updates: the bad intern, keeping the boss out of the goodbye happy hour, and more

Here are updates from four people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. My intern thinks he’s good at things that he’s terrible at

I wish I could say that things got better. But they didn’t. No matter how much feedback and support I gave him, my intern seemed to just be making bigger mistakes each day.

This all culminated in a huge mess one day when I took the day off to get a medical procedure done with a specialist a few hours drive away. During that day, my intern needlessly made a HUGE mistake that ended up needing to be cleaned up by a team consisting of our company President, CEO, and all of our Senior VPs. It also meant that I was late to my medical procedure because I had to pull over on the side of the road to take an hour’s worth of phone calls to fix things.

The absolute worst part? When I got back to the office and sat down with my intern to talk about what happened, he blamed EVERYBODY else and refused to take any responsibility for what happened. At that point, I was done.

We convinced him to leave his internship 3 weeks early. I literally counted down the days.

The comments left on my post made me realize that I was letting his can-do attitude blind me to the fact that he was a horrible, arrogant intern. I also stopped kicking myself — I was sure that he was failing because I was doing something wrong as his manager. I was sure that I wasn’t giving him the tools he needed to succeed. But now I know that I tried my best and bent over backwards to do everything I could to make him a success.

In the end, it wasn’t me. It was him.

2. My coworkers want to use me as their personal tech support

Both your response to my letter and the commenters pointed out that there are pros (developing a reputation for being helpful and competent) and cons (fostering dependency, getting stuck with drudge work, wasting my time) to my situation. A little over a year later, I can say that both of these things came to pass! Shortly after I wrote in, I was asked to assist with the department’s transition to a new database. I rapidly became a go-to expert on this system, wrote an extensive manual for it, and was responsible for revamping many of the department’s processes and training new staff. The department director is thrilled with my performance.

The downside was that since I was now involved in one technical project, I became the supposed expert in all technology not only for my team but the entire department, and the IT requests increased. Plus, though many of my coworkers are lovely and respectful, a few of my immediate team members seemed to resent having to learn a new system and any efforts to help them be more independent in using it. One coworker, when I asked her if she’d checked the part of the manual relevant to her question, told me “I tried to read it, but my eyes skipped over it.” Another coworker would get me to come over and help her by claiming that what she needed wasn’t covered in the manual. But when I showed her the necessary (clearly marked) section, she said “I didn’t know I was supposed to turn the page.” Another time, her excuse was “I didn’t know I had to follow the steps in order.”

I’ve learned to become much more protective of my time and have used Alison’s scripts to inform people that I’m swamped, etc. I was particularly proud of myself in one especially egregious example, when a coworker called me into her cubicle because she needed help on something urgent. This turned out to be re-formatting her son’s resume. It was “urgent” because his job application was due that day. I told her “sorry, I don’t have any time for non-work things today!” and walked out of her cubicle. Admittedly, then she followed me over to my cubicle to ask “is it really that hard” and “maybe you could just take a look” but I stood my ground!

While I had originally planned to stay longer, the whole experience accelerated my plans of going back to school to get the degree that is necessary to move up in my field. So with very little sadness, I recently announced my plans to leave my job to start a master’s program, and I am so excited for this next step.

Thank you to Alison for her insight, and to the lovely commenters for their commiseration! I am an avid reader of the site and am sure the advice here will continue to serve me well.

3. My coworker’s parents are threatening to call HR about our friendship (#2 at the link)

Hi Alison! I just wanted to give you an update (and clear up some of the concerns in the comments section). The situation went fine, I was just panicking. You were right, she didn’t have a problem with it so it just kinda dropped. She’s found a new living situation. I did confirm she’s absolutely fine with the whole thing, and all is well. Thanks for the advice, it really helped me get my head on straight. Also, for those worried about the ages, she’s 19 and I’m 21. Beyond that, I’m now happily engaged to the girl I was with in my previous post, and she’s gotten out of the toxic relationship she was in, so everyone is doing way better! Thanks for the advice! You’re the best and I’ll be keeping up with your blog for a long time to come!

4. Can I ask my boss not to come to my goodbye happy hour? (#3 at the link)

I wanted to give you an (maybe not too exciting) update on my letter. First, thank you SO much Alison and the commentariat for the thoughtful advice. I read every single comment and I realized I was taking the situation too personally. Between the increased anxiety from working for her and feelings of failure for being able to make the situation work, I was feeling really raw emotionally. Reading all your perspectives helped me to step out of my emotions and see the issue more objectively.

As far as the happy hour, here’s what happened: I decided to have the company-wide happy hour but asked Martha to let my coworker Jane plan it. My plan was for Jane and I to attend the “official” goodbye happy hour for a couple hours. Then we would leave to meet up with a select few coworkers (who wouldn’t attend the company happy hour) at a different bar far enough away from the office so that we wouldn’t be seen. I made sure to tell Martha that I couldn’t stay at the company happy hour very long due to another commitment.

We started the company happy hour an hour before the business day ended to have a little time before the senior executives attended. Martha came to the happy hour but kept her distance from me so we didn’t speak much. After 2 hours, I said my goodbyes and she paid for my drink! Then I went to meet up with my work friends and drank in celebration of never working for Martha again. Jane and I were careful to not look like we were leaving together. All in all, a successful mission.

In other news, my new job is going well and I’m much less stressed. My former coworkers tell me Martha hasn’t changed. Thanks again for taking time to answer my letter and provide great advice.

{ 387 comments… read them below }

  1. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, I am glad you are free. I can only picture Barney Stinson saying “Challenge accepted!” as someone dared his lowly intern self to find a way to mess up so big that it would involve every layer of management up to the CEO dedicating the day to fix it.

    1. MOAS*

      I work in accounting. Yet I cannot imagine any situation that were so bad that our CEO would be required to be hands on all day long. or someone had to postpone their medical procedure to put out a fire. I am curious to know what happened.

      1. Sophia*

        Me too, I’m so curious what type of responsibility (and lack of oversight or review) they are giving an intern where they could screw up that badly?

        1. 2 Cents*

          I’m betting it was a kind of website update in a CMS that the intern managed to royally screw up.

          1. Jamie*

            I really hope it wasn’t that they gave an intern access to do mission critical IT tasks unsupervised. If that was the case the intern shouldn’t be the only person looking for a new job.

            1. 2 Cents*

              There are many things I can imagine an intern with gumption! doing in a WordPress site he had limited access to that could still screw things up and would lead to apologies to the client from the head honchos.

          2. ladycrim*

            There was an incident this week where Royal Caribbean accidentally put their unlimited cruise drinks package on sale for about 1/4 of its normal price. Word flew, and people rushed to buy it. RC acknowledged it was a mistake, but are letting those who bought the package at that price keep it. Maybe this intern was the one responsible! :-D

            1. anonforthisomfg*

              hahahaha I know some of the team working on RC. I… would not be surprised at all.

        2. TootsNY*

          It says “needlessly”–I’m betting this guy took advantage of the fact that his supervisor was away to tackle some project it had never occurred to anyone that he would touch.

          1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

            That’s my best guess as well. They had made safe the stuff he normally could/would touch; but he was slightly less supervised than normal because OP wasn’t there. What came next was DANGER:GUMPTION AHEAD! That created total chaos.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              And when I show up you know trouble and mayhem are coming with me

        3. AKchic*

          Having worked in records management, I can think of a few scenarios where this could have happened. It’s not pretty.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Yeah – I’m really curious too, though they probably can’t say. My best guess is that there was no shield barrier erected between arrogant intern and skittish big client and that somehow arrogant intern “took the initiative” to contact said client with entirely wrong, panic-causing information.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        I have to wonder if he upset a mega client and heads were starting to roll like that?

        We have *Major Big Deal* client that yeah, if you irked them to the point they threatened to pull their business, it would send everyone into a major “Clean this up now, now, now!” mode. Overstepping a normal customer service/client relation situation and trying to be a hardass has exploded in a few faces.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Sure, but, like… I’m mid-career, not in an entry level job by any means, and even I don’t have access to stuff that would threaten relationships that way (short of actively trying to sabotage the company I guess?). Why does an intern even know how, where, what, etc. to apply their gumption? Interns in my field shadow people and take on extremely non-essential and largely non-creative tasks that require a minimum of access to our systems, clients, etc.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            That’s nice. Its not how it works throughout the business world though.

            A fast food worker being discriminatory and calling the cops on someone because they “feel threatened” lead to company wide closures and diversity training.

            I had a lot of control and access over companies since the age of 19, even at my lowest standing I could have screwed a lot up if I spoke the wrong way to the wrong person. Including losing corporate sized accounts or vendors refusing to do business with us if the wrong switches were flipped internally.

            Industries are different and interns/entry level positions vary drastically.

            There are stories about people of all years of experience creating thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages over some outrageous things.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            If Intern were ever cced on an email to Important Person they have all they need to potentially destroy things if they say something stupid/improper/incorrect enough.

          3. SunnyD*

            I was an intern, many moons ago, at a nonprofit, and had access to the personal contact info of Big Celebrity (!!!) donors. I recommended a process by which that information could be protected and access controlled. All to say, sometimes companies aren’t as careful as they should be.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I can only think of the (30-ish!) intern who thought “I’m through my probation period; time to break out my 9/11 jokes with the clients!”

        1. LKW*

          This is what I was thinking, some kind of “intern responsible for social media account forgets to log out of personal account and tweets insult about product to world” thing.

          I feel bad for whomever hires him.

          1. Ella*

            Despite the oft-repeated jokes about making interns run twitter accounts, I don’t know of any companies or organizations who allow interns to have unsupervised access to social media accounts anymore. That’s a paid (and usually fairly important) job in anything but the smallest, most resource strapped places.

            1. rando*

              I have heard of it in one case, and they had to argue really hard for posting privs after they had done a bunch of analytics on previous posts showing they were doing a really bad job with their social media.

              In their case, it was fairly uneventful. They posted stuff which wasn’t revolutionary or viral but which got a great deal more engagement than most of their posts did before. Their closing presentation was that they needed to hire multiple people to manage the social media as their primary job, which I don’t think the company did. (Looking at their current social media engagement rates and types of posts)

              Notably, these interns weren’t marketing interns or even business ones, but tech interns who were approaching it almost entirely from a “how can we get engagement metrics from these websites and determine what types of posts are best” as well as “how do we compare to our competitors engagement metrics”. This is also probably why they got that access– they already had data to back up their ideas before even asking for privs.

            2. Working Mom Having It All*

              This exactly. The only places I see tasking interns with complete oversight of all social media communications are small businesses that don’t do a lot in that space and where the stakes there are much lower. I work in entertainment and would bet money that the interns in my very large company’s marketing department aren’t given free access to the company account on their personal devices and don’t have any real control over how those accounts are run.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Ah the social media blunder, that’s a classic that I had forgotten about despite having seen my sports teams social media folks make that exact mistake years ago. Thankfully nothing offensive but yeah, I’m sure that wasn’t a great conversation to be on either side of.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Or the email misfire. That can get exciting when it goes to an external group with stuff that shouldn’t even be done internally

              1. MsM*

                Ooh, yeah, I could see an intern forgetting to bcc contacts they needed to keep private or forwarding a message they weren’t supposed to forward to the wrong person. Or a simple reply-all disaster.

                1. Working Mom Having It All*

                  Interns aren’t charged with sending important external emails for this exact reason, in my field.

