should I report coworkers for mean tweets about an intern if someone could get caught in the crossfire?

A reader writes:

My workplace currently has an internship program in place. One of the universities that sends interns is a religious school — it has strict worthiness guidelines, tells students to report their fellow students who might be breaking rules, etc. Having attended it myself, I can understand how that atmosphere might set one up poorly for the regular working world.

One of our interns from that school recently had an IT person help her set up a new computer. I guess she smelled what she thought was weed (which is not legal where we are) when he was in her space, and she reached out to her mentor privately and asked what she should do about it — if she should report him.

The reason I know she reached out is because her mentor screenshotted her message and posted it to his public Twitter. He did omit her name, but knowing his role at the company, it was easy to narrow down which intern he was talking about. Additionally, a manager and a director (at least one of who has our company linked in their bio) replied to the tweet, making fun of the intern’s religious schooling. Not anything horrid, but along the lines of “lol, no question where THIS sheltered kid is from, eh?” Certainly something that I’d be really embarrassed to learn superiors felt about me if I were in the intern’s shoes.

Coworkers of mine who weren’t in management positions have been reprimanded and disciplined for making disparaging comments about this school/religious group. It feels like a double standard, on top of being a very poor reflection on our company and intern program.

My concern is that, if this gets reported to HR or management, they’ll be more worried about the potential weed accusation than about the fact that managers were publicly mocking an intern, a partner university, and a religion as a whole. I don’t want to take down an IT person who could be using a drug either medicinally or recreationally, but I do think this Twitter interaction sets a terrible precedent for what is or isn’t allowed to be said around protected classes.

What should I do here?

It’s really, really inappropriate for an intern’s mentor to publicly mock her on Twitter (even without using her name). When you’re mentoring someone, they’re making themselves vulnerable to you, and publicly mocking them is an awful violation of that trust.

The manager and director’s replies also weren’t great — as you note, they shouldn’t be mocking an intern, a university partner, or a religion. But the mentor’s actions are a particular betrayal, and they shouldn’t be mentoring anyone going forward.

Depending on what your role is, you might have standing to say something directly to the three coworkers who did this. If you’re a peer to them (or higher) and you think they respect you, you could contact them directly and say, “These tweets feel really unkind to me. I get that the intern’s question came across as naive, but she’s an intern; she’s here to learn. And publicly mocking her for it seems really problematic — as well as the implied mockery of a partner university, and the potential for it to be read as religious discrimination.” And if you’re senior to them, in many cases you could simply tell them to take the tweets down.

If you don’t have standing to say that (like if you’re junior to them or office politics just make it a bad idea), or if you don’t trust them to handle it well, then I do think you should seriously consider flagging it for someone above you. I get that you don’t want to inadvertently get the IT person in trouble, but it’s unlikely that an intern thinking she smelled marijuana once is going to get someone in a huge amount of trouble, unless that person is doing really stupid things (like keeping marijuana at work, which would be incredibly poor judgment). But I feel less comfortable with that statement if your workplace drug tests, and if something like this could trigger a drug test — so you’d want to factor that into your thinking.

Separately from all this, it might be worth suggesting to whoever runs the internship program that your staff be given some guidance about treating interns respectfully — and that if there’s a formal mentoring program, that the mentors in particular be talked to about their responsibilities toward mentees. You could explain that you’ve seen and heard comments that troubled you — and give examples of the kind of thing you’re concerned about, without getting into the specifics of this situation if you don’t want to.

{ 702 comments… read them below }

  1. SuperAnon*

    Does your workplace have a written code of conduct, LW? Because this is just rude and disrespectful, and shows an astounding lack of judgment.

    1. Do All Snitches Get Stitches (LW)*

      unfortunately, not a very robust one, and the internship program specifically has very little published documentation or training for mentors. which is maybe a good way to bring it up to the internship coordinator at least, as a way to suggest better training in the future.

      1. CatCat*

        I think that’s a great idea. Given that there is a history at your workplace if people disparaging the religion/school, training is really critical. It’s known that this school has a norm where reporting things is *required* so knowing how to mentor young people from that school on transitioning to a workplace outside the school and and distinguishing what matters as far as reporting (weed vs. sexual harassment) is a skill the mentors really must learn and possess.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I also think this particular situation is tricky because you don’t want the take away to be “never report suspected coworkers use of drugs or alcohol.” I have no problem people smoking on their own time, but in some positions being in an altered state can be a safety issue.

          1. pcake*

            On the other hand, a naive Christian with little experience probably has no idea whatsoever what weed actually smells like. My mother made some humorous guesses back in the ’70s – none of the things she thought smelled like weed either smelled like it or were it.

            Some old PSA videos actually described the smell as “the sickly sweet smell of burning rope”. Personally I suspect that most people have never smelled burning rope, and I didn’t find the smell of burning rope to be either sickly or sweet.

            1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

              Oh, I remember long ago my mom being sure she smelled weed, when it was her eucalyptus plant..

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              We don’t know that the intern is a naive Christian with little experience. In fact the mentor and directors are assuming the person is “sheltered” because of where they went to school. Many people have said they are religious and don’t smoke weed but they still know what it smell like. We don’t know for sure but it doesn’t seem that the intern went running “OMG, OMG, IT definitely reeked of weed the other day.” But rather the intern went to their mentor and I said I think I smelled weed on the IT guy who set up my computer. This is where the mentor could have done their job correctly (maybe they did idk, but they should not have made fun of the intern) and said “If you are not sure you should not report it, and even if you are sure smelling of weed is not a big enough deal that you should report it in this situation. Yes if a person in a position of safety and being impaired poses a risk you should report it. But in this instance it is not a big deal.”

            3. Squid*

              Maybe, maybe not – I attended a conservative religious college but knew exactly what (cheap) weed smelled like thanks to high school. Meanwhile my less-sheltered DH, who attended a decidedly un-conservative state school, had to be told that the incense mix he’d made up for our church smelled exactly like weed. He had no clue. Lesson being you never know a person’s experience and safe, mixed with a few other ingredients, does not smell quite as you’d expect…

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Yep. Plenty of us learned the smell of weed just from going to a stadium concert.

            4. AnnaBananna*

              You know what is hilarious about the PSA? My dad (a hippie stoner) actually DOES call it ‘burning rope’ when he goes out to…decompress. I wonder if this is where it came from?? I should ask him this weekend. Thanks for the potential insight! :D

              ps. Seriously, it smells nothing like burning rope. Pepe LePue perhaps? Oui!

                1. Lili*

                  I think that may be a matter of different noses or perhaps different types of weed? Because I know what weed smells like and it definitely triggers the exact same smell to me as skunk.

                  (On a different note, I never realized how intolerable I would be towards that smell once pregnancy started! It’s so rough now)

                2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  Indeed, I thought this was the origin of the term skunk for cheap and poor quality weed?

                3. Dust Bunny*

                  Uh, yeah, some of it does, at least. Not completely like skunk, but definite overtones of skunk.

                  I have a friend who is physically incapable of smelling weed. She could be asphyxiated by a cloud of it and it would smell like . . . I’m not sure if it’s nothing or just ordinary smoke. But even though she knows what it should smell like, she can’t smell it.

                4. Squid*

                  Whatever cheap stuff the guy living below us one year smoked smelled like the massacre of a whole surfeit of skunks.

                  It was an interesting year.

          2. Chinookwind*

            And I hate that they believe that only someone who is “a naive Christian with little experience” would wonder about what to do with this. Anyone who has been told not to come to work high/drunk or grew up seeing the consequences of someone who is high/ drunk might rightly go to a mentor to ask if they should report it (especially if there is no written drug use policy).

            What else was she suppose to do? She perceived something as potentially dangerous and checked with an appropriate person about it. And, instead of being given correct information in a respectful manner, she is mocked and belittled (at least on Twitter – I hope the mentor didn’t do this to her face or within her hearing).

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Yup! She did exactly what she should do – ask someone who knows (and should Know Better). Those guys are a bunch of tools for their behavior. Like, why are you even a mentor??!

            2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              This, so much this. She noticed something, didn’t know what to do about it and asked her mentor for help/guidance. And for that she got mocked (behind her back).
              It shows a complete lack of respect and that person shouldn’t be a mentor.

              1. pancakes*

                (To clarify, I do think it’s inappropriate to comment on the intern’s question on social media, and I do think the mentor’s decision to do so should be challenged; I just don’t follow as to why the idea of a very religious person not knowing much about drugs would feel belittling to them).

            3. pancakes*

              The irony is that you’re inserting “Christian” into the idea you supposedly hate when the letter doesn’t specify! The intern could just as likely be affiliated with a Mormon school, or some other religious school.

              I’m not sure I follow as to how or why it’s mocking or belittling to say that someone who takes pride in being very religious probably doesn’t know much about drug use. If they want to be or be seen as more sophisticated or at ease with behavior their religion condemns, why make a point of affiliating with that religion?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was going to suggest this. It sounds like the program would benefit from explicit onboarding for the intern (e.g., expectations, culture, etc.) as well as clear guidance and training for mentors.

        I cannot believe grown adults are behaving so abominably.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          They should also implement – at least – a more rigorous mentor nomination criteria.

      3. Beckie*

        Since you also went to the university in question, are you in a position where you can suggest some on-boarding training for interns from that university (and perhaps other universities)? The training could cover workplace norms and ethics, and could address a lot of nuances about what you are and aren’t responsible for in a workplace. There are so many workplace issues it could cover that all interns would find helpful (dress code, appropriate language, whether or not the coffee mugs in the kitchen are shared, etc.), and it would go a long way towards leveling the playing field for all your interns.

        1. Observer*

          It’s worth pointing out that it is quite possible that the school the intern went to is not even relevant to the intern’s question. On the one hand, religious schools are NOT the only ones to encourage snitching. On the other, weed is something that a LOT of people who are not especially religious have an issue with AND it is illegal where the OP is! I can think of a lot of public school graduates who might wonder what they should do in such a situation. So stuff like this needs to be covered for ALL students, not just the ones from this school.

          In general, when to report illegal activity is something that can be tricky for people who have been in the workforce for years. What on earth were these idiots expecting from ANY intern?!

        2. Chinookwind*

          At no point does it sound like the intern did anything wrong. She had a question and she went to her mentor with it. It is the mentor who reacted inappropriately.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I’m guessing gender and age may have a role to play here as well. Good girls just go along with the program and don’t snitch on their superiors, especially if they’re men. In the mentor’s mind, the intern was a bad girl who tattled and needed to learn her place.

            1. pancakes*

              That’s reading an awful lot into the letter that just isn’t there, and I don’t see how the mentor’s possible mindset is relevant to the question of how to proceed.

      4. goducks*

        How does the mentoring work, OP? Are people actually agreeing to take an intern under their wing and help them develop skills and competencies? Or are people just assigned an intern and called a mentor when really they’re just a point of contact (or even a defacto supervisor)?
        While the mentor shouldn’t have done what he did, I understand it a lot more if he was just assigned this intern and told he was to mentor her, without him having a drive and desire to actually want to be in the role of a true mentor.

        1. Manders*

          Ooh, good question. The mentor’s social media post was way out of line either way, but I do wonder if there’s some larger issue with people feeling like they’re getting stuck with the mentoring program. This doesn’t seem like the behavior of someone who’s enthusiastic about helping interns.

        2. Do All Snitches Get Stitches (LW)*

          It’s a little bit of both, actually! The program is opt-in for the mentors, so the folks who are mentoring asked to do it. The roles vary somewhat from mentor to mentor, but they’re generally the main touchpoint, central onboarding person, time-card checker, etc. etc.

  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


    “Is this something I should report?” is such an entirely normal and expected question for someone learning how the working world functions — how often do we see variations of that here? That’s a ridiculous thing to mock an intern for.

    1. Mel*

      Seriously. Interns ask a lot dumber questions than, “Hey, I think a minor, albeit mostly socially accepted, crime might have occurred on company property – should I tell someone?” And it’s fine that they ask those dumber questions – that’s why they’re there.

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        Especially if the intern had to take a drug test to get hired, which is quite common in my experience, she may have been under the impression that this is a drug-free workplace!

      2. Czhorat*

        Even if the intern were wrong (I’d likely not report a colleague for suspicion of smoking week), this can be a teachable moment.

        In any event, Alison and just about everyone else is right here: there’s no space for mocking, bullying, or harassment in the workspace. This is especially true for cases like this, in which their is a clear power-differential in favor of the person engaged in the mockery.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I am well past internships or entry level jobs, but I would probably end up asking my manager what I should do if I thought someone smelled of pot at work — just like I would if I thought someone smelled of alcohol. Pot isn’t legal in my state, which would tip me toward reporting, but even legal substances (like alcohol) shouldn’t be consumed during work hours. It is — best case — unprofessional and poor judgement. Worst case, you’re having someone intoxicated driving away from your workplace or other shenanigans.

          1. confidante's inferno*

            Well, there’s also the possibility that they’re not smoking at work at all, and that maybe it’s something that smells like weed, or maybe you’re smelling it on their clothes/hair. Not to say you’d be wrong to report it (although I probably wouldn’t), but smelling weed on someone doesn’t mean they’re necessarily partaking at work!

            1. earl grey aficionado*

              Many computers, if they’re running hot, smell like weed to me. My wife teases me for how often I “smell weed” (I’ve never partaken so I’m a little naive to the smell), and computers are one of the main false positives. (Rubber is another. I don’t have a great sense of smell, lol.) I could totally see this as a case of mistaken smell, which is another reason to talk to the intern gently!

              1. Pretzelgirl*

                Sometimes lingering pot smoke smells like body odor to me. Maybe this particular IT person, was a little stinky. lol. Either way you’re right, I’ve smelled what I thought was Pot before but it was clearly something else.

                1. earl grey aficionado*

                  Oh, BO is definitely another one that’s tripped me up! As someone who’s been naive about a lot of things throughout my life (I was homeschooled), this whole situation made me cringe in sympathy for the intern. People can be so, so cruel about naivete when it comes to sex and drugs. It’s absolutely not okay for the intern to be jeopardizing the IT person’s employment off of a hunch, but I think her actions make sense in context. This should have been an opportunity to kindly explain how to use good judgment when reporting possible wrongdoing in the future. Instead, it became an ego-stroking exercise in in-group/out-group cliqueyness. Yuck.

              2. Jennifer Juniper*

                French-fried computer smells like burning tires, not weed. Next time you go to a rock concert, take a good whiff. Then you’ll know what weed smells like.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  Eh, I have plenty of experience partaking in marijuana and at various times it has smelled like actual skunks, burning rubber or paper, stale beer, or various other things, even though I knew full well that I was smelling weed because I was in the process of smoking it. It doesn’t always smell the same and people will liken it to various other smells depending on their perception and sense of smell.

            2. Anton Dumwaiter*

              someone in my office was convinced that a coworker was a constant pot smoker. turned out it was pachouli oil. coworker did not actually know what weed smelled like.

              1. Amber T*

                Oh boy, I’m thinking back to my college days, where I went to a very weed-friendly school (even if it wasn’t legal in my state), and, being the sheltered kid that I was, I thought every new smell (including a friend’s pachouli oil) was a different type of weed.

              2. Tom & Johnny*

                As someone who genuinely loves patchouli, in spite of the comical social connotations of patchouli, I feel this.

                I don’t wear it because of those generally comical connotations. Which makes me sad sometimes!

                But I do put up with the ribbing good-naturedly when I do wear it. In limited and specifically chosen social situations. After which I wash those clothes in a load of laundry separate from all others!


            3. AKchic*

              And depending on how sheltered a person is, they may not be smelling cannabis at all.

              Or, the IT person walked through someone else’s cloud as they were walking to work that morning and it’s lingering. Or they stepped in someone’s puddle of bong water and it soaked a shoe.

              Honestly, we don’t know, and neither does the intern, or the mentor… what we *do* know is that the mentor chose to use the situation as a way to look down on the (not as) anonymous (as they’d like) intern, the intern’s school, upbringing, education and religion, and the intern’s relative naivety.
              I mean, yay for not focusing on the IT person, but extremely poor judgement otherwise.

              1. Observer*

                We also know that the mentor chose to use a situation where the mentee did the right thing to mock them.

                What do you want to bet that the lesson the mentee is likely to learn is NOT “we don’t report casual pot smoking” but “Do NOT ask questions” and / or “Outsiders really ARE as hostile as we’ve been told.”

            4. Alli525*

              When I was in college, I couldn’t tell the difference between skunk spray and weed. I spent my entire 4 years there walking past the upperclassmen dorms and assuming the campus had a skunk problem.

              Or maybe CBD shampoo is a thing, who even knows.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                Sephora is big on CBD-infused products lately – you can even enter a code at checkout to get free samples! Though this started early this year, so it’s probably too late to be what you were smelling at shcool.

            5. Anoncorporate*

              Back in the day when I used to attend nightclubs every now and again, I swear my hair would smell of weed / smoke for days, despite washing it! (And not because I was smoking it.)

              I do think it’s OTT to jump to conclusions based on smell alone. If the coworker were acting disoriented that would be another thing.

          2. Blank Blank*

            I am surprised to see that smelling pot on someone and smelling alcohol on someone are put in the same offence category. Someone does not have to be actively smoking pot to still smell heavily of it. The smell of alcohol is much more temporal. Also, the potential negative impacts of alcohol use on the job are much greater than those of marijuana use. Additionally, although all CBD and THC containing smokable devices smell roughly the same, there is no way anyone can tell if the person inhaled a CBD only product, a THC only product or some combination. If you are unaware, the impact and results are very different, as are the impacts of the various strains of marijuana. This is much different than alcohol.

            If your concern is that something is “illegal”, it does not in any way mean that it is your responsibility to report it. Unless it is actually risking your job or putting the company at risk (ie: you know someone is driving drunk), mind your own business and move on. Is the employee doing something stupid and risky, yes most likely, but that’s on them. You can’t and shouldn’t be the harbinger of moral decorum for other people. This is especially true if the person suspected of using drugs or alcohol is BIPOC. We unfortunately live in a society that disproportionately punishes BIPOC and there are no guarantees that the response will be proportional.

            1. LCL*

              No. I’m as pro legalization as it gets, but what you said about the ‘POTENTIAL negative impacts of alcohol use on the job are much greater than those of marijuana use’ is false. It doesn’t help the legalization argument to present marijuana as completely innocuous and harmless.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                There’s actually a lot of research showing marijuana is safer than alcohol. (I personally don’t think legalization needs to be based on that — we have lots of legal substances that aren’t 100% safe — but it’s true that alcohol has far more dangers than pot does.)

                1. Amber T*

                  I think it’s safer in the sense the long term affects of heavy use aren’t as bad as alcohol, but doing any actions under the influence of weed could be just as unsafe. I work an office job and sit behind a computer all day and am fairly certain I could have a semi productive and safe work day under the influence of either (I wouldn’t, but I could). But if I worked in a medical office or a warehouse, any place where there’s some sort of hands on component, I would be just as concerned if I smelled weed on someone as if I smelled alcohol. I’m pro-legalization and think you should do be able to do either on your own time, but I would also be concerned if I smelled either on a coworker at work.

                2. Incantanto*

                  Safe for life doesn’t mean even vaguely safe/sensible to be on at work, which is the discussion here.

                  Weed slows reactions down. That might get me killed at work.

                3. Dust Bunny*

                  I have ridden in cars with people whom I found out after the fact had recently smoked pot and I don’t care what anyone tells you: They were impaired. So, regardless of my personal feelings about using pot on one’s off time, yeah, I’d be concerned if somebody smelled strongly of it at work.

              2. Blank Blank*

                Alison covered the point I was going to make regarding research and the relative dangers of marijuana vs. alcohol. But I will ask you to refrain from putting words in my mouth (or anyone else’s for that matter). Not once in my comment did I say that ” marijuana (i)s completely innocuous and harmless”. Those words came from you. What I did say, and continue to stand by, is the negative impacts to a work environment are not equal between marijuana and alcohol. I understand that we disagree on this, but do not try to paint me into a corner with falsities and hyperbole.

            2. Samwise*

              And thus the intern asked a reasonable question. I mean, the intern ASKED, they didn’t go running to HR or the police.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                If the internship is meant to familiarize the intern with workplace norms, I fail to see how mocking the intern behind their back accomplishes this.

                And if people think the religious institution is worthy of derisive laughter, why are they accepting students of that institution as interns? A round about way of saying there should be respect for the institutions the workplace partners with.

            3. Observer*

              None of this is in any way relevant to the issue, though. The bottom line is that you are dealing with an intern, who BY DEFINITION is expected to be unfamiliar with office norms, regardless of what school they are coming from. And this intern came across a situation that they don’t have the information to deal with, so they did what interns are SUPPOSED TO DO, and asked their mentor rather than going of half baked.

              It doesn’t matter what ethnicity, gender or whatever class the IT person is. And it doesn’t matter whether pot is dangerous or not, or whether it should be legal or not. Mocking the intern in this situation is inappropriate and ugly.

              1. Lisa Simpson*

                Most smoke smells do cling. Brother’s basketball coach was sure brother was smoking (against the team rules) – but it was actually my 2packs a day mom who was the culprit!

                1. Le Sigh*

                  Ugh. I grew up around cigarette smoke and didn’t realize the degree to which it clung til I went off to college. I pulled a fresh batch of laundry out of my car when I got back to my dorm and realized I had to rewash all of it.

          3. Lily in NYC*

            I really wish people would be more careful about this stuff. I almost got suspended in high school because our coach thought we were smoking pot on a bus trip home from a game. We were driving by a creek that stinks in certain weather and she decided the odor was pot. We told her but she didn’t believe us and tried to get us suspended and have our team disbanded for the rest of the season. Thank god our principal lived near that creek and believed us.
            I used to think one of my coworkers was drinking at work and then I found out that he had cancer and his chemo made him smell a bit like alcohol (which I now know is not uncommon). I’m thankful that I minded my own business and never mentioned it to anyone.

        2. epi*

          I would be very skeptical that this intern even knows what weed smells like. Or that, even if they do, they understand that the smell can linger on clothes and hair just like cigarette smoke. Or that drug testing is not going to determine if the IT guy was high at work vs. high recently in his free time. Or that potentially ruining someone’s livelihood and getting them in legal trouble over a widely socially accepted activity, done in their free time, goes against many people’s individual civic and moral values, and likely their workplace’s as well.

          Frankly, I would not work with someone long term who wanted to report another employee based on a vague and certainly uninformed sense that maybe that person smelled like weed. At a certain point, I would assume they know or should know all of the above and how that behavior will be perceived. An experienced person who wanted to report this would not meet my standards for good judgment or good character.

          It is a totally different story with an intern though. They’re inexperienced, there is no guarantee they’ve interacted much with people different from themselves yet, and they need to learn. Someone who would do what this mentor did has no credibility to teach them a pretty important lesson about how to behave at work. And as important as that is, it’s secondary to the fact that you simply can’t be cruel to people who are junior to you and dependent on you.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Just to add to your post, I think in this situation we have to commend the intern for having a lot of sense. The intern thought they smelled something, even if they are personally or morally against it they realized this may not be as big a deal to other people as it is to them. So to they checked with their mentor to see if their instinct are right or if they should proceed differently. I think it being weed is a bit of a red herring, replace it with saw co-worker spend half the day shopping online, or a coworker left 30 mins early and I think the intern took the right actions.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              This is a good way to look at it. Given how the mentor handled the whole thing, it doesn’t sound like this put the IT person’s job in any jeopardy, and helping her calibrate where the dividing line is between what needs to be immediately reported and what should be left alone is part of the mentoring process.

