should I give feedback to our interns who come across as TOO peppy and enthusiastic?

A reader writes:

Each year my workplace takes on summer legal interns. Most have finished one year of law school This is often their first exposure to a legal department, and sometimes their first job. I occasionally give them projects and am asked for my feedback by their supervisor, but have never have any direct supervisory authority over them or anyone else.

I’ve noticed in the past (and in our current intern, “Savannah”) the tendency for interns to be upbeat and expound on their emotions around each project to the point of coming across as disingenuous, desperate for approval, and slightly brown-nosing. For example, I gave Savannah three days to do a monotonous task that was largely proofreading a string of legal citations. I thanked her for doing it, explained why it was necessary, and apologized for how tedious it was. Her response was to effusively gush that it was a “terrific learning opportunity” and she was “so, so happy” about it, while literally clutching her notepad to her chest. She is also constantly overexplaining how helpful it is for her to do whatever project she’s assigned and some variation of how thrilled she is to be here, which hasn’t let up in the two and a half months I’ve known her. Even when we say something mildly derogatory about having to look into a novel issue, she insists on spinning it as something like, “But it’s such a good chance to dive into that area of law!”

I see a lot of myself in Savannah and the others, and as a younger person dealt with issues related to my own tendency to fawn over perceived authority figures and be constantly upbeat, which I had to learn over time to tone down. I’m unsure whether I should be giving her or other interns advice about their general attitude and demeanor. You usually catch more flies with honey, but in this profession bonding over shared work-related frustrations and difficulties is also a necessary skill. In Savannah’s case, a more senior attorney described her as “grating” and “relentlessly happy,” and it seems to be actively overshadowing the actual work she does, which is largely good.

Until I got to the end of your letter, I was thinking, “Eh, let them be chipper and enthusiastic, even if some of it is performative. Maybe try a mild hint, but don’t worry about it beyond that.”

But if senior people are describing the behavior as “grating” and it’s overshadowing their actual work, it would be a favor to your interns to say something.

It’s interesting because we’re used to thinking of enthusiasm as a good thing — what could be wrong in being so enthusiastic about your work? But your situation shows it’s more nuanced than that, and that can be tricky for people who are new to the work world; getting the balance right can be (in some cases) more of a 301-level skill than one might expect.

It’s a delicate thing to address because (a) you don’t want your interns to think you’re saying enthusiasm is bad (it’s not! it’s just in these quantities, where it feels overwhelming) or deflate their happiness, and (b) you don’t want them to misunderstand the message and think they should start complaining about work, because that wouldn’t be a good outcome for anyone. So you’ve got to be really careful about how you frame it.

One option is to take Savannah (and future interns you see this behavior in) out to lunch, ask how things are going, and offer feedback. You could frame it as, “I think your enthusiasm is great and I’m glad you see the value in tasks that can be tedious, like proofreading citations, but I did want to offer advice on one thing related to that. I’ve noticed sometimes our interns, and I’m including you in that, are so effusive in their enthusiasm about each new task that it can almost seem performative — and I get why, you’ve probably all been advised that you should make sure to show you’re happy for the opportunity. And in general, enthusiasm is a good thing. But there’s a certain amount of professional bonding that goes on over work frustrations and difficulties too. People are more likely to relate to you as a peer — or to be able to envision you as a future peer — if you don’t come across as starry-eyed about the work. I want to be really clear that I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever show enthusiasm. It’s more about how much and in what circumstances.”

I don’t love all those caveats! But I think they’re probably necessary to have any hope of the message being received correctly.

Another option is to make this something you address with interns at the very start of their internships, as part of a general orientation to office life. That way you’re not correcting something after the fact, when they’ve already been getting it wrong, but setting them up for success from the beginning. You could say something like, “We’ve seen with past interns that a lot of you have been advised to show your enthusiasm about being here, and I want to say up-front: we want you be happy here and invested in your work, but we don’t expect you to perform gratitude about it with every task. You shouldn’t go around complaining, of course, but when you’re assigned something fairly tedious — and you will be — you don’t have to pretend to be over the moon. We just ask that you’re polite and professional and do the work without complaint.”

But also, ideally you’d push back on your colleagues when you hear them complain about the interns’ pep, pointing out that they’re new to work and have probably been told to show enthusiasm — and maybe suggesting that they invest in coaching them on it if it bothers them. But you won’t be able to reach everyone with that message, and hierarchy and internal politics may make it impossible to deliver it to some people anyway, so your interns’ side of this is the part that you (and they) have the most control over.

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I’d frame it as authenticity. The amount of enthusiasm they’re displaying is out of line with the amount of enthusiasm the work would bring up in anyone.

    They can communicate that they’re pleased with the opportunity to learn and to intern there without acting like they’re deliriously happy about routine or tedious tasks. A smiling “yes, but I’m weird like that, I love the tedious stuff” would strike me as more genuine than being “so, so happy” to do it or continually reframing it.

    I would also consider asking directly if they have received guidance or feel a sense of pressure to reassure us how happy they are to be interning here.

      1. Jolie*

        I really like the idea to frame it around authenticity. “You don’t have to pretend to be jump-for-joy excited about tedious tasks” is a very healthy thing to say. “You should censor your sincere enthusiasm because an embittered old cynic finds it grating” is very much not.

        1. TootsNYC*

          or even if they are jump-for-joy happy, it can be a burden to other people when you react more strongly than is the societal norm for the situation.

      2. eye roll*

        Authenticity is a dangerous linch pin for a discussion (that admittedly is sounds like you need to have). Honestly, when I was interning in law school, I was ridiculously excited about any task I actually knew how to do. Tediously check citations? Yes! Please! Review 10,000 pages of badly written notes for key words? Absolutely! Happy to do it! Every other task seemed to make me feel incompetent and as if I was about to cause some disaster, so a tedious, basic task I actually learned in school probably was authentically greeted with over-the-top excitement.

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          Exactly. I am a nurse and I have had student’s *thrilled* to flush an IV or even give a suppository. When it is what you are learning and you finally get a chance to start practicing it there is often so much enthusiasm. Honestly, I enjoy it because it is refreshing seeing someone getting enjoyment out of something I find pretty run-of-the-mill.

          1. I just work here*

            Yes! This. I teach nursing and frequently have clinical students fight for the chance to remove IVs, which is about the least exciting thing a nurse can do. I love their enthusiasm!

    1. ina*

      I’m confused on how it’s authenticity when you are saying “hey, others wouldn’t be happy about this so you shouldn’t.” Being young and in an internship you were gunning for and really want to make a good impression at in a field you’re excited to enter might really make a tedious task exciting. LW’s seasoned – of course, the stuff they’re asking the interns to do is bleh to them, but the intern is doing it for the first time. Like the LW, I see a lot of myself in Savannah so maybe I’m just projecting on her approach to all this and how she’d take being told to be “authentic.” It’s not hard to believe, for me, that Savannah is “so, so happy” to do it and framing it as “people won’t see you as authentic if you express enthusiasm” might send weird messages. Maybe I am misunderstanding the use of authentic here though, my apologies if so.

      I like how you reworded it though – essentially, it’s not authenticity that is the issue, it’s conveying authenticity in a manner that comes off as sincere. Like, “It’s hard to believe you’re genuinely happy about proof reading citation, even if you are, because in this field, bonding over how annoying this stuff is par for course. It’s great you do like it, but it might be better if you acknowledge the task for what it is and/but express that it’s what you like doing anyway.” I think what stuck out is LW saying they apologized to Savannah for how tedious it is and she kept pushing – taking that cue to say what you wrote (“it’s no trouble at all, I know it might be weird but I like doing little tedious things from time-to-time”) is something LW could hopefully reinforce.

      1. HalJordan*

        I think the reason it could feel inauthentic is that it’s happening for EVERYTHING and doesn’t appear to have any relation to the task–and it’s been a couple months. The first week or so, sure, but after two and a half/three months, not having any reservations about anything ever would make me wonder if Savannah did actually enjoy everything that much or just really really wanted me to think so.

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          I will just weigh in to say it took me 4/5 months for that level of genuine enthusiasm to just Be Doing Job Things to die down at my first career-level job (which is just now about a year old total). I absolutely would be in Savannah’s shoes here, and it would be entirely genuine.

        2. Hudson*

          That makes a lot of sense, and I think would apply particularly if OP is in a private law office or an area of the law that isn’t particularly interesting. But speaking from the other side, I work for a nonprofit I’m really passionate about, and when I was an intern here years ago, I WAS happy about everything I did, even the incredibly tedious stuff, because I was just so thrilled to be contributing to an issue I was passionate about. Which I think is part and parcel of the culture of non-profits. It doesn’t sound like that’s where OP works, but if so, that may be driving some of the relentless cheeriness.

          1. HalJordan*

            Yeah, where there’s a mission or a greater purpose, that entirely makes sense and I’d find it much less wearying. But it seems like OP’s context is more like “we do work, it’s good work and it’s worthwhile but, day-to-day, it’s not really the sort of thing children dream of growing up to do”, so the (very time-consuming) expressions of passion seem out-of-step with the reality.