                  I spent a long time as the person in charge of all client-facing communications for my employer (this was on film and TV crews, so the client here is the network or studio producing the project, and sometimes outside investors, distributors, vendors, the various unions and guilds, etc.). I was not entry-level when I was tasked with this. I and only I was allowed to send out any communication of this nature. When I handled these things, they were top priority for my role, and I was told to never delegate them to anyone, and to give 100% focus to this task in order to avoid a gaffe or miscommunication to the client. (You realllly want to avoid giving wrong information to a TV network exec.)

                  I’m having trouble coming up with a situation where the intern would somehow get involved with something like this, short of locking me out of the office, hacking into my account, lying to people about why they were at my workstation, and impersonating me in email. All of which goes way beyond “gumption”.

                2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  @Working Mom – I’ve never worked in a place where interns were supposed to we sending important e-mails. However, when I was working in a government agency, an intern was very, very, very put out that we were not letting him make policy decisions or letting him “speak at the table”. So he found the emails of the governor, all the state legislators, and the reporters who covered government affairs and e-mailed them his objections, his opinions, a very detailed account of what he felt was wrong with the department, and some pretty inflammatory (and untrue) accusations about embezzlement of grant money from his work account. It is amazing the mayhem a righteous, entitles fool can cause with Google and an e-mail.

          3. dramallama*

            I went back and read the original letter, and this sounds most likely to me based off the info there. The intern was reportedly terrible at writing, public speaking, social media, and website editing. I can definitely imagine a project involving one of those last 2 where Bad Intern overstepped and caused a disaster.

      5. post it*

        Yes, it sounds like maybe their procedures/policies need to be examined if an intern could wreak this much havoc.

        1. TypityTypeType*

          I’m also curious, but I don’t think we have enough information to know if there’s an internal (hah!) problem at the company or if this guy is just a particularly enterprising/imaginative screwup. There are people out there who can turn just answering their absent boss’s phone into a C-suite-level disaster.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Absolutely. I’m thinking of the person who sneakily signed herself up for an upper management conference — gain access to somewhere you’re not supposed to be and you can do a whole lot of damage very quickly.

          2. Artemesia*

            LOL on phone call. Years ago I was on vacation and an intern told the CEO who called trying to get me ‘oh I haven’t seen her around yet today, she doesn’t come in often’. I was on frigging vacation — otherwise I was always in the office when expected. It was an image that I don’t think I ever fully overcame with the CEO even though I told him when I got back that I had been in Rome at the time he called on vacation. So yeah a doofus can do damage easily.

        2. Observer*

          Not necessarily.

          Look up the incident that Falling Dipjthong mentioned. Short story is that someone made a stupid joke about people jumping from buildings 9/11 in a client meeting, and one of the client staff had lost family then – and that person may have jumped. The fall out from that was pretty severe and went totally up the chain. You really can’t plan for EVERY crazy thing that might happen.

          Link to follow

      6. Confused*

        Same – I barely trust myself to do mission-critical tasks, why on EARTH would an intern, even a good one, be given so much responsibility that they could tank something with a mistake, even a big one?

      7. MsChanandlerBong*

        I once made a HUGE payroll mistake on Christmas Eve. I worked for a company that was one parent company with two subsidiaries. Each subsidiary had separate accounts, so when I sent the direct deposit file to the bank, I was supposed to go into one of the .txt files and change a 1 to a 2 so the bank would draw the money from the other account. I forgot to do so. When I called the bank, they told me there was nothing they could do. I had to get our CFO and accounting manager to come in from home to write/sign a $103,000 check from the second company to the first company to cover the extra withdrawals (you needed two signatures on any check over $1,000). The bank closed at 3:00 on Christmas Eve. I made it there at 2:53. I was so stressed out that I ended up taking the vacuum tube from the bank drive-through back to the office with me.

        On December 26, when the second company’s payroll account was $100,000 in the negative, I found out that somebody at the bank noticed my mistake and fixed it. They just didn’t call and tell me, and the person I talked to when I called was not aware that someone else had fixed it.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      OP didn’t say it took the CEO all day to fix it — they just said that it required the CEO, President, VPs, and themselves. They also said the mistake was “needless,” so I’m imagining the intern took it upon himself to do something that he never should’ve touched at all (e.g., disasterous outreach to a major client, put something awful — misleading, false, or offensive — on the website/social media, etc.)

      1. LKW*

        All it takes is for one foolish person to delete a folder from a shared drive to make everyone’s day interesting.

        And by interesting I mean god-awful.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I came to this job not long after someone discovered how easy it was to reformat the C drive instead of the floppy…

          1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

            Yup – my third day at my current job my former cube-mate managed to delete Outlook and Skype from her computer (which supposedly you were safety prevented from doing). She is still at the job, but has been moved to a desk closer to our shift lead – after she managed to delete the Outlook a second time in a month.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Like…fully uninstalled them? Not just deleted shortcuts?

              I am trying to come up with things people might’ve been “trying” to do that could’ve reasonably led to uninstalling core Office programs by mistake and am drawing a hell of a blank. Wha???

              1. DerJungerLudendorff*

                And accidentally circumventing the safeguards that were meant to stop people from doing exactly that.
                And she managed it twice!

              2. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

                From my understanding from watching the “fix the fallout” I think one time it was just the shortcuts and one time it was actually the program. How she did it, I really don’t know, I was busy with training.
                Fortunately, all of our emails are backed up in a web-server that is encrypted, so she didn’t loose any of her emails in either snafu.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              My cat lolled across my keyboard/track pad and managed to permanently mark all emails from my boss as junk, despite my attempts with “undo” and then “jesu, how many menus can I click to get you to stop?” (Eventually I made him a VIP.) And she’s a cat–she did this with a somersault.

        2. New Normal*

          Oh man, I WAS that intern. In fairness, the in-house program we used had a ridiculous programming issue where, if you deleted one (empty) folder named “client emails” it deleted ALL folders in ALL parts of the program with that name.

          Cleaning up that mess, created in less than an hour, took me a good week. That was fun.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            A bug that can delete your files on it’s own, across the entire program?
            That’s just a disaster waiting to happen. I hope they invested in really good backups.

        3. Bryce*

          Back in high school I took a computers class with junior class (including me) learning about how to build a computer and advanced students learning the details. One day we walk in for a planned exam and the teacher tells the advanced students “I grepped all the e’s out of the password file for the school’s email system. Fix it.” Then he proceeded to quiz us on the basic stuff while the advanced students grumbled and found the backups.

          Ah, the things you could get away with as a computers teacher in the 90s. He was a fun guy. The other thing I remember about that class was that the server room had a really strong magnet in it, but removing that magnet would mean bring it close enough to the server to potentially do damage so they didn’t dare move it. No clue who put it there.

          1. Bryce*

            To be clear, this wasn’t some absentminded mistake. Breaking the actual email system WAS part of their exam.

    3. Hey Nonnie*

      I’m glad OP is free, but I’m cringing at “convinced him to leave three weeks early.” You’re the boss! You don’t convince someone to leave, you show them the door; particularly when it’s someone who won’t even take responsibility for his screw-up. Why “count the days” until he’s gone? The minute it was clear that he was remorseless, you would have been justified in telling him to get his things and leave.

      Maybe OP left out that the intern was a nepotism hire or something… I can’t think of another reason why a manager would cede so much power to a lousy intern.

      1. Polaris*

        Could have been an internship arranged through an undergrad or graduate program, and the interim period was required by the agreement between the company/college.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          That powerless language also stood out to me. Even if there is an agreement between the company and the school, there must be a mechanism for firing interns that are absolutely terrible.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Well…”must” is something of an assumption. We’ve heard about other workplaces that made firing an intern really, really difficult. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but the thinking seems to be “They’re only going to be here X months, so how bad can it get?”

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Ooh, and I just read downthread that some places have actual contracts – with the interns themselves and with the schools. Still, you’d think there’d have to be some clause somewhere that lets you out of an untenable situation.

              1. DerJungerLudendorff*

                I had contracts, and it had clauses that allowed both parties to cancel the whole deal if the circumstances were deemed bad enough.

                And it wasn’t even a good contract.

                1. valentine*

                  The need to convince and not to be able to avoid work calls are astoundingly awful.

      2. Kes*

        Yeah, that stood out to me too… from the update it sounds like OP was taking too much responsibility for the situation on herself and bending over backwards to try and make it work, and I have to wonder if that played into the “convincing the intern to leave 3 weeks early” as opposed to, you know, firing them for being incompetent, failing to improve and majorly screwing up something that from the sound of it, they didn’t even need to do in the first place. As the manager you should have the power (and to a certain extent, the responsibility) to let people go if they’re performing that badly (unless, as mentioned, they’re a nepotism hire or something like that).

      3. SunnyD*

        “We convinced him to leave his internship 3 weeks early. I literally counted down the days.”

        That also made me take a double and triple take. I’m sorry, you wheedled with him to please please please leave early?! What?

        How about, here’s a box, give my your badge, bye.

    4. Jennifer*

      If I made a mistake that serious, I would be so embarrassed to show my face at work the next day. He seemed totally unbothered. That tells me all I need to know about his character.

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    OP4 (and other former letter writers), updates can be mundane! That’s how life often works. We’re always pleased for updates that involve attack squadrons of squirrels, but usually life is more normal and it’s really helpful to have examples of things turning out…. normal.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Hear hear!

      It’s nice to have an “ending” to a story/issue regardless of the outcome being spectacular or just a “they still don’t remember to flush the toilet but hey, I tried.”

    2. Bostonian*

      I actually found this one particularly interesting because of the genius plan she laid out with the 2 parties to make this work!

    3. Radio Girl*

      Mundane, maybe, but so fun to read!

      Thank you, updaters for, well, updating us!

    4. DerJungerLudendorff*

      Besides, spectacular updates often means that something went really badly, or that something terrible continued to go downhill even more (see LW1).
      Mundande updates are often the best ones for the people involved, which is the whole goal of this site.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    My only question for #1 is why did you have to “convince” him to leave early!? Why couldn’t you just toss him out of there after the whole ugly mess and deflecting of blame O_O

    I’m glad that it all is 0ver and you’re free from that botch-master but just like the interns that were let go for the dress code debacle, why did he get a choice in the early departure at all!? That seems like an odd amount of power for an intern of all positions.

    1. MOAS*

      I was surprised to know that it was not that easy letting someone go, be it intern or employee. We had a few tax season interns come back as FT employees; tbh one of them I’m not too thrilled with, and am side-eyeing the manager who wanted her to come back. Maybe there was a process in place for this batch that they have to stick out til X date. who knows.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on the structure and policies/authorities in place at any given entity. Also of course laws if there are contracts involved [usually in the US it’s a CBA since most places partake in at-will employment].

        I’ve fired people on the spot numerous times for far less than a “you caused massive chaos for everyone here” reasons!

        1. Venus*

          We have contracts with interns for 4 months, and I think it would be hard to stop them early. That said, if the behaviour was particularly awful, I would be tempted to refuse them entry to the building even if we continued to pay them, and then try to sort out how to stop paying them. But it’s a hard balance, as I wouldn’t want to reward them for paid time off for bad behaviour, yet it might be the least awful option.

    2. HigherEd on Toast*

      I have no idea if this is the OP’s situation, but I can confirm that some students I’ve worked with who got positions as interns through the university couldn’t just be “fired,” because that would have repercussions for their grades, sometimes the university’s and the intern business’s relationship, and, if the intern wanted to be really loud about it, parents/family/etc. would get involved.

      Granted, I’ve never heard of a student who acted as awfully as this one.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If someone is this awful, they should suffer, their grade should be destroyed and they should have to find another internship to finish the requirements!

