him too, I’ve had to rebuild my social life from scratch a few times, finding myself alone with no one I knew near me, but that’s part of being an adult. There’s resources, the internet, all sorts of ways to get out. I understand being introverted and all, but you can’t rely on someone else being the one to build your social life and alleviate your loneliness for you.

      By all means, the OP can arrange for some social events for the interns, but I think inviting him over is a huge potential landmine. I could easily see her emailing back in a few months with “My intern has a crush on me and is now stalking me, what do I do?” (yes, worst case scenario, but having gone through a few similar situations, I tend to project for worst case so I don’t wind up there first).

    6. Chaordic One*

      If it’s a typical internship he probably can’t afford to do very much when he’s not at work. It sucks and it’s just kind of how it is.

  4. Chameleon*

    Don’t do it. It sounds like hours of awkward horror. Plus, if Fergus is socially awkward, he may not want to spend that much time on best behavior…but feel like he has to because you’re his boss.

    Organize something short, low- stakes, and with a group, if you want to help him out.

    1. hermit crab*

      I had the same thought, and then I remembered that I was in essentially this position during the summer after undergrad, and it was fine. There was something big on TV (sports? I forget) and my boss invited me over to have dinner and watch it with him and his family because the seasonal staff’s bunkhouse didn’t have cable. I appreciated the invitation and it was fun! However, we were in the middle of nowhere (small town near a Forest Service ranger station) and it wasn’t like there was a lot else going on. I could also walk to his house — I think the 90-minute drive here makes a big difference.

  5. Lovemyjob...Truly!!*

    I don’t recommend inviting him to your home. I once invited a lonely co-worker to dinner at my house. She was truly lonely and very chatty and ignored all attempts I made to end the night. At one point I outright asked her to leave and she just kept talking. My husband ended up shutting all of the lights off in our home and told her “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” I was mortified, but it worked more effectively than my outright asking her to leave.

    I think arranging a night out with other co-workers in a public space is a better idea. Trivia Night, Karaoke, open mic night at a comedy club?

    1. Hope*

      …no wonder she was lonely, if she didn’t leave after you flat out asked her to. That’s the kind of person I would stay as far away from as possible.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I want to hear from the people who do this (the endless talking when your hosts are trying to get you to leave). I have many questions for them.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Raises hand embarrassedly. I’ve been known to do it. It’s one of my struggles to cut myself off and be respectful and go. Ask away.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oooh, thank you! Do you think you’re oblivious to signs that your hosts are signaling you that it’s time to go, or are you seeing those signs but setting them aside because of (reason)?

          (I know I’m taking us off-topic here, but I think this will not be a 400+ comment post so I’m doing it anyway.)

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            I think I have been that person before, and if I have been it was because I’m just really bad at reading cues from other people. I’ve gotten a lot better at it now, but I’m sure there were a few times when I overstayed my welcome. I certainly left when flat-out asked to, though!

              1. animaniactoo*

                Can’t answer for Rat, but it makes me feel somewhat embarrassed because I’ve missed the cue and made them uncomfortable. Generally an easily covered/gotten over embarrassment with apologies. I try to give the out as often as possible “I know I babble, so feel free to tell me to shut up.” and I’ll cut myself off too “Okay, I’m babbling now, I’ll stop”.

                In truth, I am my father’s child and he is very good at continuing on long past the point of anybody’s interest. My sole goal here has been to be not as bad as him and I’m only 60% or so as bad as he is, maybe in my next life I can be even better.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If it makes you feel any better, I don’t feel uncomfortable when someone misses the cue. I might feel impatient, but definitely not uncomfortable (and really, I feel glad that they’re enjoying my company, even though I do want them to wrap up and go). The main feeling I’m left with afterwards is usually “that was fun, even if it was a little longer than I expected” not “why the hell did he stay so long.”

                  I can’t speak for others, but I suspect I’m not alone in that.

                2. animaniactoo*

                  Thank you. I mostly figure they forgive me/accept this about me because they do invite me back… usually. ;)

              2. Shelly*

                I am never offended as long as it is said with a bright kind smile. I have been told, “It’s getting late, so please get out of our house.”

              3. Emi.*

                I’ve missed social cues to leave, and I always feel embarrassed when I realize. I’m not insulted, just very embarrassed (and frantically wondering what other cues I may have missed, like maybe they hate me and didn’t want me to come over in the first place). Sometimes I can tell you’re trying to get me to leave, but I can’t find a non-awkward moment in the conversation to exit.

                1. Liz2*

                  That’s so weird, if you can tell they are trying to leave, there’s no need to “find a moment.” They are already done and tuned you out. You simply say “Oh, so sorry I keep going, I need to head out now!”

                2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  My feeling is that, in this situation, the conversation is becoming all awkward moments.

                3. Emi.*

                  Liz2, I’m thinking more of a situation where we’re still having a conversation, but I have the sense they’re trying to wrap it up. If they had tuned me out, it wouldn’t be so awkward (like Irritable Scientist says!).

                4. Emac*

                  I can understand this. I don’t think I would generally be accused of overstaying, but there have been times when I’m certain that I’m getting the cue to go, but then they keep talking. I don’t know if I’m just misreading or if they’re just so uncomfortable with silence for the few seconds it can take me to process and get words out (when anxiety is bad, I go blank a lot even for something simple like “This was fun, good night!”).

                5. fposte*

                  @Emi.–this is why the decline in watch-wearing is a tragedy. It’s always okay to look at your watch and exclaim “Oh, my goodness! I had no idea it was 7 pm already!” and bolt. (Okay, in earlier eras you wouldn’t have worn a wristwatch at an evening engagement, but that’s only because people didn’t realize how freaking useful they were for this.)

                6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Emi, I totally hear you, and I agree with Emac (and you) that sometimes you know they want you to leave but you can’t find a non-awkward moment. This is especially true if I feel like I talked a lot—I’m not going to cut off my host mid-talk!

                  Sometimes I’ll try to signal back that I’m ok with leaving by apologizing for being rude and saying I need to check my phone, then I check said phone, then I make up an “oh my goodness!” reason to leave.

              4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’ve missed those cues, before, and I’m embarrassed but never insulted. If I feel awkward, it’s because of my own behavior, not because I think my host is ungracious.

                I’ve only once or twice deliberately ignored a signal, but it was always because of an important overriding reason. But I do this very rarely and only for very serious reasons because it’s really not good to trap someone in their house.

              5. Dyshidrosis*

                It makes me feel bad that I put them in the situation where they had to ask me to leave. I have no bad thoughts towards them. Now that I am married I have a social ally who picks up on the cues and gives me signals I can pick up on.

              6. Rat in the Sugar*

                It makes me feel embarrassed, but not insulted. I can tell when people are trying to be kind about my awkwardness, and I really appreciate it and just try to do better and be a better friend next time. I figure if they were really pissed about it or didn’t want to hang out anymore they wouldn’t bother to be kind, so I try to take a deep breath and get over it (rather than getting SUPER-embarrassed and ghosting because I’m afraid they never want to see me again, which is always a tempting option).

                1. the gold digger*

                  I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. My roommate and I had a party at our house with both Americans and Chileans. The Americans arrived at 7 and left by 11. Chileans arrived around 9-9:30 and at midnight, were still there.

                  I finally said, “I am going to bed. Stay as long as you want, but please lock the door when you go!”

          2. animaniactoo*

            Sometimes, I’m absolutely oblivious. I’m well known for being both oblivious and direct (fairly tactfully) about all kinds of stuff. I mean like I walked into my parents house, put my bag on the table, hung my jacket on a chair, and continued on into the kitchen to talk to my mom. Completely failing to notice that the very dark cherry walnut semi-rectangular dual pedestal table had magically become a light natural 4-legged completely rectangular table. And the farmhouse chairs with round spindle backs had become matching chairs with much taller squared-off backs and upholstered seats.

            I was absolutely socially awkward when I was younger and sometimes still am but I’ve settled into myself a lot more in the past few years and there’s less of it. So, I did spend a lot of time *learning* to pay attention to people, and I am and always have been sensitive to discomfort, but prone to misinterpreting the reason for the discomfort. Did I not explain myself well and I’m leaving a bad impression here? I better explain further and clear that up…

            I also side track easily, and if it’s likely that I won’t see you again soon, I’m more likely to think that I have to tell you this funny thing and share the laugh with you before I don’t get the opportunity again, even though I know you want me to go now(ish), because it will only take a moment. Why, yes. I do sometimes misinterpret how long things will take too, mostly because I fail to take their response into account. How did you guess? :\ So a string of sidetracks might push me into really overstaying territory, but generally not so bad that people turn out the lights on me.

            I suspect there’s also a piece of this that’s due to my parents’ habit of telling us it was time to go and then spending another hour talking. So they’d tell us 5 or 6 times it was time to go, fall back to talking about something, and then FINALLY they’d come up and tell us to come get our jackets on, etc. So I don’t really “believe” that it’s time to go even when I get the time-to-go signal and I need double-confirmation or something?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is so interesting! The parts about misjudging how long one more quick comment will take and about what your parents might have wired you for make a lot of sense.