        3. ina*

          ah, yes, I can see this! For me though, I don’t think it’s right to say “you’re inauthentic” to anyone without strong proof and good cause – that’s an personal accusation that doesn’t address the core of the issue. It’s likely to cause more issues than other forms of frank honesty. “Savannah, not going to lie, it’s a bit funny that you find the tedious stuff fun! Nothing wrong with it, but it sounds a bit off – you don’t have to pretend its the best thing in the world for my sake. If you enjoy it, that’s awesome but most people don’t, which is why I apologize so much for it.”

          I think the timelines you present are highly subjective, but totally understand it and it may factor into why OP’s wary. I do think OP shouldn’t be saying “sorry for giving you a tedious task” now that I think about it…if you’re a gung-ho intern, of course you’re going to say “Of course I LOVE doing it, please don’t think I’m angry or that I have a negative emotion about the task or resented you for making me do it.”

          1. HalJordan*

            True, “you’re inauthentic” is an accusation, but “your behavior makes people worried that you must be inauthentic” is an actionable issue with the image she projects, and that is controllable.

            I also think there’s value in saying “this is a tedious task”–I wouldn’t get into whether or not she should find dull things interesting, bc I actually do, but I also recognize that my tedious tasks ARE dull, and the third day of dull is worse than the first. And so when assigning a dull task to someone, it’s often important to acknowledge “this is repetitive and unglamorous and boring, and it’s very easy to zone out by hour 5, so I need you to be aware of that and be as alert on entry 312 as you were on entry 1; take breaks if you need to”

            That’s a bit more than OP has been saying, based on other comments, but I also see a lot of “never tell an intern a task is dull”, which I really don’t agree with

            And if I were to tell someone that when assigning a task and they replied with “Oh but it’s so exciting I’m so so happy to be here let me tell you all the reasons I’m thrilled to have this job”, I’d be really concerned that they hadn’t listened to anything I said and are going to feel guilty about needing those breaks / push themselves through the task and mess it up to Prove Their Dedication

            1. JustaTech*

              Saying “I’m so happy to be here” once or twice when you’ve just started feels normal/authentic/realistic and honestly is kind of nice.

              Saying “I’m so happy to be here” over and over starts to sound like you’re trying to convince someone, either yourself or me. And if you’re trying to convince *me* that you’re “so happy to be here” then I start wondering why.
              (Yes, I had a mid-career coworker who did this for years and after the first ~6 months I really did start to wonder who she was trying to convince and why.)

      2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Yeah I think maybe helping her read the room to try to match the energy there may be more accurate to say.

        If everyone is grumpy about a task, or matter of fact about it, or otherwise neutral or even a bit negative, her coming back with Level 10 enthusiasm is jarring and risks (is) coming across as out of sync.

        So, she can BE deliriously happy, just modulate how she conveys it so that the person giving her an assignment isn’t at a level 3/10 of enthusiasm and she comes back at a 10. She can simply smile and say thanks, and if someone apologies for the tedium, then she can say the thing about liking tedious stuff.

        The message is the same as the So! so! happy! message (conveys that she’s happy to be doing the work and isn’t bothered) but the energy is more matched with the person giving it to her.

        1. ina*

          Absolutely, the thing she needs to learn (as someone who would love to be helpful as a fresh face grad) is to convey what is helpful to her & her feelings toward it while validating what others say or at least not “fighting” it.

          OP: “Sorry for this tedious task.”
          Savannah: “It’s no problem/no need to apologize. I was able to learn a lot about XYZ from doing it, so it wasn’t bad for me at all. Happy to help out if there’s anything similar in the future.”

          I noticed OP said Savannah felt combative so it does feel like she might be trying to avoid Negativity at all costs or pass some invisible test whenever OP’s just trying to chit-chat or transition tasks. Honestly, this is a skill people learn in the circle of fire sometimes – it’s hard to be a good room reader and word conveyor.

      3. former enthusiastic intern*

        I agree 100% – I have a lot of sympathy for Savannah! I too was over-enthusiastic as an intern, but it wasn’t coming from a place of seeking approval or brown-nosing – I genuinely was feeling very enthusiastic! Being in a real professional work environment, getting real projects to work on alongside colleagues – it was all very exciting. I returned to the job full-time after graduating and most work quickly became mundane and/or frustrating, but as an intern who wasn’t yet jaded, it was genuinely exciting to work on things that the full-timers found boring.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I don’t like this:

        bonding over how annoying this stuff is par for course.

        I don’t like focusing on the annoying parts of stuff–that makes it hard to tolerate it. And I don’t like negativity.

        And our OP has just explained why this supposedly tedious thing is important. (I personally don’t find things all that tedious just because they’re repetitious.)

        I think there are other ways to frame this suggestion that she tone-down:
        Other people find too much enthusiasm to be something they feel they have to respond to, and it’s not where they are.
        Other people might wonder about the intern’s expectations, or about how clearly they see the task.
        Too much enthusiasm might actually make people worry the intern doesn’t truly understand the job or won’t do well at the task, because it doesn’t seem authentic.

        1. nodramalama*

          I don’t think commiserating over a shit task is negativity. It’s realistic and makes people feel seen. And if you don’t think spending 8 hours a day for weeks doing document review in a law firm is a shit task, you haven’t done it enough. trust and believe

        2. ina*

          That’s true, I read a reply here about how bringing that up probably isn’t a good idea and it was well-stated. I don’t think it’s negative though – a little kvetching helps some people get through something that isn’t pleasant or fun. However, this is a different strokes for different folks scenario. Same thing about too much enthusiasm making people think she can’t do her job – surely her work would determine that…not how she acts when turning in the work.

          I think one thing that might be roundabout is telling Savannah that if she keeps being so happy about tedious work, that’s what people will give her since they don’t wanna do it…and she won’t get anything more complex as a result. Again, roundabout & indirect but it would get her to tone it down if she’s ambitious about this.

          1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            I wouldn’t recommend approaching it in this way….that seems a bit dishonest and not necessarily accurate. It would be poor management (and teaching her how to be managed poorly). She is / should be getting those tasks because she’s an intern and that’s an appropriate level of work for her skill set and experience, not because she is so excited about those tasks.

        3. Helewise*

          I like these. They’re authentic answers, and I they don’t presume that a negative tone is the baseline (even though that’s often the case, for me too, it’s not the greatest).

      5. Ismonie*

        Yeah, as a middle aged lawyer, I say let the law students have their enthusiasm. I don’t believe in mandatory emotions, and it’s not like they’re being inappropriate.

        Also, some law students are just champing at the bit to do real work in the real world, instead of exams and papers.

        1. Allonge*

          It’s really ok for the younglings to be enthusiastic, to me it’s more that when you are enthusiastic about literally everything, and you express it to others, it gets weird really fast. So I feel OP on wanting to give advice on toning the ‘showing it to all’ part down – I know I would be tempted too.

    2. RedinSC*

      I like the authenticity, but I wonder if everyone one of the interns is coming from the same location and they’re counselled to behave like this? I work in a law office and none of our interns are this peppy. They’re friendly and up beat and in general seem excited to be doing this work and supporting the lawyers, so I think it’s odd that all the interns are so peppy, doesn’t seem like that would be the case.

    3. Boof*

      I’m not there and can’t tell if it’s fake enthusiasm or if they’re so in the throws of being new and eager that, well, they really are that excited to be out in the “real world” doing even tedious tasks (and maybe, in some ways, something that is tedious but easy and helpful seems like a relief compared with putting themselves out there and making decisions they’re unsure of). If so it’ll probably wear off in time as it starts to become routine / less “new”.
      I’d actually really prefer to check in in the moment and say something like “are you really so excited by ___?” (if you can pull it off in a lighthearted / warm way) and maybe say something in the moment “We really appreciate you being willing to do this work, but you don’t have to be effusive about it! This isn’t really high level work, but once this is done I think you can look forward to [whatever it is that is a project you think is more exciting they can work on]” Basically warmly redirect the enthusiasm to things you think will be more rewarding to their career while thanking them for being readily willing to do all this tedious/unrewarding stuff and doing it well.

  2. SPB*

    Another thing LW can explain to interns is that while enthusiasm and gratitude are great, they shouldn’t be done in a way that seems dismissive of other people’s opinions. Meaning that if someone says they hate to do a certain task, saying you love and are super thankful for having done feels like trying to one up or dismiss their experience, which is never a good idea, but especially not with more senior people.

    1. Presea*

      Yeah, this approach feels broadly helpful. I’ve been a Savannah before, not because I was fawning over authority figures, but because I was genuinely *that* grateful and excited. (Why yes, I am neurodivergent, what gave it away.) Learning when and how to express that gratitude without coming off as annoying or stepping on anyone’s toes has been and continues to be a process, but realizing that people wanted to bond over the negative things and that I was coming off as dismissive in some cases was a HUGE breakthrough for me.

      1. Your Computer Guy*

        I genuinely don’t mind doing most tasks, even tedious ones (I enjoy the ability to either zone out or to improve a process). My go-to is a shrug and “I don’t mind doing what needs to be done.” Helps to build that perception of willingness/helpfulness, without going overboard.

    2. OP*

      I had written a bit about this in my initial email but it was getting wordy, but yes, I definitely think that there’s some of this in there as well. It comes across as dismissive and almost argumentative.