            2. epi*

              Honestly, I think way too much is being read into the intern’s behavior in both directions.

              All the letter says is that the intern reached out to her mentor, and we can infer she did it in writing since it was screenshotted. There is nothing there to say why the intern did that, or the tone of her message or any background about her. She could have realized the standards are different at work and been asking a good question, could have planned to report it but wanted backup first, could have been anything really. Ditto for asking in writing. Could have been a conscious CYA, could have been poor judgment due to naivete or recklessness. I find it weird that someone would even consider reporting something they just smelled once, but again, there isn’t enough information to say why they might believe that.

              Just because the intern may be experiencing some culture shock doesn’t mean she is a babe in the woods incapable of doing something underhanded or inappropriate. She’s still a young adult. I just think she deserves the benefit of the doubt and that, regardless of what is going on here, being cruel to her can’t be the solution.

              1. Observer*

                It’s pretty clear from what the OP writes that the message was not over the top. The bottom line is that there is zero reason to believe that the intern was acting in any way inappropriately and speculating about what they are “capable of” is utterly irrelevant here.

                On the other hand, the behavior of the mentor and colleagues is flat out wrong, without any need for speculation.

      3. Perpal*

        Unless this is the sort of office that has fridges stocked with beer, i don’t think it’s acceptable/ professional to reek of weed at work (driving/working high = driving/working impaired, plus numerous other issues with smelling strongly, etc); but it’s all a question of degree, as we have no details.

        1. pancakes*

          I haven’t seen a single comment in favor of “reek[ing] of weed at work.” Why speak as if there have been lots of them?

          1. Perpal*

            And I didn’t say comments were /in favor/ of it, more that I think it could be quite reasonable to be concerned/report something like that, depending on the level of smell and other factors. Vs the dismissive comments from the mentor and a lot of people here speculating at why the intern may be unreasonable.

      4. SierraSkiing*

        Yeah – and the intern basically followed the AAM-recommended protocol for handling an issue when you’re new, low-status, and not sure whether something matters or not. You politely ask someone who does have more standing, “hey, I’m not sure if this is an issue or not, but X. How should I respond?” Really, she handled it pretty well.

        1. Jules the 3rd*


          I don’t even understand why anyone’s discussing whether this was an appropriate thing to do. She’s new, she doesn’t know, she asked.

          Whether you / I would / wouldn’t report is a big ol’ red herring.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Because everyone has to virtue signal how totally cool they are with pot. It’s infuriating. The real issue here is that the intern is being mocked by her mentor. In public on twitter. And other people from the company have also chimed in.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t know if it’s virtue signaling or not. But I TOTALLY agree with you on what the core issue here is.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              I don’t think it’s virtue signaling as much as it’s annoyance that pot…*pot* is still being treated as if it’s heroin, or meth, or… and all the people* who still clutch their pearls over a joint.

              *people in general, not necessarily people here.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I get that, but there is zero indication in the letter that the intern is one of those people.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Can we not assume why everyone is saying what they’re saying? Most of the commenters probably imagine themselves being on the receiving end of a “should I report FirstName LastName?” workplace text. I am probably an exception in that I grew up in a culture where, in the mid-20th century, millions of people were executed, died in labor camps, or spent years in labor camps before being released, all because a well-meaning neighbor a coworker had reported them to the authorities for a maybe-possibly suspicious activity. Or maybe it was nothing, but the authorities will figure it out and let the person go if they’re innocent! and they never let anybody go. I confess I have really low tolerance for this kind of thing. Growing up, we all knew never to casually report other people for something minor that they may or may not have done (as opposed to “this is a huge deal and yes I am 100% sure this person did that huge-deal thing”), because in the generation before ours, people literally died from that.

              Lastly, nobody here says that the mentor is not in the wrong. He absolutely is. Way more so than the intern. It is possible however for two people to both be wrong at the same time.

              1. Anonchivist*

                are you seriously bringing the Holocaust into this right now.

                a holocaust historian

    2. Do All Snitches Get Stitches (LW)*

      I especially feel for the intern here because, like, I have been in my industry for close to a decade now, and when I encounter weird ethical gray areas (like this one!) my first impulse is to ask someone who’d know more (as I’ve done in writing in here). It’s so crummy to have someone in a place of relative power and authority make fun of that!

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        Right! Asking advice from a mentor is what you SHOULD be doing, according to basically everything on here. I feel so bad for this poor girl, and I feel exceptionally lucky for the mentors I have.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Seriously! She’s quite literally supposed to be to the mentor with questions and workplace scenarios that confuse her.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Seriously! You don’t even have to be from a particularly sheltered background to be unclear on how to handle something like this — in fact, given that it’s a (possible) drug issue, someone experienced in the workforce but new to a particular company would still be well-served to ask someone, since policies and cultures between companies vary so widely!

        1. Becky*

          Yup, and marijuana especially is an unclear area–even in states where it is legal it is still prohibited on a federal level and can cause issues.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Or if it’s still illegal in your state, but the workplace is a more liberal one, it might be a matter of “if they’re not smoking it *at work* we don’t care” – so you ask someone who knows the culture better than you do, ESPECIALLY if you’re an intern and supposed to be learning about how to handle things like this!!

          2. Gumby*

            And if your company has any federal contracts, it can change things. The DFARS clause that requires a drug-free workplace is incorporated by reference all the time.

      3. singularity*

        I do too! The whole point of a mentor is to guide you through the process of acclimating to professional norms and to have an established relationship of trust. I would be devastated if I were this intern and I ever found out I was being mocked on social media for asking a question. These mentors definitely need clearer guidance on what they should and should not be doing in this role.

      4. RandomU...*

        Honestly, this is one of those times I think I’d get a little creative. If you don’t think you have the right avenues to go to in your own organization. I may (anonymously or not… depends on your risk tolerance for others to protect their sources) send a copy of the tweet directly to the internship coordinator at the intern’s school. Let your company answer to the school for this one directly.

        I think I’m grumpy today but wow this so out of line I can’t even comprehend it. Yes interns can come out of left field about questions. And yes sometimes things they do or say is giggle worthy. But not publicly and not about their religion.

      5. Cartographical*

        Absolutely this. However, I concur with other posters that the intern likely doesn’t know what weed smells like — but she’s also likely hypersensitive to the idea if she’s conditioned to be on guard for wrongdoing at every turn.

        Things a friend in my college dorm who was similarly conditioned decided were “the demon weed” because of the smell:
        * varied essential oils, including patchouli
        * cigars/cigarillos & pipe smoke (she knew cigarette smoke, though)
        * nag champa & other “exotic” incense
        * a burnt Pop-Tart

        Things that were not weed:
        * weed… she thought it was overheating rubber or an electrical appliance. (She wasn’t being awful about all this, she was just so stressed at the idea that it might be around her somewhere.)

        This poor kid needs some reassurance that it’s not on her to pick up on all these things in the first place and also that she can safely bring concerns to someone without it automatically being “reporting” (with any associated punishment for the perpetrator). I was amazed by how exhausting it seemed for my friend to have to be on her guard at all times, one can’t work effectively in any setting with that kind of stress.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Yeah, for real. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between weed and a sage wand at that age.

      6. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Yeah, this is all a great way to foster an environment where no one asks questions.

    3. Kiki*

      Yeah, the way the senior people are publicly mocking the intern would bother me no matter what her question was, but it’s especially bothersome to me that this is a very normal question. Like, she didn’t call 911, she asked what’s the normal thing to do.

      1. Psyche*

        Yep. Asking questions, especially the stupid ones, is important! I don’t want my intern guessing because she feels uncomfortable asking me something simple like “Is this something I should report?”

    4. Blue Horizon*

      Yes, the lesson for the intern in this is that they shouldn’t ask questions like this unless they want to be publicly mocked and belittled by their superiors (or, alternatively, that you should be careful what you tell your mentor because they can’t be trusted). That is such a bad thing to be teaching new grads in a mentor role that it goes well beyond “useless” and into the “actively harmful” realm.

      The fact that managers and directors were not only aware of this, but encouraged it and participated, takes it into the realm of company culture, and means it should be of interest to the CEO. This is not the kind of thing that happens at companies with a healthy learning and feedback culture. I agree with Alison that it would be worth reporting to someone senior (as well as whoever runs the intern program). If you can think of enough other examples that a pattern emerges, then I think you could even go directly to the CEO if they are open to that kind of feedback.

  3. Moray*

    Every workplace is different, but I would personally only do that last piece–talk to the person who runs the internship program in broad terms–and leave everything else alone.

    Tattling, smoking pot, mean gossip…there’s a chance that the blowback would be on any one of the three. Way too high-risk to get involved in.

    1. your favorite person*

      Who’s tattling? The intern had a legit question and went to her mentor for guidance.

      1. Moray*

        Tattling is subjective. I’m a little less charitable toward the intern than many commenters here, because for all she knew Mentor would cause major problems for the IT guy herself, and who’s to say that wasn’t Intern’s intention? She could have asked another intern, or she could have decided that, rule breaking or not, she didn’t want to risk getting somebody fired.

        When I was a kid and my brother was breaking a rule, I would point it out to an adult and “ask” if brother was allowed to do it, knowing perfectly well that he wasn’t and was going to get in trouble.

        Does that excuse Mentor’s tweet? Of course not. But I don’t think being sheltered entirely excuses how Intern reacted.

        1. singularity*

          The whole problem, though, is that the intern didn’t report it to anyone in a position to initiate a drug test. The only reason we’re hearing about this is because the mentor chose to mock the intern for asking this question on social media and left enough details in that post that the LW figured out who he was talking about. Speculating on the intentions of the intern is pointless. We don’t even know what the mentor advised the intern to do in this position. Obviously someone that decides it’s okay to post this kind of thing shouldn’t be in a mentorship position because they aren’t going to be giving the intern good guidance on what is and is not appropriate.

        2. Spongebob WorkPants*

          Mentor was a jerk and shows bad judgment for posting that tweet, and being reprimanded by his job is totally in line. However, intern is an annoying busybody and needs to mind their own business.

          1. your favorite person*

            ‘However, intern is an annoying busybody and needs to mind their own business.’

            Whoa. The intern was literally asking a question about an illegal substance in the workplace she thought might have taken place. We have no indication she was trying to get someone in trouble, and we have every indication that, as an intern, they should be encouraged to ask questions like this, especially to mentors!

            1. Engineer Girl*

              The fact that the intern PRIVATELY asked for clarification show that they weren’t a busybody.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Exactly this. I am not here for all the comments in here vilifying the intern for privately asking a completely reasonable question.

                1. Squid*

                  +100. She had a legitimate workplace question and asked the (should have been) right person.

              1. RandomU...*

                But it is still against a lot of company policies so replace ‘pot smoking’ with ‘walking out the back door with computer equipment’ if it makes it easier to focus on the real problem here which is the crappy mentor, manager, and director.

                (FTR: I really don’t care one way or another about legal/illegal pot smoking and whether it should be legal/illegal)

              2. Gumby*

                Sure, but the letter specifically says: (which is not legal where we are) so… it is a question about an illegal substance.

              3. Observer*

                As others have noted, it IS against company policy in many places – and often for good reason. Furthermore, it IS illegal where the OP is.

              4. Yorick*

                Even if it were legal, wouldn’t you be concerned if you thought someone might be high at work? I sure would, even though I think we should legalize all drugs.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            If she was raised in an environment like the OP describes, where people are strongly encouraged to report other people for suspected wrong doings, where was she supposed to learn how not to be a “busybody?” If the mentor had just told her not to worry about it and everything was fine, and then she reported it anyway, that would be overstepping. But simply asking “am I required to report this” when she’s been required to report on other people’s misdeeds for her entire life is not a mortal error. It’s a teaching moment that her mentor completely failed at.

          3. mamma mia*

            Totally agreed. I don’t know why people aren’t grasping the fact that the intern DID report the situation. She identified the guy and her assumption of his “criminality” to her mentor; that is literally an act of reporting! If she said, “I think someone might is smoking weed/have weed/whatever in the office, is that something we report here?”, that is a reasonable question and not reporting.

            1. Elspeth*

              But she’s an intern! How is she to learn about workplace norms if she doesn’t ask? She was literally asking her mentor because she didn’t know what was expected of her!

        3. Essess*

          I wouldn’t consider asking another intern to be the appropriate response. If I wanted to know the company’s actual policy, I’d ask my mentor at the company. And some companies (I’ve worked at one) have a policy that if you are aware of someone breaking the law and someone finds out you didn’t mention it, then you are fired. It sounds that the intern comes from a school with a hard policy about reporting and is trying to find out from the appropriate person (the mentor) whether this is standard expectation in the workplace as well. Shame on the mentor.

          1. Future Homesteader*

            This! The mentor is (in theory) the appropriate person to ask. The intern did exactly what she should. What’s the point of a mentor if you can’t go to them with questions, especially delicate ones about things like workplace norms?

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              + A gazillion. The mentor is the right person to ask.

              If the mentor weren’t a jerk.

              1. boo bot*

                Yeah – the reason you give an intern a mentor is so that they have someone to go to with the naive questions.

                It’s fair to expect hard work and willingness to learn, but it’s not fair to penalize them for not knowing things they haven’t had the opportunity to learn yet – if they already knew all the office norms and stuff ‘everyone just knows,’ then they wouldn’t need to be an intern. I think if you’re going to be in the position of mentoring someone brand-new to the workplace, you have to be willing to be graceful about it.

                1. boo bot*

                  Oh, and I of course don’t think it’s okay to report someone to their boss for smelling like weed, especially if their aim is to cause trouble – my point is, the mentor could have just told her to keep her eyes on her own work.

                  I would also argue that if the company is accustomed to taking on students from this school, which “has strict worthiness guidelines, tells students to report their fellow students who might be breaking rules, etc.,” they should have some guidelines in place for how to talk to interns about those specific things and how they’re different in the workplace – if it’s a “known known,” as Donald Rumsfeld might put it, then it’s something they can plan for.

        4. goducks*

          Yes. I read the question to the mentor as her way of reporting that she thinks the IT guy uses pot. I’m less inclined to think she was just asking an innocent question.

          1. Spongebob WorkPants*

            I think she was reporting it to the person who she considered her “boss” to get the guy in trouble. I’m straight edge so don’t drink, do drugs or even caffeine, so I’m hardly a weed apologist. Actions have consequences. If you’re not trying to get someone in trouble why would you even think it’s something that needs to be mentioned in any context?

            1. ket*

              Because you’ve been taught explicitly (like in letters formed into words that say, “Marijuana use is against our code of conduct and at our school we hold each other accountable because that is our thing even if it’s not the thing out in the world”) that you bring up drug and alcohol use.

              This person is years into a culture that explicitly says this. I don’t know how to explain this more explicitly. The intern has been taught that you need to bring it up, and she knows the workplace is different, so SHE ASKED. She didn’t go to HR, she didn’t call the police. She asked the person who is also explicitly (with letters formed into words in a sentence) designated to be the person who she is to ask questions of. You want her to magically intuit norms that are counter to her culture and know that she is supposed to ignore all the written rules and act according to unknown and unwritten rules. That’s not cool.

              1. Tory*

                +100, completely agree. What if everyone stopped reporting (or in this case, just asking about) illegal, discriminatory, or other non-allowed workplace behavior because they were worried they’d be perceived as “trying to get someone in trouble?” We’d be back in the dark ages of rampant sexual harassment, embezzling, discrimination, collusion, etc.

                1. Michaela*

                  But in instance of sexual harrassment and so on, the purpose IS to get the person into trouble, and I’m happy for that person to get in trouble because of it.

                  I’m not so happy for the possibly not smoking pot IT worker to get into trouble.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                “like in letters formed into words that say”
                ‘with letters formed into words in a sentence”

                I love you.

              3. Spongebob WorkPants*

                She didn’t ask a general question about the policy/workplace norms on reporting a coworker for potentially maybe smoking weed. She specifically outed the IT guy. That’s the line between asking an innocent question and reporting a coworker for potential drug use.

                1. Observer*

                  Well, of course she asked a specific question! Why would you expect any reasonable person who is also young and inexperienced to ask vague general questions? Especially since vague general questions are likely to not get concrete actionable responses.

                2. Squid*

                  reading the letter, it’s quite likely she DIDN’T name the IT guy. LW says that mentor posted her question and omitted HER (the inter’s) name, not “their” names. Meaning either she DIDN’T name the IT guy or mentor just blasted out the poor guy’s name to a very wide audience.

                3. Jasnah*

                  She also didn’t report the IT guy. She asked a question about a potentially illegal (and certainly immoral when at work) activity.

            2. Phoenix Programmer*

              Because you are new to the working world and are learning the norms so you asked your fricken mentor. Yeesh.

              I suspect you are heavily impacted by “guess” culture as well based on your suggestions for the interns course of action.

            3. RUKiddingMe*

              Agree. I don’t drink or do drugs either. You will pry my coffee from my cold dead fingers though. She needs to learn that it’s way above her pay grade to be that involved.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                If she needs to learn a thing, then it stands to reason that someone needs to teach her that thing. And you know whose job it is to teach interns things about how to be a person with a job? THEIR INTERNSHIP MENTOR.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                And how do you propose she learn if ASKING THE PERSON TASKED WITH TEACHING HER THESE THINGS is out of line?

                1. Jasnah*

                  Who knows if she named him (“I think the IT guy who helped me smelled like weed, what should I do”)? And who cares if she named him? It was in a private message to her mentor asking for guidance. Any sensible human could have told her not to worry about it, it’s actually his deodorant, we don’t mind weed here, whatever the excuse is, instead of cruelly mocking her in public.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This is what bothered me about the intern’s question, that I could not put my finger on. Not only did she effectively report the IT guy, she also created written proof in case she wanted to go over Mentor’s head with a “I caught IT Guy smelling of weed, told Mentor, and Mentor did nothing”. Thank you.

            1. SierraSkiing*

              That is a lot of planning to put behind an intern’s question. I mean, note that she took this to her mentor and not HR or the IT person’s boss- aka the people who would directly punish the IT person. It seems a lot more like she honestly wanted to know whether the potential weed usage was her problem or not. She came from a school where other people’s drug usage was explicitly Everyone’s Problem, so it’s no wonder that she would want to check norms with her mentor.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I’d love to believe that, but she also comes from a school where reporting each other for minor infractions is an everyday thing that students do. She might very well be far better at it than you or I.

            2. Squid*

              That’s … reading a lot into her motives. Maybe her mentor’s off-site or bouncing between meeting that day. Maybe they explicitly asked intern to email/message with questions. Assuming that the intern motive was to punish IT person rather than learn office norms is ungracious and unsupported by the facts.

            3. Zap Rowsdower*

              Wow, there’s a whole lot of commenter fan fiction going on here.

              This is what we know about what the intern wrote:
              “… she reached out to her mentor privately and asked what she should do about it — if she should report him.”

              You sure got a lot out of 2o words. More so than mere mortals such as I possibly can.

              We don’t know exactly what was said or the intern’s intent, yet everyone seems to be assigning ill will on the intern’s part. That she was back-door tattling. That she was going over people’s heads. That she couldn’t possibly know what weed smells like.

              What we do know is that she asked the question, privately. The mentor is the one who effectively tattled by posting the tweet.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I am 100% in agreement with you and everybody else who said that the mentor effectively leaked the info, and if the IT guy does get in trouble, that’ll be on the mentor. Neither of those two looks great to me in this story. YMMV.

            4. Jasnah*

              How often do people here recommend documenting things to CYA? If it turns out IT guy was smoking weed at work and Mentor did nothing and Mentor’s boss finds out she knew, it could be the defense that keeps her from getting fired.

          3. Observer*

            So, firstly, you have absolutely NO way to know that. This speculation is just so bigoted that I don’t even know how to start addressing it.

            But, it also DOES NOT MATTER. The simple fact is that the intern did what she WAS SUPPOSED TO DO, regardless of her motivations. Her mentor did something he SHOULD MOST DEFINITELY NOT have done. He broke confidentiality, he and is friends made religiously bigoted comments, and they did so in PUBLIC fashion that can easily be linked to the employer AND after a pattern of religiously bigoted behavior at the company. But somehow, the INTERN is the evil one.

            1. Princess prissypants*

              There’s nothing in the letter that indicates the intern did what she WAS SUPPOSED TO DO here. I don’t think anyone here has indicated that the intern is “evil” nor that what the mentor did was wrong. *You* might want to check *your* biases. /shrug emoji/

              1. Observer*

                Actually we do know that she did what she was supposed to do. Because asking your mentor IS what interns are supposed to do.

                And, I’m not making up all the people who are calling her names and insisting that she was REPORTING the IT in order to get him in trouble, as well as the name calling.

        5. Iris Eyes*

          So what if it would/does cause issues for the IT person? It they are willingly choosing to perform and action that is either against company policy and/or against the law then any consequences of that action are fully on their own head. It is not the rule enforcers that are the issue, but the rule makers and breakers.

          1. goducks*

            Because it’s entirely possible that she’s wrong about what she smelled, and if it gets brought up he’s subjected to a really negative set of interactions with his employer. Possibly humiliating drug tests and investigations. Possibly termination. And if he’s a POC the chances that he’ll have a negative outcome, even if innocent, are statistically much higher.
            Nothing in the OP says that he was acting in a way that would lead someone to believe he was impaired. So, he should suffer because someone thinks they smell something?

            1. Princess prissypants*

              It’s also quite possible that the intern is totally wrong, but reports the it guy anyway and it turns out he blew a joint at a party three weeks ago – which would absolutely have zero effect on his job, but would turn up on a drug test and potentially get him fired.

              1. goducks*

                Yep. There’s a real paradox in drug testing. The really hard stuff, the stuff that I care about my employees abusing, like opiates and meth; they all can exit your system in about 48 hours, and lead to a clean UA. Pot can stay in your system for weeks.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              Unless there is a pretty strict company policy about no drug use then I’m not sure the company would deem it worth while to pay for a drug test and presumably for the employee to do it on company time based simply on a rumor that there might have been a smell.

              Even employers that have strict regulations can be fairly understanding if needed. PSA: randomized drug tests and poppy seed muffins aren’t a great combo

        6. Jadelyn*

          An intern, by definition, is generally someone who doesn’t have much experience in the working world. Why would it make sense for one person with little experience, to ask another person with equally little experience what to do about a situation? That’s WHY the interns have mentors. So that there’s someone *experienced* they can talk to about questions. An intern asking another intern what they should do about a work situation is basically the blind leading the blind, here.

        7. RUKiddingMe*

          I also don’t like that the school encourages them to report on fellow students/interns. Feels very Stasi like…

          1. Observer*

            Which is all good and fine. I happen to agree with you. So what? How does it make the mentor’s behavior ok.

          2. Jill March*

            If it’s the school I think it is (basing this on the fact that I went there myself and this sounds way too familiar), they have been in hot water recently over this policy. Though I no longer associate with the religion, being adjacent to this type of community can be very exhausting. I empathize with everyone in this situation, but absolutely agree that the mentor is in the wrong.