        This is business, so I scoffed at the idea that parents/family would be involved. We see stories of parents getting involved frequently enough, you just ignore them and tell them you can’t discuss it.

        Worse case, you can’t have any more interns from that program? Oh what a loss…I guess maybe some places depend on internships a lot more than others but I can’t see that being actually harmful to any successful firm.

        1. Name Required*

          Yeah, a university with a good reputation probably doesn’t want the behavior of an intern like this smearing their reputation. At least for me, my internship supervisor at my university made it very clear that if I didn’t represent our program well with professional behavior, that I would jeopardize other students’ ability to intern at that place in the future and my grade would be impacted. It was a two-way street: they were expected to treat us well, and we were suppose to act professionally and perform to the best of our skill level as we learned.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            That’s what I’d expect from the intern program leadership! They know that everyone’s reputation rides on it and it’s a mutually beneficial program in the end.

            I know that if I had the OP’s intern, I’d just can them and get over it. I’d know that one bad apple so to speak isn’t the case for the entire program. However if they wanted to give me nonsense about letting an intern go before they could collect credit, there would be a lot of “So you want to just rubber stamp his degree? Why though? That’s doing him and the world a disservice to just move people along a track when they fail miserably!”

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I guess, if you believe the purpose of an internship is to learn how things actually work, one could say that an intern who failed so miserably they were asked to leave would have successfully checked off at least one box, possibly more. From the school’s POV, anyway.

      2. Artemesia*

        I was on the small committee that heard an appeal from a student whose being thrown out of the internship meant he graduated a semester late (and grandma already had tickets for the flight for his expected graduation and ceremonies only occur once a year and no one who is not graduating is allowed to ‘walk’). The thing he did was egregious ( our committee actually thought he should be expelled and not just lose a semester) and yet it did become a major chaos all the way to the President of the university and with his ‘very important’ father the lawyer fully involved. We still prevailed — it helped when the family was told that the appeals committee actually wanted to expel rather than leave it with dismissal for the current semester. But it isn’t something you want to do often and for a lesser offense than we were dealing with, the university would probably have caved and replaced him that semester rather than suspending him for the semester.

        1. OhNo*

          I know you likely can’t share any details, but I’m deeply curious what that student did in his internship so egregious that he was at risk of being expelled from school entirely. I’ve never heard of a situation going quite that far before.

          Would you be willing to specify if it was something illegal, or just really really bad behavior?

          1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Possibly plagiarism. We had one case of expulsion in my program for it and it was kept very hush-hush. But it was taken very seriously, but this is my speculation.

      3. Oh So Anon*

        But what if an intern is *really* bad? Even if an internship is graded on a pass/fail basis, there’s still gotta be some allowance to prevent interns from harming a business or themselves through their continued internship participation. It’s a situation where there has to be ongoing communication between an employer and a university because you need to follow both the university’s and employer’s due process to fire someone, but it shouldn’t be impossible.

        Both my undergrad alma mater and the colleges I’ve worked at allow students to fail internships, up to and including getting fired. I remember being in undergrad with people who we knew were fired from internships for fairly serious reasons, like leaking confidential information, sophisticated theft, sexual harassment, some criminal violations I can’t talk about, you name it. Weird stuff happens when you host lots of interns, and those companies continued to hire students from my alma mater, so needing to take action didn’t change their long-term relationship with our school.

        When I worked outside of higher ed at places that hosted interns, we also came close to firing interns for less sensational stuff.

        Internships, being short, aren’t really situations where you can fire someone for not scaling the learning curve because they don’t have the same length of onboarding period as do standard entry-level hires. That said, there are absolutely still things they can be held accountable for, by both their employers and college/university.

    3. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      Possibly the internship was part of a degree requirement and a certain number of contact hours were required. In that case it very well could have been a negotiated deal between the school and employer.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        If the negotiated deal between school and employer didn’t have some provision for letting an intern go for poor performance on that level, they need to re-negotiate that deal.

      2. WellRed*

        Part of an internship is completing it successfully. If businesses were beholden to universities to keep on detrimental interns, internships would dry up.

      3. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

        Agreed with both Hapless and WellRed. I’m wondering if maybe they are a company newer to having interns and the negotiating was with the school with regards to this crazy thing happened and we need him gone. What can we do to keep the relationship with the university and not have him do more damage.

      4. Oh So Anon*

        Even so, you can fail a degree requirement! Not getting internship hours for one reason or another is a big reason why people fail to graduate. Especially when you think of the kinds of pre-professional programs that have required practicum hours (teaching, health care), you can’t have students in the field who endanger public or organizational safety, so you have to have some provision to fire them if need be.

    4. SurprisedCanuk*

      I agree they should have fired him. If that wasn’t possible just give him fake work (make him summarize documents or some sort of research project).

    5. Working Mom Having It All*

      If it’s an internship for school credit, there might not be an easy mechanism to “fire” someone from the internship because it’s arranged through the school and not through traditional hiring/firing/reporting channels.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        If a university called up having a problem with my firing an intern that damaged my business, I’d be asking them some pointed questions about why they were sending me incompetent and/or malicious interns in the first place.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I would assume that would just mean that you’d have to loop the university into it.

        You’d call the program supervisor that’s in charge of that intern’s grade/placement and say “Okay Johnny is over here wrecking things, I’m going to request he never return to our firm again. What paperwork do you need form me to complete this termination?”

        But I’m ruthless and I’ll climb any amount of steps to find the right person to get some one who’s causing that much chaos out of our collective [as a company] hair.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I especially like this language because it assumes they will be reasonable about it, making it completely on them if they insist on saying outright, “Actually, we don’t have a way for you to do that.” It’s a lot harder to be unreasonable when someone is acting as though of *course* you will be reasonable, which is one reason why Alison recommends doing it so often. :)

    6. Kes*

      I get that people are saying there might be contracts making it more complicated, relationship with the university, etc… but I feel like for a mistake so severe it took the CEO and all Sr VPs to clean it up there should be some way. The justification seems pretty clear there (especially following on sustained incompetence – it doesn’t sound like a fluke).

  4. Adriano*

    Another time, her excuse was “I didn’t know I had to follow the steps in order.”

    This is my eyebrow going up.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      And this is my head exploding:

      “I tried to read it, but my eyes skipped over it.”
      “I didn’t know I was supposed to turn the page.”

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I don’t think these employees understand how ridiculously incompetent they’re making themselves sound. Frankly “I didn’t want to read the manual because it’s easier if you do it for me” is less eyeroll inducing than “I forgot how reading works.”

        1. ClumsyCharisma*

          I think they are more making the point that they won’t read the manual and just expect OP to give the answers. I think they were being obvious that they didn’t care.

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          Yeah, they’re playing Dumb and OP should just declare them the winner: “Bless your heart.”

        3. Kendra*

          Yeah, I totally expect these types of questions from library patrons, and have no reservations at all about helping them (that’s why they’re here, asking us for help, because they can’t access the information themselves for any of a hundred reasons, and taking care of them is literally our reason for being). But when a coworker or staff member is like this? I’ve just developed deep reservations about whether or not they should be doing this job.

          1. OhNo*

            Same. There’s a difference between a student asking, “How do I find the discussion section of the article?” (“Here, let me point it out – it’s the section labeled Discussion in big, bold font.”), and a colleague asking something similar. When coworkers do it, I begin to question their competence.

            I shudder to imagine the OP’s colleagues trying to teach some new hire this system when they can’t even read the manual.

        4. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          Seriously. I can’t believe how slim of an excuse these folks were willing to give to get out of doing something and to try and make OP do it for them instead.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          The excuses OP mentioned from their coworkers are literally my every day work in software support. And my clients are generally IT people themselves. I learned very quickly the threshold for incompetence out in the world is much higher than it is in my head because these people are professionals who do this shit every day. “I didn’t know I had to do the steps in order” people are my nemeses…and there appears to be a neverending supply of them.

          1. Gadget Hackwrench*

            Come on fhqwhgads, they’re just trying to push you ‘to the limit.’ *Ahem.* I feel you. I do the same thing and they get so… snippy? defensive? tichy? when you try and show them how to do what they just asked you to show them how to do. “Oh how could I have known that?” “It doesn’t say you have to press login after entering your username and password. It should say click login. I thought it would just go!” answering “is it plugged in?” with “I’m not a tech savy person.” I swear to god the next person who answers one of my questions with “I’m not a tech savy person” is getting a boot to the face (I guess it’s a good thing I work by phone?) I’ve not asked you to be tech savy, I have asked you “is it green or blue?” I have asked you “is the power plugged in?” I have asked you “can you read me the error?”

            fhqwhgads, OP2, you have my sympathies…. and my axe.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I made it through all of those and then got to the co-worker who followed the OP into her office to badger her about formatting her kid’s resume.

        At that point, the disbelief center of my brain shorted out, and I sat at my desk for a full ten minutes without moving or blinking.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          “Is it really that hard?”

          IT FRIGGING MUST BE IF YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP AND FOLLOW ME AROUND, SIS! *caps lock, smash keyboard smash*

          1. Close Bracket*

            I used to have a neighbor who was basically the same way. No, it’s not that hard, but I’m busy and I’m not going to do it. Full stop.

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            “No, it’s not. So you should do it. Or better yet, YOUR SON should do it.”

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Seriously! “No, it’s a piece of cake. Which is why you can do it yourself.”

          4. AKchic*

            “I dunno, is it? You’re asking *me* for help instead of allowing your son to do his own work. You’re asking *me* to do it on company time instead of doing it on your own lunch hour. Maybe you should ask my supervisor if that’s an appropriate use of my time?”

            I have always loved using “let me run this new assignment by [Supervisor] real quick” when it comes to ‘urgent’ personal requests that are masked as actual tasks. Really knocks the wind out of their sails.

        2. Ginger*

          Everything in the update hurts my head and then that part!?!?!

          OP, you are an angel. I would broken out a few choice 4 letter words and some very unkind commentary about a parent doing their kids resume and job application.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              WHAT. I was with you up until this point, but unfortunately my head just exploded. HE’S IN HIS 40s??????

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              So, my first thought was absolutely ‘he and she are ridiculous’. But then I thought back to the times I have helped friends build resume’s. It was usually either ‘you have software to do this and I don’t’ or ‘I haven’t built one in 20 years and my ADD / dyslexia is making it hard to put words down.’ So, I’m not going to ding someone just because they’re in their 40s.

              Totally a ding for bugging you about it – there are both professionals who get paid for it, and software templates people can use. Resume building is very much a skill that people should not expect to get for free.

              1. LW2*

                Sadly, I’m quite confident this is a case of major helicopter parenting.

                She has also asked me how to change his fb profile picture without his permission because she didn’t like it.

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Oh no. This woman is so beyond anything I was expecting when you started telling this story.

                2. Jaybeetee*

                  Does… helicopter parenting even still apply when the “kid” is in his 40s? Or is it just straight-up Norma Bates stuff by then?