              The amusing irony here is that you’re very self-aware in your analysis of why you’re sometimes not entirely aware. (I also think your comments here are consistently insightful and thoughtful, so I am not surprised that you’re able to give such a self-aware analysis of this.)

              1. animaniactoo*

                Thank you much! I spent a lot of time in therapy figuring out how to cope with my own stuff and figure out how to interact with the world better, and a lot of that was training in how to analyze situations for myself. So some of the analysis here today is “Okay, brand-new, Alison asked me, let me think about it” and some of it is previously looked at as part of my ongoing struggle to see what I’m doing so I can be better about it.

                1. LBK*

                  Ha – this is me to a T. My grandboss and I often talk about how we’re in the same position of having high self-awareness but low self-control, so we’re completely aware of the annoying behaviors we exhibit but lack the ability to stop ourselves from doing them anyway. A lot of this did also come from therapy for me; I practiced self-analysis there to the point that my therapist used to joke that I did most of the work myself and she was just there to nod encouragingly.

                  And I can’t even count the number of times I had to drag my mother out of somewhere growing up because it was always “time to go” and then an hour later she’d still be talking to someone – interestingly, it had the opposite effect on me, where now as soon as I decide I’m ready to leave I want to be out. the. door. and hanging around longer can be excruciating.

                2. TheLazyB*

                  OH MY GOD LBK.”high self-awareness but low self-control”. THAT IS ME. Why have I never put these things together before?!

                  Alison thank you so much for derailing, this is FASCINATING.

                3. hermit crab*

                  +1 for LBK’s “high self-awareness but low self-control”

                  I have never heard that before but it absolutely describes me 100%

                4. animaniactoo*

                  *snicker* that sounds like my report card which in elementary school consistently said “has great potential by does not apply herself”.

                  One of the things that I worked on in therapy was not just the analysis portion, but the next step that was all about CBT – the planning portion. So I know I keep having the same interaction or kind of interaction over and over again and I’m not getting the result I want. Okay, let’s think. What can I say – words and all – or do differently? What is the mostly likely set of results from that (all of them, good to bad), how would I followup with receiving those results?

                  The main thing that this did is that without having thought that through, the next time I ran into the situation, I would reach for my usual behavior because…. I didn’t have anything else there to replace it with. This pre-planning didn’t mean I always pulled it off, but it at least gave me the *option* of something else in my head to reach for when I hit the moment. So sometimes, that would succeed. And the more it succeeded and I got good feedback from doing it that way (better results out of the situation), the more I tended to reach for the new response rather than the old one. It was literally retraining me out of my patterns into new ones.

                  And then came the really hard part – figuring out which pieces of me were too ingrained or not a big enough problem to just leave alone and be okay being imperfect.

                5. Jaydee*

                  @LBK – Add one more to the “high self-awareness, low self-control” group. This explains a lot.

                6. halpful*

                  LBK: “I practiced self-analysis there to the point that my therapist used to joke that I did most of the work myself and she was just there to nod encouragingly.”

                  LOL, me too. :)

                  and my dad was the trying-but-failing-to-leave type – on the phone it takes us at least a minute or two to get from exchanging goodbye-like-phrases to actually hanging up. and that’s without counting the times when it’s unfamiliar software and we forget *how* to hang up. :)

            2. The Moops*

              That last paragraph describes my parents. Oh, those hour-plus waits inside while bundled up in winter gear were agony! Unfortunately, that didn’t stop me from adopting the habit, although I’m more of a 15 minute person and am trying to cut it out altogether.

                1. Kate*

                  We call it the “Farewell Tour” in our house. Some of our family members (ahem, mom) have to have one last conversation with every single person present before they can leave. So we say “ok, time to start your farewell tour” and then plan on leaving half an hour later.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Quite literally, I distinctly remember them calling up the stairs that we were leaving in 5 minutes and looking at the kids of the family we were hanging out with and one or the other of us saying “That means we have another half hour”. Fortunately, once we had our jackets on, we were actually leaving and didn’t have your experience! That must have really sucked. [sympathy hug]

              2. Future Analyst*

                Yessss, my husband’s entire family does this (to this day), and my family was very much “time to go, say bye, and be out the door in 3-5 mins.” It’s been an… interesting contrast. I remember when my dad would come visit our apartment (when we lived in the same state): at some point he’d decide it was time to go, and would just get up, put on his coat, and stand by the door until we bid him adieu. My husband was taken aback by how abrupt it was, but I totally appreciate that we know exactly what’s happening, and no-one feels awkward about staying.

                1. Liz2*

                  I hate the delayed/staggered/forever goodbye thing as well. So when I go to a social event with someone, I give a clear “time I’m leaving by” ahead of time. It takes mutual explicit agreement to stay longer and that’s super rare. This means they have to start their staggered goodbyes earlier sometimes, but I’m not stressed.

                2. Jessesgirl72*

                  My inlaws are 30 minutes, minimum. His grandmother was notorious for remembering something pressing that ONLY my husband could do only after we got up to get our coats.

                  The only thing that saves us at all is when we take the train. Since the train only runs every 2 hours, they can’t really justify making us miss the train and have to wait for the next one.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                UGH, my grandparents and parents both do this, and it drives me crazy! My parents do it because if they actually leave, my grandparents later call them and tell them they were rude. So even though their inclination is to be polite and skedaddle, their grandparent-specific training was bleeding over into other situations. We’ve (the sibs) slowly gotten our parents to transition back to their norm, but we also just started budgeting an extra hour knowing that they weren’t going to leave when they said they would.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  My mom is very direct about kicking people out (before she has even given any subtle cues first!), and it’s amazing and uncomfortable to watch. She will literally just stand up and say, “Alright, I’m kicking you out now.”

                2. Marisol*

                  @AAM – I think a direct statement like that in a friendly tone might be my favorite way to negotiate most social interactions. Although on paper “I’m kicking you out now” could be considered a rude phrase, the warmth of the delivery offsets that and makes it cute.

                3. Marisol*

                  oh wait a minute, I didn’t see that there were NO cues beforehand. Hmmm…in that case, I think it’s maybe not optimal, but definitely could be an endearing quirk.

                4. Em too*

                  Oh, but if you pull it off right it’s great – it says you’re my friend and we can do this and all the other times when I’m not saying it that means I’m happy you’re here! But… risky. (Used to do it in my student days, though usually with ‘I need to sleep/work/eat’ attached which I guess is different.)

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Alison, your mom might be my hero in this respect. :)

                  I find the older I get, the more I like statements that are both direct and kind. It used to set me on my heels when I was younger, but I’ve been won over to the blunt side.

                6. Kasia*

                  I have been known to tell people on arrival that I’m kicking them out at X time. Usually it gets people out the door around all that time, and I feel like maybe it’s less awkward because I do it up front. They know it isn’t anything they’ve done, so I don’t think it’s embarrassing.

              4. Simonthegreywarden*

                It’s the thing my husband hates worst about visiting my parents (whom he actually does really love). My dad will follow you to the door while you put your coat on, and keep talking. While I am really good about not overstaying when it isn’t my folks, I’ll keep talking to my dad while my husband paces back and forth in front of the door. Eventually my dad will say “One more thing…” and my husband will say “No more things!” and at that point I realize it has been 25 minutes and we leave.

            3. Emi.*

              Haha, my entire paternal extended family is like this. My parents say we’re about to leave; my cousin’s parents say they’re about to leave; my cousin and I roll our eyes and continue our conversation.

            4. TheLazyB*

              Mwahaha the table thing!!!!!! I quite often fail to notice hugely obvious stuff like this. When I was a teenager my boyfriend came over and I spent two hours with him before my mum came into the room and said ‘oh you’ve shaved your beard off!!!’ I. Hadn’t. Noticed. Which is bad enough, but I still don’t notice when my DH changes his beard/shaving habits.

              So, yeah. I feel you there.

              1. animaniactoo*

                So, you’d be familiar with the time when I went to visit my then-long-distance-boyfriend-now-husband, and he had gotten a huge Wakko doll for me, placed it on the bed, and then came out to where I was watching TV to ask me to get him something out of my suitcase in the bedroom? And I walked in, got him the thing and walked out without ever noticing the doll? He no longer attempts to be subtle like that…

                I also forgot to mention that the original table had been there for 30 years or more, through all of my childhood and beyond, so it’s not like this was something that was prone to change or I might have been unfamiliar with what was there before.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  animaniactoo, are you my dad’s long-lost sibling?

                  I grew up wearing coke-bottle glasses from ages 6-15, and braces from 9-15. When I got contacts and my braces off, he literally did not notice. Like, not even noticed later—he literally never noticed. It still makes me laugh.

            5. Anon for this one*

              My husband is on the Autism Spectrum (PDD-NOS for those familiar with the DSM). And he’s horrible about reading social cues, including when he has carried on just a wee bit too long about whatever fascinates him. He also has a tendency to change OTHER people’s subjects when he’s not interested in what they have to say. He too, is in the “aware but struggles to change” category. After a social engagement he’ll fret about all the things he’s sure he did wrong. Breaks my heart for him, because most of what he worries about didn’t register with anyone but him.