        8. Observer*

          She could have asked another intern, or she could have decided that, rule breaking or not, she didn’t want to risk getting somebody fired.

          Why would ANY sensible intern do either? The last place any intern should look to for workplace norms is another intern. And, considering that pot is a bit of a big deal in many circles – it happens to be illegal where the OP is! but is also seen as no big deal in other circles, the intern really has to way to know what the best way to react is.

          I find it VERY interesting that asking a mentor how to handle a potentially serious situation is verboten, but behavior that is cruel, a breach of trust, contrary to the goals of an internship program and which could expose the company to legal and reputational problems should be ignored. I’m also stunned that anyone could call either the question or reporting this EXTREMELY problematic behavior “tattling.”

          What would it take for you to consider something NOT “tattling”?

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            How is “One person thinks she maybe smelled something on Bob” suddenly Bob’s EXTREMELY problematic behavior? I cannot control what other people think they maybe possibly smelled on me, can you?

            1. Observer*

              I wasn’t talking about IT Guy’s possible pot use, but Mentor’s public comments.

              THAT’S what is totally out of line.

          2. Princess prissypants*

            Having worked with interns, I can 100% promise you that they ask each other this kind of stuff all the time. We don’t know why, but they do.

            I don’t think anyone here has said the mentor’s actions are justified, or that the intern shouldn’t have asked the mentor for advice. Since we don’t know the exact content of the message to the mentor, it’s impossible to know the intern’s intent.

            No one’s behavior in this story is “EXTREMELY problematic”, expect possibly the mentor’s.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, the mentor’s behavior is what is EXTREMELY PROBLEMATIC. If nothing else, you don’t make public comments that expose your employer to law sutis…

              While interns do ask each other questions all the time SMART ones know better than to take serious action based on those discussions. Because more often than not, they are just as clueless as the one who is asking.

              Think about it – if the intern asked another intern from the same school the answer would either be “I don’t know” which is not useful – but which may have happened. Or it would probably have been “I think you should.” Which is the absolutely WRONG answer.

              Now, an intern would not necessarily know that the answer another intern IS going to be wrong. But smart interns who are actually self confident are going to ask a mentor or supervisor rather than another intern because they know that they are just as smart as the other interns so “why would Other Intern know any better than I would. I’m just as smart as her.”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I believe that’s in the context that maybe our LW would be seen as tattling for showing the tweet to a higher-up and asking if it’s inappropriate.
        Ironic because that’s effectively what intern did.
        And I think both actions are appropriate, unlike the mentor’s tweet.

    2. Observer*

      There’s not “tattling” involved here.

      And if there is serious blow-back to the mentor or colleagues? Why should the OP worry about that? I’m serious. The Intern did what she was supposed to do – she asked her mentor how to handle it. On the other hand, the mentor etc. did something that has the potential for SERIOUS repercussions to the organization.

      The fallout could be legal, practical and / or reputational. There is already a pattern of bigotry against this religious group at the company. Till now, the company has apparently been taking appropriate actions when dealing with lower level staff. But, there is always more risk when it’s higher level staff. So what happens if someone sues over religious discrimination? A tweet like this, along with these responses would almost certainly give the company’s lawyer a major case of heartburn, at the very least.

      Also, if this gets out it’s quite possible that a lot people (including the internship coordinators at OTHER SCHOOLS) are going to be very, very turned off. Bad publicity, and it could also seriously damage the internship program. If the company gets ANY benefit from the program, that’s not going to be a good thing.

      1. Marthooh*

        I think Moray is saying that we don’t know where the blowback might land. The OP was worried about the IT guy getting in trouble. And quite a few commenters have construed the intern’s question as tattling, so it’s not out of the question that higher management would do the same. Yes, the company might land in real trouble over the tweets, but some of that trouble could easily harm the innocent.

  4. Stormfeather*

    Is there also a chance you could talk to the IT person and get his take? I mean, not saying you should absolutely not consider taking this above you if he doesn’t want you to, but if for instance the guy doesn’t do weed and the intern was mistaken, and he has no worries about a drug test, that would make the decision very easy. Or at the very least if you give him a heads-up, he might be able to make sure he doesn’t smell of weed when superiors might be following up with him.

    (This is just a thought, it might be a horrible idea for whatever reason, I don’t know. I figure others better at office politics/policies could weigh in.)

    1. Emi.*

      I would worry about blowback to the intern from that. And I think you need to report the mean tweeting in some way regardless, so you don’t want to make the IT guy feel like you’re asking his permission (or somehow blackmailing him?).

      1. Stormfeather*

        True. This is why I probably shouldn’t post suggestions and such on not quite enough sleep.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, this needs to be framed as “Bob is publicly mocking his intern on twitter for asking questions”.

  5. Phoenix*

    This would 100% be in violation of the social media policy at my employer – OP, does your employer have any kind of social media policies in place? That might be a good thing to check before talking to them or flagging it for HR.

    1. C*

      This. The content was bad enough, but it boggles my mind that so many people seem to think it’s OK to screen shot internal company communications and share them on social media. It’s 2019, FFS, and we’ve had years of people getting fired for such things.

    2. LKW*

      Agree wholeheartedly – my company has a clear policy – unless you are an official spokesperson for the company then all of your social media accounts should be devoid of any reference to the company. Any reference to clients or client work can be grounds for termination.

  6. Clorinda*

    And did the intern actually get any helpful feedback? This is a bad situation. She’s aware that the norms of her university might not translate into the workplace, so she’s asking for guidance, which seems very reasonable. A young person should never be mocked for asking a good question.

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP, please please take screenshots of the tweets in question and report them ASAP.

    This is the kind of thing that will bring down an organization if it gets into the wrong hands. Your coworkers absolutely need to be reprimanded.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Honestly, if you don’t want to be the person who gets involved, you could take screenshots, print them out, and leave them in HR’s paper inbox.

      1. Sparrow*

        I think presenting them anonymously vastly increases the likelihood that OP’s concern – that HR would pay more attention to the accusation of drug use than to the mistreatment of an intern – comes to pass.

      2. Jadelyn*

        …which assumes they have a paper inbox. I’m in HR at my org, and we don’t. The closest you could get would be to just leave it on someone’s desk, if you can find a time that they’re not there, nobody is nearby to see you do it, and yet the door to the HR office isn’t locked, but that would actually ramp *up* the drama factor by making it seem all secretive.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This. If you’re worried about getting the IT guy in trouble, talk about it in person with the HR rep and say you’ve never noticed a pot smell and that you’re aware that there are a lot of scents that people mistake for that. You can report the mentor AND do everything you can to protect the IT guy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

      1. Yorick*

        Right, you can report the mentor and say something like you’re confident that the IT guys are all behaving appropriately at work

  8. Jennifer*

    Sigh. I can’t but be reminded of the woman who reported a subway employee for eating during her very short break since eating and drinking is forbidden in subway stations, then posted it on twitter. Thankfully, this employee did not lose her job. Someone really needs to talk to this intern and let her know reporting people for minor problems can have real-world consequences, like someone losing their income.

    That being said, posting this on twitter was horrible and could discourage other interns from applying to the program. I just think the bad behavior was all around here, not just on the mentors.

    1. Mel*

      Sure, but that’s the whole point. She’s being mentored so that she knows what is the correct way to behave in an office. If all her mentor did was say, “No.” and then mock her publicly…that’s not teaching her anything except that her mentor is a jerk who shouldn’t be listened to.

      1. Jennifer*

        “She’s being mentored so that she knows what is the correct way to behave in an office.”

        Meh. I agree with that statement in general but this particular incident just rubbed me the wrong way.

        “If all her mentor did was say, “No.” and then mock her publicly…that’s not teaching her anything except that her mentor is a jerk who shouldn’t be listened to.”


        1. Jennifer*

          On second thought, she effectively did report him. She said ‘I smelled weed on IT guy’ to someone who is in a position of authority.

          1. Observer*

            So? You are demanding a level of nuance from a young and inexperienced person that a lot of people with a LOT more experience would not have.

            It’s pretty obvious from most of the comments in this vein that it’s about her religious background. Pot, meet kettle.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            Did she, though? I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that states that she gave his name. (If “IT” is a one-person department there or something, though, all bets are off.) I think that based on the letter, “I think I smelled weed on an employee who came to fix my computer, is this the sort of thing I should be reporting to someone or should I leave it?” is at least as likely as “I smelled weed on Fergus Johnson, where do I file the formal complaint?”

          3. Yorick*

            We don’t know if this mentor is really in a position of authority (I mean, over anyone but interns). OP says in comments that people volunteer to be mentors for interns.

    2. Autumnheart*

      Except the intern didn’t actually report anyone, and the real-world consequences are because the mentor posted it to Twitter in a manner that made the intern identifiable. The mentor is the bad actor here.

    3. Emi.*

      I don’t think it’s bad behaviour at all for the intern to *ask*! That’s what internships are for. And it’s totally reasonable for someone new to wonder how “minor” weed and weed-smell at work is. (It sounds like she probably doesn’t have a lot of experience with it, so she’s probably wondering in part whether smelling like weed is an indicator that you’ve been smoking recently enough to be high, ie is it more like beer breath or like cigarette smoke in your clothes?)

      1. Le Sigh*

        It also might not have been actual weed she was smelling, but if she hasn’t been around it much, people can be mistaken. My friend’s grandma once refused to get in my friend’s car because it smelled like weed (it was a new car smell, not weed, lol).

        1. Kiki*

          Yeah, esp if she is sheltered she may not know what weed actually smells like. I know a lot of people who believed patchouli and weed were interchangeable smells… because they had never actually knowingly smelled weed.

          1. Emi.*

            OTOH, I grew up pretty sheltered but I also ride the bus next to people literally rolling blunts, so I’ve made the connection.

            1. emmelemm*

              Oh, if only weed smelled like vanilla.

              (I don’t hate the smell of weed, but I don’t love it either, and it’s legal here and prevalent in my social circles, so I smell it a lot.)

          2. Alli525*

            I spent all four years of college assuming that my campus had a skunk problem, instead of realizing that the upperclassmen dorms were obviously going to be full of skunky weed, not skunks.

            1. CanCan*

              Love your comment!

              I too have confused the two. The other day I was driving with my mom in our residential neighbourhood and thought I smelled pot. She said it was skunk. The thing is that pot has been often on my mind at work – recreational pot has recently been legalized, and we (in-house legal) are dealing with frequent weed-related questions.

      2. Moray*

        One thing that stuck out to me–and I’m not at all defending the mentor’s tweet–is that the intern didn’t just ask about reporting him; she asked in writing.

        How often does the suggestion come up here to confirm things over email because we want that CYA paper trail? She can prove to anyone that she asked about reporting him and her mentor said no. Who knows where that might escalate to if she feels she got the wrong answer or he actually gets in trouble down the line?

        1. Not Me*

          It could have been a text or instant messaging system too. Just because it was in writing doesn’t make it a more formal communication, especially from a college student (who most likely texts more than making phone calls)

        2. Emi.*

          I don’t see how that changes anything, though. Are you worried she’s going to go over her mentor’s head and try to get him AND the IT guy in trouble? That seems really unlikely to me.

        3. Jessen*

          Honestly, being familiar with that sort of conservative religious culture, CYA makes sense. These sorts of universities often have policies that if you know about something and don’t report it, you will be penalized for not reporting. And yes that covers things like weed, alcohol, and so forth. The CYA could just be making sure she doesn’t take the hit if it’s something she was supposed to report.

        4. FormerlyAnIntern*

          Honestly I think you are way over thinking this. At my workplace, and many others, there are instant messaging. For our intern mentor program the mentors are not necessarily in the same department or floor of the building. If I had a quick question, I can absolutely see the intern sending a quick IM asking about this.

        5. learnedthehardway*

          Remember that teens and young adults basically LIVE on their phones – texting is just like talking for them. They also have a lower expectation of privacy, from all the HR stuff I read lately, based on the fact that they are so connected on social media.
          I wouldn’t assume there is any intention beyond communication with the mentor, in the fact that the intern texted.

    4. Rainy*

      I agree with this completely.

      My concern would also be that the intern may not have been given a strong MYOB message from the mentor, especially because the background the intern comes from means that it’s extremely unlikely (in my experience with similar folks) that she actually has any idea what pot smells like, and is about to go forth into the world getting her coworkers fired or reprimanded.

      1. Jennifer*

        Or arrested.

        She definitely needs to get a firm MYOB message. The mentor should have taken this more seriously.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          That would have been a fine response from the mentor. A little education about the context – extra great! Teach her stuff she’s not going to have learned in that culture and college (bcs if it’s any of the 4 I’m thinking of, racial diversity / social issues is not a strong point).

          Mocking her publicly was not.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I don’t think she reported the IT person she simply asked if that would be something that should be reported. OP made it clear that the school the intern attends would require this to be reported so she did exactly the right thing and asked her assigned mentor what (if anything) she should do. I think this shows an understanding that school and work are different have different norms and a willingness to conform to her current environment (vs the “well at my school/last job/parents house/etc… we did things this way so that is what I am going to do).
      I don’t see that the intern did anything wrong and the mentor should have answered her question including your line about making sure you report accurately and only things that truly matter because of those real work consequences.

      1. Jennifer*

        I understand that there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made when moving from school to the working world.

      2. Jennifer*

        I also think it’s common knowledge that the rules of the workplace and the rules of a university are going to differ. Of course, she’s going to have questions, but this just irks me.

        1. Rebecca1*

          But how is she meant to know HOW they differ if she doesn’t ask? I am not at all sheltered, and I have run into similar questions just when switching industries.

        2. Blank Blank*

          I agree completely. To me, this whole exchange sounded / felt much less like she was asking for clarification or to check her own reaction, and much more like she was trying to be right and to get someone else in trouble. I understand that she is sheltered and conditioned by her school’s honor code, but i don’t think this excuses what to me see like blatant ignoring of common sense and decency toward fellow humans. She wanted to prove her “goodness” by pointing out what she perceives as someone else’s failings. This is certainly not the honor code I live by.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              If they left out the information about her religious background, would you still assume that?

              1. Jennifer*

                Yes. I do anytime someone is considering reporting someone for something relatively minor that could lead to their termination, arrest, being escorted out, etc.

                1. Blank Blank*

                  Somehow I can’t respond directly to Not Me…

                  Not Me, very seriously, are you unaware of the well publicized pattern of BIPOC being arrested. harrassed, intimidated, etc. simply for being in places where white people did not believe they belonged.


                  This article is 9 months old, and unfortunately there have been many more examples since then, but it illustrates the real bias, fear and danger that POC live with daily while just trying to go through their days and live their lives.

                  If you truly believe that “minor” infractions don’t have disproportional impacts on people’s lives, livelihoods, and safety, I suggest you open yourself up to learning what other people are subjected to on a daily basis.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @Not Me: Wow, that’s not true. We have a long history of unjust laws, some of which we later recognize as such. Alcohol prohibition? Sodomy laws? Laws against interracial marriage? There’s a really long list.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Agree with the last two responses to NotMe. No, it would not lead to their arrest *if* they are white and middle-class. Otherwise, all bets are off. Termination is pretty likely in either case, TBH.

                4. Jennifer*

                  @Not Me That’s so not true. Google BBQ Becky. Or the case of the black woman having lunch at her own college and having the police called on her “for not belonging.” I’d encourage you to do a little research today.

                5. BethDH*

                  You’re also assuming that she would know that it would get him fired. There are a lot of workplace (and school) consequences short of that. As for just somehow absorbing from society that it isn’t humane to report, there are a lot of messages telling people that weed IS a big deal – her school, federal laws, some state laws, and a lot of anti-drug programs that teach kids that pot is the first step toward a life of total ruin. Was she trying to get him in trouble? Maybe so. But it seems probable she’d also been taught that it was something you should get in trouble for, and there is no evidence that she would assume the repercussions would be getting fired.

                6. Jennifer*

                  @Eddie She basically did report it. She said it to someone that is senior to her, using the guy’s name.

                7. Jules the 3rd*

                  The concern about reporting is *absolutely correct* – huge, life-threatening problem for PoC.

                  Assuming that a 20yo from the culture described *knows* about that problem is not reasonable. You’re talking about someone who has probably never had to deal with racial issues in their life; may never have met a black person up until they left school. (Yes, there are places in America that really are still that white.)

                  This would have been a great opportunity for the mentor to educate her.

                8. Jennifer*

                  @Jules A mentor is supposed to educate someone about how to function in an office, not about social justice issues. You are talking about things well above their pay grade. It’s the intern’s job to expand her horizons a bit. Everything just can’t be chalked up to naivete. She’s an adult. Situations like this can have life-altering consequences for POCs, some even younger than this intern who deserve the same opportunities she is receiving.

                9. Gumby*

                  Do we know that the IT guy isn’t white and middle-class? Because we seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on “but BIPOC experience disproportionate consequences for minor / not at all illegal things” which is true, but perhaps not even germane to the situation.

                10. Not Me*

                  I didn’t say it wasn’t unjust. I said it wasn’t minor. It has been decided, rightly or wrongly, by the people we’ve voted into office that it is an offense. I fully believe the law should be changed, but until it is, it’s still the law.

                11. Not Me*

                  And I really don’t understand how you guys can say it’s so minor while saying how big of an impact it can have on someone’s life. I’m fully aware of how big of an impact a drug offense conviction can have on a persons life, and that’s why I don’t think it’s “minor”.

                12. Observer*

                  It’s a mentor’s job to educate someone how to act in an office. And you do that BY ANSWERING THEIR QUESTIONS! NOT EVER by mocking them in public.

                  The mere fact that he thought that this was an appropriate response tells me that he cares nothing for “social justice”. Because all he needed to do in order to improve social justice IF (and that’s a big IF) the IT guy was a POC, was to explain to her the office norm of not reporting this stuff.

                  But, not that’s “above his pay grade” and instead he get’s to show off how much more “enlightened” he is than these religious folks.

                  Spare me these “enlightened” ones. Bigotry is bigotry.

                13. Princess prissypants*

                  Dude. Because the mentor is an ass, he’s being “enlightened?” Really?

                14. Not Australian*

                  Okay, but how do you *know* it’s minor unless you ask someone? The fact that she actually asked is in her favour, surely, rather than just rushing off and reporting something she wasn’t sure about?

          1. Jessen*

            Eh, I feel like “common sense” is often itself code for cultural understanding. I know the way I grew up, there was no differentiation between any sorts of illegal drugs (even drinking alcohol was highly suspect). I wouldn’t have known the difference between smelling weed on someone’s coat, and having a crack pipe fall out of their purse – and would probably have reacted to the former as though it were the latter, because all I knew was “drugs are bad and they make you the kind of person who goes around stealing and hurting people to feed your addiction.”

            It seems completely silly now as an adult in my 30’s. But I understand that as a young adult I didn’t have any information other than horror stories about drugs.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with you 100%. I was not raised very religiously or sheltered, but did grow up with the idea that drugs/alcohol were bad. When I was younger if I had been in that situation, I probably would have done the same thing re:asking if it should be reported. One place I worked at told us in training to report people we suspected of being impaired on the job. Sure minding your own business seems like common sense/decency from the perspective knowledge that some people grow up in, but not everyone grows up with that same background. The intern did the right thing, they didn’t go directly to HR to report the IT person they went to their mentor to check if their initial instinct of reporting was the correct way to go or if they should behave differently.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Agree – both my sons (who are just a few years older than this intern) had to take several years of DARE in elementary and middle school, and it was pretty much several years of “drugs are bad, but especially marijuana, because it is a gateway drug” being drilled into their heads. As far as I know, they and their classmates have all reconsidered that information when they grew older, but I can see how someone from a more sheltered, religious, closed etc community can still coast on these facts when they are in their 20s.

              1. Jessen*

                Yeah. I was homeschooled and went to religious coop groups. A lot of the other kids at my church only went to private religious schools. There was a very heavy emphasis on keeping your kids from being corrupted by “the world.” (Usually the motivation for sending them to strict colleges too.) I did end up reconsidering those facts, but I’d put that as something that was towards my mid 20’s, after college.

            3. GreyjoyGardens*

              I agree: “common knowledge” or “you shoulda known!” is so Guessy, and Guess culture has no place at work. The intern is probably sheltered more than most of us here were, and so she is really starting from scratch.

              The *mentor* was the one who screwed up here.

          2. mamma mia*

            Completely agreed. Honestly, I would have made fun of the intern too. Just not publicly, because I’m not a moron.

            This is similar to my feeling about Alison’s post about reporting “slackers” to your boss; if something your coworker is doing doesn’t directly impact your ability to do your work and isn’t causing any harm to your fellow coworkers, just mind your business. It really isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t matter if the intern was religious or sheltered; this is about basic moral principles.

            1. Future Homesteader*

              The basic moral principles of someone from a tight-knight religious group are going to be different! Having spent considerable time around conservative religious groups, I can assure you that maintaining order and watching out for other people who might be straying is, in fact, often considered the good and right thing. It’s not an inherently hostile act, it’s one of concern. You may disagree with that (I do, actually), but it’s a completely different mindset.

              IMHO, the intern deserves to be commended for recognizing that the mores are different outside of her group and for asking about it.

              1. Jennifer*

                That’s within a religious group, NOT at work. I am a member of a relgious group as well and have understood since I was a kid that the rules were different there than they were at school.

                1. Future Homesteader*

                  Right, which is why she asked her assigned mentor – the person who is supposed to help her figure out where those differences are – instead of going straight to HR.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  It’s great that you were taught that during your religious upbringing. A lot of people weren’t. In fact, a lot of people were taught the exact opposite of that. From the OP’s description of this intern’s school, it sounds like she’s in the second category. You can’t generalize your own experience to every human being from a religious background. She was never taught this. That does not make her a bad person. It makes her a person that needs mentoring.

                3. Jennifer*

                  @Librarian It makes her a person who needs to educate herself. As I said above, her actions can have real consequences for POCs as young as her that deserve the same opportunities she is receiving.

                4. Observer*

                  @Jennifer (and everyone else who keeps saying this), the idea that by using the IT persons identity she was “reporting it” is one of the most dishonest things I’ve been seeing on this discussion.

                  It is perfectly and completely normal and reasonable for someone who is looking for specific guidance on a specific situation to provide all relevant details! Just because YOU decided in your infinite wisdom that the identity of the person is not relevant, does not make it “a truth universally acknowledged”!

              2. mamma mia*

                If she were truly curious as to whether to report it, she would have phrased it as a hypothetical, not ID the guy and his “problem” right to her mentor. That’s why it reads more like she’s doing this out of a self-righteousness desire to get the guy in trouble than acting out of genuine concern.

                You and a lot of commenters are giving her way too much credit. She’s religious; that doesn’t mean she’s stupid. She named the guy to her mentor, said exactly what the “problem” was, and decided to let the chips fall where they may. That is morally wrong.

                1. President Porpoise*

                  Well, YOU would have posed it hypothetically, but the intern may not have enough experience to know to do that.

                2. mamma mia*

                  I don’t think it takes any work or life experience to pose a hypothetical question…

                3. Jules the 3rd*

                  What President Porpoise said.