      1. Anonym*

        I had wondered if that was the case. Shutting people down very regularly when they express opinions is not going to win her friends.

        And it feels like there’s some kind of opportunity here… demonstrating a grasp of nuance, complexity and ambiguity could be valuable. Not that anyone’s going to be impressed by normal, fluid interactions, but insisting that everything is GREAT AND AWESOME does suggest rather black and white thinking in a field that probably doesn’t value that.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I learned the term “toxic positivity” here. The manager who downplays issues because they are “a great opportunity!” or “a fun project!”
        The coworker who skews expectations because, “it’s fun/easy!”
        I think intern would understand there’s a line of you used this term that’s really in American (at least) conversation right now.

      3. Smithy*

        On the dismissive/argumentative side – I think it can also be framed as missing an opportunity to learn the differences that are actually amazing. Even within the context of copy-editing.

        In my world for our reports, what is considered “bad”, “not ideal but fine”, “average”, “nice, above average”, and “wow”, I’m sure is not the same in other professional environments. Where they have their own scale. By focusing on the experience or task itself as being great, an intern misses out on the opportunity to realize why they were a part of an overall process that was average. Their contributions to that overall process may be 100% professional and without fault, but within that professional world – doesn’t make it extraordinary. And that’s good information to know.

      4. Kella*

        That definitely seems like a pattern to address. I wonder if you could point out that the goal of conversations about work assignments is not to prove that you are the most passionate, the most enthusiastic, the most grateful worker there. You need to also listen and integrate what your coworkers are saying and reflect their reality. Focusing exclusively on her enthusiasm is causing her to block appropriate work connections and interactions.

      5. Ismonie*

        Different perspective—the best lawyer boss I had really paid attention to what we liked most and least. It didn’t mean we got everything we liked the most—but if I loved something everyone else hated, I sure got it all. The things we all disliked were evenly spread about.

        Some people really are cite checking nerds (I worked for a judge that way). One of my paralegals was better at pulling together tables than anyone I knew, another, exhibits. I used to geek out on obscure legal research. So maybe try and get a sense of what the interns like about various tasks and why. Honestly, maybe some of them like doing stuff you hate. And if you drill down after they do the task about what they liked/disliked, you may start to find strengths.

    3. Anonym*

      This is a great nuance to highlight. It’s an opportunity to genuinely connect with people, which is professionally and personally beneficial.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      It can also seem a bit . . . “one-upmanship” isn’t quite what I’m thinking, but it almost feels as though there is an element of showing off somehow if you make a show of saying how much you really love a task that almost everyone feels is tedious. Like, you’re so good at this you even love the boring parts.

    5. fanciestcat*

      Yep, and I think a good strategy towards that is to keep your responses personal rather than general. Like with the “But it’s such a good chance to dive into that area of law!” example from the letter, if she’d said “I don’t mind doing that task, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get more familiar with that area of law” it probably would have come across better since it’s about her and her professional growth and doesn’t assume anything about the assigning employee.

    6. Smithy*

      This is a really helpful way to frame this from a “world of work” space.

      On my first reading, I had some other thoughts – but then thought to my own sector where we have plenty of reports/proposals that need editing. And for people newer to the field, editing them can be interesting as a way to learn about a given program, how we work, and is genuinely an important part of reaching the goals of our larger mission.

      As someone who’s been in my current job for a while, and this field for longer – I just want reports and proposals with minimal written errors, that read well that I can submit on time. And as part of my job, I spend far more of job being frustrated with being on time and written ok-enough, than learning and being inspired. It’s not that the latter never happens, and when the latter does happen – you better believe I’m telling everyone about a part of a report they need to read.

      1. bamcheeks*

        And for people newer to the field, editing them can be interesting as a way to learn about a given program, how we work, and is genuinely an important part of reaching the goals of our larger mission

        I was thinking this. I did lots of things like proofreading and transcribing early in my career, and yes there’s a level of tedium, but actually I was learning tons about the subject matter and about how reports / academic analysis / medical reports were structured and written! It was fascinating!

        I don’t think that’s not a reason to give feed back about … just toning it down a bit, but Savannah and her peers aren’t necessarily being inauthentic.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I remember being assigned an extremely difficult task for an internship (looking back from a place of experience, I still don’t know what they were thinking assigning it to an intern), and when they finally gave up and assigned me drudge tasks I was so happy because at least I wasn’t banging my head against a wall anymore.

          1. KateM*

            Yes, that’s how I felt in a project, too. PLEASE give your tedious tasks to me as the one junior person in this project, instead of doing them yourself while I’m twiddling my thumbs and waiting for something to do, because everyone else is out of my scope.

    7. TootsNYC*

      Though, I also think the OP could stop kvetching about tasks as they hand them off.
      And stop apologizing that they’re tedious, etc.

      That itself might push someone into showing more enthusiasm simply as a way to counte.r

      Just pass of the task, explain it, and explain why it’s important. You don’t need to disparage it.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        Interns are there to learn. Their knowledge of the field is limited because they’ve been studying it but the internship is probably their first professional experience of the job. Getting to do something for real that you’ve only done in case studies can be heady stuff for an intern. Being able to excel at a simpler task that a seasoned professional would see as tedious is very rewarding for many interns, so the enthusiasm may very well be genuine. Coaching them that it’s okay to tone down the expression of that enthusiasm would still be entirely appropriate, though.

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Wow. I wonder if this is something that law schools or individual professors are advising their students to do?

    I would think level-headedness & matter-of-factness would be more appealing on a day-to-day basis to the individual partners & associates. Save the gushing for intros and review meetings.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I think they may be hearing it earlier than that. I get similarly super-effusive email from undergrads asking to get off the waitlist for a course I’m teaching that’s full. The gentlest probe sometimes indicates they haven’t the least idea what the class is even about.

      (This is commonest when the course is asynchronous-online, for reasons that are probably obvious.)

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yes. They are told to show enthusiasm so they will be asked back next year. Unfortunately, they go overboard and are annoying. They don’t know the difference between showing willingness to do the job, even the scutwork, and cheerleading. Not their fault, they are young.

      OP you would be doing them a favor by explaining that being willing to do a job without complaining is good but over excitement is not.

    3. deesse877*

      I think it’s probably social-media “hustle culture,” which impresses very young ppl way too much ( they lack context, and prefer social media as an avenue for learning, and hence become uncritical)

      1. new year, new name*

        I think this pre-dates social media! The stuff Juicebox Hero is talking about below definitely rings true to me from my high school summer jobs ca. 2000-2004.

        1. deesse877*

          Sure, but it’s pervasive and intrusive to an unprecedented degree right now. Moreover, I’m not referring to the existence of social media as such, but to a particular subset widely known as “hustle culture.” If you’re not familiar, it’s basically influencers on TT and IG that give a lot of mediocre-to-bad job advice, usually mixed up with more general “positive thinking” and “self-care” and “manifesting” nonsense. There’s a LOT out there.

        2. AnonORama*

          I definitely remember this kind of thing in law school ca. 2002. Sometimes it was more like “yes, it’s a lot of boring stuff, but these jobs are super competitive so smile, say thanks, do the work and don’t roll your eyes.” Which is fine,. But sometimes it was “you have to stand out by being a ROCK STAR who makes NO MISTAKES and REALLY LOVES THE WORK!” Which just set up a bunch of unreasonable expectations in a bunch of young people, most of whom hadn’t had professional jobs before.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      I think it’s just more common bad job advice, like “gumption”. You have to exhibit that you Just Love Your Job/Field! and Never Show Negativity! because if you do they Won’t Hire You! and in fact You’ll Get Fired! in favor of the Happy, Enthusiastic People! who Fawn and Squee! and Suck Up To Mangement! I remember getting it myself back in the early 90s, for a cashier job at K-Mart.

      Some people are naturally upbeat and effusive, but when it goes over the top as Savannah is doing, it reads as fake and it sounds like the senior attorney is picking up on that.

    5. OP*

      In my case a lot of it is actually just a trauma response. I’m obviously not at all saying everyone (or Savannah specifically) deals with the same issue, but when I was growing up this is largely how I survived, by being relentlessly positive and volunteering for everything. I also dealt with perfectionistic tendencies in work and school. I’ve known other people who act the same way and have the same background as I do. When I was in law school no one ever advised us to be over-the-top, though there was a culture of “you should run yourself into the ground for work and to volunteer for things.”

    6. ferrina*

      The interns I work with (consulting firm, no law) do this too. I think they genuinely are happy to be here! It does come across as naive, but it never bothered me because they are so new to the working world. I would be more worried if they were already jaded!

    7. bamcheeks*

      They’re probably hearing an awful lot of the opposite— “don’t be the intern who complains about having to do low-level, repetitive work— that’s what you’re there for and it’s how you learn”— and over correcting.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        And AAM is FILLED with letters about entry-level employees and interns who complain at the drop of a hat about being told to do the work they were hired or placed there to do! Letters about colleagues, subordinates and supervisors with terrible tempers, “sourpuss” attitudes, Bartleby-worthy laziness, bigotry (racial/religious/homophobia/transphobia/disability, etc.), and garden-variety rudeness of every stripe abound in this column – why? Because those are the people who cause even the best job to become a nightmare! Yes, toxic positivity exists, but usually only becomes a problem when it’s imposed by a supervisor who tries to force their subordinates to express unrelentingly cheerful thoughts and feelings regardless of how they REALLY think and feel.

