is our intern just clueless and inexperienced — or a con artist?

A reader writes:

I am a mid-level engineer at a small (70-80 employees) tech company. We frequently host undergrad interns from a local university. Some were during the summer, and some were during the school year. These were all paid, full-time internships that lasted for 12 weeks.

The past interns all had a great attitude and work ethic, and there were no issues with any of them. However, the most recent intern I’m managing is demonstrating an alarming pattern of behavior, which is causing me to question his integrity. I am having a hard time differentiating whether he is acting maliciously, or whether he is simply clueless about professional norms.

• Apparently falsifying his time sheet. He retroactively edited an already-submitted time sheet from several weeks ago, adding an extra six hours. When I emailed him to ask for an explanation, he never answered.

• Under the state’s labor law, the company was forced to pay him an extra seven hours, because he committed meal break violations (logging an excessively short break, or no break at all, due to allegedly reading emails during lunch) on seven separate days. These infractions happened despite HR having several talks with him about the matter. The HR lady sent me an exasperated email that he has committed more time sheet violations than all the past interns combined, and that she “simply cannot see why he doesn’t get it.”

• Several times, he showed up on a day he was not scheduled to work, after learning that lunch was provided at an on-site seminar. He barged into the conference room halfway through the seminar, grabbed a ton of food, and left a few minutes later.

• The week before Christmas, two of the company’s founders (President and CTO) treated a different department to lunch each day. When it was our turn, everyone ordered a $14 to $17 lunch entree and one alcoholic beverage. My intern ordered a $50 ribeye steak from the dinner menu and 2 alcoholic beverages. Our founders are some of the most patient, kind, and tolerant individuals I’ve ever known (almost to the point of being doormats), so they didn’t react in any way

• During the first week of his internship, the HR lady invited him to take a T-shirt and sweatshirt as part of onboarding. He ended up taking nearly half of the shirts in the pile, causing a lot of other employees to miss out.

I am perplexed by this intern’s audacity. On one hand, someone who intends to exploit, rip off, and take advantage of others would not make their behavior this obvious. But on the other hand, the sheer frequency of incidents tells me that these are not accidental. Is this intern a true con artist, or just innocently clueless about how to conduct himself in a professional environment? I honestly cannot tell.

I don’t see any signs he’s a con artist — he just sounds like he’s clueless and has bad manners.

It doesn’t really matter though, since either way the solution for you is the same: talk to him, lay out clear expectations, and consider ending his internship early if the problems continue.

One thing that stands out in your letter is that it doesn’t sound like anyone has talked to him in a serious way about any of these issues, other than HR trying to address the meal break problem. You emailed him about the time sheet, but you can’t just stop at “he never answered.” One day after not getting an answer (two at the most), it’s time to follow up with an in-person conversation to find out what’s going on.

The thing about interns is that they’re there in part to learn work norms, and your role is in part to teach them.

That’s not to say that he’s blameless. He’s behaved rudely on multiple occasions, been unresponsive about work questions, and ignored what I’m assuming were clear instructions from HR. You’re right to note that other interns haven’t had the same problems — he is clearly on the far end of the “inexperienced and it shows” spectrum, and it’s quite possible that he’s just not suited for the role. It’s just that it’s premature to conclude that when you haven’t yet sat down with him and addressed the issues.

Ideally you would have been giving feedback all along, as each incident happened. For example, when he took half the t-shirts that were intended for a larger group, ideally you would have talked to him that day, explained others needed them too and they were one per employee, and had him return the extras. (Frankly, the HR person herself should have done that in the moment when he was grabbing them!) Or, at your department lunch, someone could have said discreetly right in the moment, “We’re ordering from the lunch menu” or talked to him afterwards to explain social norms when you’re being treated at an event like that. Similarly, with the lunch break incidents, once it was clear he was repeatedly ignoring instructions, it was time for a serious conversation about the pattern: “We’ve addressed this repeatedly and it’s still happening. What’s going on?”

To be fair, it’s understandable that no one has been speaking up in the moment in some of these situations, like while everyone was ordering lunch or while he was in mid-grab with the t-shirts. When someone is violating the social contract in those ways, it can be hard to know know how to react on the spot! But as a manager, once you have time to process what happened, you’ve got to follow up with a conversation about it — especially when the behavior isn’t an out-of-character one-off but an ongoing pattern, and definitely any time something is making you question someone’s integrity.

So! Sit down with this intern and have a serious conversation. Explain that you’ve seen issues that concern you and that you want to address, and talk about all of this. The time sheet issue needs to be addressed on two fronts — the reason for the change (and whether it was legit) and his ignoring your question about it. The lunch break stuff is serious too, and you should go into the conversation knowing what consequences you’re willing to impose for that. (For example, do you want to have him work fewer hours this week to make up for it? Is it a firing offense if he keeps doing it? With an intern, and especially with this intern, it probably should be and you should let him know that.)

From there, see what happens — and keep actively coaching him meanwhile. If he learns from the feedback, great. If he doesn’t, you can reconsider keeping him on. As you do that, you should balance how much guidance and oversight he needs against how much time you have to provide it, as long as you allow for the fact that it’s normal for him to need more than a non-intern would. And certainly if you see clear integrity problems (like if he outright lied on his time sheet), you don’t need to keep coaching and can move straight to ending his internship.

But start by having a real conversation with him.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 681 comments… read them below }

  1. Clefairy*

    I can’t help but feel that this intern knows EXACTLY what he’s doing, but thinks he’s slick and flying under the radar. Hopefully a direct and frank conversation will help end this weird pattern of behavior

    1. Bluey*

      I was thinking the exact same thing while reading this letter. On one hand, he may, truly be inexperienced and aloof to the social and professional norms of this workplace, but on the other hand, he might be thinking that since no one has called him out for this behavior other than the HR person, that he can continue doing what he’s doing with no consequences. I personally have worked with people like this on an associate-level, and there are many people, that despite counseling and admonishment from their supervisors/managers, continue to behave this way out of entitlement, rather than sheer ignorance. Hopefully LW takes Alison’s comments and puts them into action! Frankly, the time sheet stuff should have been red flag enough to warrant a sit-down chat with this intern!

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I really hope the LW is very frank with them about how bad the food stuff looks in particular – just because as an intern there is extra room for honesty about professional norms, and so many managers out there don’t do anything about their employees that are super rude around food, lets nip this in the bud before we have yet another dude taking home an entire tray of chicken before everyone had a chance to grab seconds.

            1. STAT!*

              Brother in law story: after the office Christmas lunch one year, one guy put the leftover roast chicken in a doggie bag to take home. All fine. Except at day’s end, everyone decided to go out drinking, then clubbing. This bloke didn’t have a backpack, shopping bag, anything … he was left at the club entrance trying to check in his little roast chicken doggie parcel with a VERY unimpressed cloakroom lady.

            2. Splendid Colors*

              The “services” staffer at my apartment building was That Person, taking home food purchased for the tenants!

              In the Before Times, management sponsored occasional dinner parties (Thanksgiving for sure, maybe something in the summer or Christmas too). I don’t know if the food was really made by the staff or if they got it at a soul food caterer, but it was gooood. They typically ordered more than the RSVPs because it was served buffet style and they didn’t want to run out.

              Except they would close the buffet pretty soon after serving everyone so they could end the party on time (it was probably working hours for the staff hosting the party). Someone got in right before the end of the party because they had only got home from work and was informed that they were out of food. Except there were several unopened trays of food still in the kitchen! Which the person organizing the event took home with her (I saw her in the elevator).

              It looked to me that she wanted to bring home a lot of really tasty food for her family on the company’s dime.

              Now, it could be that she planned to donate the leftovers to a local program that accepts unopened trays of food from corporate events and distributes them at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. But most of the tenants would have qualified for programs like that and the income limits on the building mean that we all qualify for the food bank.

        1. Hollywood Handshake*

          Exactly this. To send him out into the working world without his being explicitly corrected on, maybe even fired for, his behavior is to fail to live up to an important part of taking on interns: to train them for real jobs. There is a teaching element to taking on interns, and as a manager of interns, OP, you are perfectly positioned to do something about this unacceptable behavior. Your company seems to be throwing up your hands behind this guy’s back and saying “Can you believe this guy?” But you need to explicitly express that to him. And if he doesn’t turn it around immediately, he needs to be let go, because he needs to learn that’s what happens in the real world.

        2. Candi*

          I can’t remember if it was here, but there was a story where a low-level new employee was at a work lunch in a restaurant, ordered food, ordered dessert, and boxed up half of each to take home.

          Comments were divided between “rude” and “perfectly understandable for someone on newbie’s income”.

          What this guy is doing is so far beyond that it’s not even funny -especially with the alcohol.

          1. yala*

            Would it have been as controversial if the employee hadn’t ordered dessert?

            I almost always wind up boxing a portion of a meal–they’re usually so big. But then, I also don’t do many (any) work lunches, so…

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yeah, the point was they ordered twice as much food as everyone else, and ordered dessert after not finishing their main course.

          2. Miss Muffet*

            I had an employee order a complete other meal just to take home. I almost said something but I knew she was really struggling financially and decided it wasn’t worth the few extra bucks. It still is one of the more ballsy things I’ve ever had someone do.

      2. Cj*

        I would agree that this is entitlement. Probably more than it is maliciousness. But in either case, it he needs to be called out on it.

      3. SammyJo*

        I agree, I had an inexperienced employee behave in similar ways. I felt I clearly corrected behavior as I went along, but it never seemed to stick. I then sent an email, clearly tasking him not to continue xyz abs he resigned a week later. I feel he would continue to act that way as long as he could get away with it. He asked me for a letter of recommendation, but I never replied or followed through…lol

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, and the food stuff and t-shirt stuff makes me think he’s not just a clueless innocent. Con artist? I don’t think this rises to that level, but he’s definitely shady.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          *the time card stuff plus the food stuff and t-shirt stuff, that was supposed to read.

          My brain and fingers are not in sync today.

          1. Nic*

            Yeah. I think he thinks he’s “exploiting loopholes” and “making the most of employee perks”.

            He needs to know that it isn’t clever, isn’t “victimless”, is rude, and will be very much noticed by the people considering him for permanent placement (and in future jobs, promotions).

    2. Your Local Password Resetter*

      It does seem like you’d have to be extremely clueless to pull some of these things. And certain people do like to use the plausible deniability of “I just didn’t know I was doing something bad” to try and get away with things.

      Either way, like Allison said the solution is to have a very serious talk with the intern and be on top of him after that. And explicitly tell him how much damage he’s doing with this behaviour.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        There’s clueless, and then there’s deliberately clueless. A few social gaffes or process violations are to be expected in interns. This intern seems to be deliberately doing very-wrong things and ignoring company process to, I don’t know, maybe to hit a personal best?

            1. Anonymous4*

              I don’t think he’s a con artist — I think he’s got cast-iron gall and he’s just pushing it as far as he can go. And he’s gotten quite a lot out of it! A nice steak dinner WITH drinks, a whole lot of food from a lunch at a seminar he wasn’t even at, a big stack of t-shirts, a chunk of money he didn’t earn, and all he’s gotten in pushback was a mild fingerwagging.

              YES the manager should jerk hard on the reins — but the manager also needs to temper his/her expectations. Someone who would come in on a day he wasn’t scheduled to work, barge into the lunch of a seminar he wasn’t attending, grab a lot of food, and gallop out again, is not someone who’s burdened with a sensitive soul.

              In other words, LW, get ready to fire him. You can talk to him, but I doubt it’ll make any difference.

              1. The Rafters*

                Eons ago, our CEO walked into a conference room in the building, helped himself to lunch and walked out. Even THAT was whispered about by the attendees.

              2. GammaGirl1908*

                Agree. It’s less that he’s a con artist, and more that he has a massive sense of entitlement, a lot of greed, no urge to observe social norms, and absolutely no sense of shame or embarrassment.

              3. Roy G. Biv*

                Stealing that phrase: is not someone who’s burdened with a sensitive soul. Sooooooo perfectly descriptive of a few acquaintances of mine.

      2. Sue*

        I see two possibilities, either he is on the far extreme end of clueless and unaware or he is regaling his frat (or just his own ego) with stories of all his shenanigans and basking in the glow. It certainly isn’t doing him any favors to let him carry on if he’s acting out of ignorance as his next workplace is unlikely to be so lenient.

        1. Rosie*

          yeah I’ve absolutely known people who take the “social experiment” thing as far as they possibly can and revel in revealing what they get away with with no one saying anything and this has very similar vibes

          1. Candi*

            I’ve also heard of kids who had parents who were really bad at holding boundaries -“these are the rules” but being poor at discipling in response to breaking them. Then the kids took it into the workplace. Yeah, that doesn’t go over well.

    3. ursula*

      Or he has absorbed the idea from somewhere that everybody does this kind of stuff. I’ve seen it before with students whose parents are highly successful lawyers or very senior business people, who may be in situations where this is more normalized or people are more willing to look the other way as an unwritten perk of the job. But that should not be the standard and I can guarantee it doesn’t apply to interns even in their workplaces!

      College can be a “grab all the free stuff you can” fest, so maybe I see an argument for him just not adapting his behaviour to workplace culture on the tshirts/lunch front. But by the time we get to “noncompliance with direct instructions from HR,” much less “changing timesheet and dodging questions about it,” I’m not so sure.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        It is certainly true in colleges that going to a place with free food is super common, and snagging extra freebies isn’t really frowned upon. Like you, I was willing to be like “Maaaaybe he doesn’t get it.”

        But the time card errors are about where I start raising an eyebrow. Especially when it was more than once.

        1. Annony*

          Time cards can be confusing if it is his first time using one. If he is ignoring direct and clear feedback it is very bad but if the feedback was more vague I can see how he would be able to make an honest mistake.

          1. Jaybee*

            Yeah, I am really wondering how clearly things are being explained here because it sounds a bit like the ‘doormat’ attitude might be trickling down from the top. He’s an intern, how is he being allowed to do these things repeatedly in the first place? Why is LW watching from afar with suspicion rather than laying down the law?

            1. HQB*

              OP says: These infractions happened despite HR having several talks with him about the matter. The HR lady sent me an exasperated email that he has committed more time sheet violations than all the past interns combined, and that she “simply cannot see why he doesn’t get it.”

              So it doesn’t sound like anyone else thinks the instructions were unclear, just this guy.

            2. Sasha*

              I assumed this was “an” intern, not “OP’s intern that they have direct managerial authority over”.

              I would still lean over and tell them to sort themselves out, but I’m happy to stick my oar in regardless of whether it’s wanted. Not everyone can be an interfering old bag like me.

              1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

                OP described them as “the most recent intern I’m managing” so I think there is a direct report relationship there, OP doesn’t necessarily manage all the interns but she is the ‘line manager’ of this guy.

          2. MCL*

            My spouse recently had to have multiple conversations with someone who was doing all kinds of work overtime and then just not logging it, and that person just Didn’t Get It after multiple (according to spouse) very clear conversations that doing this was 100% not okay, full stop. Given the person’s employment history, spouse speculates that doing unlogged overtime was sort of the culture of their last workplace (bummer). Sadly, this was such a persistent issue that they eventually had to be fired (I’m sure there were other issues, too). Some people just do not understand time logging and a really clear conversation is essential. And then watching them like a hawk for a while to ensure the message has been received and understood.

            1. John*

              There are many workplaces where if you don’t fudge timesheets you’ll drown.

              Places you’re expected to get work done that can’t be done in those hours but it can’t be done and you’re expected to not log more than a certain number of hours; then later you’re given more hours than you need in an unrelated way.

              A business like that can train people to do this, as the person has the choice of either failing at the job; only lying when it favors their employer and disadvantages them; working themselves into the ground (which is implicitly encouraged); or lying in both cases and trying to get it to average out fairly (which tends to be implicitly encouraged between colleagues).

              It shouldn’t be this way and is wildly messed up, but there are reasons this kind of thing develops that don’t have anything to do with the ethics of the person. And there are entire industries where this can become the norm.

              I even had an employer tell me to fudge it for them in my last week on a job I had just quit. I refused. They were *not* happy with me.

              I found out later that the person who replaced me quit two weeks later partially because they’d been asked to falsify their timesheet in the same way.

              1. John*

                And this is a large part of why I moved away from salaried, in house work in my industry. I’m not willing to play the games that are apparently necessary to survive it; and by switching how I relate to my job I can regain enough control to make the ethical choices that I need to make, without completely sacrificing myself to do so.

              2. NNN222*

                I found out after the fact that that had been the norm at my last workplace until my hiring manager started and cleaned it up. It always seemed weird to me that he harped on making sure we weren’t working past what we recorded as our ending time on our timesheets until someone explained that unpaid overtime happened a lot until a couple years before I started. If anyone tried to push back about the company not being able to afford the overtime, he’d point out that we could afford the overtime or the slightly later completion more than we could afford the potential liability issue of employees working off the clock. He was a good boss.

          3. DrunkAtAWedding*

            I can kind of see how any one of these things might be an innocent mistake, but when you look at it all together, it starts to stretch the benefit of the doubt. :/

            One or two of these were things I might have accidentally done. Specifically the steak thing. I was once taken out for drinks in a new role, and I didn’t realise our bosses were buying a round. Luckily, I said out loud that I was thinking of getting food, not just a drink, and a coworker said “I think [managers] are only paying for drinks”, which was enough of a clue for me to avoid making that mistake.

            The t-shirts thing confuses me most, because I do remember going around all the uni fairs and grabbing the freebies from each stand and so on, but you wouldn’t just grab a handful. You’d take one or two pens from each stand, not half their stock.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Can’t be that confusing since the other interns all manage it, he’s made more mistakes than all them combined.

        2. KaciHall*

          When I was in high school I worked for a medical office as a file clerk. Usually after school, and I was the one to set the alarm and lock up. So primarily I worked by myself.

          Over winter break, I worked a couple 40 hour weeks. I had absolutely no idea that lunches were off the clock. I was horrified that I had included them on my time card after the fact, but I had no idea – my only other job had provided 15-20 minute unpaid breaks for meals.

          I can’t imagine continuing to do it AFTER learning about, though.

          1. Gray Lady*

            And I’ve worked in places where you didn’t have to log out for lunches, they were just automatically deducted. It was not the kind of situation where people would be pressured into skipping lunch in any way, so that form of accounting worked for them. So that particular thing could definitely be allowed for as just not understanding how these things work.

            1. PT*

              I worked places where they made you work off the clock and they did not G.A.F what you put on your timecard, you’d be paid for (number of expected hours.) Or if you were a trainwreck with your timecard (say, you were one of those people who punched in when you were supposed to punch out, and then punched out when you were supposed to punch in, so you logged 46 hours for two 2 hour shifts,) your boss would just magically fix it for you when it came time to run payroll.

              1. Candi*

                And of course that place did not inform their workers that the Dept of Labor handles such unpaid overtime and a complaint can be filed with them, with or without a lawyer, and even after you’ve left for a short time.

                Bet the boss didn’t document the magic fixing either.


                1. PT*

                  When we had a digital system it was documented. My one boss always documented the fixes and kept copies of the staff schedule with the timesheets each week, and when I had to do them I also always did the same.

                  But it is REALLY hard when you have a staff of 15 who just don’t GAF about their timecard, or the ADP/Workday app is crashed half the week, to not end up doing manual overrides. It was terrible. And you can’t fire them all.

          2. Ellie*

            I did this with my very first job, it was a 40 hour week, and I did not realise that lunches were unpaid. I felt terrible, but in reality I just made the time up in my second week and carried on.

            I can completely understand an intern reading emails over lunch and not realising the HR issue they are causing, but he’s been told multiple times to stop it and he hasn’t. Having him leave early to avoid paying him extra probably isn’t going to be a good solution as many people would sacrifice lunch for an early minute and he likely isn’t really working over lunch. He has to stop it, or have his internship cut short.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              My job prior to the current one, there were government cobtracts and business cobtracts involved, so every hour not only had to be accounted for. it had to be accounted to the right account. So I understood why I also had to manually enter every lunch and break.

              My current workplace seems to assume you are working the hours stated on your contract unless otherwise noted explicitly, so I don’t have to type in anything. And people are conscientious about reminding you to take breaks unless making up time for a late arrival or early departure.

          3. DrunkAtAWedding*

            I can kind of see how he’d be thinking “I did a work thing, so that was work time.” Even though no one had told him to and it was just reading emails.

            I don’t want to sound like I’m encouraging employers to start sneaking bits of work into their employees freetime, and reading emails is a work task…but also, I’ve spent two minutes skimming my inbox and deleting irrelevant stuff or shoving completed stuff into a folder while on a break, and I wouldn’t consider that work. You can “read emails” in a way which is work, but in that case he needs to be waiting until he’s on the clock.

        3. Cheese Champ*

          I took a lot of freebies in college (especially when it was an event with nice cheeses), but still waited until the end of the function to really load up. So it’s plausible that this is the college “take as much as you can” mentality with a heaping spoonful of social cluelessness.

          There has to be SOME willful ignorance too though, right? It didn’t sound like he actually learned once HR pointed the issue out to him. Several talks? I suppose the HR person might not have been as direct as needed, but come on!

        4. Anon Supervisor*

          I’m curious how one could access past time cards and modify them for additional payment without a manager signing off on them. That’s weird.

          1. Candi*

            Maybe it was the sign-off step that brought it to attention.

            I can understand viewing past your past time cards, but why did he have access to change them once they’d been processed? That sounds like something you’d have to go through your manager/HR/payroll for, with forms and everything.

            I’m assuming several weeks = minimum four weeks, and an every two week paycheck.

            Although it might be small business growing pains.

          2. Anonymous4*

            We have electronic time cards, and we have access to previous time periods. Sometimes we have to make corrections. The time cards have to go to payroll on Fridays and so they’re locked by Thursday afternoon, and if you intended to work 8 hours on Friday but called in sick, you need to fix that the next week so a correction will go through the system.

        5. yala*

          Yeah, that’s the part that makes this feel more deliberate. Like shoot, maybe those other things are just cluelessness.

          But fudging time cards is something you have to actively choose to do.

          Kid needs a sit-down fast.

      2. thisgirlhere*

        This is exactly what I thought. Someone might have told him he had to count his hours if he checked email during lunch or that he should be updating his time sheets if he remembers some extra hours. If he were a true con artist, he wouldn’t be blatantly grabbing tshirts on his first day.

        1. Here for the Comments*

          I’m thinking you’re on to something here. It’s very possible that one of his colleagues is a recent graduate who is coaching him on how to get the most out of his internship, financially and freebie-wise.
          I often find interns are quite conservative or ask about things like hours and freebies until they have someone tell them it’s okay to cheat the system a little.

          1. Candi*

            It also might be a friend or family member somewhere else doing the coaching. Someone who has the sort of environment where they can get away with gaming the system.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              He’s the son of the guy who was gaming the system so he never had to work on Saturdays and pretending it was just luck when his boss asked how come!

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I think that depends very much on the intern. Those with a sense of ethics, sure. But this guy is something else.

      3. Feeling Fancy*

        I concur with the possibility of the college attitude of ‘take what you can get’, and that no one has called him on it to date. However, this is also a very immature (as in ‘I’m a middle school student with no clue’ immature) approach in a new position, as it seems that past interns have been able to understand the model provided and follow it. When I see adults do this, I often think that they are ‘cheap’ in habit as in ‘look at all the free stuff I can get’ out of any scenario they are in.
        Definitely going to need an update and I am curious if in-person conversations will curb any of the behaviour.

      4. NyaChan*

        There are definitely people like that out there and they don’t recognize that their attitude is not universal. I had a friend in my grad-level class who was doing an internship with a government agency. She would load up on free food whenever it was available and tell the rest of us about it. She was also the person who wouldn’t throw in money for tip when splitting a bill or if she owed you money, try to buy you an item of similar value and then ask to share half of it with you. When the head of the agency commented “I can tell you feel comfortable here because you always know where the free food is” she thought it was a funny story and shared it with everyone. I was mortified for her. From her perspective, why NOT take food if it is just sitting there or grab extras if no one is stopping you. Over time, people stopped wanting to be associated with her though because it was so uncomfortable and embarrassing.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          Yup, I had a colleague like this. We were of course allowed to take food at our events, but they had a habit of packing up food before anyone else had even touched it to take it home. This was not a person who did not have food at home or who was financially struggling to the point of not being able to afford meals, but it was just someone who was delighted with the idea of getting stuff and never failed to be first in line for it, no matter what it was.

        2. The OTHER Other*

          People are especially weird about free food. My old office had many team meetings and client events. For meetings with clients especially there would be catered food from the cafeteria. The number of mass emails that went out saying “don’t take food from the conference room” was astonishing. Once my team held a potluck and someone from the opposite end of the building walked by seeing free food. Not only did he take some, but he went and got a coworker to load up a plate. I was on the phone at the time but one of my colleagues called them out with a loud “what are you doing?!! This is a team pot luck!” That was the last we saw of them, but it was strange.

      5. Cascadia*

        Yea, I was thinking this screams of someone still in college or a recent grad – at least all the food and t-shirt stuff does. There is so much free food on college campuses to go to the kick off for this random club, or come to this event opening – free pizza! I had a friend who used to brag about not buying food for an entire week because he was entirely able to survive on free food he got at various events. Same with free t-shirts – scammy companies gave away free t-shirts outside my dorm if you signed up for a credit card with them, and there would be lines of people doing it. For a t-shirt! The timefraud is definitely pushing it, but all the free stuff just says to me that this is a kid who is used to having stuff given away and is very comfortable taking everything they can get, plus a bit more. Regardless of the reason though, OP should talk to him and tell him this behavior in the workplace is totally unacceptable.

      6. Ellie*

        I thought this as well – he could be the, ‘its not really stealing if companies expect you do to it’ type. Or he could be the annoying acquaintance who always forgets his wallet when its time to pay, or the type who leaves right before his round. Just an all-round jerk really.

        The ordering from the dinner menu I would personally let go, since nothing was said at the time, and he could have easily not realized that no-one else was doing that. The timesheet violations are huge though and I’m surprised you haven’t addressed them. You could easily let him go for that alone, if he doesn’t have a good explanation for that additional 6 hours, or he keeps logging time over his lunch break. The t-shirt thing is weird too, and turning up for the free food, and then not staying for the conference. I could see a hungry intern turning up for the free lunch but I’d assume anyone with any decency would at least pretend it was the conference they were interested in. This guy has no shame.

        1. Anonymous4*

          I know a young man who was raised by a doting father, and when someone offered to buy the young guy something to eat, he’d order off the top of the menu. Hey, the other person offered, and that New York strip sure did look good to him!

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I was once taken out to lunch by a university friend and her parents at a nice local pub.

            Talking to my flatmate later, he expressed surprise I had ordered one of the cheaper meals off the menu. “I wouldn’t have ordered that if somebody else was paying.”

            1. the cat's ass*

              On two occasions I’ve become friends after graduation with two of my fave teachers (Hi Elaine and Dee!) and families and joined them for a family meal at a restaurant. I always ordered last so I’d be in the same range as everyone else. To do otherwise seems entitled and rude.