                3. AKchic*

                  This sounds like my MIL, frankly. If she doesn’t like what her sons (mid-late 30’s, two of them are married with kids, the other outright avoids everyone in the family) post on their social media, she will harangue them until it changes. She will comment on the photos hourly, call them, text them, call their father (who has been divorced from her for over 25 years) and demand that *he* call and talk them into doing what she wants, calls other family members to try to campaign, makes woe-is-me pity party victimhood posts on her facebook about how they aren’t listening to her and ruining their lives (in one case because she didn’t like the sunglasses my husband was wearing in his profile picture. The color was, and I quote “not manly enough”).
                  She doesn’t bother trying to call me anymore. I don’t take her calls. She has tried putting in applications for her “boys” for jobs that they didn’t know about and didn’t want in attempts to “better” them, and the jobs were all closer to her and not anything close to what they were qualified for or, had they been looking, would have been interested in.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                But with the existence of Microsoft Word templates where all you have to do is click on the correct field and enter your information? I’m in my late 30s and I would fully expect a person 5-ish years older than me to be able to figure out that process, especially if the reason they need the resume is because they’re applying for a job in an office where they’ll need to use that software on a regular basis. I show this to library customers all the time, and most of them are able to carry on independently after I demonstrate the first time.

                In terms of what to put in your resume and what not to put in, I agree it’s not always so cut and dried, but the actual mechanics of typing words into your computer isn’t especially difficult in and of itself. Some people need help to get started, and I don’t fault them for that. But I 100% fault the person who told her adult son that she’d get her coworker to do his resume for him.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Eh, MS Word templates can be good, but if you want to make any edits to the template at all it can get real fussy with spacing/alignment/etc. So if you’re at the point of wanting to go beyond the slots the template gives you, but you’re not practiced at wrestling MS Word into submission, it can be a sticky spot to be in.

              3. Jadelyn*

                Yeah, my partner works a skilled trade and doesn’t have the opportunity or need to format important documents like a resume in his day-to-day life, plus I work in HR so I have seen many, many resumes, so I helped him with his. Sometimes it’s a matter of skills and tools available.

                But I didn’t drag my coworkers into it, ffs.

            3. Ginger*


              You can’t fix that level of craziness and all of Alison’s wonderful scripts will (probably) never get through to someone like that. Thank goodness you got out.

            4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yeaaaas, oh this is mother dearest levels and I adore it!

              I wonder if Junior knows mumsy is doing this…

              I mean I did review a resume for a coworker’s spouse once but that’s because they’re ESL, so it makes sense regardless of age. And it was a favor, presented as a favor and I am showered with professional affections and such [also chocolate bars on occasion for being awesome]. But to simply just demand it, from a coworker nonetheless…this kind of nonsense happens more when you’re accidentally an owner’s personal-assistant along with your regular job, not a coworker.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Exactly. I review resumes for all ages as a favor all the time and will suggest changes. I don’t make the changes for anyone. Even with people’s first resume, I sit down and walk them through why things should be changed and how to change it, but won’t actually do it for them.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Same. I’ve had a number of friends on social media take advantage of my standing offer to review resumes for people who are looking for work – but all I do for free is review and suggest changes. If you want me to actually do it for you, you’re paying me for my time to do it.

            5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I think my head just exploded. I was miffed that she was doing it for him when I was thinking he was 16ish

            6. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

              Oh good grief. I’m also going to bet that he’s single and lives at home if “mommy” is still doing those things for him. If I’m doing him a disservice, apologies. But the fact that his mom was doing this for him and trying to badger you to do it isn’t promising.

      3. Christmas Carol*

        “I didn’t know …….”
        Bob Seger explained this to all of us back in ’73.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I have had moments where people have had to point out things right in front of my face and my response is “Holy shhh…it’s right there, in front of my face!” but then you blush and apologize for wasting someone’s GD time.

        “Turn the page!”
        “OMG duh, that’s how pages work, right? JFC I’m the worst.”

        NOT “Oh. I didn’t know that I had to turn the page. You didn’t leave a frigging giant arrow with a “TURN THE PAAAAAAAGE” memo, this is all your fault that I’m having these brain fartssssss.

      5. Jedi Squirrel*

        I asked a coworker for help with a particular automotive specification because I couldn’t understand what a subcontractor was telling me about it. It was literally the first line of the document.

        1) I was embarrassed.

        2) It was actually above the summary section, which was a weird place to put. (These things are usually below the summary section.)

        3) It only has happened once, and will (fingers crossed) never happen again.

        But yep, these people are just being willfully ignorant.

      6. lurker*

        I’ve had a (generally decent) colleague say “I called the helpline, but the recording said ‘press 1 for assistance’ and I didn’t know what to do, so I hung up”

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I haven’t even finished reading this thread and I’ve already got an eye twitch.

        2. HappySnoopy*

          Did they think it was if you need “a cyst ants”? Because…I…it…

          My brain hurts.

      7. BRR*

        I don’t even know how to respond to “my eyes skipped over it.” “Yeah it was tough for me too. Good luck!”

        1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

          “Bless your heart Coworker, you might need to go get new eye glasses if you skip over too much reading!”

          But I’m full of sass and would not recommend saying anything like that. XD

      8. New Normal*

        As someone with ADHD, “my eyes skipped over it” happens all the time – but I wouldn’t admit it!

        1. Venus*

          I have said to people “I’m tired / distracted with many things, and I feel like I’m probably missing something obvious, but could you please take a few minutes to help me today?” I think we’ve all been there, and anyone I asked seems happy to help.

          The fact that I don’t typically ask for help with everything is also probably a big point in my favour. I suspect those people often asked for help, and often had silly responses.

        2. DerJungerLudendorff*

          Yeah, its a thing that happens, but not a good reason for why you haven’t read the thing you’re supposed to read.

          Like, try again until you stop bouncing off, or offer sincere apologies to your coworker for not being able to do your job properly.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m now imagining this employee trying to build an IKEA bookcase. “I didn’t know I had to follow the steps in order!”

      1. Marlene*

        As an aside, I just had an IKEA kitchen installed by contractors. THEY didn’t have to use that funky little turny thingy tool that comes with all IKEA products.

        1. AnotherBob*

          If you do much IKEA buikding, definitely get hex bits for your screw gun and throw the provided Allen wrenches in the junk drawer until you have enough to start building little sculptures out of them.


          1. ES*

            That…has never occurred to me. We are moving in a week and will have new stuff to build, you just saved me so much time!

            1. Angwyshaunce*

              Another IKEA assembly tip – use wood glue to make the piece extra sturdy.

            2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              All of my drills and electric screwdrivers came with a little set of bits including hex bits! If you have one of those sets of drill bits that seem to come with a little bit of everything check and see if you have some already. They are pretty ubiquitous here at least.

          2. RandomU...*

            I once had delivery men almost cry in thanks when they started to set up a few pieces of furniture that I bought with the ‘provided’ hex key. I handed them my set complete with handle and told them to go nuts. I’ve never seen such relief on a person’s face.

            1. whingedrinking*

              You can get a multitool for a few dollars with a range of sizes. I have one that’s especially designed for cyclists with five or six hex keys, two screwdriver heads and a spoke wrench, and I think it was ten bucks or so.

        2. Red Sky*

          Fun fact: That dinky tool is basically just a cheap hex key/allen wrench that you can buy in any tool permutation you want at the hardware store. Assembly goes sooo much faster when you have an allen wrench drill bit set! Highly recommend if you regularly shop at Ikea.

      2. coldfingers*

        To be fair, there are some IKEA items that are best assembled out of sequence…

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I have a cartoon on my wall here “The Lion, The Witch, and the Flat-Pack Wardrobe.”
        Aslan is saying to the White Witch “I can see Narnia, but it’s upside-down.”
        (Search for CartoonsIDrew if you want it for your wall too. ;) )

        1. Clumsy Ninja*

          Seeking Second Childhood – that’s fantastic! Will have to go through all the cartoons sometime!

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      All of the excuses are so pathetic that it’s almost funny. If I overheard someone saying stuff like this, I would have a hard time not snickering (but I feel for OP, because I would find the coworkers’ approach to be jaw-droppingly stupid).

      The “urgent” resume reformat takes real chutzpah, though. If it’s so easy, why isn’t her son doing it for himself?

          1. OhNo*

            I had this problem when I first started working – ADD, only having auditory memory when learning new tasks, and no knowledge of working norms was a bad combo for me. But the only answer I ever got from my boss was either “Try again, it’s there somewhere”, or “Try looking for X, sometimes it’s listed that way.”

            Thank god for her, honestly. I can’t imagine how much of a pain I’d be as an employee if she’d coddled me at the time.

      1. Kendra*

        Yeah, this is even worse than doing your kid’s homework for them. Stop helicoptering! (Or, alternatively, make the kid learn to do it themselves; either way, you’re not doing them ANY favors here.)

    4. Alice*

      I am the unofficial tech support for some severely challenged people and “I didn’t know I had to follow the steps in order” is a new one even for me, I think we should make a bingo of silly excuses from people who are just too lazy to read the instructions.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        Not tech support, but “I thought a week was seven business days” was the excuse I got from an employee about a missed deadline (I shared this in a Friday thread a bit ago) that just…jaw droppingly “how did this person survive to adulthood?”

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I once got in a mild argument with a city-level regulator that business days were different from calendar days. We had received a draft permit from them and I had requested clarification on notification requirements because the permit was very unclear (and actually stated both in different parts), and they told me that calendar days *were* business days.

          They didn’t understand until I finally asked them what I should do if something happened that required notification on a Saturday. (For those curious, it’s business days, not calendar days.)

          1. pentamom*

            I think it’s been changed now, but for a while my city’s website specified that you had to call “72 business hours” in advance for an oversized trash pickup.

            Somebody apparently thought “at least three business days” was too ambiguous, so they actually wound up informing people that they had to call nine business days in advance. No, that’s not how that works.

            1. Armchair Expert*

              I had that the other day! My husband called a car service place and was told they’d get back to him in “48 business hours” and I had this whole long argument with him about when he should follow up. My argument: after two days. His argument: after…uhhh…a week and a day?

        2. Remedial Chaos Theory (formerly Gen. Ginger)*

          Seven business days? As in Monday through Friday and then also next Monday and Tuesday?

          1. dealing with dragons*

            lol “a regular week is seven regular days, therefore a business week is seven business days”

      2. BossLady*

        I’m unofficial tech for an employee. I’m not in anyway a tech person, but I guess to her I am. Her best one yet was “Oh, you have to click the submit button.” What is the thought process there? If I just stare at it longingly it will submit itself…sigh

        1. Can't Think of a Name*

          Also unofficial tech support for my severely tech-challenged coworker. Once she came to me in a panic because she couldn’t figure out why her document wasn’t printing in color event though she sent it to the color printer. The original document was in black and white.

          I love my coworker but yikes

          1. adk*

            What about when gifs don’t print right? Like, “why doesn’t this move when I print it?” We don’t live in the wizarding world here, folks.

            1. Pebbles*

              Tell the person that they need to upgrade their program so that they get the “flip book” print option.

        2. Jaid*

          A bunch of my coworkers got laptops to replace their desktops, two weeks ago. Since I got mine at the beginning of the year, I’m the area go-to person to deal with things like, say…turning it on.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            In fairness the “on” button on some devices is strangely obscure. I tried to fix a computer for my niece and it took me ages to find the on button.

    5. Please No More Meetings*

      All these excuses are things I’ve heard from my own colleague, so mostly I am feeling SO HEARD by OP#2. The “I didn’t know I was supposed to turn the page” is LITERALLY what one of them said to me, followed by “OH THERE it is, on the next page, what to click next.” One time, I marched my colleague back to his office and made him find the paper manual I had created and printed out and hand-delivered to him. He immediately flipped to page 4, looked at step #9 at the bottom of the page, and said, “See, this makes no sense.” I replied, “Let’s try starting at the top of page 1, at step #1, and see if that works.” READER, OF COURSE IT DID. fklajslkdjfl;kajsd; lfkj sdjkekeyboardsmash

      1. twig*

        oh and I once supported a sales person who “didn’t do forms” and couldn’t figure out how to fill out her weekly metrics. it took me calling her after several reminders to get her metrics and fill out her paperwork for her.