                  I’m taking the attitude I have because I am currently guiding my kid though the whole ‘don’t report minor things, PoC can get hurt if you do, try to support and be a witness if you see stuff going down.’

                  It’s work. It’s regular, repeating conversations and speculation. It’s work that white me knows to do because I live in a diverse liberal bubble.

                  This girl is probably not from a diverse area, and probably has had no one to teach her about this stuff. It’s not like people naturally pick this up from the environment.

                  She did *exactly* what Alison recommends, regularly: She took a question discreetly to someone she should be able to expect answer it for her.

                  (As to using a text medium: she’s 20, that’s a dominant mode of communication these days)

                4. President Porpoise*

                  Actually, rereading the letter, there’s no indication that she named names. She may have just said “Hey, an IT guy came to set up my computer today, and thought I may have smelled pot on him. Should I report him to anyone? What do I do?” In an org like mine that could have been one of dozens or hundreds of IT guys.

                5. Lexi Lynn*

                  Or maybe she lives/works with people who don’t respond to “what ifs” well and she’s been trained to only speak in concrete terms. I don’t like people who won’t discuss hypotheticals, but they definitely exist.

                  I think worrying about the intern’s motives is less important than the unprofessionalism shown by the mentor. Anyway you look at it, the mentor was out of line.

                  And it probably wouldn’t hurt for all intern’s to get a overview of this husiness’ norms so they don’t overreport things or go rogue and write a petition to get the dress code changed (reference to a letter from a while ago).

                6. Squid*

                  Did she? OP said that the mentor tweeted out her question/report and omitted HER name. Not his. Which strongly implies there was no name to omit.

                7. Jennifer*

                  @Jules and I’m taking the attitude I am because I know what it’s like to be 20 years old and not get the same benefit of the doubt that so many people want to give this intern. It’s time to start holding everyone to the same standard.

                8. President Porpoise*

                  @ Jennifer: You know, I actually have no problem with that – but let’s make the standard “give inexperience people the benefit of the doubt” rather stomping all over them. We can all be better about rushing to immediate judgement.

                9. Yorick*

                  If I were asking my boss this question, I would name the name, because my boss might know him and be able to say “Oh, Bob? Yeah, he always smells like [thing that smells a little like pot] for [reason]. Don’t worry, he’s not smoking at work.”

                10. Marthooh*

                  @Jennifer: “I’m taking the attitude I am because I know what it’s like to be 20 years old and not get the same benefit of the doubt that so many people want to give this intern. It’s time to start holding everyone to the same standard.”

                  When I was young, some people were shitty to me, too, so I feel for you. That doesn’t make me want to be shitty to interns, though. Why don’t we try holding everyone to a slightly kinder standard?

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              You would have made fun of a person for not knowing a thing they’d never been taught? Really?

              I was trained and conditioned to behave in the same way as this intern. I learned to be different because my coworkers and supervisors taught me. It was hard and it took a long time. And I would probably still hold some of those beliefs if the people responsible for helping me had laughed at me instead of teaching me. If you want this intern to stay the way she is forever, by all means, make fun of her. If you want her to become better at workplace interactions, then give her a mentor that will, you know, mentor her.

              1. mamma mia*

                Yes, I would have made fun of her. I might’ve sent her text to my friends and family with a caption like “lol look at this dork.” I wouldn’t have made fun of her to her face and I wouldn’t have posted it on Twitter but I totally get why it’s funny.

                If I were the intern’s mentor, I would have straight up told her that “No, it’s not ok to report things that don’t directly impact your job here. And someone possibly having weed is none of your business.” I can do that while also thinking it’s funny.

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  And I can still think that making fun of a person for not knowing a thing they’ve never been taught is juvenile and unprofessional.

                2. mamma mia*

                  Sure, you’re more than welcome to think that but you’d be wrong. It’s not “unprofessional” to find something humorous and to share that with people who won’t blab about it. Juvenile? Possibly. But unprofessional? Absolutely not.

                3. Observer*

                  Claiming that someone is wrong does not make it so.

                  However, I can say that I have yet to see an employee or boss who thought it’s ok to mock someone for lack of life knowledge, especially at the beginning of their career, who was a decent person to work for or with.

                4. mamma mia*

                  I’m new to this comment base but it seems like I’ve somehow accidentally stumbled onto a group of the most morally superior people of all time; lucky me.

                  You’ve seriously never made fun of someone or joked about someone else behind their back? If so, good for you; you’re a better person than I am, congrats! But I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this completely normal behavior. I’m sure people have made fun of my “lack of life knowledge” behind my back but I don’t care because I didn’t hear it! This isn’t complicated.

                5. Another Sarah*

                  Mamma mia behind your back to your friends and family or publically on Twitter about a subordinate who is brand new to the working world and your job is to help them learn professional norms? Not the same thing. Not remotely.

              2. boo bot*

                Yeah, I think this is what’s bothering me: the mentor was supposed to be teaching her, and whatever her motives were, this was an opportunity to teach her, “don’t report your colleagues because you think you smell weed, that’s not what we do here.” I think I would have felt the responsibility to say that – in part because I would want to shut down the behavior in the future!

                Like, I don’t usually go around telling people it’s their job to talk others out of ignorance. But in this case, it actually was this guy’s job to at least try.

            3. Observer*

              I’m glad I don’t work with you.

              And I feel bad for any inexperienced person not of your culture who ever needs to work with you.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*


                I’ll repeat: There is no room for Guess culture at work. Always, always Ask. Don’t assume. Especially with interns. And don’t be a Mean Girl or Guy; one day the shoe might be on the other foot. Interns do get hired and promoted, and Alison has received letters about “do I tell my boss that my bully is applying to work here?”

            4. Penny Parker*

              The line about “basic moral principles” has totally peeved me off. Some cultures have “basic moral principles” which require them to report such things. You seem to think your view is the ONLY view in this world. Moral principles vary among cultures and throughout time periods. A conservative religion has their OWN “basic moral principles” and this intern was trying to move between cultures. In her home culture YOU are the one who has no “basic moral principles”. (and, just for the record, although it should not matter, I have been an activist in the field of cannabis decriminalization since 1972. This isn’t about cannabis; it is the rejection of the obnoxious idea that you know what is moral and thus any who disagree with you are not moral people. HOGWASH).

          3. une autre Cassandra*

            I think that’s a pretty big reach regarding the intern’s motives, Blank Blank.

            1. Blank Blank*

              No it’s really not. Read the LW’s description of the honor code or do a tiny bit of research around these so called honor codes. They only work when they pit people against each other and make “piousness” a competition.

        3. Observer*

          Of course, she’s going to have questions, but this just irks me.

          You mean it’s only ok for her to have the questions YOU might have had.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        Exactly this. She knows the boundaries are different and is asking where the new ones are at.
        This is exactly what she should be asking!

    6. Stuff*

      While I don’t think either of these incidents should be a fireable offense, I still wouldn’t blame the intern if she had chosen to report it and the employee lost his job. It would still fall on the IT guy for breaking company policy.

      This really is about the poor behavior of the so called mentor.

      1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

        Reported for smelling something that smelled like weed? Really? The IT person could’ve been around someone who was smoking or the intern could’ve been wrong about what the smell was. If she saw someone smoking it or buying or selling or something like that, maybe but smelling?

          1. Lexi Lynn*

            And after reading these comments the lavender Lysol I just sprayed in a stinky trashcan keeps smelling like pot. Which is weird since lavender and marijuana don’t really smell all that alike.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        That’s a good point. IF the IT guy was high on the job (which is what I would guess, if he smells of pot), it will be his own fault if he gets fired.

        Also, we’re assuming that the intern doesn’t know what pot smells like – that’s a big assumption. I mean, the fact that she asked this question / had a concern probably means she hasn’t used drugs herself, but just coming from a religious background does NOT preclude exposure to drugs and alcohol.

        The real issue is the mentor’s behavior – which was disgraceful. Downright BAD leadership (as they sent this to other employees), immaturity, bigotry, unprofessional. The mentor has exposed the company to potential negative publicity, potentially caused a major issue with the company’s campus recruitment program if any colleges’ employees ever see the texts, and generally has been an asshole to someone they were supposed to be supporting.

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        I doubt the company would fire someone solely based on someone (intern or not) smelling something that might be weed, I think the company would need a bit more to justify the firing. And if the IT-guy were to get fired (If they established that he indeed did use weed, and company rules justify the firing), it would be his behaviour that caused it and not the intern’s (or someone else reporting him).
        However I definitely agree that I don’t think smoking some weed once in a while (though not at work, or right before work), should be a fireable offence – depending on the function that is (definitely don’t drive while high, or don’t operate while high. Drugs and alcohol do influence one person’s reaction, so use it wisely).

        Back on topic: The intern did nothing wrong. Nothing. She noticed something and went to her mentor for clarification. It doesn’t matter what her schooling was (Would the intern get so much “backlash” here in the comments if we didn’t know that she came from a very religious school?). She is young, new to the office culture and asked for guidance from her mentor. He was in the wrong for mocking her in public and while he tried to keep her anonymous, he completely failed at that since the OP figured it out.

    7. Le Sigh*

      I mean, I’m rolling my eyes a little at the impulse to report the IT guy because I think it’s silly — but the intern handled it exactly the right way. She wasn’t sure, so she didn’t steamroll ahead, she asked the appropriate person for guidance to make sure she was getting it right. And if the mentor was doing their job, that would have been the perfect chance to clue her in to your points.

      I’d argue the LW and intern are probably the most mature ones of this bunch.

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m definitely rolling my eyes. This is the same mentality that gets people fired, escorted out of places, or even arrested, for basically nothing. But good on her for asking first, I guess.

        1. sunny-dee*

          The LW is clear that marijuana is ILLEGAL in her state. So, assuming that the intern is right in smelling weed, she’s asking if she should report someone who was breaking the law, with a prohibited substance, at work. That’s hardly “eye rolling.” It’s a legitimate question. What crimes do you consider so obviously okay to commit at work that you shouldn’t even ask about them?

          1. Le Sigh*

            I mean, maybe possibly smoking weed is one of them? I understand your points, but lots of things are illegal that don’t get reported (or hey, don’t need to be illegal). It’s not like she found a marijuana plant in his office, or even a dime bag, or found him doing a line of coke. She maybe smelled weed on him.

            Also, people do sometimes think they smelled weed when they didn’t — I’d kind of hesitate to run to HR to report someone based on one smell only, esp. given the consequences.

            But she at least started by asking her mentor, which was a good place to start. Her mentor just effed up.

          2. Jennifer*

            Listen, this is a loaded subject for me and it raises a lot of questions.

            Why was the intern so sure she smelled weed after living such a sheltered life?

            Did she make an assumption based on bias?

            Why ask the question in writing?

            Yes, technically it’s illegal, but so is jaywalking. So are a lot of minor things that I’d never even consider reporting someone for. This really rubs me the wrong way.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Why do you assume that because she is religious that she’s so completely sheltered that she’s never smelled pot? That’s making a pretty big assumption, right, that she’s never been to a concert or the state of Colorado or city of San Francisco? That’s biased.

              “In writing” could be instant messaging, because it wasn’t a big enough deal for a special meeting.

              And jaywalking isn’t a misdemeanor; it’s not comparable.

              1. Jennifer*

                I didn’t say she’d never smelled it before.

                Possession of marijuana is as minor of a crime as jaywalking, imo, so it is comparable. It’s a “I want to get this guy in trouble” thing as opposed to “I think reporting this will benefit the workplace.”

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Except it’s not. Marijuana use is (at a minimum) a misdemeanor that gets you arrested. Jaywalking is a civil offense like a parking ticket.

              2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Seriously. I’m religious, I don’t partake, but I’m quite clear on what marijuana smells like thanks to thin, leaky apartment walls and neighbors who partook heavily.

              3. Le Sigh*

                Not Jennifer, obvi, but her being religious isn’t why I also offered up that she could have mixed up the smell of pot with something else. I offered it up because I’ve seen more than one person (not necessarily religious) confuse the smell of weed with: new car smell, patchouli, and the smell of an actual skunk that had been run over on the interstate.

                So, to me, “oh I got a whiff of weed” isn’t strong evidence and the better route here is MYOB.

              4. epi*

                It’s pretty dishonest to conflate coming from a restrictive environment where people are required to report on one another’s private conduct, with just being “religious”, and to accuse others of being biased against religious people on that basis.

                You’ve made a couple of comments that suggest you also don’t realize that someone could smell like weed without using it themselves, or even having used it recently; and that the intern risked seriously harming an innocent person if she reported this. And you keep repeating that marijuana is illegal in the LW’s state, but so what? The people you are arguing with have made it clear that they don’t agree it should be illegal; many, many people agree with them including the intern’s supervisor apparently. It isn’t persuasive to keep hyperbolically talking about crime and accusing people of bigotry.

                If you are really interested in why this reaction to the intern’s question is so widespread, maybe more learning about the topic and less yelling and insulting people would be in order.

            2. Czhorat*

              IT’s an understandable mistake, though still a mistake.

              Literally every employee handbook I’ve ever read lists a drug and alcohol-free workplace policy, and every job I’ve gotten makes new hires sign off that they’ve received and read the handbook. So we have an intern, in their first job, having recently read a document and signed off that drug and alcohol use is a no-no. Then they think they see one of their co-workers showing signs of having used an illegal drug. I get that they might see a responsibility here. They’re wrong, but it’s understandable.

            3. EddieSherbert*

              It’s very obvious that this is a triggering topic for you.

              Pretty much no matter WHAT her mentor’s opinion of marijuana is, a logical person is going to say “thinking you might have smelled something on someone, while they did their job well and were totally appropriate isn’t a reason to report it.” Heck, they could even throw in “please ask questions like that in person and not via email.”

              It’s the mentor’s fault that this is now a bigger deal and not just a short conversation where a confused intern asked a silly question.

            4. Moray*

              Loaded for me too, in part because you just…don’t go out of your way to potentially get someone fired for something that isn’t going to cause any actual harm.

              She didn’t ask about what mentor thought she should do if she smelled pot on a coworker.

              She asked what she should do because she smelled pot on that IT guy. I can’t buy that this was asked as an innocent question.

              1. Jessen*

                See, I could totally see myself doing this as a young adult. Partly because I wouldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t get in trouble if I didn’t say anything. Partly because I had had way too much scaremongering about drugs as a kid and had no conception of things like the differences between weed and meth or that someone could be a casual user and not just high all the time.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  We had a D.A.R.E. program at our school in sixth grade. I transferred in too late to do the program, so I guess I never graduated (oh no!). I was a pretty square kid but I remember the officer talking about the dangers of weed and even then I thought it was silly.

                2. Le Sigh*

                  Also, sorry, I don’t mean that to critique you, Jesse (realizing it could be read that way). Your post just brought back memories of how ridiculous and unhelpful some of those programs are.

              2. goducks*

                Yes. This is why I feel that her question wasn’t a what should I do here question, but rather her way of making a report.
                If she wasn’t sure if reporting was the right thing to do, she wouldn’t be naming names in case it caused problems.

                1. Observer*

                  I’ve only gotten about halfway through the comments here, but I’m going to stop reading them.

                  The level of bigotry and unreasonableness of many of the comments is just infuriating and frankly nauseating.

                  For all of the “enlightened” folks carrying on and making all sorts of assumptions about the intern, I suggest you check your own biases.

            5. ket*

              Why are you attributing things to the intern, like that she’s “so sure”? You are making that up. Why do you think that she should know not to ask in email? She’s an intern — that’s a level of sophistication foolish to expect from an intern. Would you be so upset if an intern in a lab included in an otherwise routine email, “Also, I saw Joe wearing sandals in lab on Friday — could you clarify since I thought that was not recommended?”

              I feel like you’re projecting a lot of your own experiences onto this.

              1. goducks*

                I would have similar issues with this example, as well. If you’re asking the sandal policy, ask the sandal policy. Don’t name names.

                1. Squid*

                  It’s very likely she avoided naming names since the mentor only omitted HER name when tweeting out her question.

              2. Jennifer*

                Well, I have different experiences than a lot of people here, apparently. I think pointing out a different perspective can add to a conversation.

                1. Myrin*

                  Different perspectives can definitely add to a conversation and I also think they’re generally encouraged here (although certainly not by every single commenter – not rarely there’s also a big backlash on what I’d personally consider “different from mainstream but not unreasonable” perspective).

                  However, your perspective here seems to consist of attributing a lot of hypotheticals to the intern because of your own experiences. You are all over this comment section being quite uncharitable and unkind about someone who is most likely simply naïve and gathers on some level that her own upbringing wasn’t universal and as such needs guidance, not some evil scheming tattletale who wants to get everyone who doesn’t conform to her alma mater’s code of conduct in trouble.

                  Bringing in our own perspectives can be very helpful, but we can also become so invested in them that they stop us from assessing a situation realistically and fairly.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @Myrin Being naive can prevent people from evaluating situations fairly as well. I’m just pointing that out.

                  We all have biases.

            6. BethDH*

              I think you’re really hung up on the “in writing” thing. My students are more likely to write something to me than say it – they seem to think in-person meetings and phone calls are terrifying. This goes double when it’s something they’re nervous or uncertain about.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                This is a good point. A lot of teens and 20 somethings I’ve worked with have acted like an in person conversation is a much bigger deal than a text or an email. They’re not thinking about the written record, they’re thinking about the increased pressure to respond immediately and correctly in real-time conversations.

            7. Perpal*

              Yikes, yes those cultures are scary and I’m sorry you went through that!
              We really don’t know much about the situation; things like, was this a faint smell, or a “OMG CAN’T BREATHE” Level of smell, was the guy acting weird/high, etc.
              Is it ok to be drunk at work and/or reeking of alcohol? If not, why is ok to be smoking / reeking of weed?

          3. confidante's inferno*

            ” she’s asking if she should report someone who was breaking the law, with a prohibited substance, at work.”

            Or she’s asking if she should report someone who accidentally wore the same t-shirt that morning that they’d smoked while wearing the night before. Unless it’s an immediate H&S issue (operating heavy machinery, or something?), or you can literally see them smoking/snorting/whatever in the office, I’d err on the side of not getting people into trouble, that will likely stay with them for a long time, for recreational drug use.

          4. Anonymeece*

            Honestly, I don’t much care if my IT guy smoked weed before his shift, or even during, if he fixes my computer (and yes, it’s illegal in my state too).

            A lot of people nowadays consider smoking weed (in an environment where it won’t cause a safety issue, such as if you are driving or working in a hospital or something) on par with speeding, which is also a crime, but I wouldn’t report a coworker if I knew they sped to work that day.

            It’s fine if you don’t agree with that and are against marijuana use, but people have different views on this. I would roll my eyes a bit too.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                I feel ya, Jennifer. I think I need to stop reading the comments on this one before I write something I regret.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  +1. I font even smoke pot…never liked it so no dog in that race, but I am really restraining my fingers over here.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              I think, though, you can’ t expect a sheltered 20-year-old to be Sophisticated Sue here. 20 is young, and sheltered 20-year-olds doubly so. I think the mentor was in the wrong here.

              And if it’s normal to hire interns from this particular school, maybe they need more on-boarding than ones from State U? As in, before they set foot in the office? This might help situations like OP’s from arising.

          5. Arctic*

            Sure, let’s report any co-worker you see jaywalking too. We’ll all just report each other for every possible infraction even though it is absolutely none of our business. The world of 1984 seemed like such a great place to live.

          6. Mia*

            Most “illegal” states still have laws that allow MMJ consumption. So for all we know the intern could have been inadvertently hassling some dude about what is essentially medicine for him. Marijuana law and the surrounding social norms are really complex and I totally get why a sheltered intern wouldn’t know much about them, but this whole “but it’s ILLEGAL” attitude lacks an awful lot of nuance to me.

            1. ket*

              Interns have no nuance. That’s why they are interns and not employees.

              As a young person I didn’t understand nuance very well either. It’s part of learning & growing up.

              1. Mia*

                I was referring to commenters insisting that the illegality of weed makes this a non-issue. I expect interns to lack nuance, but I don’t really expect the same from this commentariat.

                1. Another Sarah*

                  Makes what a non-issue? An intern asking her mentor a question?
                  I’ve replied with the point that it’s illegal – in my case it’s not “because it’s illegal and therefore bad and she should report him and it’s ok to hassle him,” it’s because there’s a lot of assumptions flying about in this thread that she was trying to report him to her mentor or hassle him, based on nothing in the OP.
                  The text in the OP specifically said she asked if she should report him – that’s it. The fact is, is it illegal in this state – she has been brought up in a reporting culture – she did ask for guidance before reporting it. If it wasn’t illegal and she was making a moral judgement, it would be less understandable that she was questioning it, though if she thought she smelled drink on him she might still have the question and I don’t think that’s unfair but applying the fact that it is also technically breaking the law is more likely to make her wonder if she needs to say something than not, surely?
                  That’s nuance.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Also mist places it’s ILLEGAL are only going to give a citation/fine unless someone has massive amounts or is dealing it.

          7. Tara R.*

            To me this is on about the same level as trying to report a coworker for jaywalking across a deserted road while you were going to get lunch with them.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, I mean, I’m with you on the eye rolls for the same reasons. The metro employee incident, ooof.

          But while I think her concerns were a bit much, what bums me out is it probably would have been a good opportunity for her to get some useful guidance. Instead, the people who were supposed to be professional and mature were anything but.

        3. LDN Layabout*

          I guess people should step out into life, fully formed and with the knowledge of the world in their brains already.

          This is an intern. Someone who is there to learn about how the working world works. She asked the person tasked with helping her for help.

          If this makes you roll your eyes, I hope you never have to be in a work position where you have to provide support for anyone.

          1. Sarah N*

            Also, like, it’s okay to internally (not TO the intern) roll your eyes, or even laugh about it with your spouse or your book club (“Ugh, you’ll never believe what our intern did today!”) Those are normal human reactions. Publicly calling someone out on social media is totally different and not ok.

        4. CupcakeCounter*

          Keep in mind that this is a mentality that the intern has been taught and had reinforced over and over and school and church. Her actions indicate that she understands it might not be the norm outside the little religious bubble she has been living in.
          The people with the mentality you describe would not have checked with their mentor but would have gone straight to HR or whomever and reported that “IT guy was smoking weed at work”. Asking for guidance and workplace norms wouldn’t have occurred to them because of “righteous indignation regarding behaviors deemed unacceptable by church/self”. Seems to me that the intern is actually trying NOT to be that person by quietly asking for guidance from someone who has worked at the company for a while and was assigned to mentor them in that transition.

          1. MicrobioChic*

            Yeah, I was raised in a similarly conservative religious environment and strongly pressured to go to a religious school with curfews for students, worthiness interviews, and a strict dress code.

            Since my parents weren’t paying for any of it, I chose my undergrad schooling based on academic programs/financial aid & scholarships offered instead, but I’ve been around that mentality a lot. There is incredible pressure to report anyone who steps outside the lines, and I can completely understand her checking to see if she should report it. The fact that the manager is appearing to prioritize being funny on Twitter over having a serious and direct conversation with her about what is and isn’t appropriate to report, and where the line is between things that can impact workplace safety, like if you smell alcohol on the breath of someone about to operate on a forklift, and things that are none of your business, such as a smell that may or may not be pot on someone that isn’t operating heavy machinery.