          2. yala*

            Just thinking how pretty much the only time I eat in a restaurant is when my Dad (lawyer) takes us out for dinner, and even as a child I still knew better than to order off the top (and generally to check the price range other folks are ordering in)

            I was in choir in high school, and the director had a tradition of taking all the seniors out for a dinner at Ruth Chris’s (very expensive steak place) at the end of the year. He pretty much had to order for all of us because we took one look at that menu and were like “we’ll split a potato and some water.” The idea of ordering The Expensive Stuff on someone else’s dime without explicit encouragement (and even then) makes me want to crawl in a hole

        2. Splendid Colors*

          I would not ask for reimbursement for the steak off the dinner menu, but I would certainly let him know that the norm going forward is to order similar items to what your colleagues are having.

    4. Properlike*

      And that there is a long pattern of no one standing up to him or imposing consequences for this kind of behavior. That when he was in school, any time someone tried to impose a consequence, a parent would step in and say “how dare you make my kid feel bad about himself!”

      If I’m wrong about that, and this kid has absolutely suffered consequences and continues this behavior, then there is something else at work.

      I don’t understand why so many people are so hesitant to say directly, “Put back those t-shirts.” “No, you can’t be here, go home.” “This is a fireable offense so stop.” What difference does it make if he’s acting maliciously or is clueless? The solution to both is the same. Establish the expectations and the consequences for ignoring them.

      1. Ground Control*

        At first I was really annoyed with the kid, but then I was annoyed with everyone in a position of authority at his job who didn’t tell him to cut this out. One of my biggest professional pet peeves is when no one will address an issue head on so it just festers forever.

        1. SeluciaMD*

          As annoying as this intern sounds, I’m with you and Properlike. If management has been crystal clear about this stuff and it’s still happening, the intern is not clueless he’s insubordinate and you need to let him go. But if no one has explicitly said “YOU CAN NOT DO THIS THING. PERIOD.” and instead has been playing the “generally speaking, it’s not ideal to do this thing” or “we generally prefer X over Y” and hoping he’s going to get the hint, managers here need to seriously step up their management game. Part of your job when you hire interns is to teach them about workplace norms. You might allow for a little bit more room for error in these situations since the intern might be new to this information/process/way of doing things, but you don’t just keep letting it go and hoping they’ll figure it out on their own! That is dereliction of duty.

          1. The Rafters*

            I get your point, but people like this need to be told “we don’t do that here” over every single thing. I think the intern won’t stop – he’ll just stop doing that one thing, then move onto something else that anyone with a 1/2 a brain cell would know not to do.

            1. Properlike*

              Exactly. If every single action has to be relitigated from zero, this is not someone who gets to stay. It’s the same situation as an employee who “debates” every request or instruction, or who says, “You told me not to take t-shirts, but you didn’t say hats.”

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, even though the t-shirt/sweatshirt thing, to me, isn’t the work thing he did. It is the one where there seems to be very little room for misunderstanding from the outset. If someone says “take a t-shirt and a sweatshirt”, and you take 10, what are you thinking there? This to me points in the “evil genius” kinda of direction, rather than totally clueless. Also the HR said stop doing that and he didn’t thing: even if he were clueless when he first did it, he got told. So there’s some evidence of being an ass here.

        1. Littorally*

          Agreed. Other stuff I could understand as him being kind of dense and entitled, but taking a whole ton of T-shirts — that seems to me much more off-the-charts behavior. Were half the shirts ordered in his size? Seems unlikely. So he was taking stuff that wasn’t even going to fit him.

          1. Salyan*

            Well, I mean, there were probably a pile of 3 or 4 different sizes, so depending on the number of people being oriented (or it could have been the general stockpile), there probably were several in his size. Branded merchandise doesn’t tend to have a lot of custom sizes, in my experience.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, ‘If someone says “take a t-shirt and a sweatshirt”, and you take 10, what are you thinking there?’ and ‘Also the HR said stop doing that and he didn’t’

          Both of these just seem like someone who wants to take all that he can get away with, not just someone clueless.

        3. JSPA*

          Language and communication are funny things.

          “There are T-shirts and sweatshirts for every new person, take yours.”

          The person saying it believes they’ve said, “one of each.” And will say as much, if asked.

          The person hearing it would reasonably interpret it that way.

          But plenty of people don’t have a good yardstick for “reasonable.”

          1. DrunkAtAWedding*

            Like he might have been thinking “Well, I definitely don’t want to do laundry more than once a week, so…”?

        4. Ellie*

          For me the worst thing is adding 6 hours to his timesheet and then ignoring his supervisors email about it – unless he was asked to pick up a bunch of stuff for the office after hours, and only remembered it later, then that’s timesheet fraud. My bet is that he fancied leaving early one day and thought no-one would notice.

          The t-shirt thing is second though, because its so weird. There may have been a big pile of t-shirts and he may have figured there’d be spares, but taking half of them when you are clearly supposed to take 1 is entitled and rude.

      3. EnidWhatever*

        I seriously can’t believe that the only reaction to him taking all those shirts was, “Oh well, looks like other people won’t get shirts.” It really makes me wonder how LW thinks he is “managing” this guy when he can’t even tell him he needs to return the fifty extra t-shirts he took.

        1. Guin*

          I am really wondering where the grownups are in this scenario. “Bradley, this is a closed meeting. Please put the food down and leave.” “Bradley, if you do not account for your time properly each week, you will be fired.” “Bradley, you may take ONE tshirt. Put the others back.”

          1. Anonymous4*

            He grabbed the seminar’s lunch food and booked it out of there; and I expect he grabbed a big ole armload of shirts and hustled on down the hall. By the time someone realized that yes, that kid DID take half the pile, that someone probably wasn’t in a position to sprint down the hallway bellowing, “BRING THOSE BACK RIGHT NOW!”

            1. WindmillArms*

              It’s a small company, though. Surely they know who he is, or can find out? There’s no reason to shrug and never follow up to correct the misunderstanding and take back the extra shirts, for example.

            2. BatManDan*

              Every single person in the company, including the other interns, are in a position to sprint down the hallway bellowing “bring those back right now.” But, that’s just the way I’d handle it.

              1. Anonymous4*

                Oh, I would have, too! If I’d been in the room, I’d have stopped the t-shirt grab, or the seminar lunch grab, or the steak dinner with drinks. I’m appalled that LW never made it clear to this young grifter that the company is not a gravy train arranged for his convenience, and that yes, he IS expected to adhere to certain standards of behavior — or else.

                But I can also see how some people would have been shocked into speechlessness by his maneuvers, and wait for the intern’s boss to Take Effective Steps.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I remember a guy who used to come over, part of a band. My partner was friends with two other members of the band. They’d come over and eat and then play their music for hours. This one guy would systematically load his plate with about half the rice available. I had to tell him to put most of it back otherwise there wasn’t enough for everyone. After that, I decided to serve everyone instead of letting them help themselves, and I made sure to serve him last.

        We have a student who rents a room from us and she too eats a lot. I WFH and mostly like to just eat leftovers for lunch, because I don’t have time to cook in the day. At dinner, she keeps helping herself, and only asks if she can finish it once there isn’t enough for me the next day. I have tried explaining and asking her to leave enough for me, it doesn’t seem to make any difference, so now, I serve up my plate of leftovers before she even comes down, then hide it in the oven, otherwise there’s never enough left.

      5. B*

        I’m completely baffled as well. And TBH that’s how I feel reading a lot of the AAM posts. It seems like 75% of the letters involve someone at some level being too passive / insecure / whatever to directly say what the problem is and deal with the offending employee.

      1. RJ*

        I agree with this. I handled timesheet and did timesheet orientation for new employees for over twenty years at two firms. This intern just comes across as very entitled and only when he’s had a firm conversation with someone in ‘authority’ is he going to make any sort of adjustment.

    5. Lab Boss*

      We’re seeing employees becoming more and more aware of a lot of laws that companies frequently skirted in the past (things like time theft, for example). It seems to all tie in together with the rest of the factors of the “Great Resignation,” and overall it’s a good thing.

      BUT- as someone who’s spend a lot of time working with college students and recent grads, I have to agree with you that this absolutely reeks of a student who thinks they’re oh-so-clever for all these technicalities they’ve learned about and can exploit. Things like taking too much food can be chalked up to inexperience but there’s just an awful lot in this letter circulating around “oh, if I read e-mails during lunch you have to pay me for the time!”

      As Alison says, the solution is the same whether it’s on purpose or not. In case it is deliberate, though, I’d caution OP to move with caution and document both his issues and the actions taken very carefully. IF he’d willing to scheme and scam on his time card, there’s a decent chance the next brilliant plan is to try to claim some form of discrimination or unfair treatment.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Unfortunately, I have seen students like this person. IMO, it appears deliberate, and I’d also expect some type of next level escalation if they’re called on the behaviour. I’d advise patient, firm, consistent responses from OP, carefully following even the smallest regulation.

      2. Lab Boss*

        I would add to make your first steps serious, but not harsh. If this is just a clueless young person you’ll give them the chance to understand and improve rather than just bringing the hammer down. If they’ve got scams in mind, it ensures you can document how carefully you escalated without making any assumptions or jumping to conclusions.

      3. Lacey*

        Yup. I had coworkers who used to do this. A couple were college age, but the one who started it was a middle-aged mom. They would brag about how they didn’t need a whole lunch and would rather get paid (sort of condescending to those of us who did use the whole lunch) and finally someone noticed and we all got a lecture on using the whole lunch.

        1. Future Cat Lady*

          I can only imagine how that could look if some department higher up audited the timesheets. If you’re working x amount of hours per day, you must take a clocked-out lunch break and are entitled to 2 15 minute breaks during the day. If they mark less lunchtime on the timesheet, I might be concerned that a lawsuit could happen, if it’s assumed that the office is the one making them work too much. But then, if I make a mistake on my timesheet, my supervisor sends it back to me, so who knows?

        2. Middle-Aged Lady*

          I have worked with a lot of students and have seen much clueless behavior I had to correct. The ones who chiselled on their timesheets were always doing it deliberately and would come up with crazy excuses about how they thought x or y was ok to do on the clock.

          1. Anonymous4*

            “Hey, I just figured something out! If I do x or y, I’ll get more money!! Woo hoo!”

            The phrase “timecard fraud” is one that has yet to enter their vocabulary.

      4. Smithy*

        I completely agree with this.

        If this is a con, then on its face it would appear to be to just get absolutely as much money/items of value as possible during the internship. The most sophisticated version of this would be that any pushback or discipline would result in challenges to ensure he remains hired or paid while still securing a letter of recommendation.

        If this is a con or just a badly behaving intern – it’s why I just think it’s important to document and treat this as officially as possible. The headache is likely to be one of HR magnitudes with everyone just wishing this would go away, particularly for only an intern.

        1. Anonymouse*

          Good point, Smithy.
          Is there anything else of value missing from the office?
          It’s a tech company.
          Has anyone checked for missing flash drives, hard drives, monitors, mouses?
          Or downloaded proprietary software?
          Free food and free swag may simply be all that you see.

      5. Sarahhhhhhh*

        In my experience, with clocked out lunches essentially that is the employees time and the employer cannot ask them to do anything during that time. If the employee wants to check emails on their time off the clock the company might not be able to forbid them from doing so, but they shouldn’t be obligated to pay. This guy sounds like he learned of some loopholes and it trying to see what he can get away with. If his boss told him to check emails on his break, then he should be paid. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

        And adding 6 hours to a timesheet is why I had to revoke employees ability to change their time sheets at my old job. It was usually 10-15 minute adjustments, but every day that adds up to a lot in a month. Now have they have to put in a request for an edit and describe the issue (most errors are legitimate accidents and it happens)

        1. tangerineRose*

          “This guy sounds like he learned of some loopholes and it trying to see what he can get away with. ” That’s my feeling too. Maybe he can be coached so that he stops doing this, but it seems like a lack of integrity.

        2. Miss Muffet*

          And if they have to request it (and you have to do it as manager), it right there keeps them from abusing it, because they probably won’t want to ask often (so will only ask when it’s a real mistake) and you can catch patterns more easily.

    6. irene adler*

      Agree. In fact, there’s been no ‘penalty’ for each transgression (examples: added extra hours to a prior time sheet, add’l pay for meal break violation). So why not push the limits?

      1. LondonLights*

        This, definitely. Document and document again! And, if you’re still invested in training him in workplace practices, get him to document the conversations too and e-mail his summary to you.

        1. SeluciaMD*

          I very much like this idea, and I think it works well in this setting because you can frame it as a teachable moment.

      2. Cait*

        Exactly. He pushed and got away with it. He pushed a little further and got away with it. He pushed a little further and, again, got away with it. The reason he continues to behave this way is BECAUSE he’s getting away with it!

        1. Florida Fan 15*

          Some people will take as much as you let them. They aren’t going to magically wake up one day and stop. And they aren’t going to connect “I took shirts/over ordered/cheated on my timesheet” with “I didn’t get a permanent position.” You have to tell them, direct and in the moment or as soon after as possible. Same as with a little kid.

      3. EnidWhatever*

        Exactly. The intern has CORRECTLY assessed that he can do whatever he feels like with no penalty or consequences, and the manager is like, “Gee, what’s with this guy thinking he can do whatever he feels like?”

    7. Trawna*

      I so agree. The headline immediately brought to mind my recently ex’d husband. His behaviour was all on purpose with sides of entitlement and plausible deniability. There’s no reschooling these types. They only move on to their next mark.

      But, how strange of HR not to take all but one t-shirt out of his hands. Have some backbone, people!

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I can imagine if I were the HR person, being so flabbergasted as to not be able to say anything.

    8. Green great dragon*

      This sounds like an intern who knows exactly what he’s doing, and is happy to keep doing it as long as no-one stops him! I wouldn’t call it malicious, he’s just getting as much free stuff as he can, which is quite a lot since no-one seems to have done anything beyond expressing mild concern. He sounds selfish, and I don’t see why he would stop if there are no consequences beyond looking selfish.

      1. Kramerica Industries*

        Agreed – I feel like it also goes hand-in-hand with the “the worst that someone can say is ‘no'” mentality. Although the timesheet fudging pushes this closer to him knowing exactly what he can and cannot get away with in pushing the boundaries.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, definitely – I’ve worked with someone like this before. Not long out of university, young guy, absolutely was out for as much as he could get. I can totally see him just crashing on through and ordering the expensive lunch and an extra glass of wine because why not? In fact there was one year when he and a couple of others made a point of getting to the work Christmas party early so they could plough through the money the company had put behind the bar. Never mind the fact that by the time other people got there, there was only enough cash left for everyone to have one free drink each and they’d all had three. The company was paying and they were going to take full advantage.

    9. MisterForkbeard*

      I’ve had both – new engineers/interns who just have no idea that what they’re doing is rude and can’t react to social cues at all. But usually being told directly can resolve that.

      For the 2nd, I’ve been able to get them to respond by explaining that they’re harming themselves. Taking advantage of everyone and following the letter but not spirit of the rules makes them an outlier and reduces their ability to grow. No one will want to work with them, they’ll be faulted for not being team players, management will notice that they’re greedy jerks and pass them over, etc. Telling them that their “clever” behavior is causing direct consequences can really help.

      But sometimes you just get someone malicious or who knows they’re going to be gone soon and are milking it. And you can’t do anything about that – you just need to let them go. For an intern, I would consider reaching out to the school and talking to them about this student as well. The internships are usually a class, which means they need an advisor overseeing them.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I would ABSOLUTELY loop the Academic Advisor into the situation, whether the primary reason is more getting them documentation to supplement your own when you [almost inevitably, as I read things here] have to release him from his internship early, hope that the Advisor will provide some counselling on workplace norm, or even just to give the program a heads up on the situation for their own information.

        This is a very good point. And the 2nd paragraph advice is spot on for dealing with it in real time.

        1. Lora*

          THIS. Let the school know. My favorite university to get interns from has a program to prepare them for appropriate workplace behavior and I very rarely get anyone who doesn’t know how to act – and those people still aren’t nearly this bad. Either the school doesn’t have an intern-preparation program or the one they have isn’t working well.

          Unfortunately I do know some very entitled grown adults who act like this, and they are NOT food insecure or anything like that, they are just regular a-holes who are supremely confident nobody will call them on their crap. There is actually one particular conference in my field that I refuse to attend because it gets an exceptionally large fraction of such people (most of them venture capital analysts looking for the next big thing to invest in) and I just cannot deal with that many ignorant boors in one week.

    10. Aphrodite*

      Agreed. No one has talked seriously and straightforwardly to him but no one should need to talk to him about time card fraud, stealing food that isn’t his (it may be work food but do you think his family and friends let him steal their food at holiday dinners and such?), and outright theft of company swag (is he selling it?) because we all tend to learn limits on these things in our social/private lives.

      I disagree more than agree with Alison; he does know what he is doing and he is arrogant enough to believe he can get away with it. (And so far he’s right.) In my opinion, he needs a very serious talking to and then he needs to immediately fired. And without a reference.

      1. Meep*

        Is he actually committing timecard fraud, though? It sounds like he is doing the work. He is just working over the allotted hours. Maybe it is just my own highly toxic work environment, but I spent my first two years working through lunch because my boss wouldn’t let me take a lunch break and working on the weekends to get things done because she would pile work on top of me. I was, sadly, “encouraged” not to put in hours by my boss because it would only “send the message I was willing to work overtime.” (She wanted to hide the fact I was working overtime at all.) It is possible that he did work those extra six hours and just missed it until much later. I would like OP to consider if this person is really being deceitful or if he is the first one who admitted he was working overtime to give into requests.

        As for arrogant, I do agree with that one. However, as a woman in engineering with a more WASP-Y background than my fellow engineers, I also notice I put too much importance on manners. I may see it as faux paus to load up your place with food before anyone else had firsts, but I have learned that I am really the only one. It has actually irked me when coworkers (including the affirmentioned boss above) do exactly what he does and take food in the middle of a meeting not meant for him because it is free food (and often disrupting the meeting in the process). However, again, I was raised with (often rigid) manners that include cutting one piece of meat and chewing until cutting another. It could just be a simple fact of entitled, arrogant brat syndrome.

        Point is, I could easily see him being arrogant and entitled, but rather than doing it on purpose doing it because he doesn’t know any better. Hell, I cannot even get a 60-year-old woman to have basic manners and stop stealing my stuff. For all her toxicity and manipulation in work matters, the one thing I believe is she is just as clueless as a rake when it comes to her sense of entitlement. She just feels the world “owes” her and acts accordingly.

        1. Tara*

          I really feel, based on the pattern of behaviour outlined, that he is literally scrolling through his email, not doing any productive tasks, so that he can say that he is “working” and get paid for the extra time. It sounds like some BS life hack he’s seen online or something.

          1. DrunkAtAWedding*

            I agree, and I suspect he saw that tip sometime after submitting his first pay sheet and thought “hang on, I should log those lunches as worktime as well”, and that’s why he went back and changed it. The “why did you do that?” email sounds like some of the most direct pushback he may have gotten, so maybe it was enough to tell him that trying to go back in time wouldn’t work.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “During the first week of his internship, the HR lady invited him to take a T-shirt and sweatshirt as part of onboarding. He ended up taking nearly half of the shirts in the pile, causing a lot of other employees to miss out.” How does he take half the shirts when clearly invited to take a T-shirt and sweatshirt? This seems straightforward to me.

    11. Artemesia*

      Yeah I thought Alison was far to ‘understanding’ here. Repeated time sheet violations? If that is explained to him the first time then he is not naive the second. This is someone who needed to be fired a few weeks ago.

      1. The Starsong Princess*

        The problem with people like this is people keep hinting at them. They don’t get the hint so everyone hints harder and then gets annoyed. I had an associate who did the most expensive thing on the menu plus a dessert to take home! She came from a disadvantaged background and didn’t understand the nuances that were second nature to the middle class. For this intern, I would be very cautious about assuming malice when he hasn’t been directly told. I would be very direct with him and provide coaching first.

    12. Meep*

      I have met enough clueless people in my lifetime to not rule out general bad manners for half and entitlement for the other half. Then again, what do I know? I just got my mug back after two years from someone who stole it from my desk, clearly used during a global pandemic, because she liked the design. Didn’t matter she had a mug exactly like it already.

    13. Aphra*

      I’m clearly a lot less charitable than Alison! I, too, have worked with people like this intern, some at entry level and others well into what should be professional careers. The first time one of the 40-somethings said when challenged ‘no one told me I could only take one/ I had to do such-a-thing’ I remember being wrong-footed because their behaviour was so out of kilter with workplace norms, it was hard to believe they’d never had their behaviour addressed before. The first one I dealt with was known to say ‘no one told me…’ about pretty much any change to her routine work, whether she was told, along with other attendees at a meeting or told in a one-to-one followed by a detailed email. All while telling anyone who’d listen how good she was at her job. The second, far worse one demanded written policies should cover every conceivable eventuality and if something wasn’t specifically covered in a policy, her opinion was that it couldn’t be enforced. I mean we didn’t have a policy that specifically covered being punched in the throat by your manager, so that means I can do it, right? Both took up a hugely disproportionate amount of management time and neither were worth the effort in the end.

      Honestly, LW will do a favour to managers for the next forty years if they tackle this behaviour now.

      1. PT*

        I worked somewhere public facing and we had a lot of these malicious “No one said I couldn’t types.” We had a list of basic rules for, say, our llama barn. Like, “Riding boots and a helmet must be worn in the barn, do not hit the llamas to make them go faster.”

        And then someone would show up wearing a Speedo, riding boots, and a helmet, and lay their infant on the ground right next to two llamas where it might get trampled, and when a staff member came along and said “I am sorry you cannot do that, it is unsafe,” the person would start screaming “IT’S NOT POSTED IN THE RULES THAT I CAN’T DO THAT!” so we ended up having to amend the rules every time someone pulled this.

        “No swim attire in the llama barn, you must wear sturdy riding clothes. Humans must use the bathroom, they cannot urinate or defecate in the llama barn. No babies in the llama barn. No using the manure pile as a picnic table.” etc etc.

        1. OftenOblivious*

          Our dorm rooms had to have a specific “You can’t store your bicycle in the bathroom” rule.

          1. Summer Day*

            Yes alas… our work bathroom has a sign… please don’t stand on the toilet seat… and a recent addition, please flush the toilet… the mind boggles but there you go. It does feel like we need to spell out social norms and office étiqueté more now than 20 years ago. Maybe we’ve all spent too much time at home in the past two years. However…. I would love to know how someone discovered that someone was standing on the toilet seat… footprints? Looking under the door?… No one knows who put it up… or why it was even necessary in the first place…

            1. WindmillArms*

              I’d bet someone broke a toilet by standing on it. Maybe they slipped or jumped while standing up on it, and had to admit what happened to someone.

              1. PT*

                This I actually get! If you have a lot of employees or customers who are immigrants from countries where squat toilets are the norm, you will end up with people attempting to use a sitting toilet as a squat toilet, and Facilities will find this out when a toilet gets broken.

          2. Spoo*

            My condo rules had “no horses on patios”. Our patios were maybe 4 feet by 6 feet. To this day I wonder about the story there

            1. Bagpuss*

              Possibly boilerplate if they had other locations with larger patios? or a previous resident with a minature horse.

        2. Properlike*

          A professor friend has a 12-page syllabus due to the guy who thought it was okay to sponge bathe in the middle of lecture.

    14. Anonymous Hippo*

      I would tend to agree. I’ve known clueless people, and clueless doesn’t usually default to “get mine, screw everyone else”, which is where this intern seems to have landed. It seems unlikely a conversation will help, but once you have a frank conversation, and he keeps behaving like an entitled jerk, then he can be let go with a clear conscience.

    15. Susan1*

      Agreed. I’m an internship coordinator and even I believe that this is completely outside what is acceptable and he should be removed. He’s gotten enough chances already. He needs a life lesson.

    16. Panhandlerann*

      I agree. I taught college students (in many instances, first-generation college students) for many years, and this smells to me like a case where the intern knows what he’s doing.

    17. Anon Supervisor*

      Yeah, don’t let that timecard thing fly without an explanation from him. He’s counting on you to be nice.

    18. Emotional Support Care’n*

      Maybe banking on the social contract and the idea that nobody will call him out because they expect him to “not know any better”?

      My mom was like that about my adult stepsister and her husband (my BIL). They both are socially inept, but they actively manipulate people in order to get away with poor behavior. My mother is a rug-sweeper and passive aggressive. She’d rather have four people “model good behavior” AT people performatively rather than just say “you can’t take 7 helpings of mashed potatoes in one go for yourself when there’s 10 people to be served”.

    19. matcha123*

      I agree with this. Others have sent in stories or written posts about grown coworkers who show up to potlucks with their families, grab at anything free, etc.
      They really need to sit him down for a talk or remove him from the internship. Placing an order for an expensive meal really makes me think he sees the company as having endless resources.

      1. Anonymous4*

        Well, I don’t know that he sees the company as having endless resources — I don’t expect that he ever considered the company’s boundaries. I think he saw that he could get a free steak dinner with drinks just by ordering it.

    20. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I would dump him now, if I were in charge. Maybe give him the lecture, and then send him flying if he demonstrates he doesn’t care.

  2. LF*

    Totally is doing this on purpose and it definitely feels malicious. These are not just bad manners, he’s pushing boundaries because nobody has ever told him no or had him face consequences. Fire him.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah this feels like weaponized incompetence to me. This is so far beyond *any* social norms that it really looks like someone who’s using everyone’s benefit of the doubt to get his.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I don’t think that this is weaponized incompetence – he’s not showing incompetence, he’s showing greed and a tendency to lie. Nothing in the letter indicated to me that he’s pretending he doesn’t know how to do a task in order to shove it onto another intern.

      1. Radio girl*

        Every place I ever worked had a policy that timesheet fraud was an offense that got one fired immediately. A non-exempt employee working through lunch would get one warning before being fired. Since the company has not terminated the intern so far, they have not done themselves any favor, because, to all the other employees, it appears that the company is favoring this person.
        The intern needs to be told that the next infraction will get him terminated, the conversation adocumented and acknowledged by both parties, and then follow through.
        If he somehow makes to the end of the internship period, stamp a big “Do Not Rehire” on his employee record. I’d be tempted to prepare a truthful reference concerning his shenanigans if you can somehow avoid it coming back to bite you in a court.

      2. Cj*

        I’m not sure if he actually falsified his time sheet. Somebody could have told him he couldn’t even be checking e-mails without being punched it, so he went back and added time from a prior week when he worked during lunch. Something like this should have been communicated to the OP, though, when they asked why he changed it.

        Continuing to work through lunch after HR told him not to is out of bounds, but it’s not falsifying his time card if he actually did work through lunch.

        1. Ellie*

          6 hours across a 5 day week is an hour and 12 minutes a day extra. This seems an unlikely amount of time for lunch. I’d be very surprised if an intern was being sent enough emails to fill that amount of time as well. Possibly he was reading one or two emails which means he legally had to be paid for the whole thing, but that extra 6 hours is still suspect.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, I don’t think he’s a “con artist” exactly, but he definitely thinks he’s above consequences for some reason. I can forgive showing up at a meeting just for the food, or working through lunch once or twice, as not understanding workplace expectations and norms. But taking half the shirts, ordering a $50 steak, and continuing to ignore HR telling him to stop doing something? He just thinks he can do whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter what people think of him. Time for a serious chat about how it’s a small world and the people he interacts with now are going to be his peers and coworkers and references for his whole career, so he needs to build a good reputation.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Well he seems to be right so far that there are no consequences. I’m not sure it’s even that he thinks he’s above consequences, more just happy to take advantage as long as he can. I don’t see why he would stop until someone comes up with some consequences that bite (which might be the threat of firing/bad reference, or might be a firm ‘you will not do that’).