          3. Shelly*

            Yeah, I’ve totally been that person. I don’t mean to be that person, but sometimes I’m not great at reading social signals. It doesn’t help that I live in the South (though I am not from here) where “Have Another Glass of Tea” might either mean: Get the heck out of my house! or might be sincere. I try to make myself use other’s cues. So if a bunch of people are there, I leave when they leave.

            I think I sometimes get so wrapped up in the discussion and passionate about it, that I kinda miss things sometimes.

            1. Joseph*

              “Have Another Glass of Tea” might either mean: Get the heck out of my house! or might be sincere.
              Wait, wait. How in the world does “Here’s another drink” mean get out? They’re offering you a drink, which will take you at least 15-20 minutes to finish up. That’s about as explicit of a please “stay another few minutes” sign as you could possibly invent!

              1. Emi.*

                But it’s a way of drawing attention to the fact that you’ve finished your tea, which might be an exit cue.

              2. OhNo*

                I gather that sometimes that’s meant as a reminder of how long you’ve been there, and a cue for you to politely excuse yourself.

                Much like asking, “Don’t you have something else you should be doing?” The answer might be an honest “nope!”, but it’s meant more as a polite reminder that you’ve been there a while, and offers a polite way to excuse yourself from the situation.

              3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                This is one of the reasons I always get culture shock when I travel in the South. Unless you grew up there or live there for some time, it’s like visiting another country, with strange and delightful social norms.

                1. Marisol*

                  My mother’s family is from the South. Once when I was a child, we were visiting relatives and she told us to start packing up to go and my aunt said something like, “oh, do you really have to go? You just got here!” I had been having fun and implored my mother to stay longer: “but they want us to stay! Why can’t we stay?” My mother whispered, “I’ll explain later” in my ear and later that evening gave me a lesson in Southern hospitality. I’m sure the subtleties will continue to elude me though.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  One of the professors I work with is very Southern in expressing things indirectly. I constantly have to gauge how “nice” he’s being: normal-nice means everything is okay; extra-nice means you may be trying his patience; and extra-super-nice means that he has had it up to here with you and will probably vent about it to someone later in a conversation that begins with “I never like to be unkind about anyone, but . . . “

              4. E.R*

                I knew a man from the South who warned me that when people in the South are nice to you, it could either mean they genuinely like you (maybe) or that Southern Hospitality is so ingrained in them that they will be nice to you despite not liking you one bit, or only wanting to get information from you to make fun of you later (I’m paraphrasing – he explained it better). It’s like one of those cultural things that makes no sense if you aren’t a part of that culture.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I’d agree with most of your comment, but not the bit about being nice to you to get information to use to make fun of you later–that’s not a southern thing, that’s a Certain Type of Person thing. Those people are everywhere.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I agree with JB, but I also think it’s important to know that all things that sound like compliments in Southern-ese can also be insults. The most obvious being “bless your heart.”

                3. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  It’s like I was saying in another comment about a professor that I work with: in the South, especially with older, more traditionally-Southern people, you have to pay attention to how “nice” they are being. I feel like I’m always trying to read the level of sincerity between the lines of varying degrees of coded “niceness”.

              5. LBK*

                Because the response is supposed to be “Oh, no more for me, I actually have to get going.” It’s calling attention to a natural break in your interaction (pausing to get another drink) and prompting you to excuse yourself rather than accept another round.

                Think of it more like when the waiter comes to your table and asks if you want another round of drinks. That’s usually when you decide if you’re going (no) or staying longer (yes). Same principal applies here, it’s just being done by the host instead of a third party.

          4. Joseph*

            I think it’s mostly obliviousness, but it’s also worth noting that it’s not uncommon for hosts to send indirect signals that they think are perfectly clear, but actually aren’t – a yawn could mean “I’m ready for bed so get out”, but could just as easily mean that it’s been a long day; cleaning the house could be a signal of “we’re done here” or just using time efficiently while still happily conversing; pointedly looking up at the clock could just be looking up at the clock rather than a time’s-up signal. And so on.
            My rule is that if I’m hosting, I will do a polite signal once and once only. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to simply be direct and say “I need to wake up early tomorrow*, but it’s been lovely to see you, let me show you out”.
            *Modify into “afternoon errands”, “lunch plans” or other time-appropriate excuse as applicable.

            1. Koko*

              Throughout my 20s I was pretty much the only person I knew who went to bed before midnight which meant I got very comfortable kicking people out of my house, because I knew that none of them would ever think to leave at 10 pm without my prompting. I would just say, “Well, it’s getting close to my bedtime so I’m gonna have to kick you out after this drink!” I try to use “after this drink” or something similarly slightly in the future to balance the brusqueness of “I’m kicking you out” so they didn’t feel embarrassed and as though they have to start putting on their shoes and coat immediately to avoid overstaying their welcome. It also helps me not to get short on patience if I start the kicking-them-out process about 15-20 minutes before I’m hoping for everyone to be out of my house.

              1. eee*

                That’s just what I do! It feels too abrupt to go “get out”, but when I’m done hosting people, I’m D-O-N-E. I’ll usually say something like “Okay, I’m getting tired, so let’s do one more X (watch an episode, round of a game, whatever) and then I’m kicking you all out cause I need to go to bed!” Said with usually a joking tone. I covet that “Please leave by 9” party sign I’ve seen floating around the internet.

                1. Sparky*

                  My friend would either put on an Anti Nowhere League cd as a signal that the party was over and people needed to leave, or she’ d go up to each person with their coat, etc., pull them out of their chair and start dressing them into their coat while saying,”Must you go? It’s only 4a.m., I don’t have to be at work for 4 hours?” While shoving them towards the door. I only heard about this, even then – high school and college – I was rarely up past 11. We both worked for her mom, so she could show up still drunk or massively hung over. We worked with glass, by the way. I don’t drink and I hate being tired. But I could see when her method might be the way to go. With her it was charming, and normal. Oh, she’s sober through AA now, too.

              2. Anonenony*

                In the Chicago area, more for parties than for casual friend visits, we put on “Sweet Home, Chicago,” traditionally the band’s closing number. Turn up the lights, turn off any music while you cue up that last tune. It’s a very long song so it can be accompanied with last conversations. “Hey hey, baby don’t you wanna go….” I don’t know if people get the hint or if they are just conditioned to recognize closing time when they hear it.

            2. Future Analyst*

              This is true… I always assume that my signals are clear, but only b/c I’m attune to those types of signals. I’ve learned to be much more direct when the situation calls for it. (Which, really, is way more often than I’d like, ha!)

          5. AnotherAlison*

            I don’t do this at all, but I think I am the other extreme. I start to get nervous that I’m overstaying my welcome and will want to bail asap. I am not great socially, so I worry that I DID miss a cue or WILL miss a cue. I always have a strong concern that I’m not welcome to begin with, and then I think, well, just by thinking that, you’re obviously a weirdo, so they probably DON’T want you there.

            (I think I come by this naturally from my grandma. She will call you, talk to you for five minutes, then you might pause to gather your next statement and she says, “Well, bye” and hangs up. They would do the same thing when they visited my parents’ house.)

            1. EddieSherbert*

              I am like this too!

              But I think it’s partly motivated by me being pretty introverted – as in, I can’t handle too much socializing. So once I hit my wall, I know I become bad/awkward company and it would be best to excuse myself before I get awkwardness all over them and their stuff.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Ha. . .love that, “get awkwardness all over them.” Yeah, I am also pretty introverted. I start to get an awkward feeling, like, “Guys, we’ve been here too long. Let’s go. This is getting weird. I gotta go before it gets weirder.” Meanwhile, they’re probably thinking, “It sure is nice sitting here enjoying our ice cubes.”

          6. DoDah*

            I used to date a guy who was like this. Not only would he miss the signals from the host–he would miss the obvious physical gestures of me tugging on his arm with a “Let’s go” head movement. I think it was because he was lonely. He was out of work and spent all day home alone, so when he had the opportunity to be “in company” he really reveled in it and didn’t want it to end.

      2. De Minimis*

        I did it once when I was a college freshman and was still getting used to the adult world. There was a house party and I guess I somehow had the idea that it was okay to just hang out there all night. One of the other guests had to tell me it was time to go, that the occupants were wanting to go to sleep….