            1. ket*

              This is a great comment and I think a good counterpoint to the “mind your own business” crowd. The MYOB commenters hopefully have enough judgment at this point to deal with a coworker who has been drinking and is operating a forklift, or driving the office back from lunch. The intern is still developing this sense, by… having an internship.

            2. Hera*

              I smell weed on a person behind his desk? I may silently judge them a little , but I wouldn’t report them. Seeing a person swaying to their car, I might ask if it wasn’t better to call for a taxi or offer to drive them home (Even if it was caused by prescribed medication instead of drugs or alcohol).

              But you know, these are things one learns along the way. Interns aren’t standard “equipped” with this knowledge, especially if they come from a more sheltered background (and I have known a few interns that didn’t share the same background and were very naïve as well about these things).

              Btw; I think there is way more comments on the intern than on the so-called mentor. He is the one in the wrong here for mocking the intern for having questions.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “Keep in mind that this is a mentality that the intern has been taught and had reinforced over and over and school and church.”

            This is the problem. People being raised/indoctrinated to be snitches.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              But that’s hardly the intern’s fault. You don’t get to choose your parents, after all. If the idea is to help people grow beyond this mentality, kindness is on the whole better than snarkiness.

        5. silverpie*

          If that report would be enough to fire someone (without confirmation that an offense actually occurred), that workplace is fouled up way beyond what we already know…

    8. hbc*

      Yeah, but different industries and different people have different standards on things like this. Some places you might get fired for *not* reporting alcohol or pot smell coming from a coworker, others they’d tell you to MYOB. It’s not immediately obvious what the company wants to know about and how much you’re putting yourself out on a limb if you don’t share.

      1. Anon for this*


        My agency has a ton of safety-sensitive positions – people who spend much of their day behind the wheel, operating heavy equipment, conducting safety inspections, etc. I don’t know off-hand what our policies are around reporting suspected intoxication for the minority of us in desk jobs (it’s never come up and seems unlikely to), but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were uniform and applied to everyone. Even in office-based IT jobs, some of our staff maintain systems that are safety critical – I would be pretty uncomfortable thinking that one of those employees might be high at work, even though I have no problem with pot in general.

        Now, smelling a whiff of something that might be pot is not the same thing as suspecting someone is high. And I hope from the conduct of the mentor and others that the safety aspect isn’t really a factor here – if it were their attitude is even more inexcusable. But I don’t immediately fault an intern for being uncomfortable perceiving a pot smell in the workplace and wondering what to do about it.

    9. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s exactly what her mentor should have done, rather than taking to twitter to mock her! “This is no big deal and doesn’t need to be reported” is a valid and correct answer to “Should I report this?”

    10. KHB*

      While I don’t necessarily disagree with your take on this specific situation, the “think of the poor guy who could lose his job!” argument also gets trotted out in discussions of much more serious and harmful infractions, so I don’t think it’s the best basis for deciding whether to report something or not.

      1. President Porpoise*

        *Ahem* … And if he loses his job because it’s proved that he knowingly violated his company’s policies and state/federal law, then that’s the risk he runs when he’s smoking pot and not making sure that it doesn’t bleed over to parts of his life where it could get him in trouble. I don’t think it’s right for someone to be fired for use of a drug which is pretty harmless, but if he’s using at work or not being subtle – well, he’s an adult and can presumably guess the consequences of his actions.

        1. Mel*

          Yes. My husband is a manager at a job where coming in high is dangerous. Even though the rules are that there is no drug use period (illegal here) he isn’t firing anyone unless they’re idiots and bring it to work with them or come in high.

          Well. There are a lot of idiots. But they know the rules and they do it anyway. It’s not anyone’s fault but their own.

        2. anon for this*

          Exactly. This wouldn’t even be a problem if the IT person was professional and discreet, but let’s all shame the intern who did nothing wrong or illegal and now has to put up with being forced into an awkward situation. If you took out the words “pot” and “religious” from this post, and it was about something else illegal, I bet money the responses would be entirely different…

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I get and even agree with you basically, but the whole “the poor rapist will have his life ruined” isn’t the same universe as naming someone who *might,* maybe, possibly, she’s not sure… smell like pot and screwing up his life. Way, way, way different things.

        1. Squid*

          I fully agree but I’d also much rather have an intern ask me if X is big enough to report than not. I don’t want to find out later that sleezy Saul has been making gross comments to the intern and she never reported it because it “wasn’t that bad” or she didn’t want to hurt his career. Let me know and let me determine how bad it is.

    11. Samwise*

      The intern did not report anyone. The intern ASKED if it was something to report, in other words, did exactly the right thing. There’s bad behavior here, but the intern did not engage in it.

      1. Arctic*

        But she did. She put it out in the world that the IT guy “smelled like weed” without knowing what her mentor would do with that info.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          She’s an *intern*. An INTERN, for pete’s sake. How in the world would an INTERN know what her mentor would do with that info? The intern is paired with the mentor to be able to ask these kinds of what may or may not be silly questions that may or may not be more work-task related or work-norms related. The intern is there to learn what these norms are. It is incredibly silly IMO to expect an INTERN to immediately assume that all mentors are going to do bad things with (what really amounts to ) silly information-based questions. I really, really do not understand the logic here that instead of asking a question, the intern should have immediately known and assumed that her mentor is Not A Good Person To Give Information To, when that is part and package of being a mentor.

          The intern did not go “put it into the world”, the mentor did. The mentor acted incredibly inappropriately on many levels. The intern asked a question that should have answered by the mentor (and, again, IMO, would have been answered with a no, don’t report, that’s not on the level that makes reporting appropriate). But that’s what you do as a mentor. You answer what may easily be a silly question – because the person you are mentoring *does not know*, even if you think it’s common sense. Even common sense things need to be learned in some way.

          1. Susie Q*

            She did though. She sent a computer message which is probably cataloged and captured by IT. The minute you write something down or put it on a computer, that information is out in the world. An intern should understand that having grown up in the computer age.

            She didn’t just share it with the mentor, she shared it with the IT department.

          2. Seacalliope*

            I think one of the key differences here is whether or not commenters regard the intern’s action as a mistake with possible consequences or not. If it included identifying information of the other employee, I would consider it a mistake. One that is inevitable for interns, and a lot of people, to make and to learn from, but nonetheless a mistake with potential consequences for the other employee. The mentor tweeting about her question is an entirely different subject matter and not one that changes whether or not the intern made a mistake in reporting via question.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Of course not – but it really is a bit much to focus so. incredibly. much. on the intern, who (while I can’t say I agree with putting it in writing, but at the same time – it’s amazing, as someone who grew up with computers, what people my own age and younger don’t even think about being “documented” in that way) asked a question, while totally ignoring that the mentor put it on social media in a much, much more egregiously public way.

          3. Blunt Bunny*

            Reading the comments I assume the US standards are pretty low for Interns/students. Because we are talking about an adult who by law has been deemed old enough to look after themselves. It’s unfortunate that she has been brought up in a restrictive manner. But in this internet age information is everywhere so ignorance is a choice.
            A Mentor isn’t there to raise the woman, they are supposed to point them in the right direction for them to help themselves. I’m sure by now she has seen many things in the workplace that wouldn’t be allowed at her school for example cursing, how to address each other, dress code. A sensible person would wait until they were settled in a knew more about their work environment before raising this issue.

            1. Lance*

              Alright, but… the mentor has still, from the look of things, abjectly failed even that duty, so it’s not even about ‘raising’ them.

          4. Arctic*

            Nobody is defending the mentor. But the intern should absolutely have not named the person. And expecting people to have basic compassion and not jumping to “should I try to get this person who helped me with an issue and did nothing to negatively impact me fired?”

            People hold interns to higher standards here all of the time. I don’t think the interns who made a presentation on dress code should have all been fired. But people here were gleefully cheering their total dismissal.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              This is ridiculous because it requires a level of sophistication that interns don’t have.
              It requires that the intern write a carefully constructed inquiry into company policy that doesn’t infer who is violating the policy

            2. Engineer Girl*

              It’s also a false equivalency.
              It is equating a short inquiry to a full scale petition that everyone signed.
              They are nowhere near the same scale.
              And petitions at work are a totally different category than a quick text asking for clarification.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                “And petitions at work are a totally different category than a quick text asking for clarification.”

                THIS. She asked a question! A silly question? Yep. Something I would totally roll my eyes at? Yep. Something that would prompt a follow up discussion of ok-vs-not? Totally.

                Something to *publicly spread and mock on social media*?? Absolutely flippin’ not.

            3. Squid*

              DID she name the IT person? By OP’s description of the tweet only Intern’s name was omitted which strongly suggests that there wasn’t a second name there to protect. Sounds like Intern didn’t, then, name beyond “the IT guy…”

        2. Autumnheart*

          Well, she probably didn’t think that her mentor was stupid enough to go tell a million people on Twitter.

        3. Engineer Girl*

          No. She put it out to the mentor in a private message.
          The mentor put it out to the world.

          1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*


            If they IT-guy gets in trouble over this, it is actually the mentor’s fault and not the intern’s

        4. Delphine*

          She didn’t put it out in the world, she asked her mentor a private question, which her mentor then blasted to the internet.

        5. Kesnit*

          She did not put it out to “the world.” She asked her mentor. Her mentor is the one that broadcast it.

    12. Temperance*

      Have you ever met a public transit employee? They’re often petty tyrants who enforce the rules when they see fit, so let’s not compare.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Sure, but are you familiar with the story Jennifer is referring to? A woman took a picture of a DC Metro employee trying to eat a quick bite because Metro was sending her via train to another shift–not to send it to metro and report it, but post it to twitter to shame the employee and try to get them fired. As it turns out, it was the employee’s only chance to eat, plus Metro had recently stopped enforcing the no eating rule. So while some public transit employees can be jerks, the woman who tried to shame this employee wasn’t exactly gonna win any public service awards.

        And no, I don’t care if it was still against the rules — singling the woman out and publicly flaming someone on metro for the act of eating is disproportionate, *especially* b/c she lacked context. I get she might have been irked, but what a great time to MYOB.

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          You know the end result? The employee still has her job because the company (rightfully so) first checked how true the allegations were and decided that the employee didn’t do anything wrong.

          Know what happened the person trying to publicly shame that employee (and fire her, because yes, that is what she tried to do)? She lost her book deal because of this. She’s suing her publisher for it (for $13 mill) but I doubt she is going to get it.

    13. smoke tree*

      I agree that it was poor judgment on the intern’s part, but I really heavily weight the blame toward the “mentor” because this could have been a good opportunity to explain exactly the nuance you mention here. There are some situations where it would be necessary to report suspected drug or alcohol use at work (if there is a safety issue, for example) so a competent mentor would explain the distinction, and perhaps more broadly address what kind of things are important to report and what is better to keep to yourself.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        That is why I am faulting the mentor, not the intern. A lot of people seem to be thinking that a 20-year-old intern is supposed to have the judgment of an experienced veteran – but most 20-year-olds don’t. The mentor, otoh, really should have known better.

    14. Observer*

      I can’t but be reminded of the woman who reported a subway employee for eating during

      You REALLY don’t see the difference between public tweeting stuff that is both legal and of no impact on anyone on the one hand and ASKING YOUR MENTOR how to handle a situation that is potentially illegal (and possibly in your head hugely dangerous)?

      I’m not saying that the intern needed to report this, but let’s stay away from overblown comparisons, please.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Exactly. Asking your mentor what to do is not reporting anything. It’s ridiculous that people are suggesting that she *must* have phrased her question with certainty that a) what she smelled was correct or b) that this rises to the level of reporting. She didn’t go to HR or the IT boss. She went to the person whose job it is to help her calibrate a sense of professional norms that she clearly knows she needs guidance with.

        You can ask a question even if you’re pretty certain the answer will be “no”. Double-checking with the mentor can confirm that she shouldn’t do anything, without her having to make that judgment call. The idea that she shouldn’t have asked is absurd. An internship is essentially a learning environment and she attempted to learn. The mentor was just mean, and that’s not someone who should be trusted to foster interns’ professional maturation.

  9. MissGirl*

    The mentor’s response to this just makes me sick inside. The intern did something entirely appropriate. She had a concern, she didn’t know if this was something worth being concerned over, and, rather than go nuclear, she reached out to her mentor for his guidance. Then he mocked her publicly for it. Wow.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, this is appalling. As someone who mentors many many interns, I am so disturbed by this.

  10. CatCat*

    Ugh. Mocking people doesn’t belong in the workplace period. And this was from higher ups… what a snotty and toxic tone to set. I’d definitely be taking note, for my own benefit, of other red flags given the poor professional judgment from management.

  11. PersephoneUnderground*

    Wow. “Intern naive, news at 11”, I mean really, the mentor here is such a jerk. 100% agree that they shouldn’t be mentoring interns, because guess what? As a mentor it’s your role to be a safe person to ask naive or “dumb” questions! A moment of “wow, they’re sheltered” privately, or even mentioning it at home, would have been normal, but public shaming? Name or not, you just told anyone who reads your Twitter not to intern at your company, they’ll be mocked if they ask their mentor the wrong thing. Wow.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Realized this might read as directed at the “you” of the OP, wanted to clarify that it’s all directed at the mentor. Thank you for writing in and hopefully standing up for this intern OP!

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Not to mention that if any of the employees who have already been reprimanded for making similar comments (internally, not publicly on twitter as far as I can tell) find this, it could open a whole can of worms that will create a lot of chaos.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I’d definitely be upset if I got in trouble for internally making a joke to coworkers and then some higher ups basically made the same joke on a PUBLIC forum.

  12. Tuppence*

    Not only was it mean, unnecessary and a huge breach of trust for the mentor mock the question, but in actual fact, in a certain sense – being an illegal activity in that location – it kind of IS something the intern should report. She would have been in the (legal) right. What’s good is that she had the sense to ask her mentor for advice, because maybe she sensed she might have been in an ethical grey area if she did so.

    1. Czhorat*

      Whether or not the intern is in the right (I think they weren’t, but that’s a side-discussion) is immaterial.

      Even if they were 100% clearly wrong, this is not the way to address it.

      1. Tuppence*

        Oh absolutely! The point I was trying to make was that this mentor was publicly mocking this intern for wishing to act *in line with the law* (the fact that it happens to be about marijuana is a side issue). Which doesn’t paint him in a good light, especially as a mentor.

    2. Mel*

      Yes. The mentor is acting like she’s dumb, but it’s smart to ask the question if you’re unsure.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep. This is my general rule for life: “If you ask before you act, it isn’t a stupid question.”

  13. Princess prissypants*

    Some issues to consider:

    1. Even though it’s not legal where you are, is it a workplace where it’s still socially acceptable, but not talked about? As in, the mentor, the HR director, the IT manager, the twitter-commenters, etc., know that “everyone smokes” but no one really cares as long as they’re doing it responsibly and/or not at work? (yes, commentariat, there are lots of places like this, especially in higher ed/academic/ac-adjacent kind of places)

    2. Are you friendly with the IT guy? if so maybe a heads up to him that this is going on?

    3. How familiar are you with the mentor? Are you in a position to say to him, “cut it out, dude!” or similar?

    4. Does your organization work in areas that are counter to this student’s religious teachings? Say, an abortion provider, investigator of climate science, gay rights, etc? If so, this student may find that minding her (?) own business would do her well, starting now.

    5. If she’s as sheltered as you say, how’s she to know what weed might smell like? Perhaps IT guy had herbal tea, or a strange cologne, or patchouli, or axe spray – any of which might smell “suspicious” to someone who hasn’t encountered them before. If she’s just clueless and IT guy is innocent and mentor knows it, mentor is just making a silly joke. Not tactfully I suppose, but less of a deal in this case.

    1. Jennifer*

      They definitely need to warn the IT guy to be on his best behavior whenever he’s around her.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I get that you say this is a sore point for you. But saying the IT guy need to be careful around the intern seems like it is going a little to far. The intern just asked a question. This seems similar to the office having a policy against taking office supplies, and the intern sees IT guy take a box of pens home, or a ream of paper. The intern goes to their mentor to ask if they should report it.

        It seems like you think (correct me if I am wrong) the intern is judging the smoking of weed . But it seems you are equally judging the intern for even daring to ask a question, based on your own moral code of what you have decided is right and wrong. How is the intern supposed to know what the norms are around weed if they are not allowed to ask a question?

        I agree with you, personally I would not report the IT guy, I would advise the intern not to report it, and I think weed should be legalized.

    2. confidante's inferno*

      “If she’s just clueless and IT guy is innocent and mentor knows it, mentor is just making a silly joke. Not tactfully I suppose, but less of a deal in this case.”

      Struggling to see how it makes any difference whether the IT guy smokes and the mentor knows that, or he doesn’t smoke and the mentor knows that, or any other permutation. At the heart of it, the mentor is a) publicising work-related communications and b) laughing at a mentee for asking a genuine question.

      1. Princess prissypants*

        Because it’s a easier/less complicated situation if IT guy is innocent – LW can’t inadvertently get IT guy in trouble by reporting this if he hasn’t done anything wrong, therefore eliminating the “crossfire” issue raised in the letter. I still don’t think *reporting* is the first action. LW should tell mentor he’s being an idiot, first.

        1. confidante's inferno*

          …Which is to say “got it, thanks”; didn’t mean that in a snarky way!

    3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I second #5. I have no idea what weed smells like. If I noticed a coworker smelling weird, there would be so many other things I would think of before weed – or I probably wouldn’t think of anything in particular, just that this person often smells weird. So if somebody says something about weed smell, I think it could mean two things: a) they know what weed smells like, b) they don’t but they are so suspicious about other people in general that their first conclusion about a weird smell is automatically something illegal.

      1. Jennifer*

        Or she made an assumption about him based on external appearance.

        It’s strange to me that she was so certain it was weed after living such a sheltered existence.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Jennifer, so far the person most making assumptions here seems to be you. Regardless of my opinion of the intern or her upbringing, I don’t think leaping to lots of assumptions about how the intern is making assumptions based on the IT guys appearance, that she’s too sheltered to know what weed smells like, etc. are helpful. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates these things, and I think it does the LW and intern a disservice to assume the worst.

        2. bonkerballs*

          It’s strange to me you’ve read that this intern went to a religious college and are so certain that means she’s lived “such a sheltered existence.”

            1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

              No, the letter explicitly states the intern went to a religious school with strict rules about reporting certain behavior. Guess what, so does law school. Its like drilled into you you will never be allowed to practice law if you don’t report every possible infraction of your fellow students. You are assigning traits to the intern that the LW did not indicate.

              1. Temperance*

                It’s not the same, though. We’re required to report behavior that indicates a lack of fitness to practice law or be admitted to the bar, but not police behavior on a moral basis.

                I am very familiar with these sorts of schools, like Oral Roberts / Bob Jones / Liberty University. It’s very clear from the context that LW is speaking about an institution like those and not like, Seton Hall or Southern Methodist.

            2. bonkerballs*

              It’s really not. The letter mentions rules at the school regarding reporting and that’s it. In fact, the only time the intern being “sheltered” is mentioned is in one of the mocking twitter comments. Yet somehow *that* is what you’ve decided to take as fact.

        3. Turquoisecow*

          If she’s been outside in a city, she knows what weed smells like. I don’t partake and don’t hang out with anyone who does, and lived a fairly sheltered existence, but I know what it smells like.

          Although she goes to a religious university, she may have gone to a public high school, or be from a city or urban environment.

          You’re making a fairly unkind assumption that she doesn’t know what weed smells like when many people have said that it’s entirely possible she does.

          1. Yorick*

            Yeah, this idea that she couldn’t possibly identify the smell of weed is silly to me. I went to a “religious” college (it was affiliated with a particular church) but many of us weren’t actually religious and some people actually did smoke weed.

            1. Yorick*

              To be specific, my college was affiliated with a particular Protestant denomination, not like a local church. And we had students who were Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and not religious at all. And we had an honor code and maybe we were technically supposed to report others for any wrongdoing, but I don’t think people actually did.

              We even had to write the honor code statement on all of our assignments as a show that we didn’t cheat. Once I forgot and the professor called me out on it and I was like, seriously, if I cheated on this test I would’ve remembered to write the honor code.

        4. Archaeopteryx*

          You can know what something smells like without choosing to imbibe. It is seriously not unheard of.

        5. Jasnah*

          Jennifer, usually I really appreciate your comments but I think you’re overly focused on defending the IT guy from weed accusations, even to the point of wild speculation on the intern’s motives.

          Do you really think that what the intern did (reaching out to her mentor privately to ask what she should do) mitigates the cruel humiliation the mentor did to her?
          If not, then why are you so focused on painting the intern as the real villain here?

    4. Rainy*

      In re your 5, a very “religious” neighbour of ours when I was a kid called the fury of law enforcement down on another neighbour of ours because he didn’t know the difference between a field of mixed ragweed, lamb’s quarter, etc and a field of marijuana. The landowner didn’t get in huge trouble with the law ultimately, but he did have to burn off a field he’d intended to lay fallow that year due to projected flooding, leading to some soil erosion and other knock-on effects for the local waterways, and he had a very bad Saturday morning when the local sheriffs descended on him guns drawn and a helicopter buzzed his property and stampeded his livestock because my idiot neighbour was both an idiot and constitutionally incapable of minding his own business.

        1. Rainy*

          Mid-Missouri, actually. When the county mounties didn’t take it seriously, my idiot neighbour escalated through his Nat’l Guard unit. It was a mess.

    5. Ellex*

      Per your number 5, I have allergies, a very poor sense of smell (probably due to the allergies), and have experienced “phantom smells” (my doctor put me on an allergy medication a few years back that made me smell nothing but cigarette smoke for a solid month – very annoying)…and not much exposure to marijuana. I do know what it smells like, but there are other things that smell very similar to me, like certain perfumes and types of incense.

      I can certainly see someone without much exposure thinking that a particularly herbal-smelling perfume, cologne, or incense was weed, and frankly asking the mentor for advise was a smart question.

    6. designbot*

      RE: #3, I think LW absolutely could come at this directly with the mentor like “hey, I went to that university, I am of that religion, and this was uncalled for. This was an intern being an intern, not some egregious thing. And furthermore, I don’t think you want our company to become known for mocking the people we hire and institutions we partner with.”

  14. Mallory*

    It might also be worthwhile to have a broader conversation with those involved with the intern program about accepting differences in cultural upbringing, and what practices or language might help in building a bridge rather than building a wall.

    1. Corporate Lady*


      The way the intern was treated is unacceptable. However, does your company follow the same standards as the religious university? Good for them on their self selected conduct code, but if it isn’t in line with your orgs policies and procedures, they need to leave it at the door.

      In this case, they’re talking about a substance that’s illegal in your state. Totally a thing to navigate if you feel so strongly. However, what other regulations are enforced by this educational institution that aren’t also enforced by your employee handbook.

      To set these interns up for success, it might be good to do two things:

      1. Have a clarifying conversation with the university about where their rules stop and yours begin. What if there are two interns from the same institution both following your rules and doing well. One of them goes to a happy hour (legal age but may be against university rules). What’s it going to do to your office environment if one is tattling on the other. What if you’re in the position to have to respond to university concerns on the one intern.