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, true. I just look at this situation and think “in five years he’ll be applying for a job where one of his peers is on the hiring committee, and he won’t even get an interview” but I guess that’s mid-career perspective talking. Definitely time for a come-to-jesus meeting with this intern!

      2. bowl of petunias*

        Yeah, I know I made some clueless mistakes in my first job. I got sick and stayed home until I *really* felt better, not until I was capable of working despite being a bit tired. I made a joke that landed badly. I overshared personal stuff with my manager one time. I was well meaning but finding my feet and awkward in a way that makes me squirm now. But helping himself to half the shirts is beyond clueless – in that instance he has to be aware that he’s taking so much that others won’t get anything at all. Some people are plain bad at either noticing or caring how others are impacted, but he at least needs to hear that he’s creating a terrible impression that will have consequences. A lot of people get away with crossing a great many boundaries because we don’t really have a script for what to do when someone does that, so we end up doing nothing.

    3. LunaLena*

      I don’t know about malicious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the intern doesn’t think it’s a big deal because “Big Boss/Company can afford it, so why not?” Like “Company is rich, surely it won’t be a big deal for me to get paid an extra $100” or “Big Boss makes the big bucks, I bet $50 for a steak is nothing to them, so why not?” It’s certainly extremely entitled and rude and intentional, but it’s not necessarily malicious. It’s more like people who write to Bill Gates asking for money to fix their roof because it’s not like Bill Gates will miss the money, and they might as well give it a shot, right?

      1. Tara*

        Yeah, this feels like a more extreme version of people who would drink the bar dry at events where companies would invite students to their offices, and not realise that it was not the way to get the job. Or worse, those who would keep doing that at events when they worked at the place. They didn’t realise that it wasn’t about getting absolutely everything you could, or that, even though it’s a big company, taking more than your share would mean others went without. I wouldn’t be surprised if potentially the intern has friends interning at bigger companies who are getting more free stuff / a steak at lunch being expected and is projecting those “norms” (still AH/odd moves to make, but probably more common / harder to notice).

        1. Anonymous4*

          I don’t know of any company that would provide interns with steaks for lunch. Burgers, sure — say, once a month. Maybe even once a week. But not steaks.

      2. fueled by coffee*

        Yeah, this is where I think I fall for some of this stuff: certainly the steaks and T-shirts, possibly also working through lunch. For someone new to the workforce, “the company is buying us lunch” might not compute as “the company has a $400 budget to buy lunch for 15 people, and I need to be mindful of that when I order” (or whatever).

        But after being corrected about the timesheets, he should have fixed his behavior and STOPPED, and going back in to log an additional 6 hours on the timesheet and then not responding when his supervisor asked for clarification goes above and beyond “the company can afford it.”

        So all in all, I think this is a mix of cluelessness about budgets/norms and deliberate timesheet shenanigans.

    4. The OTHER Other*

      Yeah, reading the letter I found myself wondering why no one is saying anything to him or managing him, and after the umpteenth violation wondering why he hasn’t been fired. Honestly, why are people so afraid of confrontation that they let jerks like this continue to run roughshod over everyone? Stop being a mute doormat and tell people to stop, or else. And if they don’t shape up, fire them. This is an intern in a 12 week program, it’s not as though he has needed skills or brings in sales the business needs to survive, or is “in a union so we can’t fire him”.

      Honestly, this guy falsified his time sheet (retroactively!) and OP and HR are both just throwing up their hands? What does an intern need to do to get fired at this place, have a knife fight in the break room?

      1. pancakes*

        It’s kind of wild, yeah. The idea that an awkward question about your timesheet will be dropped if you pass on answering it once is a really bad lesson to teach an intern!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I am wondering why people don’t recognize blatant stealing here. Why is this even tolerated in one instance?

      3. OP*

        The founders of this company have fired exactly 1 person in the 9 year history.

        That person was caught smoking in the bathroom multiple times. He was also falsifying his Time Sheet by 15-20 hours every week, for several months. When caught, he was gently admonished about it. He continued falsifying his Time Sheet, but by smaller amounts (10-12 hours per week) and was praised for showing improvement, and encouraged to “continue moving in the right direction.”

        He was given a more serious warning when his Time Sheet falsification continued, and one final chance when he was caught with cigarettes in the bathroom again. When he was finally terminated, the President, CTO and COO felt so bad about firing him, they gave this person 2 months of severance and continued meeting with him on weekends to help him job-search

        1. OP*

          There’s definitely a very strong culture of being the “cool boss” in this company. It works great with 95% of employees, who are honest, hardworking, and have self-respect. Unfortunately, the occasional bad apple can really screw things up.

          1. Anonymous4*

            He was falsifying his timesheet for 10 hours a week, and they – were – okay – with – that??

            Holy chit! Man, I need to get a job at this place — I’ll be able to load some moving vans with all the furniture and equipment one weekend, and when everyone shows up on Monday and starts yelling that everything’s gone, I’ll be able to be The Big Hero and shout, “It’s all right, I have a friend who sells used office equipment, I’ll give him a ring,” and sell the company’s stuff back to them at exorbitant prices.

            1. OP*

              Of course, they weren’t thrilled that he was still inflating his Time Sheet by 10-12 hours per week. Their perspective was that he was improving from where he was at, and people can’t change themselves overnight. They were confident that he would continue to improve, and that with a few more months of coaching and encouragement, he would soon reach the point that he wasn’t falsifying his Time Sheet at all.

              1. Batgirl*

                I would speak to the school for their take, over your bosses then. Then go to your bosses saying you’d be doing him a huge disservice by treating this like a gentle infraction.

    5. Press here for service*

      Worked at… let’s say a local radio station with a person like this. Not an intern though, and he was in ad sales. Boss liked him, everyone else saw him for the con-artist he was. The thing that got him fired was stealing company letterhead to make fake letters (pre email/fax) to get free stuff from advertisers in the guise of radio competitions.

      The intern in this case knows exactly what they are doing I am sure.

  3. MoocherSpotter*

    I don’t think he’s clueless at all. He’s a moocher. He needs to be fired. You’re acting like “maybe he just doesn’t know” but he knows damn well what he’s doing. Who the hell shows up on a day they’re not supposed to work just to grab free food? A moocher, that’s who. He doesn’t deserve this spot.

    1. Name Goes Here*

      Sure, but is “being a moocher” a fireable offense, especially for an intern? Mooching food is hardly the worst thing on this list, and esp. if he’s a recent college grad, he could be in need of free food or at the very least accustomed to being able to show up and take free food a la a college event.

      The time card violation is more serious, and I could see that being an immediate firing offense. But firing an intern for “mooching food” without even a conversation is not a good boss move.

      1. TypityTypeType*

        Showing up on days he’s not even scheduled to work and barging into meetings to shovel up food that’s been brought in for other people seems well beyond the bounds of ordinary student/co-worker mooching to me. And the armload of shirts was just theft, and he should have been stopped when it happened.

        It’s remarkable to me that no one has put a stop to this person’s antics. If nobody has ever told him no before, it’s about time he found out what that’s like.

        1. Name Goes Here*

          I mean, I’m not arguing that it’s great –– it definitely needs to be addressed –– but it’s plausible college or just-post-college student cluelessness. An immediate firing without any discussion would feel over the top, a little heavy-handed.

          In contrast, the time card problems have been 1) documented and 2) communicated to the intern; it is also 3) actual fraud, beyond just social rudeness; and so an immediate firing, though not the only possible choice, is clearly justified and appropriate.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Apart from the time sheets, any of the incidents on their own could easily be just cluelessness. But all of them together is a pattern, and not a good one.

            1. JustSomeone*

              It’s definitely a pattern, and definitely not a good one. But I really do think there is a strong chance that the pattern is just a bunch of ways this person is demonstrating their lack of understanding of professional norms.

              Showing up specifically for free food is absolutely a thing among college kids. The tee shirt incident seemed more egregious to me, but then I thought about how career fairs often load students down with swag. (“Want a shirt? Want 2? How about more?”) Of course he should have asked first, but I can see how it might feel perfectly normal within a certain context. With regard to the restaurant meal, that is not something people “just know,” and if nobody ever told him to keep his choices in line with others’, he really can’t be expected to be aware if that convention—not to mention that some workplaces would be totally fine with splurge ordering, while others have a culture where it’s Just Not Done.

              His time cards…it’s possible he is deliberately fudging things, but it seems more likely to me that he wants/needs the money so he has decided to work through lunch. Changing the old time sheet fits with that—if he realized that he’s legally supposed to be paid for all time worked, then amending it does make sense. None of this makes it ok for him to charge more hours than agreed upon, but someone really needs to sit down with him and tell him that he’s absolutely not authorized to go over X hours per week. I would want to be very careful about that messaging; it needs to be clear that he is forbidden to work more then that, not just that he can’t get paid for more hours than that.

          2. Gumby*

            it’s plausible college or just-post-college student cluelessness

            Ehn, even in college moochers know to wait until after the meeting is finished to come gather like vultures around the remains… I mean leftovers. You either go and sit through the meeting / presentation / whatever if it was an open invitation or wait until the invited participants finish their gathering if it was a closed meeting. You **might** be able to slip in at the end of an event during the clear schmoozing time to grab a bite, but not right in the middle of a meeting. This is basic college-student knowledge.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Yeah, as a former grad student my reaction was “did he grab the food AFTER the meeting? Because that’s a college thing.”
              I once ate random cake someone had left in the med school/science building hallway, and arrived at my class to tell them where the cake was. My teacher was like “have you ever thought about how weird it is that grad students will eat random food left in hallways?”. I mean… I was poor and hungry, and there was cake!

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Depends on the college student. I was Hall Council President of my dorm one year, and the main thing I did when planning events to keep the budget under control was to always trickle the food out a little at a time for the entire event duration, because otherwise people would grab ridiculous amounts of food and disappear with it since they saw we “had plenty” at the beginning of a multi-hour drop-in event. (Switching from ordering a giant stack of pizzas to take-and-bake pizzas that emerged from the oven 2 at a time every 20 minutes or so meant people only took a couple of slices at a time and maybe ate them in the lounge while waiting for the next pizza rather than grabbing an entire box of pizza and disappearing, for example…) I once had a student discover where I’d hid the extra boxes of candy bars for ‘smores in the fireplace night and try to carry off an entire Costco-sized box of candy bars back to her room “for later”…

              In our particular school’s case, there was also an extremely adversarial relationship between the students and the outside company that ran the cafeteria, so a certain attitude about stealing food emerged into the school culture from that even when it wasn’t cafeteria food. (I remember so many acts of ridiculous petty revenge a wide range of students undertook against the cafeteria, but also many times when the cafeteria policies screwed me over and I had to go to class hungry as a result. I think half of it was that the idea of limiting food is deeply weird to people who always lived at home before and were mostly middle to upper class rather than food insecure. Food was always just…there. And now someone is putting a bunch of rules on it and many of them are petty, and you’re required to buy a meal plan from the people making the inflexible rules that they’d never have if they had to compete for business with other establishments, so the stage is set for extremely stupid behavior on all sides. One guy I knew deliberately stuffed his used silverware down the air vents after every meal in the cafeteria just because they’d cracked down on sneaking food out and he was determined to somehow cost them more money than they saved in the process.)

              1. Anonymous4*

                Did he know that his silverware maneuver didn’t hurt the catering company at all? That it was the university who had to deal with the trash in the air system?

          3. Typing All The Time*

            The thing is with the time cards, the false documentation should have stopped right there.

        2. Lacey*

          Yeah, I’ve known people who took more than their share of food, but this is beyond. None of that food was for him. Of course he knew that he wasn’t meant to take a whole stack of shirts.

          But it’s wild that he wasn’t given a very stern talking to when those things happened!

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        Being an ongoing moocher who ignored direct conversations about what behavior needs to stop, yes.

        Unfortunately, because this company hasn’t done anything, the next violation is basically back to strike one.

    2. Allornone*

      And the restaurant thing, holy crap. I remember the parents of my best friend in middle school taking us out to breakfast after a sleepover one morning. They didn’t have a lot of money, so I really appreciated them taking me (even if they did make me go to church afterward. I am not church-going folk). When they all ordered the same thing (nearly the least expensive thing on the menu), I instinctively followed suit. Even at eleven, I couldn’t imagine spitting on someone’s generosity by taking advantage of it. When in doubt, you follow the lead of those around you. It shouldn’t need to be taught.

      Still the falsifying of the timesheets. Yep, he should have been fired for that.

      1. MisterForkbeard*

        What always amazes me is that some people really don’t understand the restaurant thing. I was the same way – very careful about that. But some people have no emotional or empathetic intelligence and it honestly just doesn’t occur to them AT ALL to even think about it unless they’re explicitly told to.

        The timesheets thing (on its own) would have been worth a talking to, but not fireable. Except that he didn’t respond to questions about it. THAT is when someone should have sat him down in person and gone through it, so he couldn’t ignore the question. And if he answers unsatisfactorily then he’s gone.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          The restaurant thing is the most understandable to me. Young people might have to have it explicitly spelled out. The free food grabbing is very college intern. The T shirt thing is annoying and the time sheet issues are a one warning and then firing situation.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Yeah, in isolation, the restaurant thing by itself could just be someone who’s a little oblivious, particularly if they grew up in a family where money wasn’t a concern and so when you go out to eat, you just order whatever looks good and cost isn’t a factor. I think it’s the combination with the other stuff that’s the real issue, since it’s clearly part of a pattern rather than an isolated incident.

        2. Artemesia*

          the first time sheet issue is a cause for instruction and the first working through lunch as well — the second time he did the same thing, he should have been dismissed.

          I’d be interested to know his background. I taught elite young men from wealthy families — some of whom you know the names of –politicians kids, children of CEOs etc etc and there was the occasional true jerk among them whom I can imagine behaving like this because F U. (most of course were just fine). I’d have a little more patience for someone from a decidedly impoverished background who truly is clueless — but still they should have been clued in by the intern manager the first time there were time sheet issues and mooching issues. Hard to imagine it getting this far.

            1. Artemesia*

              What I would have guessed. I have known many like this; why has he been allowed to repeatedly violate time sheet rules and not been reined in on the mooching behavior?

            2. Pikachu*

              I don’t get the issue with the steak. If the company is buying, I’m going to eat what I want. Others can feel guilty about it or call it rude, but it’s a business expense and it’s not my job to manage the CEO’s treat budget. If they don’t want to buy $50 steaks for interns, don’t offer free meals from a $50 steak restaurant.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                You *can* eat what you want if they don’t stop you – but you have to be willing to accept the consequences that come from that.

                Ordering from the middle of the menu and following the hosts when it comes to alcohol/dessert/appetizers (unless explicitly told so) is a very basic standard of etiquette when it comes to being treated to a meal, socially or professionally. If you break it socially, you quite likely won’t get invited out again (or will only be taken to a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol and where the most expensive thing on the menu is no more than $20). If you do it professionally, it can harm your professional development. Someone who gleefully orders the most expensive thing on the menu and doubles down on it isn’t a good candidate to be granted independence or responsibility or asked to represent the company (also, they’ll go over your expense reports with a fine toothed comb).

                If you think those consequences are worth it for a one time $50 steak, though, go for it!

              2. Observer*

                The steak was from the dinner menu not lunch- the intern had to go out of his way to order an expensive item not on the lunch menu.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                This is not a way to distinguish yourself from others. “he’s the guy who had by far the most expensive meal”. Not cool.

              4. londonedit*

                It’s not about the money, it’s about how it looks. If the CEO and senior staff are ordering from the lunch menu, there’s a clear expectation that people are going to order from the lunch menu. It’s extremely gauche for the most junior member of staff – an intern, not even a permanent staff member – to crash in and order an expensive steak and an extra glass of wine. It’s about reading the room and behaving in a manner that fits with what everyone else is doing.

                1. Allornone*

                  Reading the room is especially important as an intern, as learning professional norms is a major reason they are there in the first place.

            3. Nanani*

              Nobody was shocked.

              This is privileged entitlement of the always-shielded-from-consequences type.

              Time to drop a brick of reality on him.

        3. Chief Bottle Washer*

          I remember specifically being taught by my parents how to handle the restaurant thing, i.e. order in a similar pattern/price range as your hosts. Maybe I would have figured that out on my own, but I’m sure glad they taught me how to handle it. I can surely understand how this might not come up for some kids until they start working if they had a different upbringing or less opportunity.

      2. Lacey*

        Yes, my family didn’t have a lot of money for a chunk of my childhood so I would always order something very cheap when friend’s family’s were taking me out. They’d say, “Order whatever you want!” but I instinctively felt there was a secret limit and I was terrified of going over it.

        1. Allornone*

          I still am! Maybe that’s why I fixated on that portion. My boyfriend will purposely not tell me what he’s ordering at restaurants, because he knows I’ll use his answer as a price gauge and order something of equal or lesser expense. If I’m paying for all of it, I’m more relaxed, but even when we’re splitting the check, I still don’t want my meal being the most expensive at the table. I may have some issues…

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            I also try to avoid having the most expensive thing of anyone. I feel like if that happens, then I’ve missed a social cue: the other person/people understood the occasion to be X level of fanciness, but I misread it as X+1. Same with being the only person to order dessert, or the only one to order alcohol. I’d feel like I had misinterpreted it as a dessert occasion when it “actually” wasn’t.

          2. Properlike*

            Same. Some habits never go away. Now that I’m in a position where I have more resources, so I’ll order a couple extra things “for the table” as my friend’s dad did when he took us out for a fancy dinner in college.

        2. Heffalump*

          I have no clear memories of being told, “Order whatever you want!” in this sort of situation as a child. I doubt that I was ever told that and took it literally, or I would have caught hell about it after the fact.

          You deserve credit for doing the right thing, given that you knew it was the right thing. I can’t say at a distance whether you deserve credit for knowing it was the right thing.

      3. Smithy*

        In the US (and many countries), I do agree that this is a very traditional norm.

        But like all assumed norms that don’t include explicit statements, they’re not all encompassing. Socially this can be irritating, but in workplaces I think there’s a greater demand to not expect those norms to be universal. Especially among interns.

        I grew up similarly in terms of ordering modestly, especially when you knew someone was paying. I was in one such business meeting taking this approach, and was reproached (by the person paying) that neither one of us way actually paying and he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his meal unless I ordered more lavishly. (In this case I ordered first…so made my best guess) So there are always opportunities to get these things wrong, adjust and learn.

        1. Middle-Aged Lady*

          It is polite for the host to make it clear. As in “they have good chicken and beer here. we all usually get a lunch and one drink” OR “this place has great lobster and even though I’m allergic and will be having the chicken, I want you to enjoy! Be sure to save room for dessert!”

        2. Ariaflame*

          There’s a fun scene in Tampopo (A japanese film basically that is a love letter to food) where the junior person did order very different to everyone else, but I don’t know if more expensive. Search for Tampopo French Restaurant on youtube to find it.

          1. Heffalump*

            Tampopo would be one of my 20 movies for a desert island. In the scene you mention, all the senior guys aren’t just ordering items in the same price range. They all order exactly the same item, and they’re clearly discomfited, for whatever reason, by the whole process of ordering. The junior guy gets into a discussion with the waiter, in which he shows that he’s clearly knowledgeable about food and wine. From the little I know of Japanese culture, I suspect that for a junior person to show up the senior people in this manner is a serious no-no, regardless of the price of the meal. My date for this movie was a woman who was just back from a year teaching English in Japan, and we had an interesting discussion. She didn’t disagree with my take on the guy’s behavior.

            I’ve read that in Japanese culture, it’s considered manly for a man not to be very concerned with food. A salaryman in a restaurant will often wave the menu aside and say, “Just bring me anything.”

      4. LuvsA Laff*

        Trying to instill this in my son. So he isn’t that employee or friend. I think he may be on the spectrum so its very hard (having a hard time getting him evaluated). We were out to dinner twice over a month’s time period and I noticed he ordered the most expensive thing on the menu both times. The first time I didn’t say anything as we were celebrating something. I did discuss it with him later. Not as an admonishment but more I am glad we were celebrating X because what you ordered wasn’t a normal Saturday night dinner. The second time I told him no choose something else when he told me what he wanted from the menu. Took some explaining later ( this is why I think he is slightly on the spectrum) that it wasn’t a personal slight. Trying to teach him to take his cue from others at the table and consider is it just dinner or are we celebrating before ordering the most expensive thing on the menu.

        1. Artemesia*

          The middle of the menu rule is the norm in social situations when someone else is paying. And it is an easy rule to follow. I have worked with high functioning mentally disabled teens being prepared to live in the community and that was one of the things they are taught.

        2. Smithy*

          I have a friend who’s partner has some special needs and was also raised in a family that essentially viewed all meals at restaurants as celebrations. Not necessarily about getting the most expensive items, but if you were at a restaurant you’d get a “good” bottle of wine, you’d get the dishes the restaurant was known for or ingredients hard to come by. Sometimes that meant getting things like freshly baked bread and fruit/vegetables with a very short season – but in practice it usually translates to pricier items.

          You combine that family experience with not reading social cues brilliantly, and sometimes you just have to say “we’re trying to keep tonight cheaper – if you want to drink, it’s by the glass and let’s not do shared appetizers.” It feels awkward and blunt, but it’s a social situation where we all now know it’s needed to not lead to hurt feelings and confusion. And certainly, having been on both ends of that experience (saying that directly and also quietly huffing and puffing about splitting a check higher than I wanted because of my friend’s partner) – if you’re at work, you really can not expect it’s a norm everyone will just know. If you want everyone to order off the lunch menu, say so.

        3. Middle-Aged Lady*

          Here is a buffet tip. My spouse didn’t know what you could load up on or what was expensive or rare and would get a huge chunk of something like Brie or caviar at receptions. Instead of his learning about all
          These foods, here is the rule: If it’s in a small Container, take a little. If it’s piled up in a bowl, you can take a lot. He is an engineer so for smaller groups he has learned to think that there is one quart of this item and there are 4 ppl, so his share is 1 cup. That kind of mental portioning out of a treat that’s offered is easy for many of us to do on the fly, but hard for him.

      5. MCL*

        The restaurant thing is hard for me to judge because many people truly do not have any experience with this to guide their actions.

      6. KGD*

        One time my parents took my stepsister’s new boyfriend out for dinner and we all ordered pasta or something else middle-of-the-menu (as we always did, for financial reasons and because we’re a big family) and this guy ordered an appetizer just for him, a steak, and specifically requested a finger bowl. It was super cringey. My parents were not impressed and my little brothers did pretentious-guy-using-finger-bowl impressions for ages… He was only 17 and a nice enough guy though. I think he was just trying to look like he knew how to act at a restaurant? I do think that following the lead of those around you is one of those rules that needs to be explicitly taught.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I agree. I think that one thing or one time is clueless. He’s grabbing for whatever he can get. I guarantee if anyone else had all those timesheet “errors” they’d face stiffer consequences than “don’t do that again”. So manage him – do what needs to be done to rein him in and put him on notice and if he messes up again, end his internship. An intern doesn’t get a free pass to do whatever. Honestly, things like timesheet fraud could get your company in a lot of trouble so that needs to be squashed hard. Document everything. Don’t let him skate. Watch him like a hawk on projects. I bet that if he’s skirting time sheet rules, he’s doing other sketchy things. I’d work to get him out the door.

    4. Elenna*

      I mean, that was one of the ones that seemed more “maybe he’s just clueless” to me, because in university it’s completely normal for students to show up to events just for the free food. I could definitely see him just not realizing that it looks a lot worse in a work context.
      The repeated lunch violations are worse for me, because he’s been specifically told not to do it multiple times. But in general this feels to me like he knows he’s getting as much free stuff as he can, and he’s probably aware that he’s pushing the boundaries, but he doesn’t realize quite how far he is from professional norms.

      1. Elenna*

        *maybe he doesn’t realize quite how far he is from professional norms.

        It’s certainly also possible that he’s perfectly aware and doesn’t care.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          This is… definitely a thing. I have no official data on this, but I have worked in higher education for a significant portion of my career and there seems to be a real change in the behavior of students. It isn’t correlated to any particular thing about the student, but in recent years we have dealt with many more students who know they aren’t doing the right thing and their main focus is to get away with it. They actively get angry when you try to place any kind of boundaries or expectations on them.

          At first, many of my colleagues thought it was due to student age, since our program was getting some younger applicants than normal, but there is no factor I can tell you that these students have in common. Additionally, the people who have observed this behavior and remarked on it as strange also run the gamut of ages and backgrounds. It is just a group of people who are way less concerned about hiding their bad behavior and there are more of them than we have ever dealt with. They complain about having to do work to receive a grade in a class; some have even been outraged that they could not receive a passing grade for classes they never attended (and never did any work for).

          I know it sounds unbelievable, and like it must be a case of “kids today” and I’m just too unaware to see it, but it isn’t everyone! It just seems that something fell away in the last few years and people who used to try to maintain a facade of playing by the rules no longer feel the need to maintain the facade. Most people are still doing the right thing by far, but the ones who don’t seem like the intern in the letter… not at all interested in pretending that they are going to do anything but what they are going to do.

          1. Yeah.*

            Umm, gee, could it perhaps be the example of the last administration, in which people did whatever they wanted against the rules and got away with it? Everyone else has been following suit since, not just college students.

            1. tessa*

              It’s not like this behavior began in 2016. Many students seem to think that tuition should grant them a passing grade; by no means is that a new phenomenon.

              1. Ariaflame*

                Not new, but it does seem to be more common. I’ve definitely had people say ‘I paid for this degree’ and the answer is , no, you paid for the opportunity to learn enough to earn this degree. Whether you do is up to you.

                And I’ve had some students who fail and keep wanting to get extra credit to try and get them over the line of a pass.

                1. Properlike*

                  That’s a function of K-12 not wanting anyone to fail, so at the end of each semester teachers are “encouraged” to “give the students a chance” to “pass.” A lot of paper in one week that equals the minimum passing grade.

                  What’s different (and great) about college teaching is you can say, “Here’s how you can get an A in this class: Build a time machine, go back to the first day, and do the opposite of what you did this semester.”

              2. MsSolo (UK)*

                I mean, there’s a certain argument to be made that when you start charging such high fees for education, and encourage people to think of a degree as a commodity they’re purchasing (and insisting capitalism and the free market mean the price must be fair!) you’re definitely going to see people trying to find ways to get their money’s worth, with expectations that they’re going to get what they perceived they’ve paid for. When you frame it as a lifetime of debt for *access* to education (and often with much larger classes taught by lower level staff, poorer infrastructure, and less access to resources than you got 30 years ago), I think it’s natural that there’s going to be more resentment amongst a student body, that is manifesting as entitlement.

            2. HigherEdAdminista*

              That certainly could have accelerated it! But it was ramping up even before then… though I suppose that individual did not come out of nowhere either so it makes sense.

          2. Sasha Blause*

            I don’t find it unbelievable at all. Look around at the world, at the bad behavior our betters are constantly getting away with. Why should rules of social behavior be only for us commoners?

            1. Sasha Blause*

              I should add that I stifle my worse impulses, because I’m not an animal ffs, but I very much understand.