        Savannah sounds like the twin sister of Daisy Wick in the TV series “Bones”. She also sounds as if she does NOT fit any of the “problem people profile” listed above. Perhaps OP’s workplace needs to rethink its concept of diversity; it goes beyond not calling people “n-word” or “f-g”. If people there think Savannah’s behavior is “grating”, I have to wonder – how would they react to someone who was neurodivergent? I’d bet my next paycheck that the answer to that would be “Very badly indeed!”

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      I worked in law firms for years, and level-headedness and matter-of-factness is definitely more of the day-to-day vibe. No one wants to work with a complainer, but no one wants to work with someone trying to convince everyone else that Day 5 of linear document review is SO EXCITING!!! either. It can come across as unserious or not actually understanding what the assignment is. Worse, if you’re given the opportunity to work with a client, being super jazzed about everything may not be in synch with the client’s feelings about the situation – often, being involved in a lawsuit is stressful, adding work on top of your actual job, and very expensive.

      When I managed paralegals, we talked a lot workplace expectations/norms in our firm, and especially how to behave around clients and at trial.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think this is the key:
        > especially how to behave around clients and at trial.

        And with senior staff.
        The vibe that’s wise to give off is focused, matter-of-fact, interested.

        Gushing and going on and on about how exciting an unexciting task is will give the impression that the speaker is more focused on appearances and less on substance. It makes them less credible.

        That’s the advice I’d give.

  4. CTT*

    Also a lawyer and can confirm that I see this with a good chunk of our summer associates as well (although we’ve never dinged anyone for it as far as I know). I was probably guilty of some of it myself – the “this is a summer-long interview” nature of it definitely made me feel like I must always be game for everything. I like Alison’s idea of addressing it as part of orientation; at my firm I feel like we should be doing more onboarding that’s targeted at “this may be your first office job” and not just how the software works. In my case I’ve seen a lot of people not getting office etiquette (knock before you open someone’s door, don’t keep people on your jokey reply-all threads, etc), and I think this issue is definitely something that you could address as part of a general conversation about office norms. Some people may still need additional coaching, but it could be a good start.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      When I managed paralegals, we had a whole orientation session on office norms – when do you interrupt v. come back later, what is and is not appropriate in email, and how to communicate effectively and efficiently.

      And then, after a you-wouldn’t-think-you-have-to-tell-people-this incident, to spell clients’ names correctly and not include snarky commentary in your time entries in case you accidentally send them to billing without QC.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      I think “this may be your first office job” would be a great Thursday or Friday open thread :)

    3. Law firm realist*

      Any feedback of this sort to summer associates needs to come from lawyers. I am unclear whether OP is a lawyer or some kind of staff. The reality (without going into whether this is justified or not) is that lawyers ultimately make the call on hiring summer associates for permanent roles, and the summer associates know this perfectly well.

  5. rosebella*

    I’d probably also suggest framing it in the context of the work – something along the lines of, “Law work can be really serious stuff: as much as I appreciate your enthusiasm about all the tasks we allocate to you, sometimes coming across as overzealous can look out of sync with the norm in this type of industry, particularly around topics such as X or Y. I think your passion for the work is brilliant – just don’t let it undermine your attempts to create a professional and polished reputation early on in your career.”

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Unbridled enthusiasm lead to Billy Mumphries’s downfall. A cock-eyed optimist he was. A damn shame.

    2. Law firm realist*

      As a reality check on this crusade against gumption, I started out as a baby lawyer at one of the Top 10 Wall Street firms.

      I didn’t land a preliminary, on-campus interview with them; for whatever reason, our bidding system didn’t allocate one to me.

      So I walked up to the hotel suite where the hiring team was ensconced, handed them my resume, and told them I was interested in M&A. I got a callback interview. It undoubtedly helped that I had a stint as an I-banking analyst before law school on my resume — but the point was that I didn’t accept that failure to be allocated an on-campus interview was the final word. I went and talked to them, and I knew that prior Wall Street experience would appeal to the firm.

        1. Law firm realist*

          Ten years. It still works, because until I moved into an investment bank I was one of the people doing the interviewing.

          1. Law firm realist*

            To elaborate a bit, the reason why Wall Street law firms fly teams of lawyers across the country to do on-campus recruiting that because they’re looking for the best associates and, potentially, future partners — not because they want to kowtow to some on campus recruiting program’s algorithm. (Remember, the cost of recruiting is not only the direct travel cost, but the opportunity cost of time spent on billable matters.) If there was a law student with an outstanding background that somehow got culled by the algorithm, we still wanted to know that person.

            Also, this is Wall Street (and Silicon Valley, DC, The City, etc.) we’re talking about. Law firms (and banks, consulting firms, etc.) are looking for people who are go-getters and don’t necessarily cave at the first sign a bureaucratic obstacle.

            In this industry, at least, this site’s crusade against “gumption” is deeply flawed. And the above story is far from the only time I landed a good job by coloring outside the lines a bit — including the job from law to finance.

  6. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I too kind of shrugged it off until the end of the letter. I think in my experience that enthusiasm from younger people isn’t necessarily performative. I get real feedback from new employees that they are SO excited to organize data or go through mountains of busy work because the things that I or my colleagues see as rote are genuinely new to them. When they do research they’re actively learning, and especially for someone in or right out of college that’s what their brains are in the mode to do.

    What works best for me is channeling that enthusiasm where possible. Let them just be starry eyed for a little bit (I usually do six months, but with an internship it might be less) and then sit down with them to really dig into what things are making them tick, what things has the shine come off now that they’re more settled? Where can we give them some more opportunities to spend that energy?

    On the other hand think reading the room is a skill that would benefit these interns, and that might be a place to focus. Sometimes when people are in a grump spiral, a little reframing is good. But most times, especially when you’re a little junior – let people be grumpy. OR even offer to take on a task – “if this isn’t something people are particularly excited about I’d be happy to get a jump on the research”. Letting people feel their feelings is certainly feedback you can give.

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      As a generally enthusiastic younger person, I will enthusiastically endorse this overall strategy. It was just genuinely exciting as hell to be out of school and school-era jobs, into a proper office, working on large projects, even if those projects meant manually going through hundreds of PDFs and extracting useful information out of them one at a time. Especially with my position, where I’m doing what I studied, but in an overall field and context I had no experience with, it was great to start developing that experience, opening up a whole new batch of learning to do, developing skills. Even 12 months in, there’s a lot I find fun to do that my coworkers definitely do not.

      But a) after a few months, we were starting to focus my role more and more on the pieces that make me tick, and b) I’ve attempted to be careful not to let my enthusiasm be wielded as a weapon minimizing someone else’s frustrations. That’s just naturally how I and my manager have been able to keep myself in check, while maintaining the constant state of “YES” that I kiiiiiiinda need to reach maximum productivity. I’d focus most on that room reading/”don’t trample other people’s frustrations” as how best to couch it with your current interns – hugely important piece of office norms, and exactly the sort of thing an internship should be solidifying, especially because if this is a non-performative enthusiasm, the mental calculation might be “Oh, you’re frustrated by something? Let me sunshine you better!”

      i’ll see myself out

    2. Boof*

      Yes, this! It might just be new and interesting to them.
      Also, I know sometimes feminine individuals specifically tend to be a lot more helper-y, and it’d be good mentorship [to everyone, but perhaps more helpful to many feminine type interns] to emphasize what things will really help their career long term; not that they don’t need to do the scutt work and do it well many times, but how to keep their eyes and real enthusiasm on things that will be more long term rewarding rather than in the moment helpful (which can have it’s own psychologic rewards if you really like the immediate gratification of “I did y helpful thing for z person!”)

    3. Law firm realist*

      Some law firms have an approach of assigning associates to specific projects. Others operate on an “eat what you kill” model, where associates seek out work.

  7. Throwaway Account*

    I favor option #2, including this in the onboarding of new interns. And you could use this student and the complaint about her as an example (anonymized of course!).

    Use Alison’s language and then, share that you had to learn to balance this aspect and that you had a student who repeatedly gushed about very monotonous tasks. It made her appear “grating” and “relentlessly happy,” and that perception of her overshadowed the good work she was doing. You want your reputation to be the quality of your work. If you notice any times when you are not sure about this, come ask me (if you want to do that).

    1. Miss Muffet*

      Maybe reframing what appropriate enthusiasm can look like. It doesn’t need to be gushy, it can mean taking the work on without complaint, asking appropriate questions (for interns, maybe questions that help them learn that aspect of the work/law) and getting it turned around on time. It might mean volunteering for work when things are slow/telling your supervisor you have capacity to help with additional things.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Yes. Enthusiasm can sometimes look like just doing a really freaking dang GOOD JOB at something. My employee just showed how excited he was about a project by doing extra industry research far beyond what I expected or asked for, gathering and adding in client quotes at the beginning and end of a presentation, and making sure I noticed that he matched the colors used in those slides to the client’s logo color scheme. He was geeked when I gave him the assignment and I could tell, but I really saw the enthusiasm in his finished product. which lead to him being asked to sit in on the presentation.