      2. Deep training on your employee handbook. I’m sure there’s a no drug policy – and that’s where this intern is right and her mentor is wrong (even independent of the demeaning jerkitude). However, some religious institutions have rules around dancing, fraternization, sex outside of marriage, etc. These are things no employer would touch. Do these young adults entering into the workforce know the difference?

      In my opinion, companies have the advantage when it comes to interns. They are frequently more work with some return. It’s generous of employers to allow any educational institution to take advantage of this type of program.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      YES! I think if the company regularly hires interns from this school, there needs to be onboarding done before the interns set foot in an office – and conversations with the potential bosses, coworkers, and especially mentors, about where these kids might be coming from. This will avoid culture shock and excessive “guess culture” on both sides. It sounds like maybe the intern program should do more stepping up and educating than they would have to if the interns came from State U or Secular Private U.

  15. Sharkie*

    I am so irritated by this since I have 0 tolerance for this type of bullying. She is an intern! An internship is a place to learn about office norms. Please report this OP! Also if it makes sense please give this intern a heads up that not every little thing that their school wants them to report needs to be reported in the real world. My boyfriend went to a college similar to this and it skewed his thinking on this type of stuff for a while. We were out to dinner one night recently and he saw one of his professors and he reflexively grabbed the beers we were having and hid them under the table. He has been out of college for 9 years now.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I agree that it would be a good idea for OP to talk to the intern since they attended the same college. Sounds like a great way to bridge the gap for her without threat of condemnation.

    2. Lucy*

      LW might be exactly the person to steer the intern, having come from the same type of academic environment. Far kinder to frame it as “here’s the things that surprised me when I was in your position” than “you’re doing this all wrong because your school was weird”.

      1. Sharkie*

        Exactly! My known for couch-burning after big football victories college had programs like this for freshmen! There was a homeschool one and the Christian student groups had upperclassmen lead small groups of all freshmen to help kids adjust if they were struggling with the rowdier atmosphere

  16. VictorianCowgirl*

    What makes this particularly disgusting to me is that it’s not as if the intern likely chose to be raised in this religion. Not that it’s ok, but making fun of someone because they, say, put up star wars posters in their cubicle is a far cry from making fun of someone’s upbringing. Just imagine how hard it is with the culture shock for the intern, quite likely being put in situations they’re uncomfortable with often. OP I do hope you raise this up the flagpole. These people are bullies and their attitude is quite possibly affecting how the intern is treated and feels at the workplace.

    1. government worker*

      Uh, what? The intern is an adult, first of all. Second of all, lots of people abandon the religions they were raised with, and it’s also not particularly uncommon to come from a secular family and adopt a religion. Lastly, just because you go to a religious school doesn’t mean you’re a part of that religion. I know it’s not unheard of for Jewish kids to go to Catholic schools, for instance.

        1. Sharkie*

          Intern definitely needs to grow up, but going to those types of colleges with strict rules can mess with your view of things especially if you grew up in that faith. Of all the horrible interns we hear about this is mild and fixable. She just asked a question to her mentor. This is what the mentor is there for.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          I don’t think it’s “leeway,” I think it’s recognizing that she actually did the smart thing in what was a confusing situation for her. This is likely an 18-22 year old person who is new to the working/professional world. It makes perfect sense that she is going to be uncertain about things – and when she was uncertain, she took the extremely appropriate action of asking her mentor a question about it.

          I honestly don’t think the religious bit /her background matters really matters for this situation (expect that OP feels understanding towards her because of it) and it could have been left out; my opinion wouldn’t change if I didn’t have that information about her background.

        3. Psyche*

          I think she deserves the leeway. She didn’t just automatically report him. She asked what she should do. That shows that she is learning and I think her mentor should support that.

        4. Another Sarah*

          She was concerned someone was potentially taking an illegal mood-altering substance at work and she asked her mentor if she should report it. Yours or my personal philosophies on how legal or socially acceptable that particular mood altering substance should be are irrelevant.

          She was concerned someone was breaking the law at her workplace and so she asked the question of whether she should raise it up the ladder because she’s new to the work world and doesn’t know whether it’s an infraction important enough to be reported, so she asked.

          She did the right thing and doesn’t deserve to be mocked for simply asking a question of the person she’s supposed to ask questions.

          As an aside, many workplaces, even where it is legal, would not be ok with someone using weed at work unless it was medically prescribed. Many places do not consider drinking while at work acceptable behaviour, (and I don’t mean getting drunk, I mean one or two in your lunch hour) and this is exactly the same situation. It’s just not an unreasonable question. If she’d gone to HR or called the police, that would be unreasonable but that’s so far removed from this situation.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This is heavily dependent on region of country and how they were raised. My mother controlled almost everything about me until I broke away and moved out at 21. If someone controls all aspects of someone’s life then it’s hard for them to make a truly free choice.
        There’s street wise “adults” at 12 and then there’s sheltered adults at 25.

        1. government worker*

          Sure, but we don’t know if any of that applies to the intern. That’s what I’m saying. I’m not sure what religion has to do with this, beyond the insinuation that people from her college are naive/squares. Which is a shitty and dismissive thing to say, for sure, but has nothing to do with the nuance of anyone’s complicated relationship to their religion.

          1. Jessen*

            The two factors mentioned in the first paragraph – worthiness exams and encouraging students to report – are not common features of standard religious institutions. They are extremely common features of the sorts of colleges that exist to keep students sheltered from the rest of the world.

            1. Elmer Litzinger, spy*

              Yes, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t grow up with pothead neighbors and thus knows exactly what pot smells like.

      2. Jessen*

        If it’s the type I’m thinking of – it would be incredibly rare for someone who was not raised in that religion to go to that sort of school. I have some familiarity with the strict code of conduct schools, and they were largely attended by students whose parents thought 18 was too young to be exposed to people with different values. Generally the students have to sign a profession of faith and agree to attend approved services, among other things.

        And you still get the culture shock even if you leave that religion. Especially since they’re generally the type to deliberately shelter children from any outside contact.

        1. wafflesfriendswork*

          Absolutely. I was raised in a very conservative Evangelical household (not *extremely* sheltered, but I held a lot of beliefs growing up I don’t have anymore) and it’s not like a switch was flipped the moment I stepped onto a secular public university campus. It was a process, it took a few years of seeing the world differently before I really decided I didn’t want to live how I was raised anymore.

      3. President Porpoise*

        Yes, you can leave – but it’s hard. You might also be cutting off friends and family, and there could be other implications. For example, if you go to a BYU school as a LDS student, you pay a phenomenally good price for the education you receive, but it’s every bit as sheltered as described by the OP. If you decide that you no longer want to be LDS while you are attending BYU, you fail your yearly worthiness interview with your local clergy, and you can no longer attend – which could be financially catastrophic (at least that was the case when I attended). And while you can attend a BYU school as a non-LDS student, you have to sign and abide by the Honor Code, which is highly restrictive so you’d be under the same effect – plus you have to pay a much higher tuition.

        Even if she did leave her religion upon turning 18, it takes a while to be fully exposed to the real world. I don’t blame her for asking, and I don’t know why some people are so insistent that the intern is a horrible person for wondering if she should report a potential illegal act to her employer (she may not even be thinking about police involvement).

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        1. The intern is technically and legally an adult. But being raised in an environment that is as restrictive as this school’s code of conduct sounds typically results in really sheltered and naive adults who don’t know a lot of things that the rest of the world sees as common sense.

        2. Lots of people do leave the religions they were raised with, and it’s freaking hard. It takes a really long time to train those instincts out of yourself. You don’t just walk into a room like Michael Scott and declare yourself free of religion. It’s work, and it stays in your brain for a lot longer than you want it to.

        3. If this is one of the handful of colleges I’m thinking it might be, it would be really unusual for a person who is not a part of that religious subculture to attend. There will have been statements of faith that needed to be signed, and these schools will not admit or retain students who don’t at least pretend to adhere to the entire belief system.

        This is very likely a worldview that the intern did not select for herself, and blaming her for it does nothing to make her choose something different.

        1. government worker*

          So what? There’s nothing in this letter to indicate the intern has a complicated with her religion, or “can’t help it”. I don’t care, nor do I care to know, if she has misgivings about her religious teachings/level of devoutness. I’m saying that the notion that she can’t control her religion, which is what VictorianCowgirl was saying, is absurd and not true.

          1. Jasnah*

            It’s not about controlling her religion. It’s about not knowing things because of her different upbringing.

            It’s like shaming her because she doesn’t know obvious culture norms in Wakanda because she was born in raised in Sarkovia. Sure she could move to Wakanda and learn them, but it’d be pretty awful to shame her for what she doesn’t know in year 1 of her internship in Wakanda.

      5. GreyjoyGardens*

        At her age, she’s probably still dependent on her parents. This might well be one of her first glimpses of the outside world. You can’t expect someone who is 20 and still at a very strict college to cast it all off the day she leaves home.

        I don’t think this college is like, for instance, Notre Dame (if you want to talk Catholic colleges) which people of all backgrounds attend. This is probably more like Oral Roberts U or something similarly strict and exclusive.

    2. Veggiesforlife*

      “What makes this particularly disgusting…”
      Uh excuse me? I’ve been to two major religious schools or of my own choice. You view on religion has nothing to do with the issue at hand. There are many nonreligious interns who do not understand work culture.

  17. LaDeeDa*

    Does your company have a social media policy? If there is no policy in place I wouldn’t bother to report it, they haven’t outlined a code of conduct so there is nothing they can enforce. I am shocked at the number of companies that still don’t have any social media policies in place, but there are a lot of them out there!
    The intern’s question is a valid question, she went to her mentor for guidance on how to handle something that is outside her experience- exactly what I would expect her to do.
    Also, if you are going to use social media to comment about work — be anonymous, don’t follow colleagues, and don’t link to your company.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      Ugg, I didn’t finish my thought. I say don’t report it if there is no policy in place because they will likely focus on the IT person, and not the real issue- which is bullying. I have seen several companies not deal with something major because they had no policy in place.

    2. Rabbit*

      They can 100% enforce consequences even if they don’t have an explicit policy. Companies do not need to have documentation of every possible misdeed – it is useful to have general guidance, especially around grey areas or if the company is an outlier on a particular issue, but it isn’t needed. And making fun of interns publicly – even with names redacted- is not something that needs an explicit policy to state that it is not ok, especially with the aggravating factor of possible religious discrimination coming into it.

      Can you imagine a company discovering an employee Fight Club (or Duck Club…..) was happening in the break room every lunchtime only to be unable to do anything because they hadn’t put it in the handbook?

    3. MissGirl*

      Something doesn’t need to have a policy behind it to be actionable or enforceable. A company cannot create a policy around everything wrong to do. These are adults in leadership positions. They know better, and if they don’t they need to educated straightaway.

  18. MommyMD*

    Mentor should be fired and Intern from Handmaids Academy should be told to mind her own business unless something illegal to the business or discriminatory is happening. What a twisted tale. I feel very sorry for the targeted guy.

      1. goducks*

        Yes. Who knows what she smelled, but his life could get turned upside down by an unfounded accusation.

        (I live in a place where it’s been legal for years, and much longer medicinally, and even before was widely used on with only semi-discretion so I’m coming at this from a place of wow, who cares even if it was pot).

        1. ket*

          I gotta say, I just don’t see this happening. There’s no proof that he smoked pot and it would be easy to defend the guy by arguing the intern doesn’t know the smell. I don’t see any incentive for the employer to fire him based on hearsay from an intern — there is just no proof of anything.

    1. Piggy Stardust*

      This. As an intern, you’re a guest. And as a guest, why would you actually want to start trouble for someone? Unless it’s blatantly illegal, like harassment or discrimination, don’t concern yourself with petty things. Worry about doing your job, not about what weird aromas your coworkers may have.

      1. MissGirl*

        The point is she doesn’t know if it’s petty or not. And different workplaces have different norms around this. I’ve worked at companies that would not have cared and companies that would fire you if you were aware someone was high and you didn’t report it. She asked her mentor for clarification, which was the right response. An intern is a guest, but an intern is also very much a student there to learn norms.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        Not to derail further on pot opinions but this is in this jurisdiction in fact “blatantly illegal.” IF said IT person is possessing/purchasing pot then they are engaging in an illegal activity. And just like all of us who choose to exceed the speed limit when/if we are caught knowingly breaking the law then yes, it is right and fair that we are accountable for the cost of breaking the law. That’s the risk that we as adults choose to take by engaging in activities that we know carry those potential consequences.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Please look at each of your posts on this topic.
            Most of them are strawman fallacies. I suggest you look it up.
            The key word here is fallacy. You are NOT making good arguments for your position.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            No but if there was a serious issue that needed to be dealt with and part of the consequences was that they got a speeding ticket then yeah I’d still address the serious issue. I’m in no way advocating that the intern needs to report this, that’s not what the LW is asking. The LW is asking if they can in good conscious report workplace bullying and address bad mentoring if it means that a there’s a chance a coworker might possibly have issues.

            If you report someone for fraud in the workplace and they get fired then one or more of your coworkers is going to have to suffer the increased work load of that position plus probably trying to put the past to rights. That is going to be a serious headache and the increased stress could have all sorts of consequences. They might have a heart condition that will be exacerbated. They might have a tenuous marriage that might fall apart. They might get fired themselves for not being able to keep up. Does that mean you should just MYOB if you see questionable behavior that is likely to be fraud? I would hope not.

    2. Rabbit*

      This is a really nasty way to talk about intern and her education, especially since OP attended the same institution.

      Also, you don’t have to have a problem with weed in general to have an issue with someone potentially smoking it at work, the same way you can have zero problems with alcohol in free time but might worry if you caught it on someone’s breath at 10 in the morning at work. For all we know the intern doesn’t have any kind of moral problem but was just scared that being aware of illegal activity and not reporting it would get her in trouble.

    3. Emi.*

      “Handmaids Academy,” seriously? This sounds like just the kind of prejudiced snark that OP is concerned about.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I agree – it might not be the kind of school you or I would have attended, but Intern might not have had a choice about where to attend college. I also wonder if IT person had been female and Intern had been male, would commenters be piling on Hypothetical Male Intern as much?

      1. Arctic*

        She identified the person she was talking about and, thus, spread the rumor he was smoking weed. She could have asked generally “what do I do have a I think I smell weed on a co-worker?” She didn’t. She ID’d him.

        1. Delphine*

          She didn’t spread a rumor, she didn’t even start a rumor. She asked her mentor a question. We don’t even know if she added the context about the IT guy. There’s no reason to villainize a person we know nothing about.

        2. ket*

          And we all know about it because her mentor was an ass and put it on Twitter! If IT guy gets fired, it’s because Mentor advertised to the entire social media world. It’s Mentor’s fault all the way. If Mentor hadn’t done that, we’d have exactly two people who knew about this.

    4. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Not gonna lie, “Handmaids Academy” cracked me up. I wish my college dorm roomie had gone there instead of my alma mater; we’d both have been a lot happier.

    5. Veggiesforlife*

      Handmaid’s academy? Pardon me? I went to major religious schools. That has nothing to do with anything. The intern could be working for an industry where smoking pot is against the rules because someone can seriously get hurt on the equipment with impaired judgement.

    6. jcarnall*

      I really don’t think that’s an appropriate comment about the intern, MommyMD.

      The intern behaved appropriately. She smelled weed on the IT guy: smoking weed is illegal where she lives: she didn’t know what she was supposed to do, so she asked her mentor.

      Her mentor should have explained that first of all, there are a lot of innocent reasons why someone might smell of weed without actually smoking it, and unless she has an immediate safety concern – which she didn’t – the appropriate thing to do in the workplace is just ignore it. She doesn’t know IT guy was smoking weed, all she knows is that he smelled of it, and in the workplace, you don’t complain of how a co-worker smells. (Exceptions can be discussed at length, but the general rule is, you politely ignore it.) That’s the first basic question answered: do nothing, you don’t have standing to complain of how he smells, and it’s no big deal how he smells.

      And secondly, the mentor could have outlined the company’s legal and in-practice attitude to employees smoking weed, including if they require drug tests, if she would be required to report if she did actually see him smoking weed (with a reminder that she didn’t and it’s not her business to investigate), and what happens to employees with regard to drug-taking. If the mentor thought his mentee was really naive and sheltered about weed and other drugs, that would have been a valid use of mentorship: these are the consequences if you report him for smoking weed (and you didn’t see him smoke weed, so you can’t report him) and he then tests positive, because a person can test positive for a joint they smoked last weekend.

      The intern didn’t do anything wrong.

      The mentor proved he was unfit to mentor.

      No need to be rude about the intern. Ignorance is a transient state cured by asking questions.

  19. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    As a fairly sheltered young woman myself (though not that young), would someone who consumed weed at home likely smell strongly enough of if at work to be noticeable?

    1. confidante's inferno*

      Unlikely, I’d say, unless maybe they hadn’t changed their clothes and/or were regularly hotboxing their entire house.

    2. Princess prissypants*

      As someone who rides public transit daily with many people, yes, weed lingers. But usually not long, and usually not terribly from place to place.

      If the IT guy really *does* smell like weed, he either a) smoked at work or b) smoked right before work at the workplace (probably in his car), and this interaction happened early in his work day. Otherwise, no.

      1. President Porpoise*

        For IT, probably not a problem. For other jobs, like driving a forklift, definitely a problem. It’s situation specific, and I can’t fault the intern for trying to find the line.

    3. Moray*

      I’ve definitely swelled weed on people at work, but I have a sensitive nose and I…am familiar with what weed smells like. Sometimes all it takes is not washing your hair or wearing a jacket you also wore over the weekend.

      1. Silver Fig*

        Agreed. I’m straight edge, but I frequent music festivals. I’ve come home reeking of weed many a time. If I don’t have several days to air out a jacket, someone with a good nose could catch a whiff.

    4. Cordoba*

      Yes. “Smells like pot” is not a positive indicator of “is currently high”.

      Even if the IT employee did not partake himself but had spent the previous night around enthusiastic smokers (or lives with a roommate/partner who smokes) it’s entirely possible that the smell would still be lingering on his hair/bag/jacket/clothes/etc.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Unless they’re a heavy user and are into hotboxing themselves, then not regularly cleaning their clothes, no. It’s not the norm.

      It’s kind of like cigarette smoke in my experience. If you have a sweaty/sticky body while you do it, it can cling to the person a lot more. I can smell certain people due to their body chemistry and others I can’t even though I know they’re high AF.

    6. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      Honestly, because there are so many different ways to ingest weed now, its very different than when I was young when people would smoke actual lit on fire weed exclusively – that leaves a lot stronger smell than vaporizors, and obviously edibles leave no smell. People can certainly still smell like it after ceasing use, but in my experience its rare.

    7. Squid*

      I’m pretty sure the guy who lived beneath us in our old apartment could be smelled from a mile away but he was rather exceptional in both the quantity and horrid quality of weed he smoked. Some days my clothes would have a slight smell thanks to him. Nice guy but I don’t miss that.

  20. Kir Royale*

    The intern thought she smelled weed, this is heresay and isn’t a strong case that would get the IT person in trouble. I don’t think you need to worry about that when reporting the real problem, which was publicly mocking the intern.

    1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

      This! I highly doubt the IT-guy would be fired solely based on what the intern might have smelled if she would have reported it.

      But she didn’t report him, she just ask her mentor for guidance in this instance and was mocked publicly for it. (In fact, it is the mentor that potentially made it difficult for the IT guy, not the intern).

  21. Ihaveaname*

    Obviously she should screen shot the tweet and text and then retweet with an lol. That will probably solve everything.

  22. Silver Fig*

    Was the original tweet meant to be mocking? The wording of the letter makes it clear that replies included mockery, but it isn’t totally clear what the mentor intended. I’ve seen a lot of “teachable moment” style posts on professional social media.

    I believe this should have stayed a private conversation either way, but the mentor’s intent would flavor how I would approach the issue.

  23. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Also, if you make fun of people for being religious and sheltered, they will leave. If you want to have a diverse workplace, you have to be ok with people being different. Even, or especially, if it’s not a difference you are used to.

    On the other hand, if you want religious young women to decide that the work world is a unwelcoming place and they’d be better off staying in the kitchen, this is an excellent way to go about it.

  24. Engineer Girl*

    So let me put this bluntly. A religious intern gets mocked where a non religious intern gets mentored. How is that not EEOC level discrimination? Because they are getting mocked because they are less worldly due to their religious upbringing.
    The mentor should be fired. Anyone that mocks instead of corrects should never be in that position. And then the managers piling on?
    Thinks for a minute. What if the “mentor” (and I use that term loosely) were to mock women for not knowing something? Or what if they mocked a black kid from the ‘hood for not knowing something?
    OP, you’re worried the IT person might get in trouble. But you’re willing to let the company commit civil rights violation?
    This one is an absolute report to HR.

    1. Princess prissypants*

      That’s a bit of a stretch. The intern isn’t being mocked for being religious, she’s being mocked for being naive – as far as we know from the letter.

      1. CatCat*

        Ehhhhhh… there’s a pattern of this at this workplace though of targeting people from this particular religion/school.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They brought up her schooling and religious nature of the schooling being the reason she’s “sheltered”, it’s a slippery slope. It’s not EEOC level now, you’re right. That’s because it’s seemingly a one off bad event that needs to be stopped in it’s track because if it become a pattern of mocking her for this, which may bleed over into performance reviews or such, then yeah, it’s playing with fire.

        1. Brett*

          The LW did mention that there have been previous incidents with other interns (including an implication that there have been other incidents with management which were overlooked).

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Ty, ty. I didn’t digest that part! Yeah, I hope the management has had the training that tells them that if they just casually engage in discrimination like that, they’re legally on the hook too in a lot of cases. It’s not just a “company could get in trouble” train that they’re riding on.

    2. Bossy*

      This is what I was thinking and even further I feel terrible for this young woman. I’m the kind of person that…I’d want to know if someone was mocking me so that I know that I can’t trust them and I’d never, ever speak to them again unless absolutely necessary.
      But this intern should never have to look this “mentor” in the face again.

    3. Cordoba*

      Does EEOC apply to second-order characteristics that result from a person’s demographics?

      I’m allowed to not hire somebody because they believe the world is flat even if that belief is a result of their religious upbringing, right?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Just refrain from mentioning why you’re not hiring someone, every time, unless it’s simply something like “Lacks experience” or “needs to know this software and doesn’t” “found someone who’s a better fit”.

        It’s done every day, people make these decisions for “fit” all the time and it’s fine. You just can’t write down “REJECTED: Reason, Flat Earther MFer, I just cannot with this.”

        Don’t play games with EEOC/discrimination when it comes to anything in writing or around ears that can repeat them when they’re called as a witness.

      2. CatCat*

        I’d be extremely cautious where that belief has nothing to do with the qualifications of the job.

        I mean, imagine if you had asked, “I’m allowed to not hire somebody because they believe in transubstantiation even if that belief is a result of their religious upbringing, right?”

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          If you are hiring for a job at the round earth society, then yes not hiring people who believe in flat earth could be reasonable, but even then does it really matter if the janitor believes in a round or flat earth. Similar to Coke Cola employees not being allowed to drink Pepsi.

          But if it is a data entry position and a persons belief in round vs. flat earth does not matter, but you decide to hire only round earth people, it could have a disparate impact on religion.