          3. aunttora*

            Right. “If I got away with it, then it was an acceptable thing to do”. No independent analysis of the appropriateness, just a calculation about whether or not they’ll get away with it. And I also completely blame the Last Administration, and people of his ilk that have hijacked the culture in the last years.

    5. Anon Supervisor*

      Yeah, I’m not sure why the leaders in this company are wringing their hands and what-iffing themselves to death. Just tell the guy to knock it off or he’s going to get dismissed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I am kind of dismayed with the leadership here.
        If someone is doing something the company does not want them to do, then the answer is to tell the offender NO.
        It does not have to be a harsh message. “Here at Widgets R Us, we are limited to [taking one shirt, ordering moderately priced food, not doctoring our time card without looping in the supervisor or whatever the case may be].

        Because there have been repeat offenses and because no one else seems to come close to this outrageous behavior I can only conclude this guy knows exactly what he is doing and it is deliberate. There are times where it is okay to believe what you are seeing.

      2. OP*

        Hello! I am the OP of this thread. To be honest, I am quite new at being a manager. The previous 3 interns that I managed were very low-maintenance and didn’t have any of these issues, so my coaching and mentorship towards them was 100% work-related. My expectation at the start of the most recent internship, was that I would be teaching him how to do the work and helping him develop technical skills, instead of acting as a police officer.

        In fact, the current intern actually has a higher GPA and test scores than the previous 3 interns. I was expecting a drama-free semester focused on learning and developing technical skills. Unfortunately, I was wholly unprepared for what is currently happening, and never thought that I’d have to deal with issues of this sort.

        1. lazuli*

          Weird stuff comes up all the time when you’re managing that seems ridiculously petty but that you need to address. It may be helpful to think of addressing this with this intern as good low-stakes practice. The more you can practice being matter-of-fact and straightforward, and the more you can address issues fairly early, the easier it’ll get — so you’ll be super prepared in the future to address the stuff that has you thinking, “OMG, people, you’re working professionals, can you please act like adults???”

        2. Spoo*

          Internships aren’t just for teaching technical skills. They’re for teaching kids used to a school environment where they’re always told what to do how to navigate a world where they are expected to follow certain norms. But if no one tells them these things then some will get them but some won’t.

          1. Cake or Death?*

            Well, I could see how this intern having higher GPA and test scores than the other interns might be viewed as someone who works really hard (like, “wow, 3.9 GPA in this program, they must have worked their bum off!”).

            1. Properlike*

              Or, “Made his professors’ lives hell by plagiarizing/arguing/demanding grade recalculations that they (or the administration) decided it was not worth the time and gave him an A.”

              I have to agree that I’d be in the phone with the academic advisor asking, “Tell me more about this guy.” First, because I’d be so curious if he does this everywhere.

              Second, because a student acting like this can do serious damage to the school’s relationship with the company. They may yank him themselves if you’re willing to document. But you need to *document* and maintain boundaries.

            2. pancakes*

              The idea that everyone who gets good grades works really hard for them is simply not accurate. Likewise performing well on tests.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                It is of course not a 100% perfect indicator, but when you’re hiring it’s one of few points of data that you have to work with and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that it would impact their initial expectations.

              2. Anon Supervisor*

                I got good grades in High School without working very hard and had a semi-rude awakening that I would have to actually study for tests when I was in college. I wouldn’t say I worked my butt off for them, but I did put in effort, so I get why leaders might put some stock in GPA when working with interns (especially if their resume is pretty light). It’s not hard to extrapolate that someone who got good grades in college have good writing and critical thinking skills. I agree it shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all as there are certainly very smart people that just don’t test very well, or just take longer to master a subject.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Also, he’s committed more than enough offenses for somebody to have taken him task. Why hasn’t this been done?

    7. Princesss Sparklepony*

      Yes, that is the perfect word to describe this. A moocher. I haven’t used that word in years and it’s a very good word.

  4. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I wonder if he picked up some bad habits in another workplace, like if someplace had a lot of free food, promotional T-shirts, etc for the taking, or nobody pushed back on incorrect timecards.

      1. irene adler*

        I was just going to say that!
        In my first job, I had a friend who ‘coached’ me that I should ask management every 6 weeks for a raise. And never, never let up. Just hammer away at them always!
        That really wasn’t my style. So I never did this. But sheesh! the bad advice some people dole out!

      2. EPLawyer*

        That’s what I am wondering. This person got told “oh this free stuff is all around, just take it. No one cares. If the Big Boss orders lunch show how cool you are by ordering something really expensive.” “Show them they can’t push you around, make sure you put EVERY SECOND you even think about work on your timesheet.”

        For the emails over lunch I think he got really really really bad advice about how you show how dedicated you are by working through lunch. HR telling him to stop just shows they don’t want him to succeed.

        He might be the first person in his family with a white collar job and so doesn’t really know the norms. With no one to tell him.

        Part of an internship is learning work norms. Including unlearning all the TERRIBLE advice you have been given. Of course, they have to be willinig to work on this. If after the talk he is not willing, then cut him loose. but you have to do more than just go “well our other interns got it, he’s different so he must be trying to scam us.”

        1. OP*

          I’m the OP of this thread. This intern is a 21 year-old white male from a middle-upper class background. His parents both have very successful careers.

        2. Penny Parker*

          It is insulting to people who are not white collar that you would think this type of rude behaviour would be the norm for them.

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          The norms for not reading emails during lunch are specifically *hourly* norms rather than general white collar norms. I grew up with a dad whose job involved being on call because he was the one who could fix certain things about the mainframe. This was definitely a white collar job, but the idea that work happened only during specific scheduled hours and not also randomly during whatever else happened in your life would not have occurred to me if someone hadn’t explained it in my first hourly job. I grew up watching dad let his dinner get cold and walk out of movies (in the theater, on the weekend) because his pager went off, and knowing that I’d miss the rest of that movie too if he had to actually dial in to the system from home (or worse yet, drive in to the building where the computers were) rather than just troubleshoot it from the payphone in the theater lobby.

          I think a lot of salaried people catch up on emails during lunch. I know I often do, because I deliberately schedule an entire hour in my work calendar as “busy” for lunch rather than a half hour every day, and if my day goes sideways that’s the only time until after 5 that I’ll have to try to get my inbox under control between meetings. If the interns are some of the few hourly rather than salaried employees, he may be confused as to why everyone else is on their computers during lunch but it’s wrong for him to be. This is something that can (and should) be explained, but is an artifact of our wage laws rather than something inherently obvious to everyone.

    1. Velocipastor*

      This thought crossed my mind too. My first professional job was very much what you described. Throw in elaborate dinners where the highest-ranking person there would order $300 seafood towers for the table and put it on the company tab, to boot! I could definitely see some of our past interns leaving with the wrong idea of business norms/manners. The company I work for now has a travel per diem that maxes out at the cost of a single meal I would have ordered at Old Job without batting an eye. But New Job also pays a lot better since they aren’t buying so many oysters.

  5. Sue Wilson*

    He’s more an opportunist than a con artist imo. It’s likely if you actually stopped him, that is to say you monitored him closely or actually said “hey, don’t do that” he would probably not do it, but as long as there are zero consequences he will continue because a lot of people aren’t motivated by reputation, just immediacy. That said, I don’t think he’s ignorant at all about the time sheets.

    1. MsClaw*

      Yep. He’s not a con artist. He’s just an *sshole who is going to keep pushing because no one is pushing back.

      I see this a lot with people who completely ignore the social compact; then people who aren’t dirtbags are too polite or stunned to call them on their shit. Like in the case of him grabbing the shirts, no one was like ‘Dude? Not cool’ or ‘hey, what do you think you’re doing?!’ or even much more generously ‘Intern, you clearly misunderstood. You need to bring back the other 15 shirts by Friday’. Likewise him barging into meetings he wasn’t involved in and grabbing food.

      The timecard thing though? It needs to be clearly explained to him verbally and again in writing about what the rules are, that he has violated them multiple times, and that the next violation will result in immediate termination.

    2. Smithy*

      I like this distinction, because ultimately I think this intern is just trying to get as much of monetary value as he can as opposed to anything more sophisticated.

      I used to work somewhere that required a lot of branded clothing/accessories for a team that was ultimately shut down. After that staff was let go, all other staff was encouraged to take as much clothing/gear as we wanted. HR did oversee the initial “giving of stuff” with an idea that new employee swag bags could be given with remaining stuff. Ultimately however, there was just so much stuff we’d often get emails encouraging staff to take more, and this went on for months. After the initial rush, the most popular item longer term were umbrellas if it started raining during the day and you didn’t have one.

      Over six months after the initial and follow up emails of “please take stuff”, some C-Suite staff thought it would be nice to put together swag bags for a meeting and at that point the stuff left included larger quantities of undesirable items. The anger and yelling that followed about the selfish staff who had picked clean the most desirable items and left nothing left for busier staff was ridiculous.

      For those of us who did end up with 6-7 umbrellas cause we stopped having an emergency office umbrella – there was hardly any con, but it was opportunistic. I am certainly happy to defend my actions and say there weren’t the same as that intern, but I can also admit there was an element of opportunism. Even if more mild.

    3. Madtown Maven*

      Question: why aren’t time records locked/considered closed after a payroll is processed? Why was he paid for hours he added AFTER the pay period was closed? Seems like no one should be able to add time to an already paid period. Retro adjustments can be made by noting them on the current time card.

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        Yeah, I wondered this too. If you notice that you’re hours are wrong for a past time period, a manager should be signing off on that (at least it is at my company…and it’s a paper form, you can’t just go in and edit it).

      2. Dust Bunny*


        I had a coworker who routinely padded her timecard–we clock in and out through a website–by not clocking out until her husband arrived to pick her up. She was technically “checking email”, but we don’t get that many emails so this basically meant re-reading the scant handful of very short emails she might have gotten that day so she could say she was “working”. Our boss would take her to task and she’s stop, but then start doing it again. I think he had to write her up for it to stop for good. She definitely knew better.

        She and I are not at supervisor level so we can’t alter our timecards ourselves–our supervisors or HR have to do it for us, so we can’t change anything without having to explain ourselves.

    4. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I agree with this. Is he pushing a bit hard? Maybe. But also, it doesn’t sound like anyone at this company has actually told him no. They stand there and watch while he takes more than his share of T-shirts, or food he’s not supposed to have. He’s not being deceptive about it the way a con artist would. He’s not making an elaborate story about how he knows homeless people who need shirts or he needs food for his family, he’s just walking in and taking them while his superiors give no indication that he’s doing anything wrong.

      Does he know he’s pushing the envelope? Possibly. But he’s getting so little pushback that I could see him innocently thinking that he’s not doing anything wrong.

      The timesheets thing is a different story, since it seems like he’s gotten some direction there that he’s disregarding. But OP, as his manager, should be doing more than sending an email that gets ignored. And if there’s more training required, HR should be on it.

  6. Zelda*

    I wonder if this intern has financial troubles or food insecurity? Could he be working though lunch because he can’t afford to eat? Something to keep in mind in structuring comments.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      I’m usually the first on this train, but there’s something about ordering a $50 steak when everyone else is ordering $17 meals that feels… out of sync from what I’ve experienced being friends with folks who deal with food insecurity. It’s true that poverty and trauma can do wonky things to your brain, but I’ve genuinely only seen that behavior (ordering the most expensive item on the menu when someone else is paying) from entitled, financially well-off men.

      1. irene adler*

        Agree. I’d order what would result in the largest amount of leftovers so that I could stretch this into two meals (at the price point everyone else was ordering at).

      2. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

        Also, I would bet money that he ordered high end liquor to go along with his $50 steak instead of the usual beer/wine that most reasonable people go with at work functions.

      3. doreen*

        I’ve seen it from people who weren’t well-off- but they weren’t food insecure either. They were just plain cheapskates/mooches – one went on a trip, had a free hotel room* , shared the room with someone and expected the roommate to give him half the theoretical price of the room ( he was exposed when the roommate saw the bill that was slipped under the door first)

        * It was a group trip and it was a “book ten rooms, get one free” deal. He apparently arranged to be the person booking the rooms so he could keep the free one rather than dividing the total price by ten.

      4. Wintermute*

        That’s how it parses to me. There’s usually a tremendous degree of value sensitivity you learn, if he ordered cheaper items but in a strategic way to get a truly massive amount of filling food, or rib-stickers that fill you up long periods that might read as “accustomed to having to camel it”, but not this.

    2. Eye roll*

      Work is not a replacement for food though. He’s not even really “working” through lunch. He’s insisting on continuing to check his emails, so he can put them on his timesheet and get OT every day. If he didn’t want to sit around not eating, the solution is the read a magazine, surf the internet on his phone, or take a walk. Not violate instructions from HR to squeeze extra hours out of work.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          He hasn’t. That’s the point. If he had approval for OT, then it wouldn’t be a problem that he had extra hours. I don’t really understand what you’re going for with this comment.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I didn’t think he really had approval. But if he doesn’t have approval, then why is this OT not being squashed/denied. That could be part of OP’s list of reasons to fire.

            1. doreen*

              Assuming the OP is in the US, FLSA requires that non-exempt employees be paid for whatever hours they work, whether they are approved or not. You can discipline or fire someone for working unapproved overtime, but you have to pay them for it – unless you have reason to believe they didn’t actually work.

            2. Bex*

              Once the OT has been worked, it is illegal not to pay it. The consequence for not getting approval can’t be that you don’t get paid for your time (if non-exempt, v which I assume all interns are).

            3. Jaybee*

              You can’t deny overtime after it’s been worked, that’s not how it works. But I do agree that it makes no sense why LW/whoever is responsible for managing this intern hasn’t stepped in sooner to take more direct action on this lunch issue. HR can’t manage him from afar, if he still ‘doesn’t get it’ it’s time to take action as the manager he reports to.

            4. Not So NewReader*

              Any place I worked people got one warning about unauthorized OT. The second instance of unauthorized OT meant dismissal for stealing.

            5. NeutralJanet*

              If he’s just taking it without approval, it can’t be “denied”, per se. They could fire him, sure, or they could send him home early so that he doesn’t actually get overtime pay, but they can’t not pay him the overtime.

      1. Melinie*

        “Work is not a replacement for food though.” Working through lunch = OT pay = more money = more money for food. Hypothetically.

    3. e271828*

      IF you have food insecurity, how this situation works is, you order the big pasta thing and a salad or soup starter, and you can take home most of the pasta because, you say, wasting food is bad and the soup was so filling! And maybe you even get some extra breadsticks in the leftover box! This guy doesn’t have food insecurity.

      1. Omnivalent*

        This. If he had food insecurity, the complaint would be that the intern ordered a huge plate of food and stuffed most of it plus the entire bread basket into a takeaway box for later, not that he ordered a $50 steak and two drinks.

        It really shows who’s been food insecure and who just thinks it’s a cute reason for playing devil’s advocate, eh?

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          Indeed. A friend who was food insecure would also take any leftover crackers and jelly in a basket etc. And was super-cautious not to impose on those around them so they would be invited again, etc.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          As someone from a middle-middle class background, whose mother grew up legit poor- yeah, I still ask if I can order something expensive when out with my parents for big holiday meals. At a work function paid for by someone else? NEVER.

          1. Wintermute*

            EXACTLY. I grew up poor and once when the big boss was buying McDonalds I actually insisted on paying for my own muffin because I wasn’t going to be the one that ordered a combo AND a muffin when no one else ordered an extra baked good. I know for a fact they wouldn’t have cared about the extra 1.29, and we were well, well under our per diem, but, it just was ingrained into me to make sure you were never the most, never the most visible never the most expensive, so you wouldn’t alienate that person in case you needed to lean on them in the future.

            THAT is what real-life reactions to poverty look like, most typically.

            1. matcha123*

              Grew up poor and completely agree.
              I’m happy that more people are trying to understand different perspectives, but being poor, surviving, and surviving around upper-middle class people is a very specific dance.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this is when I switch to water-only and a half-order of something. I’d die of mortification if I ordered something pricey on my boss’ or organization’s dime.

        3. FridayFriyay*

          Agreed. A lot of these comments are from people who have never been food insecure and it shows.

        4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          And even as a person who generally came from enough money for food, but was temporarily in kind of a mess as a teen working a temp job for little money while living in a hotel in a state I shouldn’t have even been in (looong story, the short version is that 18 year olds sometimes make poor decisions in matters of the heart, and if they’re very lucky their parents can step in to help drive them back home again once it all falls apart), that turned into things like “turning the free bread, jam, and peanut butter in the breakroom that you’ve been invited to partake in into several pbj sandwiches rather than just making breakfast toast as intended” not “woo! steak time!” The impulse to maximize food to eat when someone else is buying rarely leads you to the most expensive thing available, just the most filling one, or what you think you might be able to eat a lot of without people noticing specifically. (One of the other temps was busted for sneaking into a conference room to make personal long-distance calls instead of working on my very first day there. They were willing to overlook my bonus pbjs since I actually did my job to the best of my ability while eating them, and they knew I was bouncing from hotel to hotel while trying to find an apartment to rent so I know I was cut a great deal of slack on the monetary-adjacent social graces. They even asked my agency if I needed a pass for their gym showers! This whole situation was such a mess.)

      2. Lacey*

        Absolutely. When I was young and poor I ordered things that could make three meals. Not something that could only ever be considered one, but was very expensive.

    4. anonymouse*

      yeah to me this read more as potential financial troubles and food insecurity + maybe an intern who was approaching it more as they’re gonna milk this for all it’s worth, eff this internship. it reminded me of an ex who worked in tech but was bitter about not having a lot of the advantages that his peers had so any time he had a chance to take advantage of the system, he did.

    5. NYC Taxi*

      I think this guy is modeling behavior he learned at home. When I had food insecurity in my teens and twenties I would have ordered the most filling carb meal and get a few meals out of it. At my lowest I went into our office kitchen after someone threw out the uneaten leftover food from a lunch meeting, and picked out all the viable sandwiches. I was embarrassed and certainly would not have drawn attention to myself ordering an expensive steak.

    6. Myrin*

      This comes up every time a letter in a similar vein is posted and whenever an OP comments or updates, it never turns out to be the case. By all means, don’t go in all guns blazing and immediately starting to verbally rip him to shreds, but there’s a reason he’s coming across like an entitled moocher to the majority of the commentariat (and, to a different degree [“con artist”] to the OP, who is by far the one best positioned to assess this).

    7. tamarack & fireweed*

      This is not how anyone behaves that I know who is genuinely insecure about food, clothing and shelter.

    8. Batgirl*

      It’s just far more likely that this is someone who *doesn’t* think about money, which means that he has it.

  7. Storie*

    I’ve had a very similar intern before and it was fascinating to see what they got away with. I always think they probably went on to get great jobs and ascend to better positions and get away with it all along the way. Because the world…

    1. Kim*

      I also had a similar intern . I had forgotten about him until I saw this article. I just looked him up on Linkedin and sure enough he lied about his title as a summer intern. He states he was a “manager” and that he held the job for a year and a half rather than one summer. He is apparently rising through the ranks in finance if you believe his resume. He was a rich entitled kid with a lousy GPA in an easy major. He got the internship through family connections and I never interviewed him.

      1. Artemesia*

        I used to find it frustrating that lazy not bright young men could get a haircut, put on a fancy suit and get fabulous jobs easily while my brightest most effective young women students would struggle to get a foot on the management or finance ladder. And sons of the rich and famous — a red carpet all the way.

  8. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    For a 12 week internship that already has this many issues, my vote is to just cut bait immediately (fire him). Trying to coach him through the issues runs a real risk of him being able to drag it out and run out the clock, which is going to dilute any consequence or wake-up call.

    The misrepresentation without explanation on the time card is universal enough if you don’t want to enumerate the more subjective lapses in judgment.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Right? There has been some coaching with the timecard issues in particular, but if he’s having more time card sketchiness than every other intern combined? That’s more trouble than it’s worth. Fire him and let him get his credit at some other company’s expense.

  9. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Everyone is jumping on the “mooches” bad wagon and that’s probably the most likely explanation. But it’s possible the intern (who’s still in college) is one of many college students who suffer from food insecurity. Maybe lunchtime meetings are the only food he gets that day.

    Or he’s from a lower income background and hasn’t been taught the “norms” of business – not that it’s necessarily this firm’s job to be his parent but it would be a good thing to teach work norms to interns. That’s part of having interns. And requiring everyone to know already workplace etiquette is defacto classist and penalizes people from poorer backgrounds and POC.

    1. Really?*

      There’s s certain level of entitlement in the letter that doesnt scream food insecurity or “I dont know how to act.”
      -Ordering a $50 Rib Eye and two non alcholic beverages doesnt scream food insecurity. It speaks volumes of “ordering the most expensive meal because someone else is paying.”
      -Taking half a pile of t-shirts and sweatshirts is so college behavior.
      -Falsifying timesheets without explanation isnt a POC/dont know how to act behavior. That’s law breaking behavior and he’s of a socioeconomic class where established norms and ethics dont apply because he’s above it.

      I really wish the commentators on this site would stop using POC/Dont know how to act/social buzzword here for bad behavior. It’s rude, embarrassing, and really white knighting.

      a male POC who came from a low income family but never did any of these things.

      1. Nopetopus*

        Agreed! I grew up incredibly poor and food insecure, and I would never ever think that this was acceptable behavior.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Agreed! Not a POC, but raised in a working class household in a working class neighborhood. Everyone I grew up with would be horrified by that behavior. It’s rude when it’s not illegal.

          And show me someone raised by a wage earner who doesn’t understand how overtime & timecards/sheets work.

          1. matcha123*

            Co-sign to you both. It’s insulting that people believe being poor means you act a fool.
            I grew up around upper-middle class people and it was *THOSE* people who put their foolishness on display because they knew they would suffer zero consequences.

          2. Gamer Girl*

            Same here, and co-signing both comments.

            I was raised by honest, hardworking folk, who would be absolutely shocked by this guy’s greedy, entitled behavior. That’s what he is. Someone who is genuinely food insecure or needs clothes is probably going to take even less, in my experience, so that they “don’t look poor.” Or, if a bunch of t-shirts are left at the end of the event, might ask for *one* extra.

            People who grew up having to pinch pennies are extra careful with how they spend other people’s money because they know the value of a dollar!

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. You don’t order alcohol when you’re worried about what you’ll eat that day. That’s entitlement. I would not be surprised if he’s actually from a better off than average family and just used to getting whatever he wants.

      3. bluephone*

        Word. Some of these comments feel much like “oh these poors. They don’t know how to act, bless their hearts” [condescending head pats].

      4. Artemesia*

        And if you did it once e.g. some time sheet stuff gets rationalized when people don’t know what a big deal it is, and someone told you to stop, you would stop.

        The difference between inexperienced and jerk/con is the inexperienced learns when corrected. I was incredibly socially inexperienced and naive when I entered the workforce (although a white woman) and I learned a lot by watching and occasionally by someone clueing me in. I still remember some of my missteps 60 years later but I learned.

        This letter has the whiff of entitled young man from a wealthy background not a poor kid who doesn’t know the ropes whether a white dude or a POC.

        1. fueled by coffee*

          Yep. My first post-college job had semi-flex hours (we were strictly scheduled for ~36 hours a week, and then had to work 4 additional hours but had some wiggle room with arriving or leaving a little early/late). We had a designation on our timesheets for “working lunches,” and some of my fellow new hires and I used to work through lunch, mark it as a “working lunch,” and then clock out 30 minutes early.

          Our manager told us to cut it out, because “working lunch” actually meant “occasional lunch meeting,” not “felt like going home early five days a week.” So we… stopped. Because we needed to be employed in order to make rent/buy food, and breaking timesheet rules is an easy way to no longer be employed!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Taking clues. It’s great that you mentioned this. I was thinking at how hard I worked at taking clues from others when I first joined the work force. And then there was the worry, “what if I copy the wrong person???” omg.

          This individual is doing ZERO to try to take clues from others. He’s not trying to fit in, not trying to figure out norms or anything. He’s not even worried about picking the wrong choice, he does not respond to people and he does not ask questions. He just assumes everything there is his to have.

      5. Lacey*

        Yes, I would also add that we’ve seen letters that show how people actually act when they’re young and poor – they try to hide it! They don’t grab 10 red flags and wave them around.

      6. lunchtime caller*

        thank you for saying this! There can definitely be a tone in the comment section like this that I think is coming from a good place but lands in “these poor brown people come from savage cultures [aka another country, or just a few streets down in a less desirable neighborhood] where they cannot possibly be expected to know our civilized ways, don’t judge them” even when there’s zero evidence for that.

        1. Typing All The Time*

          Exactly. I know of some people who push boundaries (not out of meanness but thinking they can get something for free or to their benefit). Some are tolerated, others have been told no and they sulk. Others are just given what they want until they become shamed.

    2. Nonprofit Lifer*

      This is what I was coming to say. Before you decide if he’s malicious or clueless, see what you know of his background? He could be over-privileged, as some others have speculated, or he could be very under-privileged and really not get that what he’s doing isn’t normal.

      If you’re used to next-to-nothing working at a “swanky” company could give you the idea that they’re rolling in money so the perks of working there are for everyone. If you’re never used to eating at a “fancy” restaurant, you might well not get that there’s an etiquette to ordering off the middle of the menu when someone else is paying and might seize your chance to eat something really awesome just that once. You might assume the company is paying and so it doesn’t matter that much.

      Is he from a different culture? Other countries have corporate practices that are very different and he could totally not understand how badly he’s coming off.

      Again, if he’s a rich boy from the suburbs… yeah, he should know better. But if he’s the first person in his family to work in a white-color workspace he could legitimately not get the difference between normal office perks and taking advantage.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Sigh … entitlement, and never being held to account … unfortunately, that’s a familiar pattern. OP: Clear expectations, patiently but firmly stated, and be prepared for pushback.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Zero percent surprised. I get people wanting to assume positive intent, however it seems those suggesting food insecurity or Ana otherwise disadvantaged person, don’t actually know people from those backgrounds.

      2. BJP*

        Thanks for this detail. I was considering whether the intern came from an international background, or a cultural background in which white collar / professional norms were perhaps not common. Perhaps the intern was behaving based on bad advice from someone who didn’t have this kind of workplace experience.

        And based on your update…. no. Give him a firm talking-to about how these sorts of practices are not acceptable, how they reflect poorly on him, how they decrease the likelihood that he will get hired on or get a good reference. IMO he’s probably entitled, but I think you have to treat it as a “teachable moment” and then amp up the managing if it continues, including ending his time in the program. Consequences!

      3. Homebody*

        That makes sense to me. I train a lot of entry-level engineers and interns and this reads to me as a “look how clever I am getting away with this” behavior, not someone who is trying to make ends meet.

        In my experience, calling them out directly about their behavior and/or roping in their boss will usually solve the problem. “Put the extra clothes back, you have to save those for the other interns.” “When you took all that food in front of the founders, you made X impression. Moving forward, please order from this price point going out to eat.” For work related stuff, I find talking about why the decisions they are making are not the best and how they should approach things in the future is the best. Most people are grateful for the advice and improve when given input. But you won’t know until you give him direction, discipline, and actionable feedback.

        If he’s not receptive, he’ll make it clear and you can let him go. But you won’t know until somebody actually does something.

        Good luck with those interns OP. The kids these days are smart, but boy do they have lots of gumption!

      4. Lacey*

        Yeah, that’s definitely what it sounded like. Like other commenters have said, not a con-artist, but definitely a mooch.