  8. Midwest-y*

    It had something similar to this happen to me when I started my first job. I’m a socially awkward introvert, and I really was so thankful to have my job. I remember overhearing two colleagues “whisper” about me in their cubicles. The conversation went something like, “What do think about the new person?” And the other responded, “She seems so happy.” And didn’t mean it in a good way. I was so embarrassed.

    I think I acted that way because of imposter syndrome. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% qualified for the position; I was just out of college, and the first person they wanted for the job declined it. (I suspected this at the time and it was confirmed later on.)

    I guess what I’m saying is maybe they know they are being overly enthusiastic, but can’t stop themselves — because of nerves or feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t qualified. I think if someone had confronted me about it to my face, I would have been mortified. But maybe it would be better than hearing people whisper about me?

    1. Midwest-y*

      I had something similar to this happen to me when I started my first job. I’m a socially awkward introvert, and I really was so thankful to have my job. I remember overhearing two colleagues “whisper” about me in their cubicles. The conversation went something like, “What do think about the new person?” And the other responded, “She seems so happy.” And didn’t mean it in a good way. I was so embarrassed.

      I think I acted that way because of imposter syndrome. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% qualified for the position; I was just out of college, and the first person they wanted for the job declined it. (I suspected this at the time and it was confirmed later on.)

      I guess what I’m saying is maybe they know they are being overly enthusiastic, but can’t stop themselves — because of nerves or feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t qualified. I think if someone had confronted me about it to my face, I would have been mortified. But maybe it would be better than hearing people whisper about me?

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Something similar happened to me – my boss left around six months after hiring me, and I was given access to her emails… where I found an email from our IT person complaining that I was, essentially, a try-hard. I never let him know that I’d seen his remarks but I still think about it occasionally and am mortified. I’d been temping for FOUR years before I landed that job, of course I was a try-hard, and it turns out they hired me because they loved my work ethic – so I try to chalk it up to projection.

      1. Boof*

        I just gotta say, there are so many worse things to be than a try hard. I’d side eye anyone complaining about such things more than the object of complaints. It’s kind of like insulting someone for being too smart?
        Then again, I never did think “nerd!” was much of an insult (I love all things nerdy and probably am one!)
        What if they’re really just slackers complaining about someone with a “normal” work ethic making them “look bad” XP

      2. Helewise*

        “Try hard” is one of the weirdest, most self-destructive insults I’ve heard. Like… good things happen when you try hard! So bizarre that making an effort is an insult now.

  9. Jane*

    I supervise several interns throughout the year and this is pretty standard for many of them I see too. I find it endearing and kind of buoying that they appear to find even the most routine work so exciting. Personally I would never tell them to tone it down, because life is going to do that pretty fast anyway. And really, is it such a problem to enjoy a few weeks/months of work too much?

    1. ferrina*

      I’m 100% with you. They are so enthusiastic and it’s so sweet. I know as soon as they start fulltime work in our industry, that will fade in less than 2 years. But for now, they are so exbuerant! For example, I regularly tell interns that they are legally not allowed to do work off the clock. It’s a hilarious conversation.

      Intern: But if I volunteer for it, I don’t need to put it in my timesheet, right?
      Me: No, it’s still working. Anything you do for our company is work, and needs to go in your timesheet. We are legally required to pay you- not paying you for work could get the company in trouble with the law.
      Intern: That’s unfair! I’m happy to do the extra work!
      Me: That’s great. And trust me, if you continue down this career path there will be plenty of times where you’ll get to work into the evening. But for this chapter in your life, you need to stick to 40 hours. As a voice from 20 years in the future, enjoy it while it lasts.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      They’re welcome to enjoy their work for a limited period of time. I would just appreciate it if they could do so a little more quietly and certainly not before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. :) And also, internships are supposed to be when people start learning office norms and how to behave. If someone’s doing something that is going to be an issue when they’re looking to be hired permanently, I’d much rather give that feedback when they’re an intern and still learning than when they’re being considered for a full-time position.

      I generally think being in the same ballpark of tenor of the person you’re working for is a good guide to start out the working world. I know who appreciates my dry sense of humor and who does not and plan accordingly.

  10. aGirlLikeMoi*

    I would be interested in knowing the race and cultural identity of “Savannah”. Women, especially of colour, are constantly tone policed. We are either too aggressive, too timid, or too peppy.

    This should be factored into the reply to the LW.

    1. Daisy*

      I am similarly curious about the race and gender of the senior attorney who complained. I have seen an older woman colleague in particular be incredibly intolerant of highly competent, enthusiastic young women early in their career.

      That can still be a problem for Savannah, but less about her and more about the professional and office culture.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m finding this more and more as I age out of being young and peppy and older women start to see me as a peer. It’s incredibly aggravating.

      2. ina*

        I hate to say that this was my thought as well. Are male interns scrutinized for their “go-getter” attitudes? Or does it only come off as grating when a young woman is “too enthusiastic”?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Particularly with all the ways women’s speech patterns are considered “grating”. Upspeak, vocal fry, or just having a high-pitched voice get singled out over and over again as “unprofessional” and “annoying”, when it’s just the way some people speak.

    2. ClairePBear*

      I also read the comment of “grating” at the end of the letter as very specific and coded to female enthusiasm. I’d be interested to know if this situation–and the overall reaction to enthusiasm for the work–applies to all interns or if this is more of a pattern with female interns and policing their behavior specifically.

      1. Jessica*

        Yup. It’s like “abrasive,” the word that for a while in, I want to say, the early 2010s? was appearing in approximately 95% of women’s performance reviews and 0% of men’s.

        There is no way to Woman right, and interns are often told that their internship might function as an extended job interview (what a nightmare), so it’s not surprising she’s trying to keep up a cheerful, “I’m happy to do anything!” attitude. There’s no way to do it correctly for months on end, and there is almost certainly some unconscious bias at play in terms of how similar attitudes are received from her versus from male interns. (Sort of like how men exhibit vocal fry *all the time* and yet there have been zero moral panics about them doing it.)

        Which isn’t to say the LW shouldn’t try to give her some gentle feedback about it, but it’s also worth considering the source of the complaints, and trying to objectively assess if Savannah is actually doing anything significantly different from other interns or if she’s just doing it while femme.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m torn on this one because toxic positivity can definitely be a problem but I think there is also often a more difficult area for women to exist in where they are expected to meet a certain level of “pleasantness” but if they go too far in that way then it becomes “grating.”

      I would generally hesitate to give interns specific instructions about how enthusiastic they should or shouldn’t be–especially because some of it may not be as performative as OP thinks! Maybe they genuinely *are* excited about every learning opportunity at this point in their career! I think they would need to be at a pretty extreme level of toxic positivity before it merited discussion, otherwise there is so much personal preference involved and I’m sure most of the time their excitement will wane over time naturally.

      Also, I want to add to this that maybe OP should consider how negative they are being? Only because in most of their examples it seems like the intern is trying to *counter* something negative they have said. It’s one thing for them to just be enthusiastic unprompted but it sounds like most of these are cases of them trying not to agree that something is tedious or bad in some way. Maybe if you just discuss the work in a matter-of-fact way without saying it’s tedious or boring or annoying or whatever they they would respond in a matter-of-fact way without trying to say they are excited to do it anyway.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I completely agree but feel the need to point out it’s not *just* OP, and OP probably doesn’t have desire or ability to change the culture of the entire firm. The part that really jumps out at me as this being a problem that needs to address is that it’s hurting her reputation with senior attorneys.

      2. OP*

        The two interns this year who I’ve heard tangible complaints about are Savannah and a male intern, and they’re both white. Myself and the people complaining are also white.

        In terms of the negativity aspect, I do think that we’re a bunch of lawyers in a serious sector but we also know how to laugh and joke around, and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m negative 24/7. Savannah gives the same “this will be beneficial in [insert way]” explanation along with multiple adjectives to describe her feelings about it with literally every assignment, regardless of how I present it to her or if I’m personally thrilled about it or not. That time adds up. I also think a big part of it is that to some extent, I’m asking you to do an assignment and your feelings about it don’t matter. I need to know if you’re willing to do it and you understand it, but it almost comes across as if Savannah feels the need to prove how happy she is about it as if her getting the task is contingent upon her being thrilled to do it.

        1. Book miner*

          To me, this seems like a reasonably concrete place to start the conversation. It can be hard to know what to do with feedback about your general energy, but it sounds like Savannah would benefit from hearing that she doesn’t need to perform gratitude for every assignment she receives and that it’s actually counterproductive.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Definitely. “Oh, gratitude isn’t necessary, and it’s kind of distracting. I just need you to do the task.”

        2. HalJordan*

          Oh, I’ve worked with this–I think sometimes it’s coming from a place of “I want to be valued, I must convince you or the task will be given to someone else!!” and I agree that coming at it from a time perspective is maybe the most effective way to clarify things (particularly if you’re on a billable-hours model). If you can quantify it, all the better!