          @Becky I don’t think the take away should be “sure discriminate if you want to but just be good about hiding it.” Yes if Bob is known to go on and on about the flat earth and trying to convert people that is a reason not to hire him, but not simply because he believes in a flat earth.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        Strawman fallacy.
        You’re equating flat earther with someone not knowing the companies policy on weed.
        False equivalency

        1. Cordoba*

          Is there a distinction between:
          X is an actual tenet of a religion
          Y is an indirect result of “a religious upbringing”?

          If so I think an argument could be made that an specific religious belief in a flat earth would be *more* protected than a general lack of worldliness around pot as an indirect result of a religious upbringing.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Then you get into the territory of deciding what is and isn’t part of particular religions. People can interpret tenets of their faith differently. Religious belief does not have to be grounded in a long held mainstream religion, the religious belief just needs to be sincerely held.

      4. Brett*

        If the impact of discriminating on second-order characteristics is functionally discrimination on first-order characteristics, then absolutely EEOC applies.
        A more clear example is that my old job used to routinely discriminate on the basis of the high school people attended. Seems second order, until you realize that people who got the highest salaries, raises, promotions, etc were the ones who attended all-male predominantly Catholic schools….

        1. Engineer Girl*

          In discrimination cases this is what is know as adverse impact. Where something innocent profoundly impacts a disadvantaged group.

          1. Cordoba*

            Right, but I’m still trying to determine whether (on an individual basis) “lack of worldliness that results indirectly as a result of a ‘religious upbringing’ generally” is treated differently than “specific religious belief”?

            I thought that EEOC would apply in the second case but not in the first, but your post seems to indicate that it applies to both.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              The mentor tied the two things together in their Twitter post. They basically tied lack of worldliness to the religious based school. So at that point they become entwined.
              Also remember that there have been previous incidents at this workplace in regard to people coming from this school.

              Coworkers of mine who weren’t in management positions have been reprimanded and disciplined for making disparaging comments about this school/religious group. It feels like a double standard, on top of being a very poor reflection on our company and intern program.

              That’s a pattern.

              1. Princess prissypants*

                “The mentor tied the two things together in their Twitter post.”

                This doesn’t appear to be true, based on the letter.

                The mentor posted a screenshot to twitter, and we don’t know what text the mentor did or didn’t provide along with it. Then *other people* commented about the student’s school providing a sheltered lifestyle. This doesn’t sound like anyone besides the LW mentioned religion.

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  The other people at the company tied it.
                  You don’t need to name the specific religion.

                2. Princess prissypants*

                  I don’t know. They can be bullies and make fun and be rude people and do stupid things without it being religious. They can be biased against this school for sheltering its students without it being religious. The standing here for EEOC-level is not sturdy.

  25. M from NY*

    I have a different take in this.

    Is this the Managers personal Twitter account that happens to be public or is it an official business account?

    If it’s his personal one then I’m sorry OP you need to unfollow and MYOB.

    If it’s an official account and person that should be overseeing missed (or was one of the respondents) then you can possibly share or punch up as a heads up.

    The details of what was said are distracting from bigger point of employees publicly stating things that can reflect poorly on organization. However unless intern saw post it’s not up to you to “say something” on her behalf. [If students culture can’t be respected then issue of whether continuing program with that specific college is separate. ]

    1. Princess prissypants*

      It depends. Being this is an internship situation that seems to align with some kind of academic program, often the mentor in this kind of situation (probably a postdoc or maybe a PI?) has cultivated a professional/academic presence under their own “personal” accounts. It’s sort of akin to an independent contractor situation. Technically employed by the institution, but running their own ship/entity (lab). There’s not necessarily a clear division in this case.

      1. M from NY*

        As far as we know intern didn’t see this another coworker (OP) did. I’m not defending manager but if OP saw this on personal account it’s not as clear cut as others are saying. It does reinforce my “do not engage coworkers on social media rule”.

    2. Rabbit*

      The main issue isn’t whether this incident was public, it’s that it happened at all – although the public element adds additional risk to the company.

      Imagine you discovered that a colleague had been making fun of interns on a secret group chat – would that be ok? I suggest you go and read the series from the letter writer who was worried about creating an exclusive work team if you don’t see an issue with that.

      The reason this could reflect poorly on the organisation is that it is disgusting behaviour. And the fact that your takeaway is that they should stop working with the institution is deeply worrying.

      1. M from NY*

        So are you focusing on the tweet? Are you second guessing managers decision not to do anything?

        Or is it the point that the Company may need to evaluate the culture differences and whether it make sense to continue mentor program?

        OP asked about backlash to IT guy as if a full “review” of original situation was imminent. If person above these folks ask about tweet and finds that in managers opinion intern doesn’t have grasp of norms then nothing will necessarily happen to IT guy. The manager may get warning to make account private and intern may be let go.

        People vent about work on social media all of the time. Not liking what was said doesn’t necessarily rise to reportable offense especially since OP is from same background as the intern. The manager didn’t say he ignored intern, he called her naive for asking question. OP needs to be clear what exactly they think they are reporting.

    3. animaniactoo*

      Hard disagree. People can speak up to defend other people and SHOULD do so.

      Since it’s pretty clear that this public account is visible to other co-workers and those co-workers are viewing it and commenting on it, this is not simply a case of personal public account. It affects the workplace and the working environment and OP absolutely should attempt to address it as best they can, keeping in mind the dual goal of not getting the possible weed smoker in trouble if that would have major consequences for them.

      This should not have to wait for the intern to find out – and potentially feel alone and isolated and unable to speak up in a company where her mentor is mocking her behind her back in such a public manner and her other co-workers are joining in on it. It is simply unfair to expect an intern – particularly a more sheltered intern – to have the knowledge and confidence to speak up in that situation when by what they have seen so far, they have good reason to expect that nothing would be done and that it would probably make their situation worse.

  26. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This is reportable.

    The mentor should have taken the time to…mentor this woman and tell her that in the work place we don’t do this kind of thing and left the mockery out of it. It’s unsettling that they’re willing to drag the entire religion into it and open that big ol door of discrimination up so flagrantly.

    This hits home since as a teenager I got accused of “smelling like weed” a few times, despite being nowhere near the stuff. It was my body odor, my diet apparently was attributing to it since I haven’t had the same stench in a long time and believe me, I constantly check after going through all that.

    1. $!$!*

      I was accused of smelling like pot once by a coworker (she told me to my face) It actually turned out that it was a client who had came in. I learned through the grapevine that my coworker had mentioned it to my boss at the time but my boss never asked me. As a black woman working in the nonprofit world I thought it was very interesting that my coworker assumed it was me out of all our other colleagues and clients coming and going thru the agency at the same time

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m curious about the background of the IT guy. I’m not accusing her of racism obviously since we don’t know the race of anyone involved, but I’ve had experiences similar to yours and always wondered why I was the one singled out.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I had a couple of my Hispanic crew reported to me by some white dude because they made a joke about “are you okay man, how’d did you miss that, are you high?!” and was livid that they couldn’t see how outrageous and literal the person was being for escalating that nonsense.

        You don’t just throw around drug accusations in the workplace, unless you’re truly concerned their intoxicated and you better be darn sure, more than a “scent” or a “inkling”. Drugs are so obvious to me because you know, I’ve gone out at night and hung out in enough crappy bars/concert venues in my life. I get that theyr’e not that obvious to others which is why if you don’t know, don’t jump to a crazy conclusion, man!

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Some people in college assumed I was high on weed a lot because I was a Pink Floyd fan. In reality, I rarely smoked or even drank during that time. The only person I know who got through college with less sex and drugs than I did was a Christian Scientist at the time.

  27. Jimming*

    I’m surprised how many assumptions people in the comment section are making about the intern. All we know is that she went to a religious school. To jump from that to “sheltered“ or “she doesn’t know what weed smells like” is an amazing jump. We don’t know enough about her. (As someone who went to religious schools myself, not everyone is sheltered or sober.)

    I really think this pulls away from the letter – the LW is asking what to do about the intern being mocked on social media for asking a question. This could have been a great opportunity for the mentor to talk about their workplace norms and how she should deal with these types of situations. But instead he posted this publicly where other employees piled on and that’s the problem.

    1. Princess prissypants*

      For what it’s worth, we know this from the LW:

      “(the school) has strict worthiness guidelines, tells students to report their fellow students who might be breaking rules, etc. Having attended it myself, I can understand how that atmosphere might set one up poorly for the regular working world.”

      1. bonkerballs*

        OP also went to that school and doesn’t seem poorly set up for the regular working world. So it’s not like it’s a foregone conclusion. Besides, nothing in that descriptions suggests the intern would be sheltered or not know what weed smells like. All it says is she may be more inclined to report things than someone else. And seeing as she went to her mentor and *asked* as opposed to just reporting shows she actually knows she’s in a new environment and doing what she can to learn the rules.

        1. Acornia*

          Except…maybe they were not prepared for the real world and they know EXACTLY what they had to overcome/relearn.

      2. Perpal*

        But we don’t know ANYTHING about what the intern actually reported, be it “maybe got a faint whiff of something that smelled a little like weed” to “the IT guy was acting weird and reeked so bad of marijuana I had to go stick my head outside”
        I agree speculation about the intern is really off track.
        But I think almost everyone agrees mocking instead of mentoring the intern is awful, so maybe there’s not much to debate there. Good luck LW!

    2. Jessen*

      The first paragraph tells me that this isn’t just a religious school though – it’s the specific kind of religious school parents send their kids to because they want them to stay sheltered. Worthiness guidelines? Being expected to report other students? That’s not just your standard religious institution.

    3. Language Lover*

      I don’t think it’s a giant leap, especially concerning weed.

      You learn to identify weed by being around weed or someone pointing out that’s what it smells like. But other things can small weed-like too. The more you smell pot, the more likely, IMO, someone is going to be certain of what they’re smelling.

      While religious people do smoke, this intern seems like a rules follower by virtue of the fact she seemed inclined to report the IT person. I doubt she’s one of the non-reporting students who attends the religious school. (And I do believe there are many who go there that wouldn’t care or balk about smelling marijuana. )

      And if she’s a rules follower, my guess is she limits her exposure to weed. It’s what I do; although more out of a distaste for the smell than a need to follow rules. So if she does limit her exposure, it’s fair to question how accurate her nose is. I think I can identify weed but I also would probably mistake some incense for it if I don’t actually see it burning.

      1. Jimming*

        That’s it exactly. I feel like some comments got derailed a bit with more people piling on this intern who we know like 3 facts about (she’s an intern, who went to a religious school, who asked a question to her mentor). Oh well.

    4. Arctic*

      I think assuming she’s sheltered is being very generous to the intern though. If she’s sheltered then she asked a question she genuinely didn’t know the answer to. And didn’t think about how just putting the question out there is already spreading the rumor.

      If she’s not sheltered she is spreading rumors about an IT guy knowing full well it could get him in trouble even though it doesn’t impact her life at all. i.e. she’s a jerk.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Going to your mentor is NOT spreading rumors.
        How many times has Alison repeated the difference between “tattling” and work issues.
        Please stop using the rumor spreading fallacy.

        1. violet_04*

          Yes, agree with this. Asking a question to one person is not the same thing as spreading rumors.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        She doesn’t even have to be all that sheltered to ask that kind of a question, though. “Should I report this?” is an incredibly common question here on AAM, for instance, coming from people who didn’t necessarily go to a rigid religious school but just aren’t sure where the line should fall.

  28. Jennifer*

    I agree that the OP should maybe make some general comment to whoever runs the mentorship program about being more sensitive to people from different backgrounds. Leave the poor IT guy out of it.

  29. animaniactoo*

    Personally, I might go with something like “We were all that young once, and had gaps in our knowledge in different areas. I find it refreshing and reassuring that she asked rather than assuming. If anything, I’m more concerned here with posting anything about someone that you’re actively mentoring. Name redaction doesn’t mean much when it’s visible to your coworkers and it’s easy for them to figure out who you’re talking about.”

    But I’m blunt like that when I can be.

    1. Not A Morning Person*

      I really like this language for approaching the mentor and even for the others who mocked the intern in response to the mentor’s tweet.

    2. WakeRed*

      Yes! The fact that she asked without doing something wildly inappropriate and flying off into “report drugs!!!!” land is promising. I hope you are able to say something chill to your colleagues or at least bring it up with the internship coordinator for staff training, as Allison suggested – it’s not just for the interns to learn how to work in an office environment, their mentors need to learn how to support greener, naive, future colleagues. They have weird ideas, and the only way they learn the weirdness is with training and mentoring discussions!

  30. Sophie Hatter*

    I have social anxiety and this is pretty much my worst nightmare, that something I think is innocuous to ask will be publicly made fun of. This is so inappropriate of mentor.

    1. virago*

      This x 1000.

      I once received an email purporting to be from the boss of my boss, asking for a favor.

      I emailed back that I’d be glad to help, whereupon I was instructed to buy eight $500 gift cards for top-performing employees and submit the receipts for reimbursement.

      When the light dawned on Marblehead — before I hit “reply” to THAT email — I called my boss over and said, “Uh, this is a scam, right?”

      We both laughed, and I didn’t think about it again until I read this letter. If my boss had used the situation as a jumping-off point for a viral LOL tweet, on the other hand, it would have eroded the trust between us and made it very hard for me to do my job.

    2. L.S. Cooper*

      I keep thinking about this with the ask vs guess culture– this is how I wound up being a guess person, too many times of asking perfectly reasonable questions because I didn’t know how to proceed and didn’t want to get in trouble, and then getting mocked ANYWAY.

  31. BoJo Escapee*

    If this is a Bob Jones student, please encourage her to look online for other survivors of the cult.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      My hunch is that it’s BYU, because BYU has well-respected academic programs, such that the average employer would want interns from that university. While most other Evangelical schools would struggle to find employers willing to accept their inadequately educated students.

      1. BoJo Escapee*

        BoJo in SC has associations with large corporations. It’s sick considering some of the things BOb Jones stands for

      2. Acornia*

        Only Mormons think that. My experience has been the opposite. BYU is thought of EXACTLY like the other evangelical schools, except by Mormons.

        1. HQetc*

          Only Mormons think which part? Because BYU does have well respected academic programs. (I am not Mormon, nor in anyway affiliated. But have collaborated with BYU professors during my time at a universally well-respected university.)

          1. Subject Avocado*

            I chose not to go to BYU myself, but had a lot of friends who did, as well as to BYU-Idaho. None of them had problems finding jobs after school, especially the business school undergraduates, and none of those jobs (to my knowledge) had anything to do with the LDS church or religion in general; they were all in the private sector (I didn’t have a problem finding a job either, but a lot of my fellow state school grads did). Many of them were with extremely prestigious and/or large organizations. BYU may be looked at oddly in some parts of the country, and I think there are certainly problematic elements at play at the school, but the professional and academic outcomes of their students speak for themselves.

  32. Jaid*

    I don’t know why people think the intern was sheltered and wouldn’t know what weed smelled like. The college may have a strict value system, but nobody knows how she was actually raised. Maybe a family member or a friend smoked a joint or two when she was around…

    1. SubjectAvocado*

      I’m 90% sure I share a faith background with this intern, based on what’s in the letter. I went to a state school, not a religious university, and one that was pretty well known in the region for partying. I didn’t (knowingly) see my first drunk person until I was 18, didn’t step into a bar until I was 23, and never smelled pot until I moved to Colorado at 25. Life circumstances vary; I know at her age I wouldn’t have been sure that what I’d smelled was pot or not. I think you and I are probably hitting on the same point from different angles. It just depends on your background, though I think in this case it may have more to do with the religion factor instead of the sheltered university.

  33. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    So, the intern:
    1) Noticed a potential problem;
    2) Accurately determined that what’s the norm for her might not be the norm in the workplace;
    3) Asked her mentor, the person whose literal job it is to teach her workplace norms, what the correct course of action would be, rather than following her own norms and possibly being wrong;

    and his response was to publicly make fun of her for it?

    It doesn’t matter what the problem was. That it was about weed is immaterial. She could have been asking what the standard filing system was or if high heels count as a dress code violation: it does not matter. This is bad behavior on the part of the mentor, who needs to recognize how to make things into teachable moments. The alternative is people being afraid to ask questions, meaning more mistakes will be made and more people impacted than if problems were solved at the “asking questions” stage.

    1. Princess prissypants*

      Having worked with many naive interns myself, I’m tempted to come down on the “naive intern is naive” side of this, but I think we should also give the intern some credit here for not immediately crying foul to (whoever), but instead at least asking first. Yes, of course intern should MYOB about this. Yes, mentor is an idiot.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This, this this this.

      I want people to ask questions before they act! I especially want them to feel safe about asking potentially stupid questions, because down the path of not asking lies a whole bunch of capital-P Problems. I want people new to the working world to be able to calibrate what isn’t reportable versus what is.

  34. The Green Lawintern*

    This would have been a reasonable question for an intern to ask even without the religious background in play. Marijuana is still a federal crime, and it does cause impairment when ingested/smoked in sufficient quantities. She had a legitimate concern, and the manager made fun of her for it.

  35. Samwise*

    “But I feel less comfortable with that statement if your workplace drug tests, and if something like this could trigger a drug test”

    Why is this a concern? If the workplace drug tests and the employee is using the drug tested for (or even if the employee is not using the drug), why does that need to factor into the OP’s decision-making?

    You’re suggesting that “employee getting drug tested” (in a place where it’s pretty likely that the employee knows, I could be drug tested) may be an equal or even a more important concern than “mentor publicly mocking intern and manager mocking intern’s religion and director mocking intern’s religion”.

    Drug testing, not drug testing — that’s beside the point. The point is the unprofessional and hurtful behavior of the mentor, manager, and director. (And the fact that all of the mocking is related to the intern’s religion? That’s a whole nother layer of mess.)

    1. Jennifer*

      Because the IT guy, if he did smoke weed earlier, shouldn’t be fired over something so minor and avoidable. This is a mess because the mentor didn’t shut it down immediately but instead took it to twitter. It’s unfair to the IT guy and other people there who could end up losing their jobs due to minor marijuana use because of the mentor’s poor choice.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        The intern has no control over whether the IT guy would or would not get fired.

        If the company is that hardline about marijuana, then that’s something the IT guy would presumably know and be wary for. If the company isn’t that hardline about marijuana, it’s highly unlikely that ‘intern thought she smelled weed’ would put his job at risk. (And if the company is willing to fire over one person thinking they smell weed, it’s a much more dysfunctional company than any one intern could possibly impact.)

        1. Jennifer*

          She could start the process that could lead to his being fired, or even arrested. She does have some control here, even if it’s small.

          If he did have a small amount of weed in his system, and the company has a zero tolerance policy, he could be fired. It actually happens a lot.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            As could literally every other person he walked past that day.
            If you want to complain about their possible drug regulations, then point your arrows at the people writing and enforcing those rules, not some intern who may have considered following them.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. And because I’m strongly morally opposed to people losing their jobs for consensual behavior in the privacy of their own homes (if in fact that’s what happened here).

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I respect you and the work you do on this website a lot.

          Your personal feelings about pot are doing a serious disservice to both the LW and anyone else who reads this letter/the comments in the future looking for guidance about a similar issue though. The issue in this letter is not “should the intern report the IT guy for smelling like pot” and everyone, including you, is getting lost in the weeds (pun intended) on that topic instead of focusing on the actual issue, which is the mentor’s behavior. If the intern’s question had been about literally anything else, I feel like your response would have pointed out that the alleged infraction was irrelevant to the LW’s question and you would have heavily moderated the comments removing discussion of said alleged infraction as being off topic.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I focused largely on the mentor’s behavior in my response in the post.

            But I think the resulting discussion in the comments section about the broader issues is interesting and not terribly off-topic. (And it’s true that to me, “should I report the IT guy for smelling like pot?” is not terribly different than “should I report a teacher for being spotted in a bar?” You should educate the person and not mock them, but there’s certainly relevant discussion to be had about the larger issues surrounding the question.) (And yes, I get that the law is in play in one and not the other. To me that’s as irrelevant as it would be if it were any other unjust law.)

          2. animaniactoo*

            I can think of several times where Alison’s response has been “Try to keep 3rd co-worker’s issue out of this if you can”. Usually for things where people are breaking company rules but getting their work done, particularly when the LW is stating that their concern is that the company tends to be strict about following the rules, etc. Generally for things like taking extra bathroom breaks for a medical issue or left 5 minutes early to get their kid or something like that.

            And then people discussing the reasonableness of monitored bathroom breaks or lack of leeway for 5 minutes on occasion in the comments and the impact on the 3rd person’s life of being “caught” having violated that rule, as part of what weighs in for someone trying to figure out whether the other behavior is something they can/should address.

            I don’t find her stance in this situation to be out of line with her usual advice in those situations.

            I think the times I’ve seen her shut down that broader conversation, in general, is when it is fairly negative in tone, and there’s not much room for debate about it. Also that it detracts from the seriousness of the LW’s need to act or not act on something.

            Here, LW doesn’t have a specified need to act or not act, and does have reason to be looking out for collateral damage on something that possibly is a hard line thing that should not be from the company’s standpoint.

          3. Jasnah*

            I think it’s because the mentor’s behavior is so obviously bad that there’s nothing to say about it besides “yup that was bad”. Whereas everyone has an opinion on how illegal pot should be.

      3. Iris Eyes*

        If its a fire-able offense then it isn’t minor or avoidable. If it is minor/avoidable then the workplace won’t care and won’t drug test. Simple.

        If IT person is knowing engaging in behavior that they know has a potential to backfire then that’s a risk they are choosing to take.

        Look at it the other way around. Inter chose to go to that school, if the intern was the one engaging in a prohibited activity then their expulsion from the school would be entirely their fault and not the fault of the fellow student reporting.

        There are MANY professions, companies, states, and other situations that may require you to abstain from things that you or others don’t find objectionable but by choosing to be a part of those organizations or live in those places you are choosing to accept the consequences of breaking their rules. If you are a member of the Plastics and you don’t wear pink on Wednesdays then they have the right to tell you to sit somewhere else or to move themselves somewhere else.

        1. Jennifer*

          Lol, so you’re saying this is literally a Mean Girls policy.

          I’m surprised people are so naive about how outdated these policies are and how they disproportionately affect certain types of people.

          1. President Porpoise*

            Well, here’s one. I have a clearance and a professional license. My license requires me to have morally upstanding behavior – and if I fail to maintain that standard, I can be jailed and heavily fined. My clearance prevents me from partaking in illicit substances, including pot, and from travelling to certain countries without preapproval. There are really, really good reasons for those requirements that have nothing whatsoever to do with race or socioeconomic background.

              1. President Porpoise*

                You don’t know that. My workplace has a blanket no-drugs policy for everyone, because we contract with the federal government, and they still expect their primary suppliers to abide by the federal law regarding marijuana use. Could be the same for OP’s workplace – I have no idea. But – if I suspected that a coworker used pot occasionally outside of work, I wouldn’t care or report unless I was specifically required to under the conditions of my clearance. If I was an intern, hoping for a permanent spot at this well paying and respected place of business? I’d ask if I needed to report, because I wouldn’t want to put my own reputation in danger.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            I’m saying it doesn’t matter what you or I think about the policy, its up to the people in the organization to live by them, change them, or accept the consequences. And likewise as a member of a larger organization (a community, municipality, state, country etc.) the company itself must abide by certain rules and laws, work to change them, or face the consequences.