      5. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Whelp, there goes the thought in the back of my head that these are things I could see someone who wasn’t familiar with white collar office expectations doing (all together they’re certainly a lot, but as separate items they’re somewhat understandable). Dude is entitled with bad manners and definitely needs a stern discussion about what is acceptable in your office.

      6. Nonprofit Lifer*

        OK, yeah, he’s a moocher. Nobody who’s ever gone out to eat with their parents at a restaurant that had steaks at the high end of the menu hasn’t heard someone tell them they can’t order that just because it’s there.

        I like to not assume everyone has the same background and understands the same rules… but you don’t get to college from that background without at least some idea of what’s acceptable.

        I do agree that sitting him down for a talk is a good idea before firing. After all, an internship is there for them to learn. But I do think some sort of a “what were you thinking?” question should be put to him. Maybe that will prompt some introspection.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      You know, hearing that a person is repeatedly disobeying instructions of HR and ignoring emails from his boss and saying, “Aha, he is probably not white!” is still racist even if you’re saying it in a sympathetic tone.

      1. Important Moi*

        It is late. I opted not to comment earlier. OP confirmed what I thought the employee would be. There seems to be hesitancy or a blind spot.

    4. Omnivalent*

      Another classist, racist trope is looking at bad behavior and saying the person who did it is just too poor and brown to know any better.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      Eh, I’m not reading class here. I’ve been the poorest person in an office and I was insecure and doing my best to blend in, not to have attention drawn to myself. In particular, the steak incident seems like someone who at best is clueless and at worst is someone trying to game the system.

      I’d be letting him on the repeated time sheet violations. If you want to give him another chance, then you should sit down with him and go over the more egregious offenses.

    6. All the words*

      Sorry but the repeated time sheet falsification really nullifies this idea that his behavior is because he’s from an underprivileged background. Unless you’re saying underprivileged people don’t know the difference between truth and a lie.

      I’m from an underprivileged background and I knew from day one on my first job that falsifying my timecard would earn me a perp walk to the door. I’m guessing I’m not unusual in this. I’ve also been food insecure and managed to know that one doesn’t order prime rib on the company dime unless higher ups were strongly encouraging it (not that it ever happened).

      What I’m seeing looks like very entitled behavior from someone with the belief that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.

      1. JustSomeone*

        Except there’s no indication that the intern lied about his time sheet, just that he logged more hours than he was authorized to.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          He added six hours to an old timecard that had already been approved without asking anyone or answering his boss when she asked why–it might not be an out and out lie, but it’s sketchy at best.

        2. RagingADHD*

          And he didn’t reply to the query about those hours because….why?

          You think he suddenly forgot how email works?

    7. HolidayAmoeba*

      This doesn’t hold water for a lot of reasons. If someone is food insecure, they usually try not to being attention to the issue, not show up on their day off and grab food. They also don’t go out of their way to order expensive food and alcohol on their employers dime. They definitely don’t repeatedly do things that will bring them to the attention of HR repeatedly because they are not going to risk their income for a couple extra hours on the clock.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Food insecurity was my first thought about showing up to the conference for lunch–but it would not be a reason for ordering a $50 steak or for taking more company-branded tee shirts than one person could possible need.

    8. tessa*

      “Or he’s from a lower income background and hasn’t been taught the ‘norms’ of business”


      Huh? I’m from a lower income background and my parents were damn good at teaching my brother and me workplace norms.

    9. RagingADHD*

      Can I just repeat louder for everyone in the back how offensive and classist it is to automatically equate rudeness, trampling social norms, and illegal behavior like time card fraud with “but maybe he’s poor” or “but maybe he’s a POC”? Or, as I suspect got deleted upthread as inappropriate diagnosing, “maybe he’s not neurotypical.”

      It’s condescending and frankly insulting to assume that poverty, race, or ND status are automatically a contributing factor to bad behavior. And it feeds incredibly harmful biases against those very groups as being inherently untrustworthy or not “ready” for polite society or for certain types of jobs.

      And as OP clarified, it also happens to be wrong.

      1. Important Moi*

        + 100000!!!! Thank you. I am so offended. I can barely articulate it. You nailed it.

        We know who is always considered “ready” for polite society or for certain types of jobs.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        ND here: Believe me, we’re very anxious to NOT stand out. Hogging the t-shirts is not how one accomplishes that.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          As an autistic person, I had to consciously learn that sometimes you’re allowed to take more than one thing, because in school and such, the rule was pretty much always “one per person”.

          1. OP*

            I am the OP of this thread. I have several family members who are on the spectrum, and while I cannot generalize my experiences to every neurodivergent individual, I do have quite a bit of exposure.

            That said, I am 99.99999% sure this intern is not on the spectrum. From our small talk and hearing him describe his extracurricular activities and weekend/evening plans, he has a lot of friends and a very abundant social life.

    10. MrsCHX*

      Please don’t ever repeat this drivel again. Poor people (and you throw in POC as if we’re some uncivilized monolith!!!!?!) are not cave dwellers incapable of interacting with the public. I swear I’ve seen more inappropriate uncivilized behavior from entitled rich kids than I’ve ever seen from the lowly poors.

      Man you need an edit button, or a new username. Something.

    11. Batgirl*

      Working class person here who was the first to go to university and get an office job.
      Professional norms I did not understand:
      1)That it was okay to set my own hours, 2) How to network, 3) How to negotiate salary.
      Things I absolutely did understand because they are integral to working class culture as well as professional cultures: 1) Not to mooch off someone who was getting the round in or paying for dinner, 2) Not to take more than my fair share of something intended for everyone, 3) How timesheets worked/what stealing was, 4) That I should respond to communication from my boss.
      If a “poor person” doesn’t understand professional norms, it’s normally in ways that hurt them, not others.


    This guy has no shame. Don’t count on shaming him into behaving. Make a list of his bad behavior and what he should have done, meet with him and give him his own copy. I would say have HR or another manager present as a witness. Have him sign a receipt. Make it clear that he can be fired, and should not expect a good reference. Can you contact the school?
    For a moment I thought he could be a starving student, which is possible. But the $50 steak shows he’s just abusive with the property of others.
    He’s the one who “grows up” to be the office mooch. I see stolen lunches and other sleazy behavior in his future.
    We used to have a manager that would treat us to lunch for our birthday. One coworker who would order the most expensive lunch item, plus drinks, and dessert, appetizers. And smirked about it. No, he didn’t just smirk, he cackled. So uncouth. The boss finally put an end to it and made him place a more reasonable order. That was the last time anyone got a birthday lunch.

    1. Typing All The Time*

      Same. And please reach out to his academic advisor to document proof of his behavior.

  11. Budgie Buddy*

    He’s not a con artist because there’s no deception and he’s not clueless because his behavior is calculated and shows a clear pattern. He’s just brazenly taking anything he thinks he can get. It ain’t that deep.

    1. Threeve*

      Nailed it. “I’m not going to work here forever, I’m going to score all the food, swag and extra hours that I can.”

    2. Polecat*

      Right? There will be hundreds of comments analyzing his behavior and offering complex theories on why this might be happening, and the most likely explanation is the kid is just kind of a jackass, and whoever manages him needs to step up and start managing. Not rocket science.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      Yeah this seems like a clear cut example of surface-level college douchiness behavior mixed with Hanlon’s Razor.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      He’s a thief. No need to call him a con artist. He’s just a thief. The only reason this seems like a con is because management has no boundaries and is not providing leadership. He steals and it’s okay, so he steals some more. No con going on here.

  12. Anon Midwesterner*

    I have been shocked by similar violations of the “social contract” that I’ve seen in my career.

    Notably, the head of our legal team going to the employee break room and filling his backpack with snacks (that were explicitly provided for employees to eat while they’re at the office) to take home, regularly. No one stopped him but he got a lot of sideways looks.

    Also, people who show up to get free lunch and take way too large of a portion, and throw it in the fridge to take home later, while others don’t get lunch.

    These are all highly compensated tech employees and we have an employee assistance program if they were going through a hard time and needed short term financial support. It’s just pure rudeness.

    I assume the intern is cut from the same cloth.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t understand why no one would stop someone filling up a backpack with snacks! Just about any place I’ve worked, behavior like that would’ve been stopped right away with something along the lines of, “that’s not meant for you to stock your home with, those snacks are for everyone here.” I’ve seen a handful of people try it over the years, particularly at a place that had a separate fridge on every floor filled with half a dozen types of drinks, but I’ve never seen it tolerated and don’t see why it should be. Obviously giving the guy dirty looks didn’t have any effect on his behavior.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Probably because the head of the legal team outranks most of the folks witnessing the backpack-filling.

        1. pancakes*

          In the moment it happens, sure, but none of them, nor the person who orders the snacks monthly have no occasion whatsoever to speak to a CEO or CFO? The head of the legal team didn’t hire himself.

          1. Batgirl*

            Sometimes it just doesn’t mean enough to the people witnessing it. Like, if I was hurting for snacks or he was taking a favorite treat of mine I was looking forward to, I would tackle it. However I’m unlikely to coach him on appropriate behavior just because he needs it, I have other things to do. Often these guys are skating under the line of conflict-worthiness. They think they’re the only ones clever enough to push rules past the edge, making off with swag that they don’t need, and probably don’t even want except for this idea that they’re being enviously admired for their gumption. Meanwhile everyone is shaking their heads in quietly amused pity.

    1. Nea*

      My concern here is that timecards are not just a social contract and HR has already laid out expectations in black and white more than once to no avail.

      1. Presea*

        Yes. I personally did have some timesheet issues early on due to being autistic/having some toxic ‘avoid the anxiety’ patterns (though in my case, I wasn’t logging hours/wasn’t logging them correctly/was logging them well after the fact). And let me tell ya, it only took ONE round of clarification of the legal ramifications of my explanations for me to never, ever do that again.

        Though I’m glad that people are defaulting to sympathetic and compassionate responses with this person, I feel like it’s useless to speculate on his class, race, neurotype, etc. I can’t think of a single extenuating circumstance that would make the necessary actions here any different.

    2. Hosta*

      “Put the time you’ve worked on the time card,” is about as black and white as it gets. So is, “explain this unexpected addition to your time card.” Those are literal instructions. That’s no social contact there, just an actual contract!

    3. Empress Matilda*

      As a neurodivergent person, I can assure you that I lie awake nights worrying about how well I fit in, and whether or not I’ve made any unforgiveable social gaffes that day. If the boss orders the $20 pasta and I order the $25 fish, is that too far over the line? What is literally everyone else at the table ordering? If most people are having a glass of wine, is it weird if I order a beer instead? And so on, and so on, and so on. I would never order the $50 steak or a second drink, because I would be too worried about other people finding out just how clueless I actually am.

      I don’t speak for all neurodivergent people on that – I’m sure there are lots who would be just fine with that kind of situation! But I do think I can speak for most ND’s when I say that’s it’s pretty insulting to assume that neurodiversity causes jerky behaviour. You can be neurodivergent and also be a jerk, or you can be neurodivergent and *not* be a jerk – same as you can be neurotypical and either be a jerk or not.

    4. Stitch*

      If anything neurodivergent college students tend to be overly cautious about behavior like this. Many often rehearse conversations and social interactions.

    5. HolidayAmoeba*

      Things have been laid out in black and white and he is ignoring it. Also, assuming someone who is behaving badly is neuro divergent does a disservice to those who are actually neuro diverse because it assumes that they are unable to function in society as a whole.

    6. Nina*

      yeah, can we not?
      I’m neurodivergent, so are most of my friends. We all WORK OUR BUTTS OFF to learn social norms and make sure we’re being polite and ‘acceptable’.
      Some neurodiverse people are dicks. Some neurotypical people are dicks. There isn’t a correlation.

    7. Detached Elemental*

      I am neurodivergent. I work damn hard to try and understand social rules in the workplace. That’s one of the reasons I read this blog, to understand a range of perspectives on workplace behaviour. And when I do slip up at work, and someone corrects me, I am mortified.

      “Neurodivergent” is not synonymous with “clueless jerk”.

    8. Biology dropout*

      Oh my, no. I am neurodivergent and pay a super LOT of attention to things like this. And black and white instructions like the intern received should make this crystal clear.

  13. Aquawoman*

    If nothing else, I’d make him stay home however much time it takes to make up for any extra hours billed due to break infractions and the retro change to the timesheet.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      That means he gets paid for a full day’s work, but doesn’t have to work all day.

      Which sounds more, to me, like a reward than a punishment.

      Document the unacceptable behavior, document that he’s been told what had to change and how, and if he doesn’t comply, end the internship.

      1. anonymous73*

        Why are you assuming that? If he’s paid hourly, he only gets paid for the time he works. So instead of having him in the office for 40 hours, he only works 35 (or whatever the amount) to make up for the time he modified after the fact.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          ” he only gets paid for the time he works”

          Except that’s not the case. There are two payroll issues mentioned. The first is the extra six hours added onto a time sheet. If he didn’t actually work those hours, but got paid for them, and his hours are reduced by six hours on a subsequent pay period, he got paid for six hours he didn’t work. (If he did actually work those hours, it’s a different, but equally serious, issue, especially the part about ignoring the inquiry from HR about it. That, alone, IMO, should be a “one warning, you’re fired if you do it again” issue.)

          The second is the “California lunches.” (Assuming it’s California, but if it’s not, it sounds like they have similar laws.) He take a 29 minute break, and gets paid for an extra hour, which he did not work. Reduce his schedule on a subsequent pay period (or the same pay period, for that matter), he’s still getting paid for an hour he did not work. It’s not an uncommon scam in California, because the law is very, very strict on 30 minute lunches, and most employers are very reluctant to punish employees for it, because it’s mostly their best, most loyal, and enthusiastic employees who just want to get back to work. For the less ethical, it’s a free five hours of pay every week until the employer cracks down. It is, in every legal sense, payroll fraud when done deliberately.

      2. evens*

        I think she meant that last week they billed 45 hours, so this week they can only work 35 hours. Even out the hours, then only allow the 40 hours/week going forward.

          1. PB Bunny Watson*

            I’d say cut double the hours then. If you got paid for the 5 hours you lied about, then you don’t get to work (or get paid) for ten hours you normally would. Make it clear that his “mistake” will cost him more in the long run. Also, I hate to make assumptions… but if he’s doing all this, do we really think he’s being a good worker otherwise? Odds are that he’s not as productive as he should be.

  14. Beth*

    I agree with Alison that intent is going to be a distraction here. He might be doing this intentionally and trying to con as many resources out of this internship as possible–or he might be totally clueless and not realize just how badly he’s coming off. (I’m sure plenty of people will say the latter is hard to believe, but I could envision someone who doesn’t come from a background that exposed them to professional norms thinking that working through lunch shows dedication, or getting excited about being given a meal that they could never afford for themselves on a college student’s income, or showing up to a meeting specifically to get food–that last one in particular, I remember doing in undergrad, showing up to some evening lecture put on by some campus org because they promised food.) Either way, if you get caught up in trying to guess his intent, that’s paralyzing. You can’t know for sure what he’s thinking.

    What you can know is how his behavior is impacting your team/company/other interns. Him taking extra shirts meant others missed out. Him working through lunch leads to financial penalties for your company. You don’t need to know why he’s doing it to insist that those behaviors stop. You just need to tell him what your expectations are, tell him what the consequences are if he doesn’t meet those expectations, and then follow through on what you told him.

    1. Xenia*

      I think this is spot on. Intent or not, this is the sort of behavior that he’s displaying now (and will probably be the sort of behavior he will display in his full time job) and there needs to be a conversation about his behavior and workplace expectations.

  15. A Pinch of Salt*

    Eh. He might be, but I also think we’ve historically had a “work yourself ragged” culture in the US. And, as we’ve seen before, tons of bad advice on how to get ahead in the working world.

    The overexcitement about freebies and ordering expensive food is a little more out there, but a college student doing it doesn’t surprise me.

  16. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    Option C — neither a con artist nor clueless — a con artist does things under the veil of secrecy or deceit — he’s just openly selfish and greedy and he’s somehow getting away with it because no one stops him; why? Ask for the T-shirts back. Inform him you won’t continue to pay for checking email on breaks or adjust his timecard retroactively and it’s up to him to follow the schedule and if he does it again, he’ll be fired. I think one paycheck will solve that problem quick. HR is very likely wrong that they have to pay him for something he falsely attested to. Stop him or pull him aside in the moment on the food issues.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      The “have to pay him” part was over short lunch breaks, not the extra hours added to a timesheet. That tells me this is likely in California, which absolutely requires a 30 “meal” minute, off the clock break every four hours (more or less). Clock in after 29 minutes? You get an extra hour’s pay. That’s the law here, and the labor board takes a particular delight in brutalizing employers over that, and any other, violation. (I swear, they buy crosses and nails wholesale.)

      If it is California, then HR is 100% correct, and they may have learned it the hard way.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I’m also in California; everywhere I’ve worked, hourly employees need to “attest” to taking their breaks on their timesheet, so if he attested to following the break rules, but didn’t, I don’t think they need to pay him for fraud. If he filed a complaint, the multiple emails from Payroll and management, and his attestations, would be the company’s exhibit A and B in disputing the charge they owed him back pay, unless he could show evidence that they were pressuring him work off the clock.

        1. doreen*

          I’m in a different state that also requires meal breaks ( but without the extra hour’s pay) . If he put on his timesheet that he took the appropriate break, the OP’s company would never know if he had spent part of it reading emails. I’m certain that his time sheet reflected either no break at all or a shortened break – if the timesheet said in any way that he took the appropriate break ( either by an attestation or by clock in/out times) the OP’s company would never have known that he claimed to be reading emails during his break.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          My understanding (and I’m not an expert here, but our HR person is) is that yes, they do have to pay him for the fraud. The remedy for the employer is to discipline the employee, up to and including firing, but *they still have to pay the extra hour for the short lunch*. I imagine that, if they were so inclined, they could possibly sue the (hopefully) now former employee to recover the unearned wages, but nobody is going to spend that kind of money on legal fees over a couple of hours of pay.

          Some HR people might believe having the employee attest to the break relieves them, and it may well serve as a mitigating factor, but I wouldn’t want to bet the price of dinner even on that. Employers in California have been sued for altering timecard records in just that manner, and in the end, even the attestation amounts of “he said/she said,” and the labor board will almost always side with the employee.

          It could also, in theory, provide opportunities for criminal prosecution (good luck with that, unless you’re feeling vindictive enough to spend a lot of money on it for no financial return – and have some very thorough documentation that they didn’t actually work during those missing minutes – or can prove an organized conspiracy of some sort).

    2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Yes he seems like a boundary-tester, who just has no compunctions about the tragedy of the commons / social contract / manners, etc, and is motivated by taking as much as he can get. Just shut him down with, “Trevor, those are for everyone, please put the others back,” “Trever, you didn’t answer my email; this is serious. What’s going on?” etc. He’s banking on people being too uncomfortable to call him out.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        And to add, the main former coworker I think of that fits this behavior type was a small business accountant who ended up embezzling five figures from the employer. In retrospect it seemed all on-theme: grab all the breakroom cookies before anyone can get one > cut yourself checks and the vendors go unpaid. Not saying that’s the only probably trajectory for this dude, but an internship is a great time for this sense of childlike greed to be nipped in the bud.

    3. just another bureaucrat*

      You can’t not pay him for checking email on breaks. You can fire him for refusing to take his break, which is what he’s doing. If someone works you have to pay them for it or you as the employer are breaking the laws around wage theft. You can and should discipline someone, up to and including firing, for refusing to follow your processes with that. Such as not working during their break.

  17. YL*

    IMO the intern doesn’t sound clueless. HR spoke to him about his timesheets but he kept doing what he was doing. I would think that he had a paying attention problem, but then the t-shirt incident happened. He should have been dismissed and notified that he would not receive a recommendation. He’s past teaching moments.

  18. Nanani*

    The time sheet stuff seems extra serious and beyond cluelessness, buuuut it also sounds like OPs workplace is big on shrugging and going “well we tried” rather than like, actually clueing him in.

    Make sure he knows that this is not okay by making it not okay. And telling him, but just telling him isn’t going to be enough without an actual consequence.

    Good luck OP.

  19. Beth*

    He’s not a con artist. A con artist would be better at hiding his bad activities.

    He’s an entitled a-hole. Entitlement never bothers to hide. The brazen facade is part of the pattern; it hits people so hard that it makes them less likely to tell him “no” in a timely manner.

    And you need to shut him down, hard. The mooching is detestable; falsifying records will get his butt yeeted out of any workplace that has any ability to do so. It should get him yeeted from his internship, unless you decide to give him one final chance. One.

    All of this will have a massive negative impact on anyone who sees this yoik getting away with the kind of crap. Please do a favour for the other people there, as well as every co-worker this guy will ever have for the rest of his life, and make the consequences stick on him right now.

  20. LadyByTheLake*

    I’ve suffered from food insecurity and I would have maximized every opportunity to get free food and clothes. That said, because I was from a background without money, I would have known enough to look around to see what others were doing because I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to KNOW how poor I was — so this is reading as intentional and entitled.

    1. Littorally*


      I’ve been broke and I’ve been starving and even when I was at my most desperate, the way I acted was nothing like this guy. This stinks of entitlement, not need.

  21. Gouda*

    Some of these things sound pretty blatant, but a lot of this sounds to me like the behavior of someone in college who was not prepped properly for workplace norms. In college, it’s considered pretty appropriate to show up to something because there’s food and grab a bunch of free tee shirts, that’s like half of what a college student council spends their energy on. The time sheet thing is a big problem, and you should address that super clearly, but the rest of it sounds like things you should just address in the moment.

    1. e271828*

      “A bunch” of tee shirts? Taking “a ton” of food from the table and leaving? He wouldn’t get away without a dogpile yelling at him for being greedy and making him put the shirts back.

    2. Kids these days*

      Yup, most student events at my previous employer featured food and freebies because otherwise no one would show up. (And not because college kids are lazy or unethical, in our case we had too many events and a student population that over stretched themselves constantly.) we also had issues with work study students (and supervisors, sigh) not understanding that tracking hours on time sheets was a BIG deal and not something that could just be done Willy nilly.

      This sounds like a college kid treating work like a student affairs event and no one correcting them. Should the student know better? For sure, but the workplace needs to intervene at this point.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        Yes. I remember being at a college pizza party, where a guy almost helped himself to one whole box. He got called out quickly.

    3. Antilles*

      You and I must have gone to very different colleges, because at the very large Midwestern land grant university I attended, there’s no way this would fly. Grabbing half of the free t-shirts available would absolutely get you loudly called out “what the hell dude? take one and leave some for the rest of us”.
      Taking one shirt even if you have no real desire to join the archery club? Common. Grabbing a bunch? No.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yes, but that’s because “Midwest Nice” and its commitment to its own internal sense of fair play overrules the standard rule that college students will take as many freebies as aren’t nailed down. It’s just simply not done!

        (Signed, a graduate of an extremely large midwestern land-grand university)

        1. Gumby*

          I went to a private university in California. It’s not just a Midwest thing to just take one and leave some freebies for other students. It’s a level of politeness that can be found in all geographical areas.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Agreed. I work at a university in California, we HAND OUT the free t-shirts one per student not just pile them up and tell the students to grab what they want. They want to grab one for their friend? Tell the friend to come on over! We won’t recognize if someone comes through the line more than once (maybe), but they have to put effort into it to be greedy. Things that are small and super cheap like pens or chapstick, sure fill your pockets, because we ordered thousands and they’re crap.

    4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      I would agree with the instinctual “take maximum advantage of any free food/drink/trinkets” vibe as a college thing, but that wouldn’t cross over into ordering the steak / taking all the t-shirts / falsifying his pay. It’s like he extended that mindset beyond its natural borders.

  22. Cat Tree*

    I would normally give interns the benefit of the doubt EXCEPT HR has had “several talks” with him and yet he continues the time card stuff. It’s certainly worth talking to him about the other things, but honestly I don’t have high hopes for him. He has already demonstrated that he ignores feedback.

  23. Sue3pO*

    May also be worth talking with whoever your contact is at his program – I’ve had to do this once or twice with healthcare students I was precepting. It can be helpful in the moment and lets them keep a close eye on the student in their next placement.

  24. DrSalty*

    He sounds like a huge tool. Give him some explicit warnings and then fire him when he fails to change his behavior.

  25. e271828*

    The timesheet violation problem is really serious, and LW, as his manager, should sit down in a meeting with the intern and HR and spell out how timesheets AND WORK TIME are to be handled, in simple and redundant terms and making the intern repeat it back to them. Going forward, this intern’s timesheet submissions have to be checked by the manager, rather than relying on the honor system. One more violation ends the internship. Make the intern sign a document that this is understood and give him a copy.

    Then there’s the showing up to raid food when not scheduled to work: another conversation, which would more generally be, “Do not come in when you are not scheduled, unless you, personally, have a direct instruction to do so.” Again, keep it direct and straight, and make him sign off on it.

    The behavioral parts, taking the food, taking the shirts, ordering inappropriately, are more parenting issues, and the intern should be told that these were inappropriate business behavior. But for the balance of the internship, calling out and stopping anything like that in the moment is the only thing that will work.

    Could the LW and/or HR start communicating with his college? He is not ready for employment in a professional environment, and his institution should work on that with him.

  26. HolidayAmoeba*

    I’m willing to bet this intern thinks he is sticking it to the man somehow and later on, when he is not offered a job and is unable to find steady employment anywhere, it will be because he refuses to be a mindless cog in the corporate machine. Not because he is rude, obnoxious and considers himself too important to follow rules meant for others without his level of intelligence (in his head).

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Oooh that’s a good point — maybe spent a bit too much time on r/antiwork and isn’t able to distinguish between advocating for labor rights and just… being a jerk to your coworkers.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Omg. That is the worst sub sometimes. Like yes, capitalism is bad but half their suggestions are contingent on all of society working together for the common good. Dudes, if the 2020’s have taught us anything, that a significant portion of the country can’t even wear a mask or get a free vaccine for the betterment of society. They certainly aren’t going to put their jobs on the line for some global strike.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Right. Like I’m a full blown anarcho communist who wants the dissolution of the state and capital but I’m also, ya know, a relatively rational human being who recognizes the limitations of our current world. I can accomplish more good advocating for salary transparency and doing mutual aid in my immediate community than fantasizing about wildcat strikes or larping revolution. That whole sub really makes leftists look way more dumb and naive than most of us are, and leads to a bunch of people thinking that being a solipsistic jerk is some sort of radical act.

          1. pancakes*

            I really, really, really dislike the idea that a subreddit some of you apparently like to spend a lot of time on is the central HQ of American leftism, and as someone who goes to in-person meetings, pays dues to an organization, and occasionally gets involved in organizing, I can tell you for a fact it isn’t. There also isn’t anything in the letter that supports the narrative some of you are trying to craft here. It’s just as likely, if not more so, that this intern is someone who takes for granted that one day soon he will be the man.

            1. Doug Judy*

              Oh I don’t think that sub is actual leftism at all, nor do I think the intern wants to burn capitalism to the ground. He definitely seems pro Getting His.

              But that sub is what right-wigners and sadly too many independents think the left is. I actually feel that sub is undermining the progress they want.