        How does one survive life if they “don’t do forms”??? I mean, she had a house and a drivers license — those require forms…

        1. Alice*

          > How does one survive life if they “don’t do forms”??? I mean, she had a house and a drivers license — those require forms…

          Probably by badgering someone until they get help. I’ve renewed my license yesterday, the form literally just asked my name, DOB, current address, social security number, and do I have any pathology that impedes driving. In the 30 minutes while waiting for my medical I saw multiple people ask for another copy of the form because they messed up, and at least 2 showed up with spouse and adult children and filled the form with a group effort.

            1. JSPA*

              If forms make you anxious, there’s no reason that turning left on 2nd street then right on main will be a trigger. Especially if you’re turning left at the grocery and right where the woolworths used to be.

            2. Asenath*

              You can get quite bright people who don’t do well with forms. Sometimes, of course, the forms are badly-designed, but even if they’re quite clear, some people seem to put down what they think the form-creator wants to know, not what they actually ask for. They never seem to think that there might be a reason that whichever organization designed the forms asked for that particular information in that particular format. They can be quite good at other skills, though, like driving a car.

              I work with Org A which works closely with Org B. One of our Bright Young Things completed a form requesting a refund of travel expenses which he then delivered to the wrong Org A office (in spite of having been informed of the right office, as they all are). No problem; this sort of error is quite routine, and the paperwork was sent to us – with the comment that Mr. Bright Young Thing had used an Org B expense form. Apparently, he couldn’t find a copy of the Org A expense form, didn’t think to ask someone to show him where on the website to download it, and decided an Org B one would do as well.

          1. Policy wonk*

            Might have been me. Working for the government I am a pro at filing out forms. Last name, first name, middle initial. Last name, first name, middle initial. If I get a form to fill out I take care to read and follow the insructions, but for those rare cases that want first name, middle initial last name I sometimes have to request a new one. The habit of starting with my last name is too deeply ingrained!

            1. UK Nerd*

              I once had to fill in a form after playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. When it asked for race I put ‘Human’.

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I can understand this if you have crap handwriting (me), confidently skimmed over the form and put the requested information on the wrong line (also me), or had a writing device that refused to cooperate (me again). Also literacy or language issues are a legit problem that doesn’t necessarily stop you from being a competent driver, since government forms are sometimes written in oddly stilted and obscure language. But if you can’t do the form just because you aren’t willing to put in a tiny bit of effort to do it yourself, that’s not acceptable to me.

      2. irene adler*

        Well, you are way more patient than I would be.

        The excuse I got: It’s so much easier to just ask you than to look things up.
        Never mind that I’m up to my eyeballs in work.


        1. Please No More Meetings*

          I got that one, too! So I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Ah, so what you’re saying to me is that you think you are more important than I am, and that wasting my time is acceptable.” The sputtering backspacing that he tried to do in person was worth any awkwardness.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I got this one a lot. I eventually decided that for the worst offender I would have to forget what I knew, walk over to their desk, and look up the information in their manual. And then put post-it tabs to mark it for them for the future.

          I think I had to do that twice before they figured out that I was no longer easier. They weren’t stupid, just looking for the fastest solution for themselves as opposed to the most efficient solution for the team.

      3. Narvo Flieboppen*

        Yes, very much this. I’ve heard very similar excuses while working as help desk. People like these are the reason I no longer work IT support.

        I still deal with it in other areas of my current job, of course, like the person who finds the standard PO form ‘too confusing’. Because knowing what you’re buying, from whom, for how much, and why is apparently too much to ask from a grown adult running an entire department.

        I still wonder what I’m doing wrong that people like that get paid far more than me and seemingly need reminders to breathe.

    6. LKW*

      Same! This is when I ask them to repeat themselves and then say “Can you explain that to me? I understand the words you are saying, but not the order in which you are saying them.”

      1. JanetM*

        I said that to someone recently; I was copied on, and needed to act on, an email that was written in networking and not translated to English.

    7. Is It Performance Art*

      I work with someone who will call me over because he doesn’t understand something. I’ll tell him it’s in the instructions and he’ll tell me it’s not in there or it’s not clear. I walk over ask him if he’s gone through the instructions and he’ll tell me he has and that he followed them. Half the time it’s on the next page. Which he hasn’t looked at. And doesn’t remember from the past 10 times he’s done it. I can tell he’s really frustrated that I’m making him go through the instructions instead of just giving him the answer. I’m at the point where I don’t care.

      1. Angwyshaunce*

        “Give a man a fire, and he’ll stay warm for a day. Light a man on fire, and he’ll stay warm for the rest of his life.”

    8. Close Bracket*

      I wonder if these are the kind of excuses people hear when I go to them and say, “I read document XXXX, and I have questions,” bc I universally hear back, “You can find this information in document XXXX.” Hm.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Hmm, kind of like calling a phone number you found on a company website with questions (that weren’t answered on the site) and getting that recorded hold message about checking the website first. I understand that some people are really dumb, but OMG I was already on the website, I didn’t find your number in a phone book like the 90s.
        “Hi, I couldn’t find thing on your website.”
        “Have you checked the website?”

        I think it’s just they’ve dealt with so many people like in the letter that they expect it now…sigh

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      I write procedure instructions, with screen shots, and training.

      This is my eyebrow staying exactly where it is, because this kind of comment / attitude is really common. It crosses all genders, ages, etc. There is no group more prone to it. There’s not even education levels more or less prone to it – I’ve seen it from PhDs and from high school graduates.

      Read The Fine Manual, folks, Read The Fine Manual.

      1. Angwyshaunce*

        In programming circles (and others I’m sure), RTFM is a common response (“read the ******* manual”).

      2. AKchic*

        Yep. I’ve made step-by-step manuals before.

        I even made a step-by-step picture guide for how to use a coffee pot because I was the only person in our building who learned how to use the thing (it was a commercial use built-in). Dead-easy to use, but everyone was scared of screwing up, so they refused to learn. I made nice color pictures and easy instructions, laminated them and stuck them on the wall.
        People learned real quick after that.

      3. PersephoneUnderground*

        I’ve heard it sanitized to Read The Fantastic Manual. That’s my favorite, for the irony.

    10. Artemesia*

      LOL who knew that ‘steps’ had to be climbed in order rather than randomly.

    11. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Yeah, this is completely passive-aggressive and I wouldn’t take it if I were her (I’d be marching straight to the manager).

    12. Spool of Lies*

      Baha yup! This reminds me of one of my favourite excuses I’ve ever heard from a student for not responding to an email (I work in post-secondary education): “My phone did not notify me that I had an email.”

    13. theelephantintheroom*

      I’ve got coworkers like that. Getting them onto more efficient systems that also prioritize accountability is an absolute nightmare.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP1 – I don’t understand why that screw up wasn’t enough to end his internship right there on the spot!

    Was he there through a school program? Did you give them feedback?

  6. Jamie*

    LW #1 – how was your intern in a position to make a mistake of that magnitude? Someone in that position shouldn’t have access to cause that kind of chaos, especially one with a history of incompetence.

    I am not asking the LW to share more than they wish, but not gonna lie I’m super curious as to the nature of the mistake.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      I’m also surprised by this. In the types of internships I’m familiar with, the effect of having a terrible intern is that the work doesn’t get done effectively and lands on the original employees plate anyway.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      This is my question as well. It should never have been possible for an intern to make that kind of mistake.

      OP, if there’s any good to be salvaged out of this debacle, I hope there’s a good long “lessons learned” discussion so you (*organizational “you,” not you as an individual) can avoid at least some of these mistakes going forward. Also I hope you can get a good long vacation on a beach somewhere – sounds like you could use it!

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      I’m thinking that because his manager was out of the office he decided to handle something that in no way should have been handling and totally bodged it. He saw his opportunity to overstep his bounds and he took it.

    4. LKW*

      Totally want to know what happened but also know that I’ve seen:

      Shared files containing business critical information “cleaned up”
      Emails that are forwarded to clients and when you read the initial emails they are strictly internal and say “This client is an idiot, how do we resolve this….”
      My personal fave, use of file sharing software on a company computer that gave access to the C drive on which was stored names, home addresses, salaries, social security numbers. A private detective called the company to let them know of the breach and “offer his services” to clean it up.

      None of these required any special permissions, just idiocy.

      1. alphabet soup*

        But… some of those situations *should* require special permissions. If documents contain critical info that’s important enough that the CEO would notice if those documents disappear, they should be put on a protected drive or otherwise privileges should be set up so that only select individuals have the ability to delete. And social security numbers and salaries shouldn’t be stored in a directory that everyone has access to.

        1. Jamie*

          Agreed. And for the shared drive (which should have been protected) they should be able to restore the file from the last snapshot, losing data from the last several hours at worst.

          And the private employee data should be accessible via permissions on a need to know only basis.

          I like the way you think.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        That last one *should* have required special permissions. A lot of them. Wow.
        – Company machines (eg a shared server) should only allow Administrators to add software.
        – Interns should not have Admin pws / permissions to install software. They get a local machine with standard image and no other admin permissions.
        – When intern gets access to the company server, they should not get access to sensitive data, like payroll / ssn . Admins can (EASILY) ‘hide’ files and directories from different people / profiles (been there, done that).

        In every company I’ve ever worked for, having a company computer set up that lets an intern see / expose sensitive data would get the IT guy fired. Or the manager who cheaped out and didn’t hire an IT guy fired.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, a lot of these SHOULD have required special permissions. Unless this was in the days of Windows XP or prior, there is not reason an intern should be able to install stuff on their computer. It’s not unreasonable to give interns limited access to mission critical files. AND if you have decent backups, getting this fixed shouldn not be THAT but of a deal.

        So, yeah, it’s quite possible that there are potential lessons to be learned here.

      4. LKW*

        Well to be fair, none of these examples involved interns. I’m saying mistakes happen even with experienced folks. And many of these issues resulted in changes in policy (aka “the summer of the limewire investigation”)

        But yes, these are the lessons learned, but some companies learn them later than others. And sometimes the controls that are in place are just not well applied. I was implementing a software product that was SharePoint based. If you were in the folder, you could not delete documents in certain life cycle states. But you could delete the entire folder. We found that out by accident about a month before go-live. We still went live but now had more monitoring until the vendor could release a patch.

      5. JanetM*

        Some years ago, I went to open a shared folder in Outlook. It was gone. The admins were eventually able to restore most of the lost folders from backup.

        A few days later the memo came out. “Mistakes were made.” I think the ultimate answer was that a flag nobody knew about hadn’t been set correctly.

    5. Former Help Desk Peon*

      I once worked at a place where the payroll file was on a shared drive. Now, the file was locked down so you needed permission to open or edit it…but you didn’t need permission to MOVE the damn thing. Which broke the payroll software and stopped people getting paid. Sigh. Dealt with fallout from that more times than I care to think of.

      (And yes, it was a damn fool place to put it, given that people kept moving it, but this was 20 years ago)

      1. Youth Services Librarian*

        On a milder note, reminds me of when I was a TA in undergrad. A new office manager instructed me to clean out and shred all the visiting/adjunct files that hadn’t been active for x years. I obediently spent several hours weeding them out, only to be pounced upon by the outraged and horrified boss of the new office manager (who, btw, was a recent grad and promotion who had previously had my job of receptionist…) when they went to retrieve files for a visiting professor who only came over every few years… and whose paperwork was Very Important because he was from out of the country!
        Luckily, I had not shredded them all, just put them in the locked “to be shredded” bin. So once the key was found, I hauled them all out again and refiled them…

      2. Bryce*

        My high school’s lock software (I think it was called Fortress) would prevent students from accessing or modifying sensitive folders. However, I learned that it wouldn’t stop you from directly saving things to that folder, just moving files into it once saved elsewhere. I saved a “virus” (just something that would stay hidden and pop up every few hours to be weird, nothing sophisticated or actively malicious) to the startup folder and then couldn’t remove it. Fortunately the teacher found it funny.