      3. anonymous for this for obvious reasons.*

        what follows is only my experience; please don’t judge.
        During manic episodes I have done this to friends (see: friends, not strangers) in the past. To be clear, I mean obviously overstaying my welcome – to the point that yes, I could tell they wanted to go to sleep and I was not able to reign it in – but I have never made anyone turn off the lights on me. And I apologize afterward, with the extension that my illness does not excuse it at all, and that I’m working on it. I think I’ve gotten much, much better but my poor live-in SO sometimes has to tell me in no uncertain terms that he needs a few minutes’ break.
        It’s embarrassing, very very embarrassing. For me, I think it’s about my inability to distinguish appropriate social cues and to weigh risks in the heat of the mania. Something doesn’t click in those moments that I’ll have to deal with that embarrassment later; it’s not even on the table (then/yet), but it comes crashing back down later, and after I deal with that stress sometimes I’m able to get something useful out of the whole thing, like a coping mechanism so that next time I can leave on the first “Well it’s getting late…”

        On topic, I think it’s great that the OP even has taken notice of their intern’s feelings; some don’t. Past that, it’s incredibly kind to take it on themselves to care about it; many, many don’t. I would say that whatever OP does, to certainly set boundaries (like not inviting the intern to the OP’s home, unless maybe it was a work related event with many other coworkers/interns present); the intern (assuming a rational, just lonely person) will not be ungrateful for that, ever. I definitely am in support of the idea of taking it on themselves (the OP, I mean) to organize an event for the interns, if the regular person is too busy now. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, maybe send out an email that announces a pizza lunch for the interns one day, that asks for topping suggestions beyond the standards (cheese, pepperoni, veggie, meat lovers) and for any dietary restrictions so your company could provide alternatives for those, and set up a few games (like cheap lawn games/whatever would be appropriate for your crowd and space); give them about 2 hours during the day, maybe over lunch, to attend – that way anyone can pop in and out as they please (if you’re more introverted like me), or hang out for the full two hours, which should give your lonely intern enough time to strike up conversation with at least one fellow intern/coworker. This example would work great in my industry/company, but I’m sure you know yours well enough to tailor a simple get-together during the work day.
        (another thought; in my area, every single person goes nuts over their college team (tho where I’m from it’s all pro, baby – GO GRIZ!), so if there is a sports game on during the workday, maybe you could allow a conference room/TV to broadcast it and allow the interns to watch in there. Again, this is a specific example from my company, and it worked because the culture here is that you just kind of know when is too long to be dawdling, and to only occasionally pop in to watch the game. I realize interns might not have that instinct, yet, so maybe that wouldn’t work.)

        sorry for the long post – just thought I’d be one of the few who answered on that side of the experience!
        PS: it’s my birthday today! having a good day : )

        1. Liz2*

          I love the pizza lunch idea. Everyone loves free lunch, it gets people in an area to socialize together without any pressure outside of work.

          Dude knew what he was signing for in small town far away with no car. You can provide an option, but it’s really his row to hoe.

          1. anonymous for this for obvious reasons.*

            I think it’s a good idea to do it during the work day if at all possible; this poor guy has been invited to too many things that didn’t work out, it makes the coincidence of those cancellations really (emotionally) irrelevant. He’s not likely to keep up the stamina for continuing to ask about outside of work-outings for four more weeks, if they keep not happening. (Also, since Fergus is an intern, he may be unsure of how often is appropriate to ask about outings, thus asking too much or at the wrong times)

            I can only speak for myself, but for me it would make a world of difference to be able to say “it was pretty lonely, but there was one fun day they put on for us interns, and even though I didn’t make a long-lasting friend, it was refreshing to be around a group of peers and talk about common ground.”

            Also, I know for some people that “Fergus” is setting off alarms for having the potential to be too clingy or “over-eager”, but I’m not reading anything in the letter like that, just semblances of a really lonely person, who might realize this internship isn’t working out how he thought, but isn’t in a position to give up the experience/move home right now. Not all socially-awkward people deserve to be completely ostracized – I know no one is making that claim, but I’m reading a lot of comments that seem to react as “Fergus sounds weird!! I’d keep my distance.” (which *is* weird bc the OP made a point to say how he was actually a pleasant person) Maybe I’m assuming the best of Fergus because I’ve been there. Sometimes you just have to dig in and wait for the time to pass; I have faith in Fergus that he will either make his way in his current location, or will learn a lesson about reaching out to make connections that he didn’t have previously.

            “Dude knew what he was signing for in small town far away with no car. You can provide an option, but it’s really his row to hoe.”
            I do completely agree with that. I’ve lived near enough to the country to know better than to ever think about getting on out there with no transportation of my own – can’t imagine how he shops/gets to work. If I were Fergus, knowing I would have no transportation, I’d have seriously considered the price of a biweekly Uber to a part of town that has activities of interest to me (Local activities clubs/ bookstore/gym? Pool/Billiards? Watching sports games at a local tap? These are places that tend to have at least a few dedicated locals.) in the internship-offer. If I thought I couldn’t handle 2 months without friends/family, I wouldn’t accept.

          1. anonymous for this for obvious reasons.*

            Thank you thank you! One more working hour to go, then I can go enjoy the rest of it!

          1. anonymous for this for obvious reasons.*

            thank you! I think it will be. Usually looking back, I say “eh, not much changed.” Can’t say that about last year; don’t think it’ll ring true for this coming one either.
            so grateful to the AAM community for a lot of those changes!

        2. Annie Non-Mouse*

          Me too. As in BP2. I’ve gradually gotten a handle on it via working in regimented settings – Attorneys do X, Paralegals do Y, Admins do Z.

          I find asking myself if something could be awkward slows me down on hitting the send button.

          Totally been there on why-didi-I-go-on-for-so-long remorse.

          So, happy birthday from a kindred spirit

      4. HR U of Me*

        There is also a phenomenon known as the Minnesota good-bye that I only recently learned about, which fits some of my departures. And I’m not even close to being from Minnesota.

        I enjoy a good conversation, so it’s no surprise that I’m in employee relations. And if I miss an indirect cue when I’m out socially, I’m ok. This seems to be happening more lately -with others- which makes me think that all of this text and screen stuff is goofing our eyeball-to-eyeball behavior.

    3. Venus Supreme*

      My parents once had guests like that. My mom went upstairs to sleep and my dad asked them to leave. They replied, “Oh! Go to sleep! We’ll lock up the house when we’re done.” !!!!

      Since then, my parents have a rule that once they make the coffee you have about 20 minutes until you gotta leave. I’ve used that advice to myself when I’m over someone’s house for dinner and such.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Wow…I can’t believe the guests would do that

        I do have a friend that hosts are party….and she always goes to bed around 10…and tells her guests to stay till whenever…but she’s the one inviting it.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I’d say that’s unbelievable, but I had that happen a few months ago. I tried, as tactfully as possible, to run the “Welp, been great seeing you guys, but we’re up at 5:30 and we’ve got to hit the sack” line. My guest – a coworker of my wife’s, actually – responded “oh, go ahead to bed! I’ll just finish this bottle of wine and let myself out.”

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Yeah, it was….really special. Both my wife and I have pretty sane, low-drama families, so it’s always fascinating and kind of thrilling when something really weird happens in our interpersonal realm.

      3. SpaceySteph*

        I threw a small house party once where this happened. The majority of people left around 1, but there were a couple people still going and I am not a night owl at all so I really wanted people to leave so I could call it a night…. Finally, I just went to bed. I woke up a few hours later and they were gone, so I locked the front door and went back to sleep.

        It was weird.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Unless they’re a close relation with whom you share a very fond relationship, that is shockingly bad manners.

    4. Murphy*

      One of my friends, who was an earlier riser than most of us, employed the method of playing the song “Closing Time” when he wanted people to leave.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I used to work at a student bar in grad school, and we had a sign over the bar that said “If it’s 3 AM and we’re playing the hit song ‘Closing Time’, GET OUT!!!!”

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I remember a club DJ when I was about 20 pleading over the PA one night “you’re not supposed to dance when we play the awful cheesy cartoon theme music at the end of the night, you’re supposed to leave! Go home! PLEASE!”

    6. mrs__peel*

      My mom’s uncle used to kick people out at the end of an evening by saying, “Let’s play hats and coats!”

      I always loved that turn of phrase…

  6. Temperance*

    FWIW, and I’m probably being way too stern about this, I think it’s explicitly not your concern that he’s “lonely” on nights and weekends. There are 19 other interns he could be making connections with and spending time with. I also find it fairly strange that he would tell you that he’s bored and lonely, but this might go back to me leaving “work Temperance” at work and “fun Temperance” for my personal life. I mean, I really like my boss and we don’t hang out unless it’s a work-related activity.

    My firm takes on summer associates each year. They socialize with each other and do work-type activities with us. There’s a clear separation there, and for good reason. I don’t think him being your friend instead of your employee really works in your best interest.


      I agree. It’s only seven weeks, it’s half done, Fergus is a grown up and I think she’s too invested in worrying about his personal time out of the office. The commute alone makes it a no go. He will be fine. It a blip in his life.

      1. NK*

        It’s not just about this seven weeks though. I can’t speak for OP, but most companies (mine included) make the investment in interns because we get the opportunity to evaluate them over that period of time and hope the ones we make full-time offers to choose to return. The cost outweighs the benefit for the intern period alone. While I think inviting the intern to OP’s house isn’t the best idea, I think she’s on the right track of wanting to help the intern have a good *overall* experience, so he is more likely to return. Some companies (like major consulting firms) even take this to the extreme, where the whole internship is a 10-week glorified wine-and-dine.

    2. Nolan*

      I got the feeling that he doesn’t get to interact with the other interns much, or at all, and that was part of it. So he doesn’t have chances to make work buddies and organically set up social events.

      That could also just be me projecting my own work related isolation (work from home in a newish town, zero local friends) though :\

      1. Uzumaki Naruto*

        That’s how it sounds to me, too, and I think it’s a lovely idea to organize something social for the interns to participate in.