          But I think your best bet is to grab a coffee (etc, what works in your culture) and laying out for her: -this is happening; -it takes up a lot / ## of time; -it makes it difficult to get to what we actually need to discuss; -though I’m very pleased you like what you’re doing here and your work is generally quite good, absent a good reason (e.g. it’s very urgent or sensitive or you don’t understand it and don’t have the time to figure it out), you’ll be getting the task if it’s brought to you, and how you feel about it isn’t really important.

          The last part you can adjust depending on your bluntness level, and how you think Savannah would react. You probably don’t want to say “I don’t care if you like it”, and I don’t think she’d take that well based on your description, but with some people super-blunt works!

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Thanks for the extra context! You’re obviously in the best position to know if it’s truly over-the-top, and it’s good to hear that the annoyance on your coworkers part is not likely to be gender-based if the enthusiastic male interns are viewed the same way.

        4. HalJordan*

          This is so much. I don’t know if you’re on billable hours, but if you can frame it in terms of how much time it’s taking in a quantified way that might help.

          And this sentence : I need to know if you’re willing to do it and you understand it: if you make it clear that it’s hard to determine whether she can do the task and that she doesn’t need to convince you she wants it (and more than that, that her opinion on the task, absent good reasons that she can’t complete it in the needed time, isn’t relevant) could also help her understand what you / your office is looking for. It might take a while to reset, but having to wait out minutes of Delight! when you need proofreading done is just unsustainable

        5. Boof*

          Oooo, ok. Maybe in the moment it’s worth addressing with Savannah the value of concise communications, and/or as a general intern review thing if it’s a regular recurrence.
          I know as a med student/resident we tend to start listing off everything we possibly know about a patient, their history, etc, when giving report and it’s ok to say “please give me the one-liner!” and it’s actually really important to be able to distill down what is relevant

        6. ina*

          I’m somewhat curious why you don’t approach it from this angle. Instead, in your letter, you emphasized her over-enthusiasm as being the problem. In reality, it’s the fact she’s wasting time? That’s a very reasonable approach to all of this.

          Respectfully, I’m beginning to think you find Savannah grating yourself (which is reasonable!) and would like her to change fundamentally. That won’t happen, but you can solve your issue by pointing out the actual ramifications here – she’s wasting your time with the jabbering, she’s going to get tedious work and not big kid stuff if she keeps acting like tedious work is manna from heaven, and it’s just not really done in professional settings to be so effuse about a task (going back to the time use point) – you can tell her you’re happy she’s enjoying her time here, that her work is good (if it is), and that being a lawyer means being concise. You could frame this as tips for her to consider, along with a very tangible ‘this isn’t a good use of time’ rather than straight “you need to change how you engage with the world.”

        7. Zephy*

          The “explaining to me, your boss, how and why the work I just gave you is going to help you” part is, I think, the linchpin here. There is no context that makes that *not* incredibly annoying. Be as excited about being given tasks as you like, Savannah, but your boss is not the audience for it.

    4. Expelliarmus*

      Yeah, I’m surprised Alison didn’t bring up tone policing of women in her response at all. That could be a significant factor in how Savannah is coming across and how OP should proceed.

      1. Allonge*

        I think the fact that this is a relationship with a trainee overrides a lot of the tone policing concerns. Yes, it should be considered but when you are mentoring a trainee, you do have an obligation to point out issues with tone that could be damaging to their work. As in most cases, it’s a balance and not a black and white issue.

    5. ursula*

      I’m also a lawyer and I think there’s some legal culture stuff that makes the gender stuff even more pressing. I think it’s a good approach to present this in terms of building your credibility as a future peer, rather than as a supplicant – ESPECIALLY for younger women, women with conventionally feminine traits, etc.

      Legal work runs on your credibility, so much of the time; not just the quality of your actual work, unfortunately, but your ability to appear reasonably serious, level-headed, assertive, and trustworthy. If your instinct, when you feel out of your depth, is to default to girlish fawning, it can make you read as significantly more junior and more out of your depth than you actually are. (And hey, hi, this was young me.) It’s the same problem some young folks have with trying to be funny or using humour to cover their discomfort, which can also become grating or seem immature. It’s fine and normal to feel out of your depth, but you have to figure out how to express that without flailing so much.

      When I was very junior, I worked for a very stern and grumpy older lawyer who I struggled to deal with – I tried to win him over by being extra nice, soft, apologetic, friendly, etc, and it made him like me less and less. Eventually my mentor pulled me aside and said: Don’t cower – it never helps. I got much less talkative and more in-and-out and things improved considerably. Should this have been my problem? Probably not. But a “say less” approach saved my ass in my junior years, until my professional personal matured a bit. Your student might need to have a similar reckoning.

      In this case, when we talk about showing enthusiasm and embracing whatever the firm needs of you, we don’t mean being gee-whiz-polyannaish about it. We mean understanding that there will be grunt work and accepting it as part of your workload, staying relatively engaged with the content, and trying to learn everything you can.

      This stuff is hard and I feel for this person. For what it’s worth, OP, I’m immensely grateful that my mentor addressed it with me – it changed me for the better.

      1. Noncompliance Specialist*

        I think this is a great take. I think it’s a more thoughtful way of saying “be cool”. Which is unfortunate and unfair because that’s very hard to define in real life. As a youngish woman in a finance-adjacent field I’ve really had to tone down my eagerness to please, a tendency to overshare and over-apologize. I think a lot of commentators are focused on how gendered this perspective is (and it IS), but ultimately a lot of what people well to is universal – competent, confident people who don’t talk too much and don’t take themselves too seriously.

    6. Pink Candyfloss*

      Exactly what I was thinking: what are the differences in race, gender and age of the interns vs the “senior associate” doing the complaining. Tone policing all the way through the letter.

  11. Spencer Hastings*

    From one of the suggested scripts:

    “I’ve noticed sometimes our interns, and I’m including you in that, are so effusive in their enthusiasm about each new task that it can almost seem performative — and I get why, you’ve probably all been advised that you should make sure to show you’re happy for the opportunity. And in general, enthusiasm is a good thing. But there’s a certain amount of professional bonding that goes on over work frustrations and difficulties too. People are more likely to relate to you as a peer — or to be able to envision you as a future peer — if you don’t come across as starry-eyed about the work.”

    I had a slightly different read on what’s wrong with the interns’ behavior: from what the LW described about Savannah, it seems like she “doth protest too much”. I almost might make it more about that: “not every task you’re assigned will be particularly interesting or enjoyable, and we don’t expect you to act like it is.” And just end it there: the bit about bonding over frustrations is true, but not exactly something I’d want to be bringing up to interns.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Same. She can still express positive but no effusive emotions about it the activity with “No problem; happy to do it” with out gushing and going on and on.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah, I got a lot of mileage out of that kind of thing as an entry-level person — expressing a positive attitude but not going on about it.

    2. Alanna*

      Yeah, I’ve certainly done my fair share of bonding over gripes with coworkers, but I don’t take to it particularly well from interns (who are of course welcome to gripe with one another). That kind of thing needs to largely be done with people on your level or close to it, I think.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, this sort of griping usually comes across really poorly in interns. (It reminds me of some who were leaving early on summer Fridays, based on Rose, the intern who started a week earlier, deciding to do that. Rose was maybe not the best go-to person for professional norms.)

    3. ina*

      I agree with this and your line of dialogue would solve the issue more than loaded words like “performative” that could cause someone to really doubt themselves, esp if they’re being sincere.

      A lot of the advice is framing this as an inherent problem with the intern when in reality it’s just personality management and a lack of professional awareness.

    4. The Taking of Official Notice*

      I agree. The legal world is filled with catty coworkers who complain about work and their clients. Better to “raise” a generation of employees not to do the same, IMO.

  12. WomE*

    It sounds like the interns need to redirect their enthusiasm. If they experience a “terrific learning opportunity,” then rather than tell the world about it, perhaps they can reflect on *why* they feel that way (possibly with a mentor) and use that to further their career (like by identifying roles that utilize those skills, or by translating skills/accomplishments in future job applications/interviews.)

    1. ferrina*

      Agree that a redirection is better called for than a correction. Redirections are generally better done in the moment, rather than in a formal/scheduled conversation.

      “Gosh, I’m so excited to do doc review! This is the best assignment ever!”
      “Whoa. I’m glad you’re excited, but maybe tone down the excitement? I know you’re familiar with doc review, but anyone else might think that this is your first time doing it because most people find it so boring. For the future, a “Great, I’ll take care of it” is fine.”

  13. Dora the Explorer*

    I have to imagine that a major part of why this is a “problem” is because it lengthens what should be a quick conversation about the assignment followed up with any questions the intern may have. It can be quite awkward to hang around waiting for rhapsodizing or internal-monologing to end before simply saying, “Let me know if you have any questions!”

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Same. She can still express positive but not effusive emotions about it the activity with “No problem; happy to do it” without gushing and going on and on.

      Oops, meant to put this comment here and not above.

      1. ferrina*

        Easy response-
        “It’s too early in the morning for that kind of enthusiasm. I’m going to go now.”

        Said in good humor but followed by a quick exit, it gets across the message to most people. I’ve found gentle humor a great teacher for young professionals.