              1. pancakes*

                I haven’t bothered to look at it yet and probably won’t. I really don’t like the idea of rubbernecking at this sort of thing, either. If an online space doesn’t suit me I’m not going to hang around. When people seem very unsophisticated about this type of thing it often seems that either they’re very young and just starting to feel out their options, or window-shopping for a sense of identity, or both. Not that they’re representative of serious people.

              2. Parakeet*

                I’m pretty dubious (as someone who is both an actual socialist organizer, and pretty Online, so I do know that Online matters, and also that people who are very Online tend to think it matters more than it actually does) that a subreddit, even a popular one, is what’s holding back the left in a society where the organized left (left, not Democrats) is still in the process of recovering from decades of defeat and from Cold War knee-jerk opposition to anything that smacks of socialism. And it’s certainly not responsible for what the right thinks of the left. Anti-leftism is a longstanding US tradition, unfortunately.

            2. Gerry Keay*

              I don’t know where you got that I think antiwork is the central HQ of American leftism… I’m saying that it’s a bad place that has the risk of undermining real organizing, and gives on-lookers a real bad view of what the left is actually like. Unfortunately, that sub is encouraging behaviors that the intern is doing under the guise of anti-capitalism. I’m not trying to craft any sort of narrative (??)

              1. pancakes*

                I could’ve and should’ve been clearer that my reply was more of a general response to everyone suggesting this rather than you in particular, so I’m sorry if my reply seemed to be that narrow. At the same time I think there’s a real lack of solidarity in saying, basically, “this person is really a jerk, they must be on the left.” Particularly when that impression is tied to one narrow slice of it.

      2. just another bureaucrat*

        Yeah this definitely jumped to my mind. Get away with whatever you can. Screw your employer. Do everything to stick it to them is absolutely a thing.

        Good news is it does not matter why someone is doing this. The ‘what you should do next’ is the same thing for if someone is food insecure, anticapitalist stick it to the man, neurodivergent, blue color or whatever else someone wants to make up about him.

        Talk to the intern. Write down you talked to the intern. Make sure they do what you are asking. If they refuse to follow through, fire him.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, this is a guy that does not think beyond the end of his nose. He’s not left or right rather he’s Me-Me-Me.

    2. anonymous73*

      To me he sounds like the kind of guy who could probably talk their way into or out of pretty much anything and get away with it time after time. The amount of people I’ve worked with who seem to have no issue climbing the corporate ladder with little to no manners, and slacking off while others do their work is high.

      1. I Like Purple Pens*

        I saw this same behavior with student teachers. Some of the very worst ones I had were entitled jerks that went on to be administrators within two years out from their student teaching. I couldn’t believe they found teaching jobs, let alone became administrators in two years.

    3. pancakes*

      This is quite an elaborate narrative to read into the intern’s personality and politics based on his rude behavior. It’s just as likely, if not more so, that he sees himself as someone who will become the man one day soon.

  27. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

    I think he is rude and is just really clueless. I think the lunch hour thing needs to be addressed by the boss. He might be thinking that the HR person is overreacting. I’m assuming he is hourly and if he is seeing other people (who are salaried) working through lunch he might just think that its ok to do.

    Coming in for the free lunch sounds like such a college kid move. And if the seminar was advertized in any way with the free lunch he might have thought it was up for grabs for anyone, even if they weren’t working that day.

    The Tshirt thing is really greedy and just rude. Even in college I never saw anyone take more than one shirt or whatever was being given away.
    The ribeye thing was really rude too, but maybe he didn’t realize the cost? Did anyone ever tell him, we usually order items under X amount?

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Everything individually can be explained away with ignorance, but the pattern together makes it more likely to be malicious. If it were JUST the seminar lunch, yeah, that’s a college kid move and can be addressed with a reasonable conversation. Same with the t-shirts. If someone’s only concept of business lunches comes from Mad Men, then ordering a steak might be seen as the norm. But putting them all together paints a very different picture.

      When you add in the timecard fraud, however, it becomes a much larger issue. That in itself is a huge issue – and one that needs to be addressed in a firm conversation. Combined with everything else, it definitely looks like someone entitled who thinks they know how to beat the system. When people show you who they are, believe them.

      OP, you need to sit down with the intern in a meeting and lay out the offenses. Ask a question, then wait for his answer. I think you’ll have a better understanding of if this person is just that clueless (unlikely) or if his motives are more sinister.

      But I’d love to know what happens!

    2. 2 Cents*

      I’m also going to go out on a (short) limb here and guess HR is a woman. We had this intern. He was the least effective intern ever. And once requested I get coffee for him. I enjoyed dressing him down for that.

  28. Cimorene-turned-Morwen*

    I’ve been the poor, food-insecure, low-ranked one in offices. And my reaction to it was to not draw attention to myself, or help myself to anything without explicit permission. Because I needed the job. In my experience, people who are poor order the least expensive thing on the menu, not the most, just in case they end up needing to pay. This person’s actions seem more like privileged thoughtlessness than poverty to me.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I’m picturing someone who has been cushioned from consequences and told that you get ahead by taking what you want.

      The response to both, though, is to start putting up barriers and consequences. That’s how people learn.

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Strongly seconding this. At a past job as an office assistant for an incredibly well off company, my equally poor coworkers and I would bring tupperware on days the place had catered lunches, making sure to wait until everyone else had grabbed their plate before we took home what would be a few extra meals for us. The regular employees, who were easily making quadruple what my coworkers and I were, had to repeatedly be reprimanded for taking catering set out for private meetings they weren’t invited to; all a bunch of professionals in at least their 30s, had to be repeatedly told “stop going to other floors and taking food not meant for you” . This employee reminds me of them.

    3. kitryan*

      This is my thought. If you’re really in need, you are usually way more careful about boundaries and avoiding negative consequences because they’re aware that they’re real, while entitled people don’t think negative consequences will ever happen to them.

  29. Jimulacrum*

    I have to disagree with Allison on this.

    A clueless person will make all kinds of mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes will benefit the clueless person, and sometimes they’ll cause the person a loss. It’s a bit of a gamble, as the person’s cluelessness means that he doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong or why it’s a problem.

    – He falsified a timesheet and ignored his manager when asked for an explanation; he may or may not have made more money, but that’s what would have happened if he was successful.
    – He did some weird lunch-break stuff that caused him to get paid more than he should have.
    – He showed up for free food on multiple days it wasn’t being offered to him and basically hauled a bunch of it off.
    – He ordered an outrageous sum worth of food when those around him were ordering from another menu. (I’d say this was the least of the offenses listed by OP, but it’s part of the same pattern.)
    – He stole—yes, stole, as that’s the word for when you take something that wasn’t offered to you—a bunch of clothes when he was only offered one of each item.

    All of the “mistakes” benefit him materially in some way, and they never cost him anything (aside from the respect of the people’s he’s ripping off).

    That says a lot. That’s not someone who’s clueless. That’s someone who’s calculating for his own benefit. I’d axe him without a second thought.

    1. Lab Boss*

      You put it into the words I couldn’t think of. I don’t remember who coined the example but it’s the “incompetent waiter” example. If your waiter regularly gives you the wrong change and it’s sometimes too much and sometimes too little, he’s just bad with math. If the change is always short, he’s skimming you.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I stopped ordering from one restaurant because of this. The order was wrong half the time, and always in the direction of forgetting some item I had paid for. I don’t want to be the person getting all fussed over a $6 appetizer… but I only want to nobly decide that re your dining establishment that one time.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think it would be much of a fuss or less than noble to ring them up and say, “hi, you forgot my appetizer, can you give me a credit for next time or something?”

    2. Starbuck*

      Yes, well put. It’s nice that there are people on here trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but OP should do the basic step of removing doubt by directly addressing all this stuff with him (if not already).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      He shows no willingness to learn and no willingness to listen to correction. Yep, show him the door because he is not teachable. And if you really think about it- being “not teachable” is quite a slam.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes – and also, even if some iof the things he is doing are down to lack of understanding of workplace norms or assumptions that the boundaries of acceptable workplace behaviour are further out than they really are, the solution is the same.
      You sit him down, explain very clearly and without softening or sugar coating what the issues are and that the behaviour is not acceptable, and that if it continues it will result in his being fired, and then follow through.

      And as he is an intern, also have a conversation with whoever placed him with you – in the unlikely event that he was poorly prepared or genuinely didn’t know how to behave, then it’s useful information for them to improve the prep they do in future, and in the more likely case that he’s just an entitled jerk, if they know then they can (a) feed that back if he complains about not getting offered further opportunities and (b) can also use his behaviour (anonymously, no doubt) as an example of What Not To Do when they are prepping the next lot of students.

      and in fact, you can bear this in mind if you are involved in doing the onboarding for any new interns – maybe as examples of a few dos and don’ts, to go with an ‘if you aren’t sure, please ask, we don’t expect you to know everything, the issue with this individual was that they didn’t follow instructions and didn’t respond or change their behaviour when given feedback’

  30. raincoaster*

    Timecard fraud should be an instant firing. The longer you keep him the more he’ll cost you in T-shirts and sirloin and the respect of your employees.

    1. Nea*

      He’ll potentially cost the company far more than a few t-shirts and a high-end steak depending on the field. Ignoring timecard nonsense like that can get a contracting company not just fired but blackballed.

  31. ENFP in Texas*

    The fact that he continues to mess up his timesheet even after the discussion with HR is a huge red flag.

    I agree that a CTJ meeting is in order, and clear consequences for future infractions need to be laid out. It’s too late to consider reprimanding him for the food or the shirts because those should have been addressed when they happened (but those should be brought to his attention in a “that was inappropriate and here’s why” manner). But the timesheet thing is an ongoing issue that needs to be nipped in the bud and if he can’t or won’t make the changes needed, he needs to be cut loose.

  32. Queen_of_Comms*

    I can’t help but wonder if this is an issue of financial instability coupled with lack of experience in professional settings. I recall how a free lunch, shirt, or extra thirty minutes of pay felt when I was around that age. Without parents to financially support me, low-paying internships and entry-level positions provided me with barely enough to pay rent and keep food in the refrigerator. A free lunch sometimes made the difference between eating lunch and not. And thirty extra minutes of pay each day over a five-day workweek meant an extra 2.5 hours of pay, which could equate to half of my monthly phone bill.

    He may feel that, because of his low-ranking status, nobody is paying attention to his behavior. While I second everything that Alison recommended, a touch of empathy may bring about a more fulfilling resolution for both him and the company.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I could really see this being true.

      But remember, OP, that he isn’t going to understand why people are writing him off if no one ever tells him what he’s doing wrong. He’ll stay stuck in the same patterns, unless it dawns on him that the common factor is him. Which can take a really long time.

  33. Nea*

    Nevermind the rest of the stuff, timecard fraud is a very serious offense. I’m shocked he wasn’t fired for that already.

    If there’s some reason he can’t be ushered out the door immediately, then his second chance should be on a very specific PIP. No taking more than his share. No coming in on his days off. And one more timecard shenanigan means instant perp walk to the door.

  34. Phony Genius*

    Of all of these transgressions, I think the most egregious is showing up on days he’s not scheduled to work. Was there free food every one of these days? We don’t know how long/expensive his commute is, but that seems like a strange reason to do that. Was he trying to get himself additional wages by trying to “work” extra hours that he wasn’t scheduled for (similar to working during lunch to get paid for it)? If he put in to get paid for time on his off days that he showed up for, then I’d vote “con artist.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Assume the business is within a reasonable walk/bus ride/drive of the university campus. I imagine he would do the same if he heard that Art History was going to have free food Tuesday, even though he doesn’t take Art History.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Nah. Snaking free food is a much less serious sin than blowing off an inquiry into a retroactive timesheet edit. By an order of magnitude. Time cards are serious legal business and you need to be sure that employee’s aren’t screwing around with them.

      1. Name Goes Here*

        I find it interesting that reading through the comments, some (not all) of the most vehement responses center around the intern’s violation of social norms –– taking too many shirts or too much food / too expensive food; while the time card stuff is much more serious, since it’s intertwined with actual laws and violating it can be actual fraud. It may be useful for OP (since they haven’t done much to correct the intern’s behavior at all yet) to reflect on what they respond to and why.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          The timecard stuff is more serious but it’s also the thing he’s been explicitly talked to about already. So that part is less…advicey? If that makes any sense. Like he got warned, next step should be fired. But it sounds like no one called him out on any of the rest so there’s more speculative what to do/how to do it on that end.

      2. Phony Genius*

        FYI, I was less focused on the food and more focused on showing up to work on a day you’re not scheduled to be there. Regardless of the reason, that can create a lot of problems.

    3. londonedit*

      In isolation, I can sort of understand this. I remember reading a comment in a ‘clueless things you’ve done when new to the workplace’ sort of ask-the-readers thread where someone said they were once working as an intern at a company that made a big deal about all the wellness stuff that was available to employees – various yoga and fitness classes, a gym, etc. And this person, being young and clueless about workplace norms, just sort of…ran with it and signed up for absolutely everything, and would then just disappear off for a gym session or say ‘I can’t make that meeting at 11am, I’ve got a yoga class’ or whatever. I think someone had to have a quiet word with them and explain that those things were really only for permanent employees and that the idea was not to fill your entire work day with extracurricular activities. Being extremely generous here I can imagine that an intern might see a calendar invite for a lunch meeting and think yeah, I’ll go along to that. But they should only be able to do that once before someone clues them in that they can’t just turn up to any meeting they like, especially not one that’s happening when they’re not meant to be in the office. The key thing here is that, aside from the timecard stuff, it seems like no one has actually had a quiet word with this intern and explained that he’s making himself look bad and getting a reputation as someone who’s only in it for a free ride.

  35. Trek*

    When you meet with him ask him how he thinks he’s doing. Ask him about his conversations with HR about his time and ask why they have to reach out so often. See what he says. I think he will downplay all of it and actually thinks he’s a great intern. That will tell you that this relationship probably cannot be salvaged but the conversation needs to be had.

    Explain that with the several issues you will be reviewing with him at this time if a final decision was to be made, he would not be offered a job with your company you would not be able to offer him a reference either. These types of behaviors impact both and he should know that immediately. A lot of interns are surprised that so called soft skills and day to day behavior play more of a part in being offered a job then everything you learn as an intern. Also explain that this is all anyone has to judge him on and he’s not being seen in the best light.

    Then list them starting with his time card issues. His time sheet to be absolutely accurate going forward, he needs to know and work his schedule and not show up on other days, and when he enters his time and submits his time sheet he is stating it is accurate. Any more issues with his time sheet will result in termination, no exceptions.

    He should not take part in any free apparel for a few months because of how many shirts he took previously, his behavior during lunches/office food need to follow office norms. Spell them out to him. We spend x on lunches and we do not barge into other peoples meetings to take food, especially on our day off. Free items are one per person not a dozen.

    How he responds to all of this will be telling. Is he embarrassed? Defensive? Does he blow it off? I would plan to replace him shortly and make sure clear guidelines on time sheets are provided to interns from day one.

  36. BlueSwimmer*

    I work with student teachers at the school where I’m a department chair. Most are wonderful future teachers who are eager to do their best, but some struggle with the demands of the job and moving from the student to the teacher perspective, which can lead to issues.

    Years ago, I stopped assuming they would have any ideas about norms and professionalism and ended up making a “welcome” document listing norms and FAQs to address each random unprofessional or rude thing a past intern had done. I also included contact information and other helpful links for the school (bell schedule, etc) but every time an incident happened (for example, student teacher having her mom come to each lunch with her each day in her classroom, or student teacher leaving her class alone in a trailer classroom to go home to walk her dog in the middle of the school day), I added to the list of professional expectations (adults who do not work in the building may not be invited into the building without clearance ahead of time from an administrator; a class must not be left unattended by an adult.)

    I did this out of frustration but have ended up getting lots of positive feedback that our student teachers find it really helpful and welcoming to get a packet with all the information in one place. I share any major issues with professionalism with their university supervisor, who is grading the student teacher for course credit. I also have conversations about issues with the student teachers, and I assume cluelessness rather than malice. I always phrase it like I am filling them in on how our school or school system does things to give them a heads up rather than calling them on the carpet for violating something they didn’t know was a rule/norm.

    1. TeacherLady*

      Thank you for what you do. I had a couple of issues in my student teaching because I didn’t know how to handle emergency situations and had no contact numbers or anything of the sort. The whole experience was the very definition of “winging it.” And even now in education overall it seems there is a lot of missing/not provided information that schools/admin expect you to know but have never told you.

    2. Gracely*

      That level of cluelessness *fascinates* me. Because presumably, these student teachers spent 12 years as a student in dozens of classrooms with dozens of teachers, and it definitely can’t have been a *norm* for their teachers to leave them alone to go home and walk a dog.

      It is amazing that they wouldn’t take those years of prior experience of being a student and extrapolate, just a little bit, about what’s appropriate when you’re trying to learn how to be a good teacher. (Then again, when I was teaching, the teachers who bitched the most about their students not paying attention were often the exact same ones who zoned out or completely blew off faculty meetings)

    3. Nora*

      This is so kind. Really helpful for anyone who needs norms explicitly written out for them, and also prevents people who are acting out of malice from faking cluelessness.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think that that is really helpful. Do you tell them that the list is all taken from things people have actually done in the past?

      (It reminds me a bit of a documentary I watched a few years back, which was a fly-on-the-wall thing about recruits in basic training in the British army. One early thing was about literally teaching them to shower. The training officer explained (to camera, not to the recruits, as far as I know) that they don’t assume *anything* about what the recruits know, they explicitly tach them everything, and part of the thinking is that it means no-one should fail or wind up in trouble because they didn’t know how to act, and also hopefully reduces the risk of bullying – the approach isn’t “for those of you who are dirty oiks, we’re telling you t wash, it’s treated more like how to make their beds or polish their boots – this is how we expect you to do it regardless of what you may have done at home”

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        I don’t tell them the list is based on things other student teachers have done wrong– it is all listed out as expectations of the school/school system with the assumption not that they individually might not know, but just that these are things our school expects. (But definitely my approach is similar to the documentary you watched- trying not to assume things.)

        I worked at a food service job in college with little training on how to do things, but a lot of screaming if you did things wrong, like put too much lettuce on a sandwich, which really taught me to make expectations clear up front rather than calling people on the carpet for not following something they weren’t told about. My approach also models good teaching practice- providing clear instructions and expectations up front for your students rather than just assuming they know how you want them to behave.

  37. Anonymous Poster*

    Timesheet issues are a huge deal. That warrants a serious, now look here conversation.

    The other stuff could be ignorance, but the point of an internship is to learn work norms. This person needs a manager or mentor to sit down and go through why doing these things is bad and may harm them down the road.

    Please be that person. Don’t inflict this person on the rest of the engineering world without that conversation.

  38. Meow*

    I can understand an intern not understanding meal period laws (many non-interns also don’t and that’s expected) but the rest of this doesn’t seem clueless to me at all. I can’t really think of any social situation where it would be acceptable to order the most expensive item on someone else’s dime, grab so much of an item that others weren’t able to have any or show up to an event that’s invite only uninvited. I wouldn’t tip toe around this anymore.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Some people aren’t very good at empathy, and either weren’t taught or that rolled right off their backs because they were 15 and kinda self focused.

      I type this in the sense that empathy and social skills can be taught, not that he’s obviously a sociopath. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know–especially if you’re a young person in a new environment.

  39. BRR*

    I could classify the food and the t-shirts easily as part of the student mindset. The time card stuff is more concerning. However, I’m getting for your letter that you’re more of a hands-off type. An internship is about more than just the work, it’s about teaching office norms. And I’m not saying you’re doing this but if you’re also hands off with his work, I would make sure he’s getting a learning experience from that as well.

    And that’s not to say he’s not doing things wrong. But I think there’s a difference in how you treat an intern.

    1. OP*

      I’m the original Letter Writer. This intern is the 4th one I’ve managed.

      My style is to be very hands-on when teaching them how to do the work, and other technical skills. I am extremely involved and willing to dedicate time to coach them in engineering areas. But I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day, I would have to be a sort of parent or morality police towards any intern. The previous 3 interns didn’t have any of these issues, so I was completely at a loss at how to handle the current intern.

      I really don’t like to nag or confront people for one-time offenses, because I never know whether it is a singular very uncharacteristic lapse of judgment, or a symptom of deeper underlying issues. My tendency is to wait until the behavior is clearly a pattern, before I confront.

      With all that has happened so far, I feel that it’s safe to say that there is a pattern of entitled and greedy behavior, and possible thievery. Which is why I’m on this blog today

      1. AG*

        OP, maybe you should take this as a sign that being a manager brings the responsibility to adress behavior and other questions, not just the narrow work product. Please reconsider whether that is parenting or policing, and not just your job – see the archives at this very site (i.e. the “being the boss” category). I would definitely not recommend waiting for patterns to show when you have serious misbehavior. Also, remember that having bosses that never address problems could be coloring your decision making, and not in a good way.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Because these are interns, they may not have experience for office norms, so addressing offences the first time is actually advisable. If it was a lapse of judgement, they’ll let you know. If it wasn’t, it’s a learning opportunity.
        Also, depending on the length of the internship, waiting for it to become a pattern may get you to the point where the feedback is too late.

        In the case of this particular intern, I think he deliberately doing whatever he can get away with, but there are other situations where someone might not actually know that their behaviour is inappropriate, and the sooner they learn it, the better.

      3. Boof*

        I think in general letting one or two things slide is an OK way to go about life; but as a manager it’s probably best to address first time issues immediately, at least in interns and new employees. It’s one thing if it’s someone you already know has a proven track record and so you are fairly confident of their overall performance, but it’s probably going to cause problems if you apply it to new people as things (exactly like this) will fester before addressed.

        1. Properlike*

          Also, your use of the phrase “parent or morality police” is telling, as both of those would be out of your workplace purview. Everything this intern is doing us at the workplace and has a direct effect on their workplace. It’s your job to make sure employees are doing their “workplace community” jobs too, the soft skills.

  40. SaffyTaffy*

    FWIW, I went to college with a guy like this, and he eventually (EVENTUALLY) grew up into a fine, honorable gentleman with a steady job. But it did take conversations. In the friendship sphere, it was stuff like “if you come to movie night, you have to chip in food and can’t take all of ours home,” and “no, i will not leave our college reunion to drive you to a job interview you just agreed to, in the middle of said reunion.” I know some of our mutual friends thought he was being malicious, but he was genuinely just… dumb.

  41. Kim Smith*

    I fully agree – why is no one speaking to the intern?

    But on another note — is no one calling OP on the use of “HR Lady” 1. My HR office is comprised of professionals with titles and 2. Gender has nothing to do with the role that they play in my organization.

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      It’s possible for many people it falls under the category of “Don’t nitpick word choice” because they also say HR Guy.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      1) One reason not to call people on word choice is that it is explicitly in the commenting rules to not do so.
      2) Alison has often cited the columnist Evil HR Lady.

    3. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      I don’t know that that really meets the bar of being worth calling out. It can be really stressful to have to write with an ear to how your letter will sound under a super unforgiving microscope. HR Lady doesn’t seem like a big dea.

  42. Falling Diphthong*

    I love the headline, as I can picture so many behaviors in that uncertain zone. (Has he sent the entire team a video of the automatic stapler in the copy room doing its thing?)

    By the third bullet point, though, (“Accounts Receivable, I have come for your bagels!!!”) I decided that it didn’t matter whether he was unaware of norms (including those you explained to him 10 minutes ago) or deep into “my mom says I am awesome and I need to just go grab pizza and sweatshirts and be bold and then no one will push back.” He needs a firm talking to about how he’s screwing up and a willingness to fire him if he doesn’t massively and immediately improve. And to tell him that–he isn’t going to pick up “Seriously we’re talking about firing you” from a gently worded hint. He’s young, and at just the age for this to be a story in 2032 about how dumb and entitled he was in college, and it was his internship that finally knocked some empathy and common sense into him.

    I feel the same way about people dating/remaining friends with jerks who are also young–the reason for the jerkdom is not as important as its effects on other people. Experiencing consequences for the jerkiness is the best way to learn to behave in a different way, whether the underlying reason was “my awful parent” or “I just hadn’t thought about other people.”

  43. Reluctant Manager*

    If I were feeling up to it, I might look at this as an opportunity for *me* to learn! Over the time he has left, how much can you learn about setting clear expectations, saying uncomfortable things that need to be said, and just generally managing a crappy employee? Most of us have no experience with managing situations like this, and you get to try it with someone who will be gone in 12 weeks.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Heh. I picture his coworkers reading this very sensible advice, and thinking “… Or we could lock him in the supply closet, that would also work.”

        1. Jaybee*

          IME many long-standing offices have a supply closet specifically for the supplies nobody wants. The paper that was ordered at a discount and tears if you so much as look at it, the case of pens received as a ‘gift’ from a vendor that only write in bright green, etc. Lock him in THAT supply closet.

  44. phira*

    I’m more suspicious that he’s dealing with financial and food insecurity, barring any additional info. It would explain the time violations; he might have edited an old time-sheet because he needed to make rent and didn’t know how else to do it, and he might work through lunch and breaks because he sees it as a way to make a few extra bucks that he needs. Same with coming in on a day off for a free lunch, or taking the opportunity for a really good meal when someone else is paying.

    But I also agree that intent doesn’t super matter here! LW can and should address the time violations immediately: he can’t edit time-sheets like that, he can’t work through breaks and lunch at all, and he can’t come in on a day off. But if we want to litigate intent, I’d say (from working with college students) that it’s more than plausible that he’s genuinely unaware that he’s doing anything truly wrong.

  45. Really?*

    1. I dont see this as a clueless intern or someone from a lower class who doesnt understand societal norms. Trust me, when the deck is stacked against you to begin with, you do everything you can to blend in and not stand out.
    2. There is an issue of students from certain higher levels of socioeconomic classes who have a me first attitude with a lack of work skills and ethics from never having any type of work experience ever. This screams it to me. Taking half a pile of t-shirts and sweatshirts, the $50 steak, the coming in on non-scheduled days-those are all habits of someone who puts themselves first without thinking of others.
    3. Falsifying a time card is an immediate firing in most businesses. Why is he still hanging around when HR has had that conversation with him multiple times?

    This seems like an intern who isnt there to necessarily work but wants the perks and paycheck. Drop him like a hot potato.

    1. Throwaway123*

      Yes I agree. I have some in-laws with trust funds and they behave the same way with menu ordering. My brother took them out and said he was paying. They all ordered the most expensive thing on the menu ($50+) We felt so bad to counter it, we split the least expensive thing! My poor brother!

  46. LizM*

    The food stuff seems to be more of not understanding norms. I’ve definitely worked in some places where free food was somewhat of a free for all for the interns and younger (i.e. not as well paid) employees. It would be odd to have an intern come in on their day off, or to just come for the free food and not stay for the event, but not the oddest thing I’ve seen an intern do.

    The timesheet stuff is more concerning, especially because it seems like he’s blowing off you and HR when you try to correct him or ask questions. I’d have a very clear talk with him outlining expectations (including that HR’s direction carries weight, and if he has questions to come to you vs. just ignoring them, and that he needs to respond to your emails regarding his timesheets). I’d also explicitly tell him that he’s not authorized to work through lunch unless he gets explicit permission from you. Depending on how many times HR has talked to him, this may be a “last warning” type conversation.

    The other stuff would be a “might get a lukewarm reference” type issue, but I wouldn’t cut him loose for it. But timesheet issues would be.