      2. Temperance*

        I really think this is on him, though. I feel strongly that his female boss should not be taking on the emotional labor of making him less lonely.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          TOTALLY agree. It’s kind of her but not a good idea for several reasons, this being one of them.

    3. Jesmlet*

      I think it’s so nice of OP for considering this, but with that said I just don’t think this falls within her realm of responsibilities nor should it. It’s a short stay and he’s an adult who for all we know is perfectly capable of managing his own life outside of work. A work social event could be nice to help him connect with the other interns but I think inviting him to your house or out to dinner with your husband is a little too far.

    4. Triangle Pose*

      Yes absolutely. OP can suggest he socialize with the other interns, suggest to HR that they plan some intern festivities, but from my perspective OP should NOT take on the emotional labor of taking on his loneliness. I’m trying to imagine any of my male bosses caring that I might be lonely on weekends and not socializing enough.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think it has to be gendered. (I need a keyboard shortcut to start typing that for me.) I’ve had lots of male bosses who have been very mother-hen-ish in that way.

        1. Emi.*

          Yeah, one of my older male coworkers made a point of encouraging me to make friends so I wouldn’t be lonely.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          Oh yeah. My husband’s boss tried to get us involved in every single bleeping activity possible at his large corporation with events going on constantly when we first relocated.

          It was part mother hen and part “please make friends because unhappy lonely people quit and move back to where they came”

    5. Sabine the Very Mean (unless she's being too nice)*

      The reason I agree with you is because I can often be the person who tries to take on responsibility that I just shouldn’t and it has hindered me in many ways. For example, recently a woman was walking frantically down the aisle of a parking lot. She was not talking to anyone but she kept saying, out loud, “I’m locked out of my car and I don’t have a cell phone”. I almost chased her down to see what I could do to help and that may seem like a nice thing to do and it was. I always want to help and that is why I am a public servant. However, she didn’t ask for help. She didn’t even engage with anyone. We were outside of a busy Target where people are inside and able to help. I might have gotten myself too involved with a mentally ill stranger or simply a person willing to take more than they should from a kind stranger.

      This is an extreme example of this but OP may end up waking up to too many texts or to a doorbell in the middle of dinner.

      1. Marcela*

        Ugh. That’s my mom, my MIL, my FIL’s girlfriend… I HATE that. I can and will help with anything I can, but I won’t move a finger if they do not do anything. They were very annoyed when they realized what I was doing, but now I don’t have to suffer their learned uselessness anymore (enabled by my dad, my brother and my FIL).

      2. Temperance*

        My MIL is this person. I am the opposite of you, and sometimes I wish I had more of your helpful attitude. I’m very much a “not-my-problem” type.

        1. Sabine the Very Mean (unless she's being too nice)*

          With our powers combined………Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, HEART!

      3. Cath in Canada*

        Yeah, my husband and I once stopped to help a woman who seemed to be in a similar kind of distress at a SkyTrain station and she just started screaming incoherent abuse at us. It seemed like she might even start attacking us, so we found a station attendant to inform then left ASAP.

        We’ve stopped for people who it turned out did need help since then (I like to think I’ve made my big burly husband much better at noticing this kind of situation, e.g. the two young female Japanese tourists who didn’t seem sure how to get away from a homeless guy who was aggressively trying to get them to (illegally) buy his used transfer ticket instead of buying a new one from a machine), but I’m now super careful about it when I’m by myself.

    6. Mookie Ball*

      There are 19 other interns he could be making connections with and spending time with.

      Maybe this poor soul has Asperger’s Syndrome. I do, and it’s tough for me to make connections with co-workers. I’ve been at my current assignment for almost ten months and I still don’t know everybody’s name. Even saying “good morning” is stressful for me.

  7. JobSeeker017*


    Please take my comment as a small word of warning to you going forward: Please verify that any activity to which you invite Fergus, future interns, current co-workers, or friends/family is actually going to happen.

    In your letter, you indicated that twice you have extended an invitation to Fergus, that were received with enthusiasm, for events that failed to come to fruition. You are developing a track record as someone who gets a subordinate’s hopes up for a fun socializing experience only to confirm that the event in question is canceled.

    I suggest that you take initiative to make calls and directly inquire with the office event planner or your trivia team about final plans for upcoming gatherings prior to sharing the information with someone who is young, naive, trusting, socially isolated, and who trusts you because of your position as a manager. It does neither you nor Fergus any good to get his hopes up about attending an event that is not going to happen.

    1. Murphy*

      With the trivia thing, it’s hardly OP’s fault that the venue is temporarily closed. I don’t call every restaurant that I plan on visiting prior to showing up there to make sure they’re still open.

    2. Temperance*

      Okay so maybe it’s just my knee-jerk hatred for the word “initiative”, but I think this is unfair. I don’t think that mentioning two possible social events that for reasons unrelated to LW fell through is her developing a “track record” of some sort.

      Fergus is an adult, not a child. He’s in his mid-twenties and is in graduate school. I really don’t think this is akin to canceling a social event for a tiny child or someone who would be really impacted by disappointment.

      1. Sadsack*

        Right, Fergus is the one who needs to take initiative in this situation. I am assuming that he doesn’t work alone all day in a windowless closet and that he runs into other people throughout the day. He should befriend some of his other coworkers or ask around about group activities besides just talking to his boss about it.

      2. Emac*

        Oh, I totally missed that he’s in grad school. I totally agree with you, especially for a grad student.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely agreed—I think this reaction is stronger than is merited. It’s not great to flake, but OP didn’t do the flaking; other people who coordinate happy hour and trivia flaked (or their venue closed, which is not flaking at all). It would be good to verify, just because it’s always good to verify, but this is not a reasonable expectation.

    3. ZVA*

      This seems… a little over the top to me. A lot, actually. OP told Fergus about two events, both of which were then canceled through no fault of her own. He’s an adult, and it’s not her responsibility to manage his social life, or to rigorously follow up on whether the events she had every reason to believe were happening were “actually going to happen.”

    4. Mb13*

      Op isn’t abusing their managerial powers, they aren’t emotionally abusing the intern. They just mentioned an office social event that a grown adult can easily fallow up on their own

  8. animaniactoo*

    Oh so no do not invite over-eager Fergus to your home. Because even thought this can be appropriate, lonely-latching-on-to-any-opportunity-for-companionship Fergus carries a high risk of this spiraling out of control.

    What you COULD do is tell Fergus that while work and personal lives are generally separate and it wouldn’t be up to you to discuss this with him, you notice that he seems to be lonely and looking for more social opportunities and ask him if he feels like he knows how to build a life for himself in a new place. If not, would he like to discuss some things he can do towards that, you can give him some ideas to pursue? And if he says yes, then point him to a regular volunteer gig, taking a class or joining a regular activity somewhere else or several activities via Meetups and the like. Where he is likely to find like minded people and build some casual friendships that could become more and create opportunities to find people who can become his personal not-work-related network of friends and acquaintances.

    The proposed work get-togethers are good, but my main worry is that in a group of people that size, he may not find people he really clicks with and then would only end up feeling more isolated. Particularly as people go off to hang out with their own circles of friends, a few other interns do click and meet outside of work, etc. So it’s a good plan, but I think not enough on its own as the potential for failure via that route is high also.

    1. Anon for this 2*

      I’d agree with you if Fergus were a new employee who had just moved to the area and didn’t know anyone, but he’s an intern with only a few weeks left in his internship. To get through a few weeks in a strange place, a few events with coworkers could be a big help while signing up for a class or trying to join a meetup group might not be feasible.

        1. animaniactoo*

          It’s (or was) 4 weeks left to go. A month is a really long time to have empty time on your hands. And it’s about more than just getting through these few weeks, it’s a question of “Work may take you to a new location, knowing how to do this will help you be able to consider opportunities that you might otherwise feel uncomfortable about and dismiss out of hand”. Plus, he can look for classes/meetups/volunteer gigs that are short term and in areas he’s already fairly familiar with. I think that even with a short time left, it’s got potential to be really helpful to him.

    2. SophieChotek*

      I am on the fence about this. Fergus sounds lonely. But it’s only 4 weeks to go.

      (I trained for my job as an intern for almost 12 weeks in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. To be fair it was a large enough city there was enough to do and the public transportation was pretty top notch…but honestly I was so exhausted by the end of each day, I was glad to have downtime…but it sounds like Fergus’ experience is different…I certainly wasn’t asking to take work home with me.)

      I probably would lean against inviting the intern over to her house, even if husband is okay, especially added with 2 extra 90 minute trips. But I agree with AAM other suggestions about about planning some with other interns, etc. (Plus even if she does this with one intern for truly altruistic reasons, other interns might wonder if she is favoring him or something.)

      Also, yeah, I agree with what other say — Fergus does need to learn to find things to do — I get if its only for 8 weeks or so it’s likely not worth the time to join a new club, etc. (as government worker already mentioned) But I do get it’s hard to be lonely and far away from home.