        1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          If I was genuinely enthusiastic, I’d find that confusing and it would make me feel thrown off, puzzled, and as if I’d done something wrong but I would be unsure what the issue was.

          Clarity is better.

  14. Language Lover*

    I think the lw should discuss this with the person who supervises the interns. A lot of this formal feedback seems more like something the supervisor should do rather than someone who gives an intern a task or two.

    I’d also avoid assuming the enthusiasm isn’t genuine. Internships are the first place many of us do ‘real’ work in our fields that isn’t hypothetical or staged. Even the boring stuff is awesome until you do more advanced stuff and it becomes mundane or an intern knows more about what they prefer.

    If anything, I might tell them when they’re going over the top with yu
    ou is that the best way to show enthusiasm is with a ‘thank you’ and doing the job well. It’s not that they’re doing anything wrong but it shows the newness.

    1. CM*

      All this!

      I feel defensive of poor happy Savannah. I think expressing TOO much enthusiasm is sort of a silly problem. She will stop doing that once the work is less novel and she feels a bit more comfortable.

      If anything, I might say something like, “I know it might sound strange to tell you to be LESS enthusiastic, but believe it or not, some lawyers are dismissive of people who seem overly happy at work. So while I appreciate how enthusiastic you are, I suggest that you keep it to a ‘thank you’ and show your enthusiasm by doing the work.”

      1. Picket*

        some lawyers are dismissive of people who seem overly happy at work

        If the LW says this, she should be prepared for the interns to assume that she is talking about herself (especially since she’s not their supervisor). It’s very “a lot of people are saying…” which (fairly or otherwise) is perceived as a way for people to say what they’re thinking without really taking ownership of it.

        I’m on board with feeling sympathetic for Savannah and questioning the assumption that her enthusiasm isn’t genuine. If the LW absolutely feels like it needs to be addressed (and I don’t think it does, honestly), it would be best to bring it up to the interns’ supervisor.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have to disagree that it’s a silly problem – we have a “Savannah” on my (full-time/permanent) team now, and her over-the-top enthusiasm is driving her team insane. It’s been persistent for months now, and people are starting to not want to work with her because she spends SO much time talking about how awesome every single project is and trying to hype others up to the same level. It is at a level that it comes across as insincere and insecure, and the team finds it exhausting to deal with that on top of the actual work. We have had rearrange seating of the team several times to reduce Savannah fatigue.

        1. HumptyDumpty*

          I can understand that this is tiresome, but is the person on your team an intern though?

          I had a trainer do this who was decades into the workforce and her optimism and you-can-do-it-speeches were exhausting. But I hated it because I thought that by now she should know better. If it had been an intern, I would have been much more sympathetic and chalked it up to newness.

          1. Allonge*

            But then how will an intern know better if they are not told this may be an issue? The problem is not that they don’t know now, it’s whether or not to tell them and how.

      3. nodramalama*

        I don’t think its a silly problem. Over the top, pursuant enthusiasm for tasks that do not merit it very quickly reads as obsequious and as we can see here, reads as inauthentic.

  15. Alanna*

    So I think I disagree on whether to give direct feedback to an intern on this. I’m sure pep and enthusiasm can come across as grating or brown-nosing. But at the end of the day, the intern probably is learning something from those tedious tasks. And some people are just going to have personalities or habits that other people would find grating. The amount of caveating you’d need to do to address this with her is a sign that it’s OK to just let it lie, I think.

    The script for the next class of interns could be a good idea. Personally, as a manager of interns, I’ve enjoyed it when they show up eager and ready to learn, even through doing tedious stuff. Because let’s face it, a lot of what we ask interns to do IS tedious — but hopefully it also offers them some insight into how the company works, even if it’s just, hey, this company needs a lot of people to do tedious tasks.

    I’d be much more concerned about them taking well-intentioned advice to tone it down a little and running with it. Just as many people in the office will likely have issues with an intern who gripes about a boring task as will with an intern who’s too enthusiastic.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I think the risk of overcorrection is so high that it’s not worth addressing unless it’s really extreme.

  16. Jane Teapot*

    Speaking from experience as an intern, I definitely think you should give Savannah some thoughtful feedback. Reading your letter, I wonder if she’s feeling outside pressure (from family, friends, school, or the job market) that makes her feel like an internship is a summer-long job interview. Whether or not she’s aware of it, being that hyped all the time takes emotional effort! She should learn to adjust her tone not just to blend in, but to protect her from burning herself out.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say this to her in your conversation, because she could respond with “but I’m naturally this happy!” And maybe she is naturally that happy. But especially if this is a pattern that you see with lots of interns, it might be worth communicating clearly that no one expects them to be “on” at work 100% of the time. Being amenable and reliable is more important than being hyped.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      For a law student, summer intern IS a sumer long job interview. First year, you are hoping they invite you back next year. Second year you are hoping they hire you permanently so you can coast into 3rd year knowing you have a job lined up at graduation and all you have to do is pass the bar (and many firms will pay for your bar study course so there goes THAT financial worry).

      1. Jessica*

        This. I narrowly escaped becoming a lawyer, and watched a number of friends go through the process, and it’s literally a summer-long job interview. It’s hellish, you are constantly aware you’re being judged against a standard but don’t know what that standard is, you can’t come across as unenthusiastic or ungrateful for the opportunity, you have to thread the needle of not being too timid or quiet or unopinionated (you’re trying to become a lawyer, after all) but not overstepping, and so on.

        It is, as one of my friends noted, the closest a lot of white dudes will come to experiencing the impossible bind of meeting all the conflicting standards for Womaning correctly, but of course most law firms are still pretty bro-y, so female interns have to do it all backwards and in heels.

        I think LW is right to want to let Savannah know that a partner has an issue with her, but how she delivers that feedback should take into account that always having to be On as if you’re in a job interview is a maddening experience.

  17. Just Another Zebra*

    I’m wondering how much of this stems from the cut-throat competitiveness that’s common in law. Maybe these interns are just grateful that they were picked over all the other applicants.

    Try remembering, too, that these interns are all of twenty-three, maybe twenty-four? In their first jobs in the “real” world? It is exciting! I’d much rather have someone overly enthusiastic than overly glum. But then, if I went into law, I’d be Elle Woods and wear pink and put my dog in a bag. So there’s that.

    1. hardlycore*

      That was my thought as well (T14 law grad). Law school is horrifically expensive, and if you don’t go to a tip top school your chances of getting a job that will allow you to repay full freight tuition are incredibly competitive. Our career services office impressed on us that we were always supposed to treat summer associate positions as a privilege and couldn’t let our guard down lest we give our employers a bad impression. I was so genuinely grateful to my employer for giving me a chance to get my foot in the door that I probably acted like this during my summer, too.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    Not a lawyer so I don’t really know the specific dynamics of a law firm, but is this actually a problem, or just one grouchy attorney who doesn’t like her positivity?

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Right? I read this letter and thought senior attorney was the one who needed talking to, not the intern!

      1. Anonym*

        It sounds like Savannah may run into many people who view her peppiness in this way. Even if the senior attorney is unreasonable (and, like, yeah, let the poor intern be), it would be a kindness to help Savannah fine tune her interactions so she gets the best out of her professional relationships sooner rather than later.

      2. AM*

        THANK YOU. I scrolled looking for this comment, because I can’t believe I’m the only one reading this and thinking – the problem is NOT this young woman. Let her be enthusiastic. I’m a lawyer, and this field is rife with mean, bitter senior lawyers who want everyone to be as mean and bitter as they are. The problem is the culture of this firm – not the intern.

        1. Jessica*

          When I worked at a law firm, one of the lawyers I was supporting had a dart board with pictures of his clients on it.

          It was a factor in me deciding maybe I didn’t want to be a lawyer after all.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          The original poster has clarified that the complaints originated from more than one person and about both Savannah and another male colleague and also that they are pro-humor and levity in the workplace, just not to the degree that they’re seeing it from these interns.

          There is a lot of space between mean, bitter people and effusive positivity bombs. Both extremes of the spectrum are tough to deal with. Tone it down does not mean turn into a joyless grouch, it just means take it down a notch. Elle Woods instead of Miranda Priestly or Pollyanna.

          1. OP*

            I honestly should have obfuscated my profession in this case because I think everyone’s conception of attorneys is that we’re dementors who exist only to suck the joy out of the next crop of interns. I think the feedback would have been different if I had.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I worked in legal for years (support capacity, IANAL), so I’m used to it. I have certainly worked with some dementors over the years, but I worked with far more bright, funny, kind people than the other type. I can’t tell you how many exit interviews that I saw that said something like, “I expected the lawyers to be awful, mean, and unreasonable, but they were helpful and interested in me and not at all what I assumed they would be like!”

            2. Ismonie*

              I am a lawyer and I think you and your firm are being too harsh on this intern. And I would feel the same way if you weren’t describing a law firm. It’s ok for people new to a profession or the workplace to be positive. As I and others have pointed out, sometimes it’s just the excitement of finally doing real work. I don’t think lawyers are dementors, but I think there is a lot of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, especially for women lawyers. I’ve also been fortunate to work places where my colleagues and I loved the work, and we got through the doc reviews and other more boring projects without needing to spiral into negativity.