  47. MissBaudelaire*

    In regards to the food and t shirts, it sounded like he had very poor manners and was an entitled little turd about things. It just sounded like he wasn’t used to hearing ‘no’ or had been raised in that ‘get what you can get’ mindset. I have known a few people that way, and it took a lot of work on their part to reroute that thinking. And that was people who actually wanted to change.

    But in light of the timecard problems that have happened more than once… naw, he’s being shifty. I wouldn’t call him a con artist, I would call him a jerk. Never answering an email about ‘Um, where did these six hours come from?’ would mean immediate suspension in my job. You can come back when we sort it out.

    Being that these things are ongoing, it’s time to sit him down and go “Maybe you really don’t understand how things work, so I’m happy to tell you.” You can be polite, but firm, and make sure you tell him that this is the only amount of grace you’re going to give him. He’s had chats and warnings. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

    I would also be so embarrassed to order a fifty dollar steak when others are ordering way cheaper foods.

  48. Orange You Glad*

    This intern definitely needs to be managed more closely. After you’ve addressed the issues and followed up if the behavior continues then let this person go. Even if there are only a few weeks left in his internship. Part of an internship is learning workplace norms and part of that is learning there can be consequences for poor behavior.

    I had a student working with us for what was supposed to be a 6 month period. He came across clueless about certain work norms but the reality was that he didn’t want to be there and was good at bluffing when he got caught not working or making other errors. We finally pulled an audit of his badging in and out of the office and realized he was falsifying his timesheet which was instant dismissal. We put up with a lot of bad behavior from this student, but the timecard issue made it easy to let him go.

  49. a question*

    Regardless of his reason whether he’s clueless…. His actions are in areas that should be more than common sense not to do, professionally or socially. Everyone gets a shirt in any situation, doesn’t mean take everything, etc. I

  50. animaniactoo*

    I put this in the category of he knows in general what he’s doing… but he doesn’t think it is wrong. He thinks he is playing the game. That this is how you succeed at playing the game, and getting a step up, etc. In some senses, yes, he is a con artist. But he doesn’t actually think that he is a con artist. He thinks he’s taking advantage of opportunities, and you can bet that he’s not coming up with all of these ideas on his own. The breadth of them means that he’s talking to other people with the same mindset, who are trading ideas for how to get ahead with all these small economies and salary minings.

    And the only way you are going to deal with it successfully at all, is by explaining it in the big picture territory. “No, this is not stuff that doesn’t matter, that the company can absorb, and that hurts nobody. It creates issues with budgets which affects the availability of such perks in the future and can even affect things like bonuses and salaries. We have a concept of “what is your fair share” and in a business sense, that definitely means “taking what is allotted or planned for you” because to take more than that doesn’t mean that the company will simply dig deeper and provide more for others. It may well mean that the company looks at what they have left to do that with and says “No, we already spent more on this, we cannot, or will not, spend more” – so that means that you didn’t take from the company. You actually took from your co-worker. And no, it’s not okay because you managed to get there first, and therefore you are smart and lucky. It means that you took advantage of the fact that Mary can’t get here that quickly because her bus doesn’t arrive earlier. That Jim has to drop his kids off at school. That Lisa had a doctor’s appointment.

    You made the fact that they have these things in their lives count against them. And somebody, you will be the person with such responsibilities – and maybe already have been – which is why doing this now is rude and not supportable. Because taking more than your share instead of leaving theirs for them is something you are going to want people not to do when it’s you who can’t get there. The whole setup doesn’t work unless we all pay attention to the impact on other people and what we want to be available when we’re the ones at a disadvantage.

    And ultimately, because the company does not want people to miss out on the things that they are trying to allot to them and plan for, they will solve it by removing the factor that is impeding that. Which means that you may come out ahead in the short term. But it will be a very short term, because in the short term of another sense, you’re going to end up without any access to any of it at all. Which means, you need to stop. All of it. Now. Right now.”

    1. Joielle*

      I agree with this, but also – this stuff matters because it impacts his own reputation. Even if he doesn’t care that others won’t get any if he takes more than his share, hopefully he cares that others will see him as a complete tool, and those others will be his potential coworkers and bosses some day, and they will not hire him because they remember him as a jerk and a crappy intern.

      This has happened every time I’ve been involved in hiring! We get dozens and dozens of resumes and someone goes “Hey Ted, you used to work for Senator Smith, right? Did you know Jason Johnson? He applied for the job.” And if Ted didn’t like Jason (and especially if he remembers Jason falsifying time cards), we’re probably going to chuck that resume.

      I know this is something that might be harder to understand or have perspective on when you’re brand new to the workforce, but the OP really should explain it to the intern. It’s important, and it’s hard to recover if you develop a bad reputation early on. He’d be doing the intern a service, even if the message is not well received in the moment.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Indeed. Make it clear to him where the issue might come to hit home on future reference and ending up not being able to get jobs that he really wants because this reputation will precede/follow him.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      There is no con. No one tells him he can’t take assets, so he just takes them. Nothing is hidden here, it’s all blatant.

  51. Folklorist*

    My first thought is: Did he grow up in poverty? Is he or his family still experiencing poverty or homelessness?
    This isn’t to excuse any of his behavior, but it could add some context and show the need for extra coaching and a little (a LITTLE) compassion before cutting the internship.
    It’s just the taking extra clothes, taking all free food, taking every extra cent that he realizes he’s owed after thinking about it (assuming he actually is owed it)…it all smacks of someone who has experienced a lot of food insecurity and maybe housing insecurity.
    It took years after my grad school and un/underemployment days to stop stealing every free piece of food that I could get my hands on out of habit. I was so used to hoarding every penny and every free thing I could get my hands on in case I could use it later or sell it that I probably made my own series of gaffes. So my advice here would be to approach with compassion and the best intentions, give him some direct pointers of, “you can’t do this here,” and see how and if he corrects himself.

    1. Really?*

      The OP stated he’s a white, upper middle class male.
      Can we please stop using poverty as a reason for inconsistent and rude behavior? When the deck is stacked against you on skin color and/or socioeconomic status, you’re going to do the most to blend in and not stand out.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, this kid has no manners or thought of others. Some of the most gracious & generous people I’ve known were raised without a lot of money.

    2. Not a cat*

      He needs to be fired, time theft is fraud and the school needs to know. No second chances. There are so many kids that deserve paid internships, but not this one.

  52. Pam Adams*

    I’ve had students like this- gaming the system for all that they’re worth. Too bad they can’t intern at Enron any mire- they’d fit right in!

  53. Nicki Name*

    I would desperately love to see an update on this one. Does he go “oops, I didn’t realize” and start behaving? Does he go “oops, they caught me” and get sneakier? Does he turn into the “I’m a very reliable employee” guy?

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I had the same thought below. I’m going with option D: “oops, they caught me, I’m going to quit before I face any consequences!”

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Hard to say. It’s certainly one of the likely outcomes. But having your internship end early — even if it’s a “you can’t fire me I quit” scenario *is* a consequence. And sometimes when you are young and stupid, that kind of sudden engagement with reality can shock you out of bad behavior (and some times it doesn’t). If somebody had, at any point, pushed back on the bad behavior I’d fully agree with you.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Yeah, assuming he needs this internship to graduate, I doubt he’s going to quite. IDK he entitled but he’s also been pushing boundaries and no one (except HR) has pushed back yet. Once you push back and he believes there will be consequences, he may toe the line. He’s likely to obnoxiously toe the line.

  54. Persephone Mongoose*

    HR has had to speak with him several times? You emailed him once and never brought it up again after he never responded? (!!) I’m sorry to be harsh, but it’s not just the founders who are exhibiting doormat behavior here. Why has this intern had so many chances to falsify his timesheet? Once could plausibly be an accident. Twice, you’re dealing with someone who may need things explained on a very low level, possibly with crayons. After that, it’s on purpose.

    This is a fireable offense in almost any workplace. The other stuff is varying degrees of weird and bad, but all pale in comparison to this.

    I really disagree with Alison that this is just pure cluelessness. All of the examples are boundary tests to see what he can get away with and so far, it seems like they’re X for X.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      At this point I am more concerned for OP than I am this guy. A company that lets people in and do whatever and steal from them is not a company that is long for this world. I find it jawdropping that no one corners this guy and says, “Cut the crap” or “You’re fired”. He’s over the top.

  55. anonymous73*

    I don’t see him as a con artist or completely clueless. This isn’t about understanding how an office works either. He sounds like an entitled brat, and like he’s lived in a world where’s he’s gotten away with everything because he’s never had to face consequences. But as Alison pointed out the biggest issue isn’t his behavior. It’s that nobody seems to have seriously addressed.

  56. Coffee Please*

    Honestly I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally, though that doesn’t make it okay. I have an employee like this and he just doesn’t now, even after I talk with him. Best way to deal with this is be super, super direct, lay out expectations, and grit your teeth until the internship (thankfully) ends.

  57. Empress Matilda*

    Yeah, I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt – especially interns, who are by definition new to the workforce and may not understand a lot of social norms. But this guy has left social norms in the dust, and committed time sheet fraud on more than one occasion. I find it hard to believe that anybody could actually be *that* clueless! At this stage, he’s well past “benefit of the doubt” – he’s now teetering on the very thinnest edge of “plausible deniability,” leaning well into “final warning” territory.

    That said, it seems that nobody in the office has imposed any consequences for his behaviour, even something as mild as “you only get one t-shirt, please put the others back.” And OP, you can’t just let him get away with not answering your question about his time sheet! That’s incredibly serious – both the (apparent) falsification, and his (apparent) refusal to respond to you.

    Honestly, given everything you’ve written here, you have a good case for just terminating his internship immediately. But if you want to have one – ONE – conversation with him, it should be you, your boss, and a senior person from HR. Spell out the office norms around food and swag and whatnot, and REALLY spell out the legal requirements for time reporting. Tell him that all of these are non-negotiable, effective immediately, and he will lose his internship if he doesn’t comply. You’ve been pretty lenient with him so far, so this is likely going to feel like overkill to you – but unfortunately the time for gentle correction is long past. He 100% knows what he’s doing, so now is the time to tell him 100% it’s not allowed. Good luck!

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Also, I will bet all the extra food in the break room that if OP has this conversation, the intern will up and quit the next day. I just don’t see a world where he realizes the error of his ways and comes back to the office all happy and professional and ready to go. Far more likely, he will realize that the free ride is over, the bridge is burnt, and he needs to leave before he faces any actual consequences. Likely he will concoct some story about how awful the OP and the company are, so it’s clear that *he* was never in the wrong, but who cares. If he leaves, he’s not your problem any more, right?

      (*Although you may also want to include “shit-talking the company on social media” in your list of Things We Do Not Do Here, just as a pre-emptive strike!)

  58. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Intern or no, the timesheet issues are firable offense beyond the first time being told about it if you’ve messed one up unknowingly. It’s a huge deal. Companies and employees can both get into a lot of trouble so it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure these are submitted accurately and changes or errors are handled correctly. As in going to manager/HR if you see a mistake BEFORE you just change it yourself. OMG!

    The other stuff is more along the lines rude and/or clueless. But given there are SO MANY instances, I’m going to say they are aware (given an inch they’ll take a mile). Like, I could maybe understand ordering the $50 steak if he thought he could order anything… because it was a holiday lunch. But this seems to be a pattern that keeps repeating (taking more than one’s share without asking, showing up when not supposed to just for food, etc.). Perhaps there is an underlying food insecurity issue, at play, but honestly even so this kind of behavior on repeat seems like maybe it isn’t that. You could try a very hard discussion about these behaviors, but I’d be leaning towards firing them.

  59. Spoo*

    I am truly baffled why no one is speaking up in the moment. He is an intern not a VP. He literally has no standing in the company. It sounds like people are afraid to say anything. As a company it’s part of having interns to correct bad behavior or let the intern go.

    1. Polecat*

      Never ever underestimate how much most people hate conflict. I do too, but I don’t let that keep me from having conversations that need to be had. I do know people though who would endure almost anything to avoid having to confront someone.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        This. It makes everyone mad and uncomfortable, but confrontation makes them more uncomfortable, so they’re hoping that someone else will deal with it.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Also, sometimes you end up unable to respond in the moment because you’re so shocked by someone’s behavior.

      2. Netlawyer*

        This reminds me of one of the weirdest things I had to approach a very junior employee about – the woman who cleaned our office (and I could do a whole post about how great she was) came to me and told me that my employee was spitting in his office trash can, it was gross and would I please tell him not to do it anymore. I said ok, but was like dang what is he doing and how am I going to address this? After a day or so, I finally just stopped by his office and just said “X mentioned that she’s seeing liquid in your trash can at the end of the day. It would be best if you just used it for trash.” He flushed bright red and was “OK” “OK, great thanks. You want me to close your door?” – I think he might have been using dip in his office. Has nothing to do with the OP but management is nothing but an endless series of conversations like that. The best thing I ever learned is to just suck it up and have them.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Extreme conflict avoidance is not healthy for the company in the long run.

        How long have they been in business and they do not know how to handle this type of situation??? yikes.

        I’d be brushing off my resume if I were OP.

        1. OP*

          I’m the letter writer. Thank you everyone for your very detailed and candid feedback.

          The company has been around for about 8-9 years. Our founders (3 gentlemen in their late 30s-early 40s) are extremely capable and are absolutely brilliant in their fields, but are nice and non-confrontational to a fault. Often to the point of getting walked over and taken advantage of. Their mentality towards inscrupulous and manipulative people is that “this person’s behavior is his/her own loss,” because “they may have cheated me out of some money, but they are the ones who truly suffered in the end, because they revealed their character.”

          1. Batgirl*

            I actually kinda agree with that to a point. I’ve happily lost money to friends who didn’t pay it back because I only lend what I can lose and was paying for the character reveal. The caveat is that I end the relationship once I have the results.

  60. Polecat*

    He’s not a con artist, he’s not running a grift on you. He’s simply pushing the boundaries of decent behavior to see what he can get away with, and this company is letting him. The first time he came in on a day off to get free food should have been the last time he came in on a day off to get free food. And he’s not clueless. If he was clueless, not all of his cluelessness would be in his favor would it?

  61. Rick T*

    Your intern needs a hard Wake Up Call about timesheets and timecard fraud.

    At my aerospace job we had a guy who was milking an on-the job injury claim for all it was worth. Al claimed to have ‘fallen backwards in his chair’ on his 89th day of probation and the company just demoted him two grades and shelved him instead of letting him go to avoid a lawsuit. When Al was caught on the security cameras getting in to his car an hour before his timesheet said he left that day he was walked out the door the last work day before the week-long company Christmas shutdown.

    Working on a NASA contract meant zero tolerance for timecard fraud.

  62. squirreltooth*

    This intern has a whiff of privilege in his choices—taking extras without thought of others, happy to bilk the company giving him an opportunity, making egregious menu choices on the boss’s dime. A food insecure person (and I’ve been one!) wouldn’t be ordering a $50 steak—they’d be ordering the biggest meal possible at a price point that lets them fly under the radar.

  63. Kevin Sours*

    I’m going to go with “clueless and entitled” over “clueless and inexperienced”. He’s being very aggressive about making sure that he gets every last thing he’s due without bother to check if it’s something he’s actually due. And if nobody tells him no it means it’s obviously okay. I don’t think it rises quite to the level of con artist, but at some level sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. And if we aren’t there, we’re at least pretty close.

    I don’t really see much here that’s salvageable from this relationship and getting your ass fired from an internship can be an important lesson in norms all on its own.

  64. Albeira Dawn*

    Ooooh, I may… have a possible explanation for the timesheet stuff. From personal experience. Not a likely or probable one, but a possibility.
    When I was doing my first work-study, I was hired by the Dean’s office to scan documents relating to a department’s accreditation report. Professors would leave student samples in a drawer in the office, I’d come in for an hour or so a week to scan, and put them in another drawer for pickup.
    Except, the department chair thought I was being hired to do miscellaneous stuff for the accreditation report. So she’d have me emailing professors, organizing Google Drives, making spreadsheets, all of which could be done outside of the actual physical office. So I’d put down on my time sheet that I spent 3 hours working for the Dean’s office.
    Once, at the very end of the very rough semester, the Dean’s admin assistant emailed me asking why my timesheet said I worked 2 hours on a day the office was closed. I had worked those two hours, just on my laptop from home. I never responded, to my great embarrassment, because I was deeply stressed out about other stuff and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of explaining the other work I was doing for the Chair. (I should have! At the very beginning! If there had been a problem with it the Chair would have just put some of my hours under her department! It was not a huge deal!)
    All of this to say that there is a small possibility the timesheet stuff, specifically editing past ones, is not intentionally fraudulent, but rather a case of the intern not really… getting it.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I was wondering if the “timesheets” were actually just spreadsheets, and if the intern was updating them to reflect those missing lunches and breaks as an attempt to “correct” the timesheet retroactively, or to try to make them match up with what his paycheck reflected.

      But yes, this intern obviously needs some extreme hand-holding and a close eye kept on them, because whether they are in fact malicious or incompetent, it sounds like they have the ability to create screw-ups that OP may have to deal with long after they are gone.

  65. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Everyone else has already covered what i was going to say so no need for a comprehensive comment from me on this one.
    He is a moocher, you can try educating him and hope for success, if/when it fails, terminate him.

    But document, document, document.

  66. Wem*

    How many times have we read about this type of office jerk, especially the greedy types. This little Sh!t needs a quick walk up call, that much is clear.

  67. Colorado*

    OP – why aren’t you managing him? Sit him down and ask him what is going on. The t-shirt thing could have been easily addressed on the spot. The showing up at work unscheduled could have been addressed on the spot too.
    This seems so weird and passive to me that nothing is being done.

  68. Spoo*

    I do have a question for LW. How is his work outside his behavior? Is he generally good at doing his assignments? Or does he show up, grab what he can and play on his phone?

      1. OP*

        I am the Letter Writer. He is definitely capable of doing good work when he is focused and treats his internship as his #1 priority. But unfortunately, he is often quite distracted by personal matters, causing his attendance to be quite inconsistent. His work isn’t terrible, but he’s definitely not reaching his full potential because his attention often seems to be elsewhere.

        Ironically, this intern has the highest GPA out of all the interns I’ve managed in the past few years, yet he has 10x more issues than all of them combined. The past 3 interns had GPA’s ranging from 3.1 to 3.3, and this intern has a 3.7

        1. Properlike*

          OP, I’m now so curious how long it’s been since you were in college? The fixation on GPA being an indicator of anything, “reaching his potential”, describing your founders with a tone that implies much older than 30s/40s, and this whole narrow definition of your role that involves seeing all these problems — shoddy attendance, too?!?! — and waiting around for someone else to think they’re egregious enough to address and then tell you what to do (or do it themselves.) You don’t say the founders forbid you from firing, and you clearly don’t agree with their “doormat” perspective, but… what’s going on here?

            1. e271828*

              Let go of GPA as an indicator of anything other than “good at getting college grades” (in most cases), because although it’s a number, it is arrived at with highly subjective inputs. What matters is mastery of skills, thinking ability, and willingness to learn. What you have is a schmoozer who has been coasting.

              If this present intern is “distracted” by his personal life to the extent that he is not applying himself to the work, acting like a douche and actually commiting fraud and theft in the office, and ignoring his manager, cut him loose! You do not owe him a living, or even an explanation.

              But do let the person who places interns know what he’s been up to.

          1. OP*

            OP again! There is a VERY strong culture of being the “cool boss” at this organization. It works great because 95+ percent of employees are diligent, hardworking, honest and respectful. But people are often caught off guard and are at a loss for what to do, when we have outliers.

            The founders have fired exactly 1 person in the 9 year history of the company. That employee was caught smoking in the bathroom multiple times. He was also falsifying his Time Sheet by 15-20 hours every week, for several months. When caught, he was gently admonished about it. He continued falsifying his Time Sheet, but by smaller amounts (10-12 hours per week) . They praised him for showing improvement, and encouraged to “continue moving in the right direction.”

            He was given a more serious warning when his Time Sheet falsification continued, and one final chance when he was caught with cigarettes in the bathroom again. He was finally terminated when he smashed some company equipment in a fit of frustration after something went wrong with his work that day. The President, CTO and COO felt so bad about firing him, they gave this person 2 months of severance and continued meeting with him on weekends to help him job-search

  69. SEM*

    There’s a third option between clueless and con artist, and it’s that he’s an asshole (as others have mentioned in other words)

  70. Somewhere in Texas*

    I’m so glad I learned how to handle myself during professional meal situations very early in life. For anyone curious, one of the best things to do in a new position/workplace/experience – gauge what the price is that other people are ordering. Stay within that price range and this won’t be something of note. I’ll usually have 2-3 options in mind at different price points in case there is a huge price range.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      And this isn’t hard to do! Just start a conversation about “what looks good on the menu.”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I believe it was fPoste who suggested that early in one’s career, one should strive not to be pushing into new office territory other than quiet professionalism.

  71. Rita Kueber*

    I agree with most of what’s being said. Talk to the intern chief among the suggestions. But what I haven’t seen, and what may help as well, is contacting the college. Surely these interns must go through a department, a professor, even a TA or administrator to get a paying internship in the first place. Most colleges are very careful that the student they send out into the professional world represents them, and represents them well. Surely this intern had to talk to someone at his college, and if so, have they observed the same kind of odd behavior?

  72. Koala*

    Reads to me like he is trying to take advantage of “freebies” and bank as many hours as possible before the internship ends. But it still feels intentional, like he is aware he is going overboard but he’s going to get whatever he can anyways until he gets let go.

  73. Boof*

    I gotta disagree with allison a little here; since HR already tried to talk with him and their instructions were ignored, and you tried and did not get a response, presume this intern is unworkable (intentionally so or due to extreme levels of ignorance + incomprehension to attempted communication doesn’t really matter that much). You should have a sit down eval and spell out all these issues but barring some kind of major epiphany during said conversation assume you will fire them (unless internship is already over) & will not give a good reference. Address these issues way earlier in the future as allison outlined!

  74. Interview Coming Up*

    Hold on… This theory about financial insecurity… Why would he take a pile of t-shirts that were probably all the same design? Unless he is able to wear these t-shirts and sweatshirts to work and this saves him money on doing laundry, this doesn’t accomplish anything.

    I’ve had no idea how I’d pay bills and grabbing more than one free t-shirt has never helped me. More than that, it’s never occurred to me as a way to financially benefit myself.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, this one stands out as weird. What exactly was the con behind stealing a bunch of T-shirts with a company logo? I’ve received more of them than I can count, I never knew what to do with one. They are never a comfortable cut or size, so I cannot wear them at home. I certainly don’t feel like wearing them in public. (I used to give them to my elderly parents, who had never worked in corporate America themselves, and were always excited to see another company shirt.) Was he planning on… selling them? to whom? Based on how weird this action was, and on additional information from the OP, I’m going with the “entitled college bro” for this one. If his friends asked him, I’d bet he’d say he took the shirts “ironically” or “because it was fun”, or “because I wanted to see if I could”.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m thinking free Christmas presents.
          And remembering the guy who took a scarf out of lost & found to give to his gf for her bday.
          MY scarf, which I looked for the next day. (I will not give details as to why it was unique, but believe me.)

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Well, he’s a guy and I’m sure the cut cut and size were male sizes so they probably fit him fine. I also assumed that the reason he took half is because those were the ones that were his size.

        I still don’t think those shirt would be particularly stylish or that he’s really wearing them around much.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I was going to comment the same – are company shirts really that hot a commodity for students that you’d want an armload of the same one?

        Free t-shirts weren’t really a thing at my uni IIRC, tho ofc I’ve picked up some random company shirts here and there. Like you, I don’t find them particularly flattering to wear, so I just use them as sleep or workout shirts.

        The rest of it looks like a combo of clueless student/someone who thinks he’s being clever. But grabbing a bunch of t-shirts just seems a) *really* socially out there and b) just *why*? Why would you want a bunch of company shirts? Using them where? I can’t imagine he could sell them for much either.

      3. Interview Coming Up*

        I saw a bro dude do exactly this kind of thing. Because he could, and it was unexpected, therefore funny.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I would actually not blink at a college student reasoning “If I take 15 of these, that’s 2 more weeks until I have to do laundry.” Or it saves him money because as one sweatshirt wears out he can swap in some from the stash.

      1. Jaybee*

        This is exactly it. I feel like anyone asking this has never seen the inside of men’s college dorm rooms.

      2. Interview Coming Up*

        But he’s got an internship for at least some more weeks. I don’t think he’s planning ahead for not doing laundry. And he apparently has enough appropriate work clothes.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Actually I am thinking of this more as a story of a company where no one can say the NO word.

  75. kiki*

    Besides the timesheet stuff, I feel like it’s possible that this kid picked up some bad habits from school. A lot of schools do give out free stuff and food pretty indiscriminately and often have a surplus that will otherwise go to waste, so scrounging as much as possible on the university’s dime can be seen as relatively normal behavior. I would address the taking too much “free” stuff transgressions separately from the timesheet ones. “Hey, I know work etiquette stuff can be tricky as a new person, but I’ve noticed you tend to go overboard taking advantage of free perks. When our office offers you stuff like a t-shirt or free food, it’s really intended to be a single serving or just cover what you need in that moment, unless someone says otherwise. We try not to over-order, so when someone takes more than their share, it can mean others don’t get enough. If there’s extras, we’ll let you know and offer them to the group and then you’re welcome to partake. Do you have any questions I can clear up for you about this?”

    Before taking interns (or anyone new to the field) out for their first dinner on the company’s dime, I would talk to all of them about expectations, especially because different industries and companies do vary on this. I’ve definitely worked places where everyone would get the steak and a side of lobster and I’ve worked places where people would be frowned upon for ordering a drink other than water. This specific intern seems like they’re determined to get the most bang for their buck out of this internship, but I think a lot of people appreciate knowing in advance what’s considered acceptable.

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      I can agree that a lot of people would appreciate knowing what’s acceptable.

      I know it probably feels gross to a lot of people to have to tell them that, because they aren’t in kindergarten. The phrase ‘common sense’ was floated in these comments. But common sense usually means ‘I don’t like to have to explain things to you, so just figure it out on your own.’

      I’m not saying anyone needs to be sat down and said “Now this is how we behaaaave, okaaaaay?” It would be perfectly fine to say “Order off the lunch menu, we usually just get one drink.” Or talk about if you all split appetizers or whatever the protocol for your office culture is.

    2. pancakes*

      Maybe, but it’s not as if people are in that particular type of environment from birth until entering the workforce. Even the most sheltered student will have some experience of the world apart from their own uni.

      1. kiki*

        True, but I think being in one environment for a while can recalibrate default expectations. This guy may just be a boor, but I think we all have had those things we look back on and cringe because we brought the wrong assumptions into a new environment.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I’d be done here also.
      He’s not teachable and it does not matter why.
      He steals from the company and is a detriment to the company therefore he has to go.

  76. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    I completely think he’s doing this on purpose, but what baffles me is why he’s getting away with it. Why has no one told him to stop, or at the very least, bring things back (like the t-shirts)?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Amen. The OP should be providing mentorship and advice to these interns. Not just on the quality of their work, but also on workplace and professional norms. If the OP isn’t communicating professional expectations and coaching the intern on each of the bulleted issues, I’d say the OP is doing more harm than good for this student.