  9. Venus Supreme*

    I agree with AAM’s suggestions. I think the key factors are 1) group events and 2)at a location close to the office. I would personally feel weird having Fergus (or any short-term intern) at my house. I’d also check out your city’s local events page (like a TimeOut or the arts and culture part of your county’s website) for any ideas of things to do. I usually check out those sites for seasonal events– maybe there’s something going on down the street that the interns would be interested in! For example, it was a poet’s 130th birthday this year and the city opened up his childhood home for a special walking tour. Only way I found out about it was the city’s website!

    1. Sarah*

      I agree, I think an event at home would be perfectly fine if it were organized for ALL interns (for example, an all-intern BBQ or something) or for the whole team — including the intern, but odd if it’s just one.

    1. animaniactoo*

      There are an amazing number of people whose lives have been built in one place where friends came first via playdates arranged by your parents and then new friends added as you became established in new groups via school/class/activity, and have never had to figure out how to entertain themselves from scratch when they’re in a place where they know nobody. Or have become adults whose friend circle has fallen far out of step with their own interests/goals/etc.

      1. Graphic Designer (37 years)*

        Playdate? What’s a playdate? Mom just kicked us outside and said go find someone to play with on the block.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Yes, I had that same experience. But life changed drastically between my childhood and my youngest sister’s a decade later. And I work in a child-centered job, so we keep up on the trends around this stuff.

          Now, kicking your kid out and telling them to go find someone to play with could easily land you a social worker on your doorstep. No, I am not joking. Many people still believe in free-range kids and there’s a whole “but think of the children!” segment who think the world is too scary a place to allow it and doing so is irresponsible parenting. The social worker is unlikely to agree, but they still have to check out the report of “child endangerment/abandonment”: “Kid is regularly seen up and down the street at all hours of the day with no supervision and parents don’t have a clue what he’s doing or seem to care”.

      2. Emi.*

        playdates arranged by your parents Ha, our playdates were always of the “Please can I invite Jane over? Please? Please? Plleeeeaaaasssseeeeeeee?” variety.

    2. Ktelzbeth*

      +1 to meetup. I met my husband through a friend I met at a meet up group. Plenty of friends and a my boyfriend as well.

  10. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    At my first post-college job, (a credit union), there would be quarterly first-thing meetings in the morning. They provided breakfast, and the first 30-40 minutes of the meeting was for eating and getting to know each other. It was fun!

    Also, maybe recognize Fergus’s birthday. On my birthday there, I was just as lonely; I literally only worked out and watched TV after work. No friends.

    But on my birthday, I was working just before lunch and heard some people singing Happy Birthday. Some coworkers came to my cube carrying a huge, slightly smushed, cake. (CW’s mom worked at a bakery and often brought in the “imperfect” cakes that couldn’t be sold), and balloons. It made my week!

  11. Collie*

    I think if OP decides she does want to invite Fergus, she has to invite other interns as well. If it gets out he was over for a nice little dinner party and no one else was invited, it could cause all sorts of problems. Like, we’re talking sitcom problems, but not so neatly tied up at the end.

    1. Newby*

      It depends. If she only supervises Fergus, I don’t think that anyone would feel slighted. If she supervises multiple interns, she should invite all of them.

      1. Temperance*

        If there’s an intern class, and they aren’t all receiving the same professional networking opportunities, it will very quickly become a Thing.

        1. fposte*

          A Thing isn’t the end of the world, though; disparity in intern experience isn’t usually a reason to withhold an opportunity from your own report.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          Interns aren’t dumb. If there’s one intern who reports to one person, and that person invites that specific intern to an event, it’s really obvious to the other interns who report to other people why the other intern got “special treatment”.
          Also, if they were getting invited to a conference, or meeting with the CEO or something, that would be an opportunity that should be extended to all. A small social dinner at the boss’ house? Really not as big of a deal.


    I vote no. He is half way through and has survived. Perhaps invite him to a casual dinner one night after work. He will be ok. He sees people all week.

  13. LBK*

    Agreed with the intern event – my company does those for our co-ops and it fosters a great sense of community between them (although it’s a little different with co-ops because they mostly come from the same school so some of them know each other already, but I still think it could be effective).

  14. k*

    I was once the lonely intern in a new city, so I feel his pain. Luckily where I worked the other interns took initiate themselves to be social (going to lunch together, after work drinks, etc). It sounds like if you can get the Friday night drinks thing back on track that would be the best solutions. Since it’s already an established thing it will be much easier to get people on board than trying to get something new going.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      If it were me, I’d suggest to Fergus that HE organize a happy hour with the other interns. It’s nice of OP to notice that he’s lonely but I think it’s a little outside the scope of her role to be managing that.

  15. NK*

    I’ve been the lonely intern in a new city as well…but I would not be comfortable going over to my boss’ house with just my boss and their spouse. It’s completely different than group drinks or trivia night. So while it’s a lovely thought, consider that Fergus might not be comfortable with it but doesn’t feel that he can say no.

    I agree with Alison that it would be great to take the lead on organizing drinks or dinner out for your team, or getting an intern event organized.

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      Totally agree. I’ve also been the lonely intern in a new city, but being invited to my boss’ house for dinner (alone, not as part of a larger group) would have been awkward. It’s a nice thought, but I think working to organize some intern events would be better.

      When I was in that internship, one thing that people on my team did that WAS helpful was making suggestions of activities to check out in town. This was in a large city, so it may not apply to the OP’s situation as she noted that their city is smaller, but there were a lot of things happening that I never would have known about simply because I didn’t know where to look: they weren’t really advertised anywhere unless you visited that venue specifically. These were things like gallery/exhibit openings and mixers, networking events, book clubs/author meet-and-greets, etc. So mentioning some of those things might point him in the right direction if the OP still wants to try to help.

    2. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Me too, same sentiment. A few times, my boss and I went on a coffee break together (there was a cute independent bookstore/cafe across the street), and lunch would have been a nice gesture, but as bored and slightly lonely as I was outside of work hours, I’m certain I would have found dinner at her house to be a really awkward experience. At 30, I’m still not great at small talk – at 19, I was even less adept.

  16. WellRed*

    I am surprised by all the people who think the lonely intern should just suffer it out. Surely, others have found themselves lonely at times in this sort of situation? After work drinks or similar is a kindness that is probably all that’s needed.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I’ve been there. An after-work happy hour would be nice, the invite to dinner, not a thing.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve been there, but it’s a two way street. I’m just as capable of asking someone to get lunch or drinks after work as they are of inviting me.

      Besides, I don’t really think it’s the responsibility of my coworkers/boss/job to make sure I’m not lonely in my personal life. Events during work or right after work is one thing, but ensuring they’re not lonely on the weekend or at night is another thing entirely.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s a really good point. When I moved back to my old college town for a job, I didn’t really have much of a social circle outside of my roommate because everyone I knew had graduated and moved away. I started by building my social connections at the office: people to eat lunch with, or grab a drink on a Friday. From there, I made a point to learn more about the city and start finding things to do that didn’t revolve around campus: the local farmer’s market, the secondhand bookstore, good bars. From there, I ended up finding a good book club and a pub quiz night. It takes time, and it can be lonely at first, but it taught me a lot about what my social needs really are.

    3. Emac*

      I don’t think it’s thinking he should suffer it out, but that he is responsible for his social life. That’s not saying that after work drinks or something wouldn’t be a good idea, but it’s not the OP’s job to create a social life for him.

      And I definitely get being lonely in this kind of situation – I’m somewhat socially awkward, struggle with social anxiety, and for a large part of my life was extremely shy. I’ve also moved to new cities on my own without knowing anyone and found ways to connect with people, even if it was uncomfortable sometimes.

      1. Alice*

        I completely agree. I had two different internships in major cities where I knew no one. While I was lonely during both of them (even though I lived with other young professionals/interns), I never, ever expected my managers to reach out and help with my social life. I viewed it as my responsibility to find others to hang out with and schedule things to do. I knew I was uncomfortable with reaching out to other interns due to social anxiety and shyness and I would have to step outside my comfort zone if I wanted to find friends and things to do.

        Personally, I don’t think the OP has an obligation to her intern to help him feel less lonely. It’s certainly a nice gesture, and he’s made an effort by accepting offers. But, in my opinion, this should be more of a learning experience for him to figure out what type of place he wants to live in and how he’ll find people to click with once he gets a full-time job. If the town is small and there’s not a lot to do, this could be a good indicator for him in the future to look for jobs in places where there’s more going on and more people he has things in common with.

    4. Mb13*

      as someone who has gone throw lonely periodes those invites for drinks are amazing. But also I realized I can ask people out myself too when I feel lonely. He’s a grown independent adult that at any point could have gone to the op/other interns/coworkers and said “heh op mentioned that you guys have trivia night go out for drinks. I’ll love to tag along next time and get to know you guys”. If he was five yeah then obviously he needs to have drink nights arranged for him

        1. Mb13*

          Oh they are very secretive about their drinks nights. You know how five years old are. I think they are heavily involved in politics. They just ask me to find the place and to set up blankets for nap time. But beside that I’m not allowed in the room

          1. LBK*

            All I can think of now is Baby Herman from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Just a cute innocent baby on screen but a cigar-smoking womanizer off screen.