      3. TeapotNinja*

        I once worked at a company where the CRM system for the sales folks depended on a directory of files with exactly the same permissions.

        The directory got moved about once a month like clockwork.

  7. Catalin*

    OMG: “I didn’t know I needed to turn the page.”
    This sounds so much like a four-year-old whining that picking up his toys is TOOO HAARRRRDDDDD. I CAN’T!!!!

    And the person who basically said they couldn’t/wouldn’t read the manual? Seriously?


    1. CatCat*

      It’s pretty amazing!

      “I tried to read it, but my eyes skipped over it.” Soooooo, go back and don’t skip over it.

      I can’t even with these people.

        1. Lalaith*

          I especially loved the “is it really that hard” from this lady who, apparently, believes it’s too hard to do herself.

      1. Bostonian*

        Hahaha that was my favorite line, as well.

        This may not have been the case in OP’s situation, but I’ve found at my company that the higher the level and title, the less likely this person is going to learn a new system (even if it’s a necessary one)/read instructions even when sent the instructions and guided to the right spot.

    2. TootsNY*

      as a copyeditor with an eye for type formatting, I will say that sometimes things can look as though the section ends. (that’s when I like continued lines or arrows).


    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Well, not knowing that a page was printed on both sides? Yeah, I could see that happening.

      1. Musereader*

        We print letters on both sides, we had a customer call in to complain that he only had pages 1, 3, 5, and 7 but he needed page 2.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Sure, but if I’m reading something that seems to end abruptly I usually flip the page over to check. That does not seem like a lot of labor or particularly difficult.

  8. WellRed*

    I can’t imagine what kind of mistake and intern managed to make that needed the top brass to step in and fix. What the heck did he manage to get himself into? Good riddance!

    1. Jamie*

      They are absolutely well rid of him, but I see this as a process problem far greater than any one intern.

      I hope the LW doesn’t just push all of this off on the intern without looking at the lessons learned and putting in internal controls so it doesn’t happen again.

      1. The bad guy*

        Yeah, interns should never have the unilateral ability to create a mess this large. The fact that they did means new processes need to be put in place to prevent it.

      2. smoke tree*

        Sometimes it is hard to come up with the best practices to counteract the imaginative power of one spectacularly incompetent person.

        1. Anon govt workerbee*

          Agreed. That’s how you end up with ridiculous rules and warning signs. Reminds me of something I read on this site, I think in a comment thread, where someone’s company had a rule that you couldn’t clean the bathrooms by lighting them on fire because someone actually did that once.

    2. Malarkey01*

      No idea what this intern did, but we had an intern in charge of uploading company’s Facebook page with the pre approved daily message from marketing. Job was literally get a week’s worth of messages from writer, shepherd through editing, get social media coordinator approval, and post at 9 am each day. One day intern, who had never given us reason to question his judgement or trust, went on a bigoted rant about a current event affecting a client. This was up about 30 minutes before we saw it, and before we got it down was screenshot, and shared with local media…. so I could envision how an intern can suddenly create a All hands on deck emergency.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah. If the problem was “transferred $5 million from a client’s account to his personal bank account” okay, that shouldn’t be possible. But things like “refreshingly shared his honest opinion with major client” is pretty easy to do.

      2. CRM*

        Your situation sounds like the stuff of nightmares!!

        However, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case here. This intern doesn’t sound malicious. He is just incompetent, lacking self-awareness, and a little careless. There should absolutely be a system in place to prevent issues on that scale that could be caused by a careless mistake, ESPECIALLY for interns, who are more likely to make even a genuine mistake.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I once accidentally used an official political party twitter handle to rant about a completely different country’s political process. No idea how since I was doing it on two different devices, but I never even noticed. Someone brought it up later as an example of “OMG can you believe that some idiot did this” and I was “holy sh*t, how did I do that?!?!”. Fortunately someone else spotted it and fixed it but it could have resulted in fines. And I was totally oblivious for months.

    3. Art3mis*

      I wasn’t an intern, but a brand new employee. Supposedly I messed up a mailing so badly that the largest client the company had was threatening to cancel their contract. I’d been there less than a month, so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have checked my work for something so important. Honestly I don’t think I did what they said I did.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    Re #1, I went back to the old thread and want to highlight this comment from Hey Karma, Over Here, which OP agreed was accurate:

    I think great describes his personality. He’s a pleasant guy to be around. He’s positive. He’s polite. He has a professional appearance. He shows up on time, doesn’t call off. He is eager to start projects. His assessment of his skills, although incorrect, is not presented in a bragging way. He doesn’t put down jobs as too simple or beneath him, but rather as something he’d LOVE to try his hand at, “I won’t let you down!” And he starts a project. And his finishes it.
    Just what everyone dreams an intern will be.
    Except he’s terrible. He is terrible at everything he does. And OP tells him. OP explains what is wrong and what needed changing, and great young man genuinely listens and says, “I see.” and “Thank you.”
    Just what every manager of an intern hopes to see and hear.
    Except he is just terrible.

    1. CRM*

      I don’t really understand this; does that mean he is a conscientious, professional young man who is just extremely incompetent, or that he pretends to be professional while in reality not caring at all.

      1. Ali G*

        I think it means that he lacks the skills to do the job. In the original letter, OP notes they are in a creative field. Intern seems to lack the creative and communication skills to do the job. OP also noted that they thought Intern had potential but wasn’t fit for the industry.
        I think the Intern really wants to be in this field, but he doesn’t have the skills to be successful, and isn’t interested in trying to improve.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Now I’m picturing someone who is to interns what Ed Wood was to filmmaking….

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s all the traits you ostensibly want in an intern, or someone else who doesn’t have much direct experience yet when they come into the job. They are reliable and polite and eager to learn and on time and cheerfully takes on new tasks and don’t complain… yet somehow they manage to be terrible.

        1. Former Help Desk Peon*

          Yeah, I hired this guy way back when. Sweet, sweet guy; couldn’t troubleshoot his way out of a paper bag and did NOT belong in IT.

  10. Marlene*

    #1: I’m glad you’re free of your intern, but can I add that it’s ridiculous that you had to handle this emergency on your way to a medical procedure. Please, next time you’re out of the office, turn off your phone. They don’t own you 24/7.

    I’ll get off my soapbox. I’m just tired of employers who don’t respect boundaries on days off.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Often as managers, we choose to be available in these situations even when it reads as outrageous to others not in our shoes. You have no right to tell her to shut her phone off, unless she’s voicing concern about it.

      1. Mrs_helm*

        Yes, and sometimes it is the lesser of two evils. Either be available now, or have to re-fix everything and apologize even more later.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s the truth for sure, it’s really my reasoning in the end as well.

          I’d rather pull over and deal with it now than just come back to see the aftermath of Hurricane Intern.

          A higher position comes with higher salary and higher demands.

          Now if the person is just a line manager or department lead, then I’d be on board with “shut off your phone” kind of stuff because then there’s a boundary issue. But if you’re a department head or director, you’re going to have less leeway in shutting your phone off and having 100% no work time off.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            WRT line managers and department leads, this sort of thing gets tricky when you have interns reporting to you rather than regular entry-level employees. I’ve often felt the need to be more available to interns than I would other types of direct reports. I didn’t want to encourage poor boundaries with them, but I also recognized that when things go wrong with an intern who doesn’t know the workplace very well, things can go wrong very, very quickly in a way they might have trouble resolving.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It was an instruction. Your wording is “Turn off your phone”, that’s not a suggestion. I mean, handclaps for saying please at least?

        I’ll chill when I feel up to it and not a second sooner.

        Again. You’re telling people what to do. Bless your heart.

        1. Moxie*

          Goodness gracious.

          I read the phrase “turn off your phone” with the same voice your friend or mother might use to say “oh, take the night off” or “treat yourself” or “you work too hard!”

          I really think you’re weirdly overreacting.

          1. thestik*

            Dunno. I’ve seen the word “please” used to project a passive aggressive tone in a lot of emails/support tickets in the professional realm. It can read insincere the more often someone sees that word. I can understand the reaction.

        2. Marlene*

          Wow. I’m sure the OP is taking “orders” from complete strangers on the internet.

      3. thestik*

        I wonder how many people are more inclined to blow their tops after being told to chill out. Even just observing this kind of admonishment makes my eyebrows twitch.

        1. EmKay*

          Never in the history of telling someone to “calm down” has it had the intended effect. Some comedian said that.

    2. MadAnon*

      Yeah don’t even get me started on this.
      My company was doing layoffs one year and the day they were to tell you if you had your job or not, I had a surgery scheduled. I think my procedure was at 9am and I had a mandatory phone meeting at 2 to let me know if I still had a job or not.
      I informed my manager that I would be under general anesthesia and would not be able to make that meeting and is there any way we could have the call before they rolled me back. The calls were only 5 minutes long, if that, in which they read from a script and the last line was whether you were still with the company–I had been through this many times and knew the drill.
      I was told they could not do that because if I found out my status before anyone else I could blab to my co-workers about if I had my job or not and they would be able to deduce from that who was getting laid off (HUH??).
      I said I can’t blab because I will be unconscious and had better things to do than text my co-workers from my pre-op bed about my job.
      So after my procedure, I could not take pain medication and had to keep myself awake long enough to dial into this stupid call and hear whether I had my job or not. I still had my job but was furious! And I knew this wasn’t my manager’s doing. He was being bullied from up-above and was told he could not move my meeting.

      1. CoolInTheShade*

        What the heck. I hope you left that job shortly after on your own accord.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        WTF!? That’s awful. They couldn’t have just left you a message though?! If it’s a 5 minute canned call, why did you have to be present at all? Just check your messages after your surgery. I kind of get their reason to not tell you sooner [kind of, barely, if I squint and I had a couple drinks first]. But yeah, that’s when you say “okay just check your messages before you come back to work because you may or may not have a job to return to.”

        I’m also mad because this sounds like your current company and not some scummy company that’s in your rearview.

    3. Kes*

      Eh… I do think for certain jobs, especially in management, being available if issues of a certain level arise is part and parcel of the position. This can certainly be abused in some cases, but this doesn’t sound like that – it took the CEO and all the Sr. VPs to resolve it, so I think it’s pretty safe to say this was in fact a severe problem that likely did require OP’s involvement to help fix it.

  11. Yikes*

    I feel bad for #3’s fiancee. She deserves better than someone who says, from the initial letter:

    “Moreover, we both have a huge thing for each other. We are both in agreement that if we ever both end up single, we are going to try for a relationship.”

    1. Cranjis McBasketball*

      I logged on just to post this or see if someone else had beat me to it.

      1. stuff*

        I went back to the original post to see how long ago it was, expecting a year or so… nope… a couple months.

        1. Cranjis McBasketball*

          yikes! OP #3, you need to come clean with your fiancee. if you were making plans and what-ifs and maybes to date your coworker who you’re still talking to, you should have mercy on your fiancee and tell her the extent of your emotional affair (yes, this is what this is) and let her go from there.