        2. Le Sigh*

          “If its a fire-able offense then it isn’t minor or avoidable. If it is minor/avoidable then the workplace won’t care and won’t drug test. Simple.”

          I’m not 100% sure I follow you here, but this isn’t necessarily true. Lots of places drug test when it doesn’t actually matter if someone smoked weed. I’ve had jobs drug test even though I won’t be driving or operating company cars or heavy machinery, safety isn’t an issue, etc. The company might still choose to view it as fire-able, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous to me and lot of other people.

          And yes, on the surface, people know the rules when they sign up to work somewhere or go to a school. But it’s really not that black and white and I’m going to go on a slight tangent to illustrate why I think it’s important we critically assess stuff like that and why these discussions are important.

          Intern chose to go to that school (maybe, the parents might have chosen for them!). But let’s say they did — those schools tend to have strict rules about having intimate relations of any kind. But in the last few years, students have come out to talk about how those rules were used against them — they were sexually assaulted and the school chose to go after the accuser, because they broke the rules by being behind closed doors with the accused in the first place. Sure, they knew the rules, but that’s a pretty sick twisting of the rules.

          Anti-sodomy laws were used for years to arrest and fire people. Sure, they took the risk, but that didn’t make the rules okay. And a lot of people have already pointed out in this post how low-level drug offenses and accusations are used to target POCs, and the disproportionate impact it has. Yes, it’s illegal in the state and might be against the rules, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give some real thought to whether those laws are correct and the potential harm that could result if we report something.

          And the point of Mean Girls was that the Plastics were awful and eventually disbanded. And sure, rules were rules but as Regina George said herself, “Those rules aren’t real.”

        3. smoke tree*

          If I work for an employer that polices employees’ personal behaviour in a way I don’t agree with, I may decide to put up with those rules for myself but I’m certainly not going out of my way to take up that policing role. If my employer has a history of firing gay employees, I’m not going to tell my boss that I suspect my coworker of being gay.

    2. Arctic*

      Because the OP shouldn’t be in the business of getting a co-worker in trouble for alleged behavior that doesn’t impact her at all.
      She absolutely should not report the details.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        She was NOT getting into the business of geeting coworker in trouble. That is why she asked!!!!

        1. Arctic*

          I’m talking about the OP not the intern. The OP would be just reporting on the IT person if she gives all the details.
          Although, the intern absolutely was. Or else she wouldn’t have named them and just used a vague “co-worker”.

    3. animaniactoo*

      We all break all sorts of rules and laws all the time. And yes, we should be prepared to pay the price of that. However, the reason we all break all sorts of rules and laws all the time is a question of impact of infraction, convenience, reasonableness, personal beliefs about the impact of the rules/laws, etc.

      We use our own judgement and discretion to decide that we don’t give a crap what the law says in our state, it is nobody’s business if we are performing sodomy with a consensual partner. To decide that we don’t have the time to be stuck behind the guy unloading a truck and taking up the entire lane, that calling the authorities to come deal with it will be time and hassle that while the “proper” way to deal with it is just more than we can handle. So we’ll make the u-turn across the double yellow line while there is no traffic coming the other way and just drive around it. Or get in the 10 items or less check out line with 11 items.

      So, as humans, we look out for each other with the expectation of return – that we try not to get each other in trouble unless there’s a major impact at issue. Like getting into that 10 items or less lane with 2 carts full of stuff. Making that u-turn by cutting off a car coming from the other direction and almost causing a pile-up as cars stop short to avoid hitting each other.

      Marijuana is generally something that affects no one but the user, and in an IT position, it’s not a question of something like safe operation of dangerous equipment or other hazardous work conditions where there is reason to be concerned about whether they are actively using it at that moment vs having used earlier in the day and the aroma is lingering. Therefore, it’s a personal minor infraction and we don’t get each other in trouble over it if we can avoid it.

  36. Brett*

    I’m surprised so many people are jumping all over the intern.

    Put yourself in the intern’s shoes and try to answer this question yourself:

    Is there any possibility the intern be expelled or sanctioned by the school for failing to report this while engaged in an educational internship representing the school?

    Can you answer this question right now with certainty? Do you think the intern could?

    1. Mia*

      How would her school even find out that some random IT guy maybe smoked weed one day? And how would they prove that the intern knew? I could understand this concern if this was a position that required driving or operation heavy machinery or something, but there aren’t really any pressing safety issues with a potentially stoned IT guy.

      1. Brett*

        There’s lots of easy scenarios for the school to find out in general, even if not specifically.

        Another intern also smells weed somewhere at the place of business and reports back to the school. There is a drug-related incident at the workplace (doesn’t have to be with the same IT guy) that is reported back to the school. In these worthiness/honor code scenarios, the school will have a religious leader interview all of the interns to ask them if they knew anything and failed to report it. It’s not a scenario requiring proof.

        1. Mia*

          I’m pretty familiar with worthiness codes and that actually doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever encountered. Expelling students because they were merely around someone doing something “bad” by coincidence feels like a huge reach, even for particularly restrictive institutions. Plus you’re talking about reporting it to the school, whereas the intern was obviously talking about reporting it to someone within the actual company.

          1. President Porpoise*

            It happens. BYU’s honor code requires you to report any “wrongdoing” you might know about, even if your knowledge is not first hand.

          2. Brett*

            Like President Porpoise said, the punishment is not for being around the activity. The punishment is for failing to report the activity.
            I think the intern went to the mentor first because they were not sure how to handle it given the possible consequences (and reporting it inside the company would be a safer CYA if the school came after the intern later). If the intern had reported it to the school first, I think that raises a higher likelihood of a bad outcome for the IT worker and for the company.

  37. JackLondon*

    Hmmmmm I dislike disagreeing with AAM because in general her advice is very well thought-out, but a lot of workplaces run by reasonable people will still come down hard and unbearably unforgiving when it comes to marijuana for a variety of reasons. I think whenever there is the possibility for an innocent third party to lose their job (and because there is no mention of the IT staff being a problem, I’ll stand by that “innocent third party” bit as a former IT tech myself) I would maybe try to figure out how you can solve this problem of disrespect in a more general way, without endangering anyone’s job. Overall, this is a shitty situation for everyone, including the intern.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’re not really disagreeing with her, she mentions that if it’s a “drug test” is probable, that it’s then not as cut and dry, then it’s okay to protect the IT guy and keep a lid on the report since there’s another layer to the issue!

    2. ket*

      What I don’t quite understand in the advice or the comments is that the Mentor has already outed an IT guy as a possible weed smoker in a very public forum (Twitter). So I think the cat’s out of the bag there.

  38. One legged stray cat*

    …Um. I live in a state where weed is legal, in a liberal city, and worked in a nonreligious company, and we had the standard no drug policy, including marijuana, and it was enforced. Usually it was drivers and blue collar workers who got random drug tests, but I saw a white collar coworker get reported on for smelling like weed by another coworker, and the reported on coworker was fired (probably after a drug test. I didn’t get the details.) and the reporting coworker was rewarded for it (I would have probably been disciplined about it, had I known and not reported it). I guess there were some safety issues in the past that were related to marijuana and they now had a zero tolerance for the whole company, no matter if your specific job is not likely to be dangerous. It isn’t a naive question to wonder about what the company wants reported or not about drug use. Companies really do vary about their policies and what they do or don’t want reported.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Wow, the firing is bad enough (assuming that the person was a good performer) but rewarding the reporter is just gross.

  39. Delphine*

    The level of speculation and projection in some of these comments is really unfortunate.

  40. Atlantis*

    I mean, at least she didn’t report the IT person to the police, and then ditch a conference halfway through as a result of weed like that one letter awhile back. Intern, in my opinion, did the exact thing she should have in this situation, by asking a very reasonable question for someone of her age and experience to the person assigned to be her mentor. She didn’t publicize it, nor put it on social media herself. She asked a question, and presumably received at least a no, and moved on. It’s the mentor that took it leagues too far. Good grief.

    OP, I have no further advice for you on this one beyond what Alison said. I hope at the very least you can get this post shut down and removed. The mentor at the very least needs to be reprimanded, and I would hope that the intern would be able to be assigned a new mentor, cause clearly the current one needs some coaching. (I realize you might not have the authority for this OP, but it’s what I can hope will happen). Plus, if the intern finds out about this I’m guessing she’s going to be exceptionally embarrassed, and working with current mentor will just make it worse.

        1. Eliza*

          TBH, based on the details of the update, I’m on the side of the people who think the woman who made the report in that case had entirely justified alarm bells going off in her head, didn’t consciously understand why at the time, and jumped on the weed thing as something objective that she could point to.

  41. College Instructor*

    The behavior described by the LW could potentially harm relations between the LW’s organization and the student’s university in the future, even if the student did violate the university’s code of conduct. I work at a public university where students can earn academic credit for doing internships. If we got wind that an employer was mocking an intern online, it would at minimum result in the college’s internship coordinator having an awkward phone call or in-person meeting with our contact person at the organization to say “what on earth is going on?” If that didn’t solve the problem, we’d probably not place interns there in the future.

  42. Asenath*

    The issue is what, if anything, should be done about a mentor publicly mocking his intern. And without getting into the actual question the intern asked, I think what the mentor did was extremely unprofessional and demonstrated a nasty aspect to his personality. It needs to be addressed. How, exactly, this can be addressed does depend on the status of the OP – whether she can handle this herself, or, if not, which more senior person it should be handed off to. The intern – and any additional interns – should be reassigned to a mentor who will answer their questions without making fun of them for asking.

  43. anonagain*

    “Wow, this intern’s email could really get someone in trouble! Guess I should go post it on Twitter.”

  44. Temperance*

    LW, I’m wondering if it might make sense to have you as the sort of “mentor” for the religious school kids, because you understand better than anyone what they’ve dealt with while growing up/at the school, and it would be better for everyone if they had a resource like you.

  45. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Some of the commenters here need to check their own assumptions. Most importantly, there is absolutely no description of the intern’s ethnicity in that original letter. How do you know she herself is not a person of color? We shouldn’t make that assumption in either direction. There are historically black colleges that are Christian oriented and faith-based. Many comments assume the intern is religious and unaware that she could get a person of color into big trouble. That’s a big assumption.

    1. $!$!*

      This is why I didn’t wade in the fight earlier with Jennifer defending her comments. I have posted my real life experience regarding being falsely accused of smelling like weed as a black woman. Of course we don’t know anyone’s race here in the OP so people are doing what they usually do in the comments section and explaining their own perspective. Yes, the mentor was wrong. But to leave all the other implications/intersectionality/ dynamics is dangerous and has real world consequences for people of color all the time.

      Signed, a black baptist in the south

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      If she’s aware that she could get a person of color into big trouble, wouldn’t her wanting to report the person actually be worse?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        You’ve missed my point. LW NEVER SAYS ANYTHING about the race of intern, manager, or IT person. I’m not going to indulge in hypothetical slamming of someone on an unfounded assumption.
        MANY commenters assumed she’s a white evangelical and the IT guy is black. But we could just as easily have a black evangelical intern and a white IT guy. About the only thing we can rule out is little green men from Mars, and blue aliens from Na’vi.
        Substitute colors of your choice sure, but state those assumptions — and don’t go off on other users who point out unfounded assumptions.

  46. Observer*

    I accidentally posted a response to someone instead of here:

    I’ve only gotten about halfway through the comments here, but I’m going to stop reading them.

    The level of bigotry and unreasonableness of many of the comments is just infuriating and frankly nauseating.

    For all of the “enlightened” folks carrying on and making all sorts of assumptions about the intern, I suggest you check your own biases.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      It’s amazing how people are completely fabricating “facts” so support their own desired scenarios.

    2. Princess prissypants*

      Bigotry? I can see how some folks are stretching the fan fic, but there’s nothing here that screams bigotry. At all.

        1. Princess prissypants*

          I saw one person’s comment that cracked student is from “handmaid’s academy.” Presumably this is based on LW’s own description of the college she attended as “strict worthiness guidelines, tells students to report their fellow students who might be breaking rules, etc. Having attended it myself, I can understand how that atmosphere might set one up poorly for the regular working world.”

          If you can explain to me how that’s bigotry and not literary allusion, I’m all for it.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            It’s not literary illusion because handmaids take is a horror piece. It’s hyperbole.

            And other people defended it!

            1. Princess prissypants*

              It *is* literary allusion, by definition. This particular piece of literature is dystopian, not horror nor hyperbolic.

              However, the point is that the LW described the school as: “strict worthiness guidelines, tells students to report their fellow students who might be breaking rules, etc. Having attended it myself, I can understand how that atmosphere might set one up poorly for the regular working world.”

              I’d love to see you make the point that she’s wrong about that. Otherwise, it’s a pretty apt descriptor.

              I also don’t see anyone defending it. /shrug/

      1. mamma mia*


        Observer saying that I’m not a decent person to work with because I had the gall to acknowledge that I sometimes make fun of people behind their backs (the horror!) is 100% harsher than anything I said.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It isn’t nice to make fun of people behind their backs. It’s passive aggressive agression.

          1. mamma mia*

            I don’t know what “passive aggressive aggression” is but it’s absolutely not passive aggressive to make fun of someone when you know it’s not going to get back to them (which is not what the mentor did because the mentor is a dummy). It may not be “nice” but it doesn’t make you not a decent person.. Otherwise, 99% of the world would be indecent. I’m sure people talk shit about me behind my back sometimes- it doesn’t matter though because I don’t hear it.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              It’s absolutely passive aggressive when you try to bring down someone behind their back.
              Got a problem with them? TALK to them about it.

              It absolutely makes you not a nice person. Instead of resolving things, you sabotage them.

              You are also using the “everybody does it” excuse to justify your actions. No, everybody doesn’t do it.

              1. Jennifer*

                You never go home and vent to a friend, partner, or relative about something someone did at work that annoyed you? I guess that’s possible but I find that really hard to believe. That’s all we’re talking about here, not “sabotaging” anybody.

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  There’s a difference between venting to a single trusted individual and making fun of someone.

                  Ridicule is cruel

                2. Jennifer*

                  A distinction without a difference. When you go home and vent you are essentially making fun of that person. As long as it goes no farther than that conversation, no harm done. It actually can help relieve stress and help you cope at work.

                3. Hera*

                  Venting is: “OMG Sofie did X at work and now we all have to do Y and Z to clean it up”
                  Or: “James was complaining about everything today, it was really frustrating.”

                  Making fun of someone is something entirely different. Because making fun is intended to make the other person stupid, weaker, lesser than you. It is not telling a funny story about something that happened to Sofie/James. Funny and hilarious things do happen to person at work. But making fun of someone is telling a story about Sofie/James where they look stupid in everything that they do, they are the focus of your frustration and you try to feel better by making them lesser than you.

                  Trust me, I know the difference between venting, telling something funny that happened at work, or making fun of someone.

              2. mamma mia*

                There is no difference, Engineer Girl. Literally, zero difference. If I make fun of someone behind their back, I am not “sabotaging” them. That truly does not make one iota of sense.

                I am honestly unsure of what the disconnect is here. It seems like you’re purposely missing my point so you can talk about how cruel I am, which is fine, I mean, that’s completely your prerogative, but you’re 100% arguing in bad faith right now and I won’t continue to engage.

              1. Perpal*

                When I was a kid, I did a little of that – always ended up getting back to the person. Haha, so I “don’t dish” either . And venting is not “making fun of someone behind their backs” if it’s just complaining and not mocking.
                It doesn’t necessarily make anyone a rotten person on its own, but it’s a negative trait, and not everyone does it. (Again, difference between complaining and/or criticism and making fun/mocking)

        2. Jennifer*

          They said something similar to me. I get that we all aren’t going to agree sometimes but they are pretty harsh and get personal when they disagree with someone a lot.

          1. Observer*

            Pot meet kettle.

            What you have been saying about the intern is beyond harsh, and it is not based in anything but your own supposition – ZERO facts to base yourself on. So, I’m not sure why you think it’s a problem to be harsh.

            It’s also interesting to me that you care enough about it that you need to attack me over it. The truth is that when I posted, I hit post then I thought that there was really no point in doing so. It’s obvious that none of the people I’m referring to are listening anyway. But I really didn’t expect more than a few “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” responses, if anyone responded at all. THIS is … interesting.

  47. Maintaining a Polite Fiction*

    The frustrating part about this situation for me is it was such a good opportunity for the mentor to have a great conversation with the intern about rules and workplace ethics, weighing the potential for harm to someone for telling versus the potential harm for not telling, observing the norms at specific companies and determining whether you are a good cultural fit… I could go on. There’s so much here that would be useful to the intern in thinking through a lot of the shades of gray we encounter in our careers, but instead the mentor prioritized making it into a mean and inappropriate joke.

  48. L.S. Cooper*

    This whole thing could have so easily been not an issue at all.
    Intern: Mentor, I think the IT guy who helped set up my computer smelled like weed. Should I report this?
    Mentor: No, it’s not that big of a deal around here. [Maybe elaborate on what sort of thing WOULD be worth reporting.]
    Intern: Okay, thank you.

    End of story.

  49. L.S. Cooper*

    Also, while we’re WILDLY speculating about the race of the intern and the race of the IT guy, let me add to the pile of baseless speculation by reminding everyone that a strict adherence to rules is very common for autistic folks. If there was a drug test to work at the company (and there often are!), or something in the employee handbook about a zero-tolerance policy, then it would stand to reason that someone who likes to stick to rules would want to…. y’know, stick to the rules. Understanding which rules are actually rules and which rules are guidelines and which rules only apply when the boss is looking at you is a delicate and fraught process.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Oh hey, maybe the intern was not a native english speaker? Baseless speculation time!

  50. Koala dreams*

    Thank you Alison, for speaking up against bullying.

    To the LW: It’s great that you’re contemplating speaking up against the bullying in your workplace. I get that it can be hard to say something, but when people speak up it makes a difference. Also, if your workplace ends up getting better guidelines that would be better for everyone. Good luck!

  51. Former Employee*

    One thing I definitely do not understand is that some people seem to be ignoring comments from those who are familiar with this type of religion-based college either through their own attendance or through having been raised in a religion which operates this way.

    In most if not all of these comments, the writer points out that it is almost certain that someone who goes to this type of school has been raised in the religion and that they do tend to be sheltered because they generally associate only with people who are also members of their faith.

    Based on that, it does seem odd that the intern would make a connection from strange smell to illegal substance unless one of the things her religion teaches is that those outside of their faith tend to be drunks, drug users, etc. and that they need to be careful around those unbelievers.

    If you combine that with a culture that encourages reporting others, you get something very unattractive.

    At least a couple of people compared it to various totalitarian regimes, mostly European ones of the 20th century.

    I would not want to work at a company under these conditions. I would feel as if I were being watched and would worry that if I said the wrong thing or used a word that was viewed as inappropriate that I would be called in by my manager or HR and asked to explain why I said or did something that the intern felt they needed to report.

    I believe there tends to be too much reporting of petty issues as a way to score points over a co-worker. I would not want to have to be on guard against someone who is actually being trained to do that sort of thing.

    1. Marthooh*

      So if you were this intern’s mentor, I guess you could explain that to the intern. Tweeting about it behind her back is not going to get that message across.

    2. animaniactoo*

      And that would be valid if the intern came in and started reporting people.

      But she didn’t. She actually had enough discretion to understand that her background was not necessarily the same as the rest of the world. She stopped and asked – and she asked the appropriate person who is specifically designated to help her figure out workplace norms stuff. Presumably, that person is somebody who has the context and understanding of what is a petty thing that does not bear reporting and is helping to train the intern in that area among others.

      However, I also think it’s not strange that the intern would recognize the smell of weed. Even if you only associate with others who feel/believe as you do, you still have to move within the greater world and interact with people at places such as the grocery store and the post office, etc. The beach does not have a section labeled “People of X faith only” with fans blowing everything across a dividing line. Etc. They may not come across the smell often, but it’s unlikely they’ve reached adulthood without ever coming across it.

      1. Former Employee*

        I am familiar with a different sort of religion and the people who are strict followers would not be at the beach and their children would not be there either. I can’t think of a reason why anyone would spend significant amounts of time hanging out at the market, the post office, etc. to where they would learn much about people who are not part of their group. Naturally the children all go to their religious schools. The children simply don’t have meaningful interactions with people outside of their own community until they are at least about 18 years old, if then. It really is entirely possible that a young person such as this would not have a clue. Since their kids are only associating with other kids in the group, the parents know that their kids aren’t involved in anything unacceptable at their friends’ homes, such as watching TV. These can be very closed societies.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Question: In that case, are the adults of that religion generally seeking internships/work outside of community-run businesses?

  52. Rui*

    I think OP should consider this in a broader context. Is mocking or patronising direct reports a ‘thing’ in your company? How open or collaborative is your office culture? If the answer is ‘not very well’ to those questions, and you don’t have a senior standing to make an impact, it might be smart to start looking elsewhere, at least start considering it.

  53. Professional_Lurker*

    There’s been a disappointing amount of assumption in the comments for this post.

    We’re *assuming* that the intern is sheltered. (I went to a conservative, Christian school, and while most of my classmates were sheltered, I wasn’t and a few of my classmates had been sent there by their parents to “straighten them out”). We’re therefore *assuming* that the intern doesn’t actually know what weed smells like.

    We’re *assuming* that the IT guy is innocent or partaking in his own home/on his own time. This one, I agree, is far more likely that the idea that he just toked in the back lot before coming to help intern, but it’s still an assumption. It is also an assumption that she named the IT guy in her message directly, instead of saying “the guy who came by to help me with that computer thing” or the equivalent.

    Assumptions about the IT guy’s race and the intern’s motivations are unanswerable from the original letter. Assuming she was trying to “sneak report” the IT guy by posing the question to her mentor is harsh. It’s possible, but far from the only reasonable interpretation of her actions.

    And, frankly, even if that was her intent I care far, far less about possible “tattle-tale” behavior by a college student intern than full out Regina George “mean-girl” behavior by a professional adult. And members of management!

    I do understand the letter writer’s concern for the IT guy if their company is strict enough to demand a drug test based on a “hey he kinda smelled like weed a couple of days ago” comment included in a report of wildly inappropriate employee behavior that has the potential to open the company to PR nightmares. What to do in this situation is tricky. But the piling on of the intern in the comments here is disturbingly like the bullying the letter writer described from the mentor, manager, and director.

  54. JSPA*

    OP, find an excuse to sniff near the IT guy, and if the intern’s right, comment to him that there’s been some loose talk about pot smells in the workplace, and that his aftershave could be mistaken for same. Then allow at least a week before getting specific with the higher-ups. If it’s aftershave, BO, washing skunk off his dog, he can ignore. If his SO is smoking, he can shower and change at the gym / at work (or not). If he’s the one smoking, he can chill some other way for a while (or not).

    1. CanCan*


      Give the IT guy a heads’ up and then report the mentor.

      Unless your company does drug-testing and you can be fired if you have any in your system. (Though I find it crazy that a company would do that if safety doesn’t depend on it. To me that’s akin to an employer monitoring your internet use at home and firing you if you’ve illegally downloaded movies.)

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