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I bet they get pretty blitzed when they’re five or six juice boxes in.

    5. Marisol*

      Fergus isn’t being forced to suffer it out; he has agency and can take the initiative in making friendships. Sometimes people feel awkward reaching out to others, but such is life. It doesn’t mean the manager is responsible for his social life.

    6. seejay*

      The internet has some pretty amazing tools for meeting people (dating sites, groups for meeting people with common interests, clubs). You can also use it to find times and events at local businesses for things you might be interested. If you’re not interested in leaving your house, you can find online social things to do like chatting or online gaming. Those things are super useful for people who have serious social anxiety and difficulties meeting people face to face.

      No one has suggested the intern just suck it up and suffer, but his manager isn’t responsible for alleviating his loneliness or taking him in and making sure he finds things to do. The guy’s in his mid-20s, so he’s old enough to figure this stuff out on his own. If he has social awkwardness with meeting people, she’s not going to be doing him any favours by doing all the work for him, he’s going to have to figure it out eventually.

      The general agreement from almost everyone has been that having social events within the work environment is fine but going beyond that isn’t the manager’s responsibility and she shouldn’t be taking that on, both for professional and personal reasons. The intern needs to learn these skills himself.

  17. Jessesgirl72*

    It makes more sense to invite him to something right after work and near the office (and with other coworkers/interns) or somewhere central near the public transit line. I don’t think it’s an obligation, but it would be kind to arrange something if the usual arrangers have fallen through. Like one time, and then a “farewell interns” dinner at the end or something. My husband gets supervision of his departments’ interns, and he always gives them a farewell something their last week.

    However , if you did want to do something at your house, OP, it’s not really necessary to make the 90-minute one-way drive. Just give him a ride to the nearest train/bus station. If he’s getting around the city otherwise, he can figure out whichever transfers are necessary. I mean, there are other reasons to not invite him to your house, already talked about in the comments, but that doesn’t have to be one of them.

    And for what it’s worth, I bet this not ideal situation has already taught him important lessons like try to find something in the city or at least right next to a transit line if you’re going to rely on public transit.

  18. Newby*

    My boss is known to extend an open invitation to everyone she supervises at holidays that they are welcome to come to her house. Usually only interns take her up on it since the rest of us have plans, but I always thought it was a nice thing to do. I think that if she wants to help the intern have a social outlet, the best thing to do is organize an activity 9at her house or not) that includes some of the other interns or younger employees. That way she avoids having an awkwardly long amount of time alone with him and it could help him connect with people that might hang out with him more regularly. When I was an intern, my boss organized a game night that actually led to some of us having regular game nights together.

    1. Phyllis B*

      I just thought of something that might work. If you want to do something at your house, why not invite all the interns and ask the one who lives closest to give Fergus a ride? This would also work for events held elsewhere. I know he’s getting to and from work somehow, but if this is a city like ours, there is no reliable public transportation after 6 p.m. If you don’t live in an area where you can walk to whatever, you are pretty much out of luck.

  19. Mb13*

    Your intern is a grown adult and it’s his responsibility to make friends for himself if he feels lonely. He sounds socially awkward to say the least and a helpful nudge towards group events/classes/Meetup will be a helpful and kind gesture. But you are not his mom and it’s his job to make sure he has a social life

  20. Bananistan*

    OP, I have been the lonely, far-from-home intern several times before. While it sucked at the time, it was a great learning experience and opportunity for personal development. I don’t think you should feel responsible for Fergus’s social life– you’re not his mom (and he’s an adult! It sounds like he might be older than me!) It would be nice if some of the group activities you mentioned could happen, but I think inviting him to dinner will just be awkward.

  21. Nancy*

    I recently started a job where I traveled for work for the first time, and for about the first 3 months I was traveling M-Th each week. I was back home on the weekends, but I still felt isolated. A few weeks in I found out my childhood friend’s high school friend lived in that city, we hit it off, and got dinner about once every 1-2 weeks after that. My point is it made me feel so much better and I was in a much less dire situation, so I am sure he would appreciate some intern events.

  22. nunqzk*

    I once had a three-week work trip where they put me up in an apartment in a far suburb. On weekdays, there was a commuter bus that got me to work in 25 minutes, but at night and on the weekends, that time more than doubled, and there was no public transportation at all to the area where my co-workers lived. It was a great trip, but it was pretty lonely!
    Based on my experience, I’d encourage you not to underestimate the value of lunchtime socializing. It doesn’t do anything to fill the evening hours, but I felt a lot less isolated when I’d had some time to chat with people about something other than work.

  23. Camellia*

    As someone who has lived twice in extended-stay hotels for work (one year for one job and 10 months for another), I say do not take on any responsibility for entertaining Fergus. If nothing else, books and movies can fill his hours.

    However, there was something Boss and Grandboss did for me that I urge others to do. One day I had to call in sick. It was expected to leave a voice mail if managers weren’t able to answer their phone. A little while later I received a call from Grandboss, and she had Boss in the office with her. They were quite careful not to be “pushy” or step over any boundaries, but simply stated that they knew I was there alone and asked if I need a ride to the doctor’s office or to the drugstore or anything at all like that. That was so kind and so helpful! I didn’t need any help, but how thoughtful that was!

  24. Alton*

    In addition to what others have said about Fergus being responsible for his own social life, there are also times when it’s naturally more challenging for people to get out and socialize a lot. If he’s living in the suburbs and doesn’t have a car, maybe it’s not as easy for him to go out on a regular basis right now. It’s not your responsibility to fix that, and it might take some time for him to figure things out. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t do anything about his loneliness, of course. And I think it’d be cool for the OP to help arrange some happy hour events or something similar that the interns can participate in.

    But there might not be an easy solution for Fergus, and he might not have his ideal social life until he gets more acquainted with the area (if he plans to stick around) or he’s in a position to improve upon some of the things that are holding him back.

    I don’t have a car, and in my city, it can be challenging to stay late after work, go out more than once a week, or go anywhere that isn’t easily accessible via public transit. That means I don’t do as much as I would like. I’ve had to become bolder about going out of my way to do stuff, but I’ve also had to accept that I can’t do everything I might want.

  25. Whoopsy*

    Not in any way related to the post but I wanted to mention that I got a really intrusive ad (fake Facebook giveaway type of thing) out of nowhere while reading this post in Chrome on my Android.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s been an influx of them recently. If you get it again, use the ad report form (linked just above the comment box) since that will ask you all the stuff I need to report it.

    2. TK*

      There’s actually a link right above the comment box for reporting this sort of thing (it’s easy to miss). Report it there– I know AAM appreciates having this info.

  26. emma2*

    I definitely don’t think it is the manager’s obligation to worry about the intern’s life outside of work, or try to be the one providing entertainment for the intern. Also, I don’t know how reserved Fergus is, but if he is the uninhibited type, inviting him to your house might open up to awkward situations in the future like him wanting to hang out with you all the time and overstaying his welcome (I have seen this happen a couple of times when my parents invited over younger employees from their department.)

    However, I did a couple of internships while in school and our companies did a couple of things for the interns:

    – Organize a catered lunch for us in the office/take us out to lunch (if you live in a city that is not super walkable, then you have to organize carpooling for this);

    – After hour socials in the office (trivia, “cookie social”, happy hour, etc.);

    – You can also just give Fergus general advice and tips on things to do in the city.

    I don’t know if holding socials in the office is possible for you, but that might get around the logistics of having an event at an unreliable location. I do feel bad for Fergus, but luckily for him, this is temporary. One of the upsides of internships is that they are temporary experiences you learn from, and he will know going forward what types of cities he might/might not want to work in after he graduates.

    1. Z*

      I second this. This past summer, we had about 5 or 6 interns in different departments, and my intern was from out of town, so we tried to put together a program where they could get to know each other and have things to do. When they started, we gave them a list of things to do in our area. The events that we had were an introductory breakfast, a baseball game after work , and a pizza lunch that was open to the rest of the office at the end of their internship. I think it helped them get to know each other.

      1. emma2*

        That sounds like a really good idea.

        Also, something I forgot to emphasize in my last comment is that Fergus’s loneliness is not going to be quelled by just having one dinner at his manager’s house any way – what he probably wants is repeated interaction with people his own age. So, facilitating interactions among interns is what would be most useful if you wanted to help people like Fergus. (I’ve moved around to different cities in my lifetime and I am single, so I do feel for what Fergus is going through.)

  27. Gene*

    “Plus, a 90-minute drive each way ”

    There’s this thing called Uber. I have yet to find a place where I can’t get an Uber, including a rural Missouri town of ~350 population. If you are going to invite him over, not that I recommend you do, leave it up to him to find his way there.

    1. JJJJShabado*

      Uber is not legal in non-NYC New York State. There are campaigns going for it, but it is not yet available.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        It’s also expanding, but even in my mid-sized city, when it was only about 4 months ago that Uber extended to my street/suburb- 5 minutes from the airport and literally ONE BLOCK from the City limits. It stopped about 2 miles away.