    2. Emily*

      Oh – I interpreted this as the two coworkers were now engaged, but now that I look back over the letter, I think your reading makes more sense. Hopefully the LW has been honest with fiancee about his feelings for the coworker and has taken steps to limit the more questionable aspects of their relationship.

        1. Emily*

          Oh, I agree that I’m being optimistic! I think it’s likely that neither of those things have happened. But since the LW evidently read the comments last time, I’m crossing my fingers that he reads them again and listens to everyone who’s telling him to be honest with his partner and reconsider the engagement.

    3. SciDiver*

      Yeah, I was surprised to hear in this update (less than 3 months later) that LW is engaged to then-girlfriend when there was such planning with coworker about dating if/when they both are single. At minimum, fiancee should know the full extent of their friendship including the contingency plans to date the coworker if they broke up.

    4. Jungkook*

      I came here to contact exactly this! Although 21 is young, it’s still old enough to know better than to treat your partner like a placeholder.

    5. Totes*

      Yeeeeeeeep…probably not the best idea to get engaged if you’ve got someone on back burner.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking this. I do believe that people of the opposite sex can be real friends, especially at work where you spend a lot of time with specific people. But this situation sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and I feel bad for his wife-to-be.

    7. Eukomos*

      Getting married doesn’t mean you never feel interest in anyone else ever again, it means deciding not to pursue your interest in anyone else because you value your relationship with your spouse more highly. Sounds like his consideration of pursuing the relationship with the coworker was pre-engagement, and he decided against it and made a commitment to the relationship he was already in instead. Not unreasonable; he’s a real human being with conflicting feelings, these things happen.

      1. stuff*

        This wasn’t just suppressed feelings. THEY ACTUALLY TALKED ABOUT IT. The OP is young – 21 and that’s the age where everyone thinks they know everything about life and feel like an adult when they are so far from it. And it’s been less than three months since the letter…. The OP should do some soul-searching, come clean with the fiancee and then take some time to grow up before getting engaged.

        But this isn’t a relationship blog. It’s a work blog, so it’s good the friend got out of her toxic situation.

      2. Kate*

        When you’re in a relationship that’s leading to marriage you don’t get into a conversation with a friend about having a huge thing for each other that you’ll pursue if you and your almost fiancee break up. Within MONTHS of deciding to get engaged that’s how he behaved. I feel so bad for his fiancee. Clearly he’s not mature enough to get married. He may want to hold off on getting married at 21 if he’s going to behave like a teenager.

      3. Yikes*

        Obviously getting married doesn’t mean no longer being interested in other people. However, getting married does typically mean you stop telling people “if I’m ever single, we’ll date.”

        He was never single in this scenario. He’s been disrespecting his current partner this entire time.

      4. Working Mom Having It All*

        Sure, but as someone who is married, I will say that if I had my next fling lined up already before I got engaged, I would… not have gotten engaged at that time. I realize that some unscrupulous people do this sort of thing all the time (I have more than a couple of friends whose marriages ended due to infidelity on a massive scale that predated the marriage), but, like… not best practices. To say the least.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I guess…that’s also probably the reason infidelity and divorce is so high as well. Since some of us really do mate for life.

      6. Asenath*

        Not exactly, he made a second commitment to his friend at the same time he had a commitment to his fiance. The fact that the second commitment was conditional doesn’t put it in the same category as noticing that the friend is very attractive – and deciding against saying or doing anything about that attraction because of course he’s in a committed relationship.

      7. Felix*

        “Getting married doesn’t mean you never feel interest in anyone else ever again” – that’s exactly what it means though.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          For some people that’s what it means, for most whether its for 15 seconds, or minutes, or days the chances or their being an ebb in your relationship and your hormones and minds latching on to someone else are fairly normal. Being married means that you don’t pursue it, it means that you choose to let it go. Like if you were having a bad day and some jerk decides to cut you off on the highway, you may however briefly want to cut them off or ram them or whatever its a flash of emotion, its an impulse people know they shouldn’t follow through.

      8. Anonymousse*

        Having interest is different from having feelings that you talked about acting on. I can be intrigued by a handsome gentlemen at the gym but I’d caution myself before letting it evolve beyond that for Mr. Anonymousse. Being in a relationship w an intention for marriage means that you choose your partner everyday, above all others. OP clearly couldnt do that before the engagement which makes me question how a quick engagement would change his mindset. I think OP has a bit of maturing to do at 21 and is certainly not ready for marriage. If I were his fiancee, I would be beyond hurt re the emotional affair and I hope that OP will gain enough insight to have empathy for people close to him.

    8. Whatever'sClever*

      Yup. That is gross. That is when you *end* a ‘friendship’; when neither of you is single, and you’re both wanting in each other’s pants.

      Good luck to LW’s fiancee.

    9. Felix*

      If my fiance was spending hours talking on the phone and going out with his female co-worker I would ship his butt to mars

  12. TY*

    3. I’m glad you’ve ended your emotional affair but you may want to reconsider the engagement.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a generous read, I didn’t read that their inappropriate [on a personal level, not business] relationship has stopped. Just that the woman moved out of her parents house so it’s a nonissue of them reporting the OP for harassment any longer.

      1. TY*

        Too true!

        OP3/(2 at the link) – you had an emotional affair with your coworker and you should reconsidering your engagement. You say you’re still reading the blog, so I hope you take this to heart and at least tell your fiancé the full story of your relationship with that woman.

  13. SurprisedCanuk*

    I still don’t understand why you didn’t fire him or at least give him unimportant or easy tasks. It doesn’t make sense to spend time and effort on an intern who is terrible. After a few mistakes I think you should have been more direct in your feedback and given him warnings that his performance needs to improve then fired him.

  14. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: The title for this one should be ‘When PEBCAK meets RTFM’

    Not even my gran, who is completely tech illiterate, is THAT bad.

    She is of the assumption that I just intuitively know how a piece of tech works and looks at me funny when I ask for the manual.

    But she actually READS the manual. She doesn’t understand some things and doesn’t grasp some concepts, but she at least tries.

    Honestly. ‘I didn’t know I had to turn the page’. Most toddlers figure that one out when getting their hands on a picture book for the first time. Heck, I’ve seen babies master that concept!

  15. CoolInTheShade*

    Yay, we love updates!!

    I keep thinking today is Friday because I have the day off tomorrow, and I keep waiting for the open thread because I have a question to ask.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to do the short-answer post for tomorrow and then just an open thread for the rest of the day since it’s a holiday, so you’ll get it a little earlier than usual!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Will you still be doing the usual setup for Friday as well with short answers & another open thread? Curious since it’s 50/50 for places that made it a 4 day weekend with the holiday falling on a Thursday.

    2. New Normal*

      Same! I’m thrilled to have the day off but it’s really confusing my schedule-loving brain.

  16. CRM*

    Your situation sounds like the stuff of nightmares!!

    However, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case here. This intern doesn’t sound malicious. He is just incompetent, lacking self-awareness, and maybe careless. There should absolutely be a system in place to prevent issues on that scale that could be caused by a careless mistake, ESPECIALLY for interns, who are more likely to make a mistake whether its careless or not.

    1. CRM*

      Sorry- meant for this to by a reply to another comment and accidentally posted it here.

  17. Mayati*

    #3, not to pry into your business, if this relationship is meant to be, and if the two of you are compatible, then you don’t have to rush into marriage in order to hold on to things. If it’s destined not to work out, it won’t work out. There’s no reason to rush and every reason to slow down…especially in a relationship with a coworker. As a child abuse survivor, I know that getting away from abusive parents does not mean someone can be in a healthy relationship immediately, particularly where she doesn’t have her own life separate from you at work. Boundaries are a good, loving thing to have, and I highly recommend the advice blog Captain Awkward for learning how to navigate relationships and support her in her recovery from abuse (therapy is wonderful as well, and probably essential to any abuse survivor; what you can’t do is take on a therapist-type role for a loved one).

    That said, congratulations, and I hope my concerns are proven wrong. Good luck to both of you.

    1. Close Bracket*

      The update is written a little confusingly since partners were not explicitly mentioned in the initial letter, but LW is not engaged to his coworker.

      1. Rust1783*

        I interpreted that to mean that the coworkers are, in fact, engaged, because the LW says the girl is “now out of the toxic relationship she was in” from the previous letter. In other words, LW didn’t get engaged to a person they were already dating. The girl broke up with the person who was previously “standing between” her and LW.

        1. Mockingdragon*

          I thought LW3 was dating someone during that letter though. He says he’s engaged to “the girl he was with in the previous post”, and she [the coworker] is out of the old situation.

        2. valentine*

          I know that getting away from abusive parents […] support her in her recovery from abuse
          The parents are not necessarily abusive and OP3 could be wrong about how mutual the feelings were and whether the coworker’s relationship with her SO was toxic.

          1. Close Bracket*

            OP3 said he and his coworker had discussed that if ever they were both single, they would date. We only have his side of the story, but that does sound mutual!

      2. Filosofickle*

        This is how I read it too, he’s engaged to someone else. “Beyond that, I’m now happily engaged to the girl I was with in my previous post.” There wasn’t a girlfriend mentioned in the previous post (beyond the implied not-single status because they said if they were they’d consider it) but to me this third party GF is clear on re-read.

  18. KarenT*

    Admittedly, then she followed me over to my cubicle to ask “is it really that hard” and “maybe you could just take a look” but I stood my ground!

    OP2, I let out a whoop when I read that! As someone prone to caving in, I can just imagine how good that felt!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can’t get past it being her SON’S RESUME.
      The helicopters are circling….and it’s not even time for the July 4th parade yet.

      1. KarenT*

        Seriously. Her son’s resume that HE apparently can’t format himself. (So he gets his mother to do it–last minute, and SHE gives it to a co-worker). Mind boggling!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      That coworker was BEYOND ridiculous!
      It made me snort though because I used to work for a guy like that. Couldn’t handle the most basic Word stuff.

  19. LW2*

    Thanks for the solidarity and comiseration, all! It’s funny that this was printed right after the scolding mass email letter, because when I tried to tactfully give my boss a heads up that some folks might continue to need a lot of help after I left because they are struggling with the manual, she asked me to give a department training on how to use it.

    So I stood in front of a room of seasoned professionals and said things like “start by looking at the table of contents and follow the dotted line to the page number” and “please make sure to follow the steps in order.” Predictably, the only result was that my competent coworkers with legitimate questions apologized unnecessarily profusely before asking anything.

    No one else’s attitude changed. One of the worst offenders called me over to herbreak to look at something.

    Coworker: “I can’t figure out how to do X”
    Me: “Hmm, did you check the manual for directions?”
    Coworker: “I did! I swear!” *turns head 90 degrees away and mutters audibly* “I have no patience for the manual. ”

    Sigh…I am counting down the days!

    1. Emily*

      So I stood in front of a room of seasoned professionals and said things like “start by looking at the table of contents and follow the dotted line to the page number” and “please make sure to follow the steps in order.”

      Omg, that’s almost hilarious in how stupid it sounds (but presumably pretty frustrating for you that you have to keep telling people this kind of stuff). Good luck in your graduate program, LW2.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would just continue to say “I’m sorry to hear that but I don’t have time to help out, so you’ll want to try the manual again.” and move on. Especially now that you’re on your way out. Screw this person, she’s awful and will never change and the boss will deal with her after you’re gone.

      Bad news for her, I had a boss who pushed things back at me like yours seems to want to do here. When I was gone and she had to deal with the nonsense I was constantly bringing to her attention, she was like “Oh dang, she was right, this person is inept AF.” and boom, fired the person within a week or two of having to be the one on call to that person.