    2. Magda*

      What stuck out for me is “I emailed him on this but he didn’t respond.”
      So…..stop by his desk and ask him about it! Or call him on the phone! Either he’ll supply a reason or you’ll have the chance to have a discussion about the problem right on the spot.
      Drives me absolutely bonkers when someone uses the excuse of “I emailed but didn’t get a response” for why something hasn’t been handled. We need to get people comfortable with actually interacting with people in non-digital ways.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I am more baffled by why he gets away with it than why he is doing it. It does not matter why he is doing it- tell him to stop. If he doesn’t stop- then show him the door.

  77. Chauncy Gardener*

    Between this intern and the poor OP with the dress situation, I feel like my head is going to explode!
    Let’s put the intern and Jan to stew together in the same office.

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      Oh, I bet Jan wouldn’t miss a chance to tell Intern what he was doing that was out of line.


    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Jan to intern: “You’ve been wearing this company sweatshirt every day for two weeks in a row. Isn’t that unhygienic, Intern?!”
      Intern: “Haha, joke’s on you, Jan, I’ve got fifteen of these babies. All set for next week too!”

  78. Green Goose*

    I felt as I read through the list of grievances (which were totally rude) I kept being most alarmed that no one had said anything to him. He’s an intern and part of that process is being told what to do, how to act professional and expectations. I’ve hosted interns over the years and I was shocked at some of the things they did, and I learned that “common sense” is not always common. My own issue (and it sounds like the OPs company too) was not correcting those behaviors as they were happening.

    I had an intern who invited friends to come “hang out” at the office when he was working and never asked and then clocked those hours in his timesheet. He also would input “9am” in his time sheet when he’d arrive at 9:10. I thought at the time that he was being malicious but later realized her had NEVER been in a professional environment and was held to really lax standards as a student.
    I think the OP intern is not great but someone at the company needs to tell him what’s appropriate.

    1. kiki*

      Time-tracking cultures can also vary sooooo much by industry, company, and job type. It’s interesting because I’ve worked at places that were very intense about timesheets (exact to the minute! timeout for bathroom breaks!) and I’ve also worked at jobs that were much more lax about it and both would say, “use your common sense.”

      1. Green Goose*

        So true! I had to explain to him that since he was paid hourly, he could only report the time he had actually worked. He was used to college where it was “okay” to show up 10-20 minutes late to a lecture but still be considered present.

      2. Netlawyer*

        As well as different people – I always had the conversation with my new hires (we were one of those you needed to clock 80 hours every two weeks places, all employees were exempt) – “you are grown adult person and I am happy to handle your time the way most comfortable for you. I’m happy to be flexible, you want to work 10-7 or 6-3, no problem. Just make sure folks know when you are here if they are looking for you. If you have a doctor’s appointment or the cable guy is coming and want to make up the time, no problem. I will reach out to you if I hear concerns but I trust you. Alternatively, we can do this strictly by the book. If you want to claim 30 minutes of overtime because you stayed until 5:30, I can do that. But I’ll dock you if you come in at 8:15. I’ll expect you to use your leave for doctors appointments. Totally up to you.” Had two folks who were “my meeting ran over so I get 15 minutes of comp time” and the rest were just getting their jobs done and had no issues getting their hours in. Different people need different approaches.

  79. Jacey*

    OP, I truly don’t intend this to be a lecture or an attack, but I’m sort of… gobsmacked that he’s gotten away with all of this, especially as an intern. So many people, yourself included, could and should have stepped in, but haven’t. That means you and your colleagues have not done their jobs.

    Is your company usually this bad at addressing problems? If so, do you know why? I see you mentioned the owners can be doormat-like in their niceness. Is it possible that attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the employees?

  80. EnginerdGal*

    I’ve worked with people like this intern, many of them experienced professionals. At one office, I had an employee constantly asking me to order special equipment, posters for his office wall, etc… because we were a very generous company. I had to tell him we weren’t shopping for him. Same guy would say he was working from home but not answer IMs or emails until the next day. I’d overhear him talking about how he had played golf the day before etc… until I finally had to take away his WFH privileges and he was aghast. Same guy once put 16 hours on his timecard for one day! Insisted that having breakfast with coworkers (on a biz trip), lunching with colleagues, and attending a dinner banquet after playing golf and then “checking email in his hotel room” added up to 16 hours. Our admin who was responsible for ordering our catering deliveries would add 2 meals to every order: 1 for her lunch and another for her to take home to dinner! When we mentioned we were donating our older laptops to a local underserved school in the community when we all got upgrades, one employee took several for herself saying she was donating them to her child’s school (she tried to sell them on eBay). Grifters, greedy jerks, whatever. Once they’ve shown themselves capable of that behavior, I’m not sure “just a talk” will take care of it!

    1. Meep*

      Seriously this.

      A lot of the time it comes down to people feeling like they are owed. Sometimes it may be justified. Sometimes it is not. My former boss and aunt are a lot like that. Life didn’t go exactly how they expected it to go (not that either of them tried) so at 60-years-old they have an extreme sense of entitlement at all costs.

      I have had coworkers who only show up when I bribe them with free food. Otherwise, I cannot reach them. I have learned pretty quickly when I need to get rid of ANYTHING, throwing them in the breakroom with a free sign brings out all the vultures. Doesn’t matter what it is. Pens, stickers, food, whatever.

      1. Netlawyer*

        My old office went through a phase where people were bringing stuff from home they didn’t want and leaving it in the break room. And it was things like expired food! We finally had to put a stop to it when someone cleaned out their medicine cabinet and left expired OTC medications (advil, cough syrup, pills that you push through foil) – I would walk through the break room and just throw away anything that wasn’t like cookies someone brought in or salt water taffy from someone’s vacation (I got to go to Hawaii for vacation with my parents several times and I personally contributed practically a whole suitcase full of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts that would be completely gone in 45 minutes.) Anyway, we finally had to have an all-hands to tell people that “no they could not bring in their expired food and medications and leave them in the break room.”

  81. Meep*

    I know a lot of people think he is being purposeful in what he is doing, but I really do not think so. He can be arrogant, entitled, and a bit of a putz without being malicious. And I say from experience of dealing with arrogant, entitled putz who have and have not been malicious. Sometimes all at the same time.

    I have seen college students jump at the chance for free food without a second thought on if it is actually for them or not. Heck, my husband is the sweetest man alive but has a weakness for free food from his days as a literal starving college student (if I didn’t feed him, he would eat nothing but one 25-cent ramen a day). He just cannot turn it down even if he doesn’t even like it!

    On the other hand, I have had two coworkers that only show up to work when there is free food to be had. Otherwise, they are completely unreachable. It is the most obnoxious thing ever.

    I recently got back my favorite mug after two years, because my toxic, abusive coworker stole it. This mug was on my desk, with coffee grinds in it, during a freaking global pandemic. She still thought she had a right to it (among my opened chocolate and popcorn) and used it for two years before she finally made the mistake of leaving it in the kitchen*. At the same time, for all the horrible things she has done to me (including trying to get me fired and even killed – no seriously), I don’t think her taking my property was malicious. She was just entitled to it. The same goes for all the times she put personal items (tidepods mostly, occasional ranch, popcorn, and once a laptop) on the company credit. She just felt like the world owed her. I don’t think defrauding the company even crossed her mind. Similarly, I don’t think the intern stealing t-shirts didn’t think he was defrauding the company. No one said anything.

    Point is, I chop it up to this boy having zero manners before I chop it up to maliciousness. Some people are just really really dumb when it comes to their own shortcomings. Scratch that. Most people are.

    *For the record, I asked for it back. She always said she would bring it back and never did.

  82. Ed123*

    I see a guy who has no intention of making it through this internship or any other internships. I would would go as far as ti guess that he already has a Jon lined up post graduation. He is seeing how much he can push boundaries and use it for his advantage. Thus far he is getting paid overtime (without likely doing anything extra), free food and tons of swag.

  83. Esmeralda*

    Immediately after meeting with the intern, I would also contact the intern coordinator at the university as well as his instructor for the internship credit — he’s likely earning course credit for interning, that is. Summarize what you’ve laid out here, state the day/time that you met with the intern (as Alison describes), including the consequences for the intern if they don’t follow through. And let the intern know you are doing so. In fact, cc the intern on your emails to the coordinator and instructor.

  84. Esmeralda*

    I will add that I think Alison is wrong — not naive, definitely doing some if not all of this on purpose. Taking a big stack of sweatshirts — yeah, college students get free t shirts and such all the time and it’s always “take one”. Lying about time worked? That’s not naive, that’s a lie. Continuing to “work on emails” during lunch so that they have to be paid — that’s “I didn’t know” ONCE; they’ve been told, so now it’s on purpose and with knowledge that it’s wrong.

    OP, scammer, but do the meeting as if not a scammer, because that’s the professional thing to do.

  85. KayleeKnits*

    I do also wonder if Covid has an impact. Maybe this intern missing out on the last 2 years of in person schooling has less idea than the regular interns about what is allowed

    1. ArtK*

      None of this stuff is things that I would expect to be taught in school, unless there’s a special “interns” class.

      1. No Clever Name*

        I mean, this is stuff you learned in kindergarten. Take one, leave the rest for your classmates, etc.

  86. ArtK*

    OP, I think you’ve been far too lenient on this person. For instance, after the first time they crashed a meeting, a face-to-face “do not do that” was absolutely necessary. Also after the restaurant issue. “You need to pay attention to what other people are ordering in a situation like this. What you did was noticed and not for good reasons.” Falsifying a timesheet? “Normally this is a firing offense. We’ll let you go on this *this time*, but you must keep your nose clean.”

    At this point, there’s so much stuff, I’d just cut my losses and fire them.

    1. Nora*

      I don’t see any of those things as being strict vs. lenient; telling an employee specifically what they have done wrong and why is so much kinder than just stewing about it behind their back

      1. ArtK*

        Lenient as in allowing this intern to crash meetings more than once! Lenient as in not taking the multiple T-shirts back. All of those just tell the person that, words aside, their behavior is acceptable.

  87. Grace*

    Re the intern — someone may have suggested this already — but — could they be acting out of scarcity? All the privileges they have abused are about basic needs — money, food, clothes. In the past I never would have thought of this, I would have gone straight to “entitled,” but reading this site has made me more sensitive to the fact that some things that look like entitlement can also be about food insecurity, etc.

      1. Not a cat*

        Many. many, many, many suggested it because it gave them an opportunity to play Oliver Twist with their deprived childhoods.

  88. Triumphant Fox*

    The thing is, the timecard stuff will genuinely get him fired elsewhere. Sure, he may be able to retroactively add in time or have to be paid extra because “oops I worked during lunch again,” but those are the kinds of fireable wage-theft things employers won’t tolerate. It’s also the red flag that puts you on HR’s radar. The other things might feel like just violating social norms, but I’m surprised a harder line wasn’t taken on these points.

    HR might give a pass to an intern who may be food insecure and is just trying to get as much as he can during a cushy job if anyone raises his behavior to them. They are much less likely to forgive being forced to say that they violated an employee’s mandated breaks over and over by making them work through them.

  89. Bamcheeks*

    I genuinely don’t understand letters which are like, “this intern is doing all these bad things and I raised my eyebrows HARD but he still doesn’t get it!” He didn’t respond to your email query— and you didn’t follow up in a one-to-one conversation? The HR rep talked to him— but you didn’t follow up on that to check his understanding and that he knew what to do going forward? He was suppose to know that only this side of the menu was on offer— but no one said that explicitly? Maybe he’s clueless, maybe he’s taking the piss— but it’s wild how little you seem to have done to address any of it!

    1. Bamcheeks*

      (Also wild to me that 90% of the comments prefer to take a decisive line on, “this intern: good or bad??” rather than actually actionable management advice!)

      1. Nanani*

        I mean, a lot of comments have both? And the advice is kind of Alison’s whole thing, not the peanut gallery’s

  90. Tiffany In Houston*

    This intern is an asshole, he’s not naïve, he’s been counseled by HR on several occasions, he’s been given a pass by his manager and he STILL has a job??? How is this fair to the other interns??

    If this had been a POC kid (particularly Black or Hispanic) or immigrant or working class, they may have gotten spoken to once about their behavior, maybe. There wouldn’t have been a second time because they would have gotten fired. And that’s just real talk.

    This kid needs to be fired, full stop.

  91. employment lawyah*

    In all likelihood you should simply fire him now.

    While of course he is an intern (and judged by “how interns should act” as opposed to “how you yourself act) he is obviously far outside the norm for interns and the many actions you describe show an unusually bad presentation. Frankly I’m inclined to think it’s at least somewhat deliberate, but even if not: would you want someone so oblivious on your staff?

    Personally I would not spend your valuable time trying to bring him up to speed. Let him go–gently, if you like–and move on.

  92. Hales*

    Why has no one confronted this intern?! So many of these incidents should have been addressed in the moment, and I am baffled that no HR professional or manager has said anything.

    – Falsifying his timesheet? That’s a meeting with a manager.
    – Continues to screw up his timesheet? That’s a performance improvement plan.
    – Shows up for a meeting he isn’t scheduled for? “Sorry, Fergus, but we only ordered enough food for employees scheduled, so you will need to put that food back. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
    – Takes more than one t-shirt? “Sorry, Fergus, there’s actually only enough for everyone to have a single shirt. Please only take one.”

    This company has to be so conflict averse to allow this to continue to happen :/

    1. Anony*

      This exactly. Like why would no one just tell him one tshirt only??? It makes no sense to me. Why wouldn’t anyone pull him aside after the dinner and tell him that professional norms usually dictate that you don’t order the most expensive item on the menu? A good learning experience for an intern, but not if no one tells him! Sounds like a company full of doormats, not just the founders…

  93. former clueless intern*

    I was once an intern at a nonprofit a long time ago on a stipended program, and I logged hours spent at the organization’s posh resort on my timecard because I was, at least in my understanding, doing work. Specifically, I’d been asked to update the website and various materials to make them more on theme, and I was exploring the site and figuring out what it was about so that I could represent it more accurately. My then-boss called me in, had a serious meeting with me, told me that I couldn’t log all of that, accused me of lying on my timesheets, and gave me a choice of whether to continue. I quit. It was a completely hopeless meeting because I was so caught off guard and totally lacked the skills to express myself, and I was already really frustrated with having given up other better opportunities to be part of the program. All the same, it’s haunted me, and I’ve been more careful since.

    With that said, I really think this timecard issue needs to be dealt with firmly but compassionately. “Intern, we need to talk about these added hours. What happened here? When this happens, it means that we have to send it back through for re-processing (or whatever) and it can come off as fraudulent. We need to be careful with this because ____. Please stay on top of your timecards going forward and if you have questions ask before submitting. I don’t want you to get fired because of this but you need to know that it can be a fireable offense.”

    Same thing with the lunch hours. “Why are you working through lunch? This can come off as . . . . At many employers, including this one, if you don’t take your assigned breaks you can actually get fired for not following the rules, because it causes labor law problems for us . . .” It doesn’t have to be mean, and you don’t have to make it more complicated as a character assessment than it actually is. Who cares what the intern’s character is – you just need him to stop these problems, and to understand what the risks are if he continues. Just my thoughts on this.

  94. Cleo*

    “Who cares what the intern’s character is – you just need him to stop these problems, and to understand what the risks are if he continues.”


  95. Delphine*

    No one thought to go, “Oh, hey, one shirt per person,” in the moment? Jeez, it’s completely irrelevant whether the intern is “good” or “bad” in this situation, how about someone try actually managing him?

  96. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Put that intern on a PIP!

    OP, please write up all the rules that you want this intern to follow; don’t assume that anything is too minor or that “he should know that without being told” (because clearly he doesn’t.) Write them up in strictly behavioral terms – use observable behavior as your guide in this: e.g., “only put down the hours you actually worked on any given day” or “when free items are offered to the interns, only take one for yourself.” Do NOT put down “behave in a more professional manner” “don’t hog all the food” or anything else that’s open to any interpretation or isn’t observable behavior. Be absolutely clear and concrete in your requirements for him. Include, at the end, a line stating “I understand and agree to follow the above requirements. I understand that, if I fail to follow them, I will be terminated.” plus the usual line for date and signature.

    Then sit down with him, give him a copy of your goals for him and explain why he needs to follow all of them to retain his internship. Ask him if he’s willing to follow them; if he says yes, then have him sign and date both his copy of the PIP and your own. Finally, back up your words with actions; if he fails to follow any of the guidelines, he’s out. Period.

    Do you have a professional / academic contact for this young man – say, a professor who referred him for this internship or gave him a recommendation? If so, it might be worthwhile to call them and let them know what’s been happening; few profs want to write letters of recommendation for students who act like this one does! Plus, a few pointed words from a prof who holds power over your grade can work wonders.

    1. Netlawyer*

      This is great advice and if OP hasn’t had to write a PIP before a really good way to learn how to articulate specific actions and/or outcomes. Even if OP doesn’t pursue a formal PIP, writing one will ensure they are ready to be clear and direct with the intern on what he needs to do (and not do).

      1. Netlawyer*

        And I’m remembering back almost 20 years ago when, as a new manager, I had to put an employee (who had a more domain-specific experience than I did) on a PIP. And it was really hard – I had to define specific projects and outcomes that were achievable within the 90 day PIP period. And they seemed to me like something he could easily do in two weeks – it was like “contact this person to get the agreement for x, review the agreement and provide an evaluation of the organization’s risk under the agreement” or “draft a letter to X about Y” – and his response was “no this isn’t my job” *record scratch* OK, we’ll meet once a week on your progress and as your supervisor, I can assure you these tasks fall within your position description. He didn’t finish everything and what he did finish was.. not.. good. So I had to prepare a memo evaluating his work product, it went up to the boss of our office and he got fired. *Surprised Pikachu Face* and the crying, omg. So that’s how I became the first supervisor to actually fire someone at the GS-15 level in the government office I worked in *evar* – but man it was a lot of work.

  97. Anon attorney*

    I’m a bit puzzled by the suggestion that the intern is a con artist. It’s not like he is being subtle about his behavior – assuming he genuinely is a college student, what’s the con?

    For me, the timecard violation is the serious issue. I think this needs to be followed up – it’s not acceptable to fail to provide an explanation. In your place, unless there is a good explanation, I would consider firing for this alone. As I’m sure you know, timecard irregularities will get you fired in a lot of places and it speaks to an integrity problem which has to be taken extremely seriously. At minimum, a final warning would be merited.

    The other behavior is rude and inappropriate and should simply have been dealt with there and then. I think you’re very focused on finding an explanation for his behavior, which I can understand, but actually it’s largely irrelevant why he does it – he just needs to be told to knock it off. I get that part of having an intern is to socialize them to the working world but that doesn’t always mean we have to delve into the behavior or find an explanation. He needs the human equivalent of a tap on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

  98. No Clever Name*

    OP… Your intern is not clueless. Your intern is a thief/grifter who has no moral compass. He is showing you who is, with the same behaviors over and over again. Why don’t you believe him?

  99. Workerbee*

    Yes, this intern is a huge problem—but my goodness, your org is a great fit for him. Over and over he demonstrates ridiculous, crude, illegal behavior, and is allowed to keep on keeping on! You all are doing a great job showing him that douchebaggery gets rewarded. I’ve encountered them after they’ve been promoted—please don’t follow that pattern, too.

    Seriously, either start managing him like the manager you are, or get rid of him. The whole “how can this be happening” tone is just too much.

  100. Moonsunbear*

    Wanted to add: a number of these behaviors can come from having experienced scarcity or poverty. My first (unpaid) internship, I took FAR too much advantage of the free books, to a degree that’s embarrassing to think about today.

    That’s not to excuse him, because these behaviors should change, but to explain how someone can do these things without explicitly malicious intent.

  101. Louis*

    Falsifying a time sheet is big deal, so I’m not sure I’d write this off as someone who is simply clueless.

  102. EngineeringFun*

    As an engineer, I’ve worked with this intern before. “But you said they we free” “technically you said we could order anything” “by definition I’m working so I should get paid.” This is a black and white engineer. Being blunt won’t offend him. He’ll probably argue with you.

  103. Worldwalker*

    I wouldn’t call him a “con artist” because that implies some level of trickery. There’s nothing subtle going on here — he’s outright stealing. He knows what he’s doing — everyone learned in kindergarten that you don’t take more than your share. He’s doing it because nobody has stopped him. Stop him.

  104. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Oh, that’s what could happen to that one Scout/Cub I used to really wonder about. There’s a few of them I wondered about but this kid, and this behaviour, yeah, I can see where it starts and how it can grow if not managed well by a parent. This kid, he’d be so proud of gaming the system – he’d brag about it and expect his mother’s admiration. (Which to her credit she didn’t always give.) Seemed clueless as to why he had no fans among the other kids and nothing was ever his fault.

    If you fire him or don’t provide a good reference for him, none of it will be ever his fault. I’ll doubt he’ll learn from it.

    Good luck.

  105. Christy*

    He may be clueless because no one taught him the proper way to behave in an office. He might be on a budget that doesn’t include 3 meals a day or be a first generation college student with zero experience in an office. If the company cares about diversity, it’s important to give him an opportunity to be coached and improve.

    1. Quack Quack No*

      OP described his demographics in a couple of comments. Also, commenter Really?* had some useful commentary on this line of thought.

  106. DKLKEK*

    I feel like most comments have focused on the intern (which, fair) but haven’t actually addressed the OP’s actions.

    OP you need to manage this guy! I know it’s weird to be dealing with someone blowing through so many social and office norms, but you need to be explicit about what you need him to do and the consequences.

    Motivations basically don’t matter, especially on the time sheet stuff, it’s the behavior you need to address. If you really think he’s just naive you can give him more chances, but honestly you’ll be doing him a favor to provide consequences that might let a lesson sink in at an early part of his career.

    Also side note: I’ve made this same mistake (though with a less colorful character). It’s baffling to deal with this level of norm non-conformity. And it’s draining to address, but you have to rip off the band-aid.

  107. Anonymous for This*

    I didn’t read all of the comments so someone may have already suggested this, but has anyone checked his social media to see what he’s saying about his internship?

    If he’s bragging how much he’s getting away with, then that’s a problem. If he’s just talking about how great it is that he gets free food and goodies, then he’s clueless and needs guidance.

    If the former, perhaps he was raised by grifter parents. If the latter, maybe he was raised by negligent wolves.

  108. Jane Jane*

    I was a bit like that in my earliest jobs. It was because I was autistic, so slow to pick up on the norms, and always stressed about money so trying to grasp whatever I could. I wish someone had taken me aside and explained everything.

  109. Evan*

    ‘Conman’ seems a bit much, but it sounds like he’s going out of his way to game out how he can get as much money/food out of this as possible. And, if I read the timesheet thing right, he might be outright stealing.

    When I worked as a lifeguard in high school, there was rampant time sheet fraud among mostly good kids. At that age, it’s not uncommon to think it’s all a game — but firing is the correct response for stealing.

  110. Globe Trotter Gal*

    I absolutely have to on the “clueless college kid” description that keeps being mentioned because, IMO, that can only go so far. Yes, colleges give out lots of free swag and yes there’s often free food at all sorts of random events but his actions are particularly extreme and in my experience with undergrad, grad, and years of working in higher ed are out-of-step with college culture and would not really have been tolerated, particularly by other students. If there’s free pizza at an event and someone in the line sees you grab an entire box for yourself – chances are they’re going to say something. Similarly if a club or table is giving out free t-shirts you might get away with 2 (or a taking a bunch at the END of the event) but you better believe they’re going to say something if you grab 10 shirts while there’s a line behind you and try to walk off. There’s definitely something weird going on here but I find it hard to believe his actions would fly on his campus either; which points to a more… calculated (for lack of a better word) set of actions.

  111. Amethystmoon*

    Where I work, falsifying hourly time sheets is an offense that will get you fired. I’ve seen people be here 5 years + and get fired for it. They don’t make exceptions for that rule.

    It’s possible he’s poor so that’s why he’s taking more than one share. Whomever is handing out T-shirts/food/etc. needs to say outright if there are limits. Also, management needs to actually enforce the limits.

    I agree with clearly writing down the rules in a document. It will help in case you need it for HR later. Make sure that any future groups of interns get the rules document as well.

  112. SallyForth*

    My kids had a math tutor who was a business major. We lived in a town with two universities that had pioneered co-op terms. The math tutor would often tell us about their mandatory “business culture” class and what she had learned. It was full of good solid information such as ordering from the less expensive part of the menu and not giving in to company gossip in the break room (especially when you are a newbie), but also covered legislation on harassment and working hours. She would often test the validity of the info by asking us if it was true to our experience.
    Her parents were new to the country and also appreciated her little tidbits.

  113. GreenDoor*

    As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of my son, who, when confronted on his misdeeds always protested with, “But, Mom, you didn’t teeeellllll me not to do it!”

    That said, this was when he was seven. He’s eight now and understands that this strategy will get him nowhere with me. OP, you’ve got to stop letting it work for your intern! A grown up young adult who uses the whole “well no one told me it was bad” logic knows exactly what they’re doing.

  114. quill*

    One can be both clueless and selfish / obnoxious. However, I doubt it’s a coherent con (conmen try to avoid being noticed) instead of him just combining carelessness, rudeness, and greed into one internship.

  115. MCMonkeyBean*

    For me, it’s the t-shirts that makes me think this is less cluelessness and more obnoxiousness. I just don’t believe that he actually even *wants* that many company t-shirts. What would he do with them??? There is no non-obnoxious reason to be told to get one of those shirts and take half of them.

    It doesn’t change anything about the advice. It’s just the oddest part of the story to me.

  116. Hosta*

    I honestly don’t think your intern is being malicious. Some people literally don’t have any instruction in professional behavior or even basic manners before they start in the working world.

    I can think of three or four people who took quite a while to adapt to professional norms, including one person I managed. Often they were the first person in their family to hold an office job, or their parents didn’t educate them about professional norms and/or manners, or they had a summer job in their teens where a lot of unprofessional behavior was tolerated/expected. The end result was they either just didn’t know, or they had been explicitly taught the opposite of what we expected.

    Calling it out in the moment is key. What also helped with the person I managed was walking him through how some situations would go before hand, usually we did that with client meetings. We also set him up a lot of opportunities to shadow more experienced team members in client and leadership meetings and other situations. And we got him a mentor from a similar background because I honestly didn’t know what he didn’t know.

    It took time though, and probably not the amount of time you want to invest in an intern.

    But please do make sure he learns that his current behavior is unacceptable, if only to save someone else from having to teach that lesson next year.

    1. Skeptic*

      I’m not so sure this intern is completely innocent. Malicious may be too strong of a word, but he’s definitely entitled and opportunistic.

      If someone was genuinely oblivious to how to behave in a professional environment, they would make a wide variety of mistakes. Statistically, it would be equally likely that some mistakes hurt them, some mistakes help them, and some mistakes have no impact. Yet, every single time this intern has acted strangely, the outcome is that he benefits. The odds are astonishingly low that 100% of genuine mistakes and misunderstandings result in material gain for the offending party.

  117. L*

    The rib eye, I can understand. If you’re bring treated to lunch it isn’t crazy to think you can just pick food off the menu. Especially if you aren’t someone used to being treated to lunch by anyone besides family.

    Everything else… is so crazy that it makes no sense. Showing up on days you aren’t scheduled to conferences you aren’t invited to, taking food, and leaving?

    Time sheet violations make sense once or twice, but not this often.

Comments are closed.