        My inlaws sometimes have problems with it in their suburb of their major metro area.

        I think when it’s in small towns, it covers all that small town. In cities, it’s not so far-reaching, even where it’s legal.

    2. Alton*

      I’m not really comfortable using Uber, personally. I’ve had fine experiences the times I have used it, but I try to save it as a last resort. But I agree with letting Fergus take some control over getting a ride.

    3. Ktelzbeth*

      No Uber in South Dakota (the entire state). Plus, the OP’s language makes me think British English, so things may be different where she is.

  28. Delta Delta*

    It sounds like this organization has several interns. It seems like it would be a good idea, on a system-wide level, to plan and carry out periodic intern events. Maybe on the level of trivia or happy hour or something else simple like that. That way all the interns can be involved – not just Fergus.

    I once had a job where I supervised lots of undergraduates, and each week I sent them notes about events they might not otherwise know about. Many of them really liked it because they were able to get exposure to things going on they might have missed. This usually took me 10 minutes, tops, per week. Maybe something like this for the interns (or for the whole office, really – lots of people like learning about events) could be incorporated into the intern program for the future.

    1. Temperance*

      I would advise LW not to be the person to do this, though, since she’s not supervising the larger group of interns. I know that I’m a broken record on this subject, but it doesn’t benefit your career (especially as a woman) to do office housekeeping-type tasks.

  29. meg*

    I know he’s only there for a short amount of time, but are there other ways he can get involved in the community that will allow him to meet people or just find something to do? For example, he could join a gym or recreational sports league, find a volunteer activity, take a cooking or art class?

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Most of those things you named take more than 7 weeks. I wish there was a gym in existence that let me sign up for only 2 months. :P Even community center classes last 8-12 weeks.

      Really, it’s an incredibly short amount of time for an intern program.

  30. Anonophone*

    I think a lot of commenters have pointed out that it’s not your responsibility to manage his loneliness – and it’s not!

    But I’d also think about it from the perspective of your organisation’s ability to attract and retain good interns (assuming this is something that’s important) – setting up a regular intern activity would be a good way to set Fergus and others up with a social network in your city and organisation and make them more likely to have a positive impression of their time at your organisation.

    I’d suggest working towards starting internship season with a ‘welcome happy hour’ or something, and setting up an ongoing monthly (or possibly fortnightly) happy hour-type activity for all the interns and staff to mingle. Something low key at a nearby location will give everyone the chance to attend (and leave when desired!)

    Whether this is something for the OP to arrange herself or task the intern coordinator with I’m not sure, but I think it’s important long-term. The immediate solution for the OP might be a mid (or end-of) internship happy hour for all the interns and their managers – something low-key and in a nearby location. Fergus can (and should) make his own connections in the city, but a night out with the other interns might be a good springboard for him.

  31. LW*

    Hi everyone, it’s the LW here! Firstly, thank you for all your suggestions and advice! It sounds like inviting Fergus over for dinner is not necessary (and may be a bit weird) so I definitely won’t do that.

    Some people have suggested organizing something with all the interns. To clarify, I have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the interns, and have no idea even who they are, or what their names are. Our organisation is huge (over 1000 people) and the other 19 interns are scattered across different departments and teams. Fergus is the only intern in our department (about 40 people). Apparently, HR only held one 20 minute “orientation session” for the interns on their first morning, and that is literally the only interaction the interns have had with each other since then. So while I appreciate the suggestions along the lines of me organising a lunch-time pizza party for all 20 interns, I don’t think it would be feasible (nor am I really the right person to do so).

    However, going forward, I will:
    – give some feedback to HR and suggest that in future, they organise a couple of social events for the interns; and
    – organise work drinks myself for our department next Friday, if it transpires the regular person is still busy.

    In better news, our quiz team has found a new venue, so Fergus and I will attend next week. I’ll also pass on a few other suggestions as to what he could do on weekends – ie Meet-up Groups, etc.

    I also discovered recently that Fergus has stayed back late in the office a couple of times, finishing off non-urgent work that could have been done the next day. Again, he indicated he did this so he had something to occupy his evenings. I guess all I can do is reiterate that we don’t expect our interns to work back late. Ultimately, I do agree with everyone here that it’s up to Fergus to manage his free time, and his situation.

    1. The Moops*

      I hope that HR will listen to your suggestions regarding the interns. It seems like a wasted opportunity to not get them together. Social small talk would generate conversations about the type of work they are doing and give them a better perspective on how a large organization works, especially since they’re spread throughout the company.

    2. emma2*

      Thank you for the update and good luck going forward! However, everything you have said about Fergus’s situation make me wonder if Fergus has Internet access, and if he does, how he is not aware of the plethora of YouTube videos and weird forums that make hours pass by in an instant (not that I’m speaking from experience…or suggesting that internet-time-wasting should ever replace socializing.)

  32. Brit*

    When I was a gap year volunteer overseas I worked in a boarding school, helping with things such as being a TA to various different classes. I really, really appreciated it when one of my teacher supervisors invited me for a long weekend with her family. I was in a foreign country and this long weekend had snuck up on me only a few weeks into term. The boarding school where I had a flat to live in was shutting down completely over the weekend (even the exchange students were being sent away to stay with local students’ families) and I would have been alone and bored there. I still remember her family’s hospitality and kindness, showing me around their neighbourhood and cooking traditional meals for me.

    OP’s situation is totally different, and OP has no obligation to entertain Fergus and shouldn’t feel bad is she doesn’t want to. But if she does have him over, she shouldn’t feel awkward about it. It could mean a lot to him.

  33. 2 Cents*

    OP, sounds like an excellent excuse to get a few of your colleagues together, pick a good place for a happy hour after work, and send a group email to the interns and your colleagues about it! (That is, if HR isn’t going to mind.) It doesn’t need to be anything grandiose–just something that says, “hey, it’s been too long since we’ve had a proper happy hour, so let’s meet next week at XYZ for a round or two.”

    Fergus might be a socially awkward in general, but he’s probably still nervous when chatting with you, OP, because you’re his manager, and he’s concerned about making a good impression during his internship. (I know the more I’m aware of/focusing on a power imbalance in a conversation, the more nervous I get.)

    I agree with Alison: it’s not your job to entertain him on evenings and weekends. If you know of activities or other happenings around town, he might appreciate a heads up (like, there’s a beer festival in the next town this weekend, etc.), but in the end, he’s responsible for occupying himself. Are there any industry-related or business-related sites / books / articles he can read up on to strengthen / deepen his knowledge? Or a certification he can pursue (like Google AdWords certification) or something that would be harder to study for during the stress of a first job?

  34. boop the first*

    Are you telling me… that going to work and then coming home to sit around lonely until it’s time to sleep and then go back to horrible work the next day, and then agonizing over how to enjoy the weekend when there’s nothing to do but chores and no friends to visit… ISN’T the standard lifestyle?

  35. RP*

    I will say I was the Ferguson when I was at a an internship in an isolated city, where I knew no one. I had a supervisor who took the time – once a month (over the course of a year) to take me out to dinner or invite me to a party (not her house). It was a great way to be introduced to the city and to new people. These were almost all work friends – not personal friends and she was happy to share the networking. For me – it meant the world! it was something to do – with other people and it was something my boss didn’t have to do but did. At the end of my one year internship I left the city very quickly but having a boss who was insightful enough to know that my isolation might impact work – was well played!

  36. Big G*

    My junior year of college (21 y/o), I traveled from Atlanta to Phoenix for a 12-week internship. It was pretty much the worst summer of my life. I quickly realized that the other interns didn’t like me (egged on by some bullying from one of them. Good times) and they stopped inviting me to do things. I only had sporadic access to a car and Phoenix’s public transportation system is seriously lacking. I was lonely and homesick the whole time and only had the woman I was staying with (who was gone for several weeks at a time) and her yappy dog for company. I am very sensitive to social rejection, and I was there for three whole months alone. It was awful.

    I went home, and I got over it.

    Being lonely and isolated is not a new thing for anyone, and it can be valuable to learn to self-soothe in those situations. I understand it being hard to watch someone you think is suffering, but it’s really not your place to fix the issue. Just because a person is young doesn’t mean that they aren’t an adult who can’t take care of themselves. Adults can get through shitty temporary positions. I’m sure Fergus can too.

    Good luck, LW!

  37. ResuMAYDAY*

    I know I’m reading this late, but as his manager, the LW could have encouraged the intern to join a young professionals group (fun networking events, usually around a social activity) and get involved in local meet-up groups. She could also have found an industry-specific group that represents the industry of the company, and send the intern to those meetings (going with him the first few times to acclimate him to networking).

  38. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

    One year we had a student who had to be out of his local housing on December 31 but could not get into his new university residence until January 1.
    I brought him home. He spent the had dinner, spend the evening with my family, did his laundry, watched tv with the family and left the next day.
    I had no problem and got a thank you note. Have never seen or heard from him since.
    I thought it was the right thing to do instead of having him sleep in his car in the middle of winter.

    1. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

      ** He had dinner, spent the evening with my family, did his laundry, watched tv with the family and left the next day. — but you knew what I meant

Comments are closed.