      1. Artemesia*

        We had a person like this who would not learn the things we needed after the things she used to do were no longer needed — in fact we had two at different times like this. One was protected by the AA and so year after year did nothing for pay until a new colleague with high status came on board at the same time a new department director did. He basically said ‘why are we carrying someone who does nothing when we need X, Y and Z. ‘ She was gone the next week. The other person had a similar fate when she asked for a raise when asked to do some tasks after her main source of activity dried up; she was gone within the week.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          What is the acronymn? American Airlines? Alcoholics Anonymous? Administrative Assistant?

    3. Scarlet*

      I’ve been there! I actually resorted to setting a deadline for when I would no longer be offering them support, and for them to let me know if they needed additional training before then. After that, they sunk or swam on their own. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Sometimes it works to make it more trouble to call you than just to look it up. After ‘did you check’, then ask them to pull the manual up on their screen, his ctrl-s, type in ‘topic’, hit enter, etc et so on. Have them read the instructions out loud as they follow them. Slow walk them through every step. I used to post-it note bookmarks in physical manuals, back in the day.

      I usually justify it as ‘I’ll need to see how you use the manual to make changes to it, to make it easier / more complete.’ This also gets me off the hook of just taking over their keyboard / doing it for them, because I’m watching and taking notes.

    5. Pebbles*

      OP, before you leave, give the worst offenders a rubber duck and tell them to “ask the duck”. For those who don’t know, google the phrase and you should find a very good description. Basically, in the process of voicing your question OUT LOUD to an inanimate object, you might just solve your own problem without having to bother an actual person.

      (Although post-its on their monitors that say “RTFM” would probably be more satisfying.)

    6. Blue Horizon*

      Hah. I’d be tempted to try something like “OK, maybe I can help. Why don’t you go through it again using the manual and do exactly what you did, and I’ll watch and see if I can tell you where you went wrong.”

      If you get floundering and puppy dog eyes and can’t-you-just-do-it, say “Since I’m not going to be here for much longer, everyone needs to be able to use the manual once I’m gone, so if you don’t understand how then we need to work on that before anything else.” Then go into ‘follow the dotted line’ and ‘after step one comes step two’ and ‘remember to turn the page’ and so on. Do not lift a finger on the task yourself, or explain anything that’s in the manual.

  20. Angwyshaunce*

    In programming circles (and others I’m sure), RTFM is a common response (“read the ******* manual”).

  21. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    In response to 1. My intern thinks he’s good at things that he’s terrible at, specifically this passage:

    “When I got back to the office and sat down with my intern to talk about what happened, he blamed EVERYBODY else and refused to take any responsibility for what happened. At that point, I was done.

    “We convinced him to leave his internship 3 weeks early.”

    Couldn’t you have just fired him? “We convinced him to leave” sounds like the option was totally his.

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      I hate hate hate hate hate the lack of a “preview post” option, even more than Alison hates the idea of “Boss’ Day!” Only the last part of the first paragraph was supposed to be bold! $%&# x100!

  22. Documentor*

    LW2 – If you can find one at this time of year, get a pumpkin and leave it on your desk when you leave with your ID/lanyard around the stem. If you are crafty, add some googly eyes and prop the open manual in front of it.

  23. Working Mom Having It All*

    OP1, I’m glad you’re free of this awful intern! It sounds like they sucked, and the whole thing was awful, and it’s great that it’s all over now.

    But I’m also wondering whether your company is using interns correctly. Things like leading presentations, drafting important external communications, and decision-making control over social media accounts are usually not intern level work. The intern at my (large, prestigious entertainment industry) company makes copies, orders lunch, covers the front desk, runs errands, etc. While I suppose he could be “bad at” these things, and even that he might be so inept as to cause a minor emergency (break the copier? tell an important VIP arriving to a meeting to eff off?), the reality is that no matter how bad it got, he’s playing in a bit of a closed sandbox world. It sounds like the expectations, and ultimately the stakes, were unusually high.

    It’s my experience that most college undergrads suck at public speaking and don’t necessarily know anything about social media strategy. The written communication stuff sounds egregious, but in my field the answer to that would be to not have the intern draft press releases, not to keep giving him high stakes public facing work that could easily cause an emergency when it wasn’t handled deftly.

    1. Confused*

      Agreed. It’s actually pretty unfair to use someone who’s not an employee to do those kinds of things. Interns are there to work and learn, yes, but high-stakes work should be for people who are solidly employed by the company/

      1. Zephy*

        Based on the original letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hotshot decided to show some Gumption And Initiative and touched something he shouldn’t have.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          I mean maybe, but he shouldn’t have had easy access to those things.

          Nor should he have been assigned most of the tasks he was given in the original letter. An intern who wants to work in a creative field, is given entry level writing work (we might assign someone to draft the weekly office-wide memo about Bagel Friday or have them design a post for our internal social media hub), and then found to be lacking in basic writing skills would typically not be tasked with higher level and more creative and outward-facing tasks. They would be given less creative and lower-stakes tasks. An intern who can’t write a press release that isn’t riddled with errors will be put onto filing duty, not given other more skills-driven creative tasks.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are lots of different kinds of internships, some more skilled than others. And the reality of smaller companies is they may have less controls that would prevent someone from doing something without permission. Without additional info, there’s no grounds to take the OP or her company to task for this.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        Where I live, and in the industry I work in, internships need to be in an educational context, be for the benefit of the intern, have interns working closely under other employees and not displacing full-time staff, and the employer can’t derive immediate benefit from the internship. All of which sound like they were violated here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And those aren’t the rules for nonprofits or government, or many non-U.S. countries. You’re asserting your experience as the only type that’s okay but that’s not accurate.

      2. Venus*

        Agreed Alison – I had skilled internships, and was essentially treated like a full-time employee in most ways (I was once in a meeting where a client suggested a solution which required a lot of menial labour, and had a *wink, wink, get a poor intern to do it* reaction which clearly showed that he didn’t realize my role because my boss laughed and pointed out that I was the intern, and I was too smart to agree to do the client’s work for him).

        I worked for large companies so even the worst incompetency would have never involved the CEO, but I could see how a problem in a small company might have required the CEO’s input. Not that I had such issues, but I did work directly with some important clients. I had internships at numerous points, including grad school, so not all interns are 17 years old and assumed to be incompetent.

      3. Oof*

        We also don’t know the kind of mistake – if the intern had given the wrong information to a very, very VIP client, it wouldn’t mean they had systems access. Sometimes the wrong simple answer can set off a pretty big chain reaction.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It drastically depends on the industry in this case. There’s a difference between interning at an entertainment company and say interning in a law office or accounting firm. You don’t use an intern as a PA in some industries, it’s a waste of your time and theirs to just be there to order lunch and collate.

      However you do need to have a lot of oversight and should have checkpoints in place, that’s for sure. They can draft communications, that’s a good thing to do. Then it goes to an editor stage. You don’t have them do something start to finish, that’s just asking for problems. You don’t give them access to your social media accounts or website database.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      We had our undergrad co-ops do some pretty big projects, but they were there six months. So, I had mine run the social media (with some oversight), draft copy for client facing materials (not press releases though), and much more! It was a huge help.
      There weren’t any bad ones working for us. However, I did interview one or two I was not impressed with at all. I think that particular school runs a really good program and heads most of that off before they get to the companies.
      You should probably say something to this intern’s school because he either needs more development or he really is an entitled jerkface.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      We were actually told fairly sternly that interns (receiving college credit instead of money) were absolutely not to be given “makes copies, orders lunch, covers the front desk, runs errands” type work. They were supposed to be doing “real” work that was relevant to their department to be sure they were learning department specific tasks and experiences. They weren’t banned from copying or anything, but it was made very clear if the interns were given primarily grunt work/things they already knew how to do when they got there, we’d all be in trouble.

      But beside that, if this intern were taking unnecessary initiative while the boss was gone, it doesn’t sound like the problem was they were tasked with high-stakes stuff. It sounds like this intern decided to do something that was not at all assigned to him and probably would never have been and just did it anyway because he thought he was brilliant.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      In my undergrad program, where we had paid semesters of work experience that counted as course credits, employers who used a student to make copies and cover the phones would have been fired from the program. We were there to gain practical experience in a research/development setting, and we were doing real work that was of benefit to the company.

      The difference between us and an employee is that the projects were fairly self contained, and we were closely supervised (and we were paid less, but still a decent summer job salary). We wouldn’t have been put in situations where we could easily break something and not have it quickly caught and fixed.

    7. Angus MacDonald, Boy Detective*

      I’m in the UK, so my experience of interns might be slightly different. But here I think the most common type of internship is a year in industry during university. We currently have a placement student in our department at my job, and they are paid and treated like a full time employee. Obviously they are given a lot more assistance than the fully qualified people, but at the end of the day they do real work that goes into the product and are held to the same standards.

  24. Totes*

    OP #3, does your fiancee know about the “huge thing” you have for your coworker? If not, that’s a flag that the relationship is something to hide, which is not the best launchpad for a marriage.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      It feels strange to me that LW3 went from “we plan to be together next time we both happen to be single” to engaged to someone who is not this woman in a couple of months. Like… you do you, and hey, I made some unorthodox life choices that turned out to work out well. So who knows, really? But also… LW may want to go back and read their original letter and then read the follow up and ask what changed during that short period of time to get them to where they are now.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, it’s a lot to wrap a head around isn’t it?! It makes me flinch that they were talking about dating if they were ever single at the same time but magically after this coworker leaves her toxic relationship, the OP has decided to marry someone else in just a few short months. It could be pressure from family or life in general to get married and settle down but at 21, my heart is racing like “no gurl, slow down!”

    2. Rust1783*

      I think LW is engaged to their coworker, i.e. the subject of the previous letter. LW says their fiancee is out of the toxic relationship she was previously in. I don’t think there was mention of a third person in the previous letter, only an implication that the two coworkers were not single at the time.

      1. Jen*

        Nope, they were both in different relationships in the OP and this is what LW says in the update –

        ‘I’m now happily engaged to the girl I was with in my previous post, and she’s gotten out of the toxic relationship she was in, so everyone is doing way better’

        Glad people are calling this out, I feel for the fiancee.

  25. nnn*

    Not directly relevant to #2 since she’s leaving, but, as someone whose eyes legitimately do skip over things (the result of a head injury that I’m very slowly recovering from), this is why I find it so useful to have both print and electronic copies of documentation!

    The print copy is easier to read, but the electronic copy can be searched electronically. So even when my eyes skip the part about how to groom a llama’s ears, I can just Ctrl+F “ear” and the computer will find it for me.

  26. MissDisplaced*

    #1 OMG! I’m so sorry you couldn’t even go to the doctor because intern screwed up. Wow that this intern was so woefully clueless.

    #2 You cracked me up with the coworker who cannot even use Word to format her own kids resume!!!!! “Is it really that hard?” Apparently it is for her and her lazy kid (who ought to know how to do it their self!) How exactly do these people have office jobs if they can’t use Word? Jeez!
    Happy you’ve moved on.

  27. shinychariot*

    OP 2, I had a similar situation in a previous job where I was the office admin for a nursing team. A lot of them weren’t confident with technology and were even a little afraid of computers. A solution I found was making several of the nurses a “champion” for one specific task, and backing it up with a guide – so I had a nurse who was an out of office message champion, excel spreadsheet, word formatting, electronic referrals. It built a lot of confidence for them to be seen as a tech expert and sort of created a little ecosystem of knowledge

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