        3. nodramalama*

          I disagree. I’m a lawyer and if I asked someone to trawl through thousands of documents and emails searching for a specific word that i know is going to take forever and be exhausting, and they respond with “Wow, I am so excited for this task! This is an amazing opportunity!” instead of “no worries, happy to do so”, I would also find it weird.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, the curse of on-paper documentation and scanned PDFs of such poor quality that no OCR software can make sense of them.

            Thank goodness I work for a governmental organization with 100% electronic filing. But our archives go back to the 17th century, and if you have to refer back to the really old stuff, even if it’s digized, it’s handwritten, which most people find difficult to read unless they’ve had specific training in reading old handwriting and plenty of practice.

            I thank the PTB daily for having access to searchable documentation.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I’m a lawyer and this would come across very strange and brown-nosey in a law firm. Interns (and yes, I was one) are expected to be interested, curious and willing to dive in on work that can be quite boring. They are also expected to understand the difference between the scutwork that has to be done and the actually more interesting work and be willing to take on both. But, if someone were this !!enthusiastic!! about checking citations I would seriously wonder whether they even understand the job or what they think they are gaining by being so performatively excited about something that isn’t exciting.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        But whether or not something is interesting is not an objective fact everyone agrees on. My favorite thing to do at work is build out our excel spreadsheets that aggregate our data and I’m sure many people on my team would consider that to be the “scutwork.” I don’t think it’s reasonable to dictate which pieces of the job people are allowed to be enthusiastic about.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Archives assistant, for the record–a whole lot of my job is tedious and repetitive stuff. I actually rather like it. I get to look at old photographs and listen to background music while I do it. But it would still be weird and out of place for me to !!gush!! about it.

          If these are law interns, they’re not teenagers. they can moderate it.

        2. OP*

          The main issues that we have are that she takes up so much time with it and that it comes across as if her happiness and enthusiasm is a prerequisite for her getting the assignment. She also does another full explanation with each check-in, and now that I think about it she’s been doing that also about her whole internship. As in, literally reiterating how happy and excited she is to have the internship, with what is supposed to be a check-in like “How are those citations coming, is your internet back up and running?”

          1. bamcheeks*

            It sounds like the time these conversations are a concrete problem that you could address directly. “Savannah, I love your enthusiasm, but I’m really busy and when I give you a task my main thing is knowing that you understand it and that you’re able to do it. It’s great that you’re excited to do it but you don’t need to tell me that— it’s actually making giving you a task take longer than it ought to, and sometimes I’m left wondering whether you actually understand it because we haven’t addressed that. Can I tell you how I’d like that conversation to go?”

            1. jane's nemesis*

              I like this approach – address the concrete impact of the problem on your work – she’s taking extra time out of your day and being inefficient. Don’t make it about her tone or whether or not her enthusiasm is authentic – she’s just wasting your time!

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              I agree, I like this! (Though if OP does not in fact love the enthusiasm they can probably leave that line out)

          2. Law firm realist*

            The main issues that we have are that she takes up so much time with it and that it comes across as if her happiness and enthusiasm is a prerequisite for her getting the assignment

            Are you at an eat-what-you-kill firm where summer associates/junior associates ferret out their own work? If so, that is likely contributing to this issue (I would not call it a “problem”).

          3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

            It sounds like it would make sense to focus on the time wasting element, not the tone of what she’s saying.

      2. Eloise*

        Exactly this. A good attitude/work ethic is highly valued, but performative excitement is often out of step with the working culture. (I am a firm lawyer. And I think most people I work with would feel similarly: Rightly or wrongly, most lawyers would be somewhere between confused and put-off by over-the-top enthusiasm from a junior team member.)

        To be clear, the job is fun sometimes! Taking a big deposition or prepping for trial can be fun. But cite-checking and creating privilege logs is not, and it would be seen as a bit odd to act like those tasks are super fun.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Not a lawyer but this would annoy the heck out of my entire department, and we are not collectively grouchy.

    4. LawBee*

      Law clerks, bless them. It’s so dependent on the firm and the practice. My current personal injury firm would completely jive with Savannah. The one before, no way. The one before that—it would depend on which partner she was assigned to.

      Lots of firms are super rigid and strict and stuffy. But lots of firms aren’t at all, and can actually be fun places to work. But if OP feels Savannah has a chance of being invited back next summer (with an aim to hire after grad) then maybe a gentle word in the moment would be nice.

    5. AnonForThis*

      Not a lawyer, and I don’t know what area of law this firm specializes in, so it’s hard to know if this is an issue here. However, excessive enthusiasm can be absolutely be problematic in contexts where humans deal with “big problems” and “major life events.” I have to assume that law falls into that category to a certain extent.

      I say this as someone who works in medicine, with patients with terminal illness. We expect anyone who works in our environment to be service-oriented and eager to learn. But excessive optimism and enthusiasm would be out-of-sync with our culture for obvious reasons. I need understanding, empathy, and a can-do attitude. There is a way to convey “I’m happy to help” without acting like it’s so terrific. Often actions and behaviors need to reflect the problem you’re solving.

  19. GiantPanda*

    It seems likely to me that quite a lot of Savannah’s enthusiasm is genuine. This internship is probably her first exposure to real cases, everything else so far has been schoolwork.

    Citations that will be used in real briefs! That will be used by real lawyers and read by real judges! To serve real clients! That might make a real difference to someone!

    Of course she is enthusiastic about everything for now. A touch of jadedness (is that a word?) will come soon enough.

  20. Falling Diphthong*

    This is such an interesting example of the 301 level skill of doing just enough of X to fit in. Too much X is off-putting in one way, and too little X off-putting in another, and that line moves back and forth depending on the context.

    Where X is enthusiasm–a lot of stuff is more interesting the first time you do it, when you’re learning it. Especially for self-selected students, who actively enjoy learning stuff about this specific topic.

    For the first part of the letter I thought OP was too cynical more than the intern was too enthusiastic–though a competent actor could play out different versions of the same lines in which intern landed as “a cheerful person interested to learn a new thing” or “someone performing enthusiasm for the job, but badly” and a dozen points in between.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      This was my first thought. I think Alison’s suggestions for how to tackle this are really good and keep things focused on workplace/industry norms, but I can’t help but be bummed out for these interns because this enthusiasm is probably not going to last very long. They have the rest of their lives to be miserable in their jobs and it kind of sucks that they have to temper their excitement just because this is a field where workplace bonding happens over frustrating/difficult things.

      1. OP*

        I really like my job now, and would go so far as to call it my dream job. But if I gushed about that and gave an overview of why I was so happy and excited to not only be there but to get that assignment every single time I saw my boss, he’d want to shuffle me to another group in a hurry.

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      Exactly. I can’t imagine Savannah as a second-year lawyer will be half as “peppy” or “grating” as you might find her now. The world will grind her down soon enough. You don’t actually have to do it instead.

  21. Happy Lawyer*

    OP sounds like a wildly dissatisfied lawyer. People who like being lawyers do not get upset at an intern being excited to look into a novel legal issue. The problem may only be that Savannah is too peppy for an office of unhappy people

      1. Aggretsuko*


        Also, for all we know Savannah may come from working in service jobs where you have to be perky.

      2. Gondorff*


        Highly acknowledge that YMMV but in my firm, we love when our law clerks are enthusiastic, especially about the rote stuff that will be the bulk of their legal career! It tends to help us figure out if the (somewhat niche) type of law we do is something that they will also want to do long-term, and therefore someone we might want to extend an offer to ahead of them taking the bar. (And the older attorneys especially get really chuffed when they get to introduce a law clerk to something they consider their specialty, all the more so when the intern reciprocates with enthusiasm.)

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m not going to assume anything one way or another about OP’s state of mind but as I said elsewhere I do think it is worth noting that their examples of Savannah’s enthusiasm were all prompted by them saying something negative. They apologized for assigning her tedious work and she says she’s excited for the opportunity anyway, they say something “mildly derogatory” about something that has to be researched and she again spins it as a good learning opportunity.

      It is probably awkward for her to know what to say in those situations, as she probably does not want to *agree* that the work they are giving her is boring or annoying. I am curious whether her “enthusiastic” comments would die down if people just assigned her work without trying to talk about how bad the work they were assigning her was…

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed that! Would Savannah just say “ok, got it” if the tasks she were assigned didn’t come without negative qualifiers? I could certainly see a younger Zebra, less versed in work norms, trying to placate and soothe a situation, even if it didn’t need that kind of response.

        1. L.*

          Maybe instead of checking this intern’s enthusiasm, some senior employees should check their lack of enthusiasm. No, it’s not possible to be enthusiastic every day in a rough field you’ve been in for years, but when you find a new person’s positivity is “grating”, maybe that says more about your attitude than theirs. I feel like that’s more clear-cut for an experienced employee to tackle in themselves that putting that on an intern still finding their footing.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I work with people new to the workforce that are bright and enthusiastic. I appreciate it when we assign someone a drudgerous task and they accept it without hesitation and put a positive spin on it. That positive spin shouldn’t be more than, “Well, it sounds like a good opportunity to get some experience with X.” I do not need, want, or have time for an extended soliloquy on how this task is actually fantastic, how grateful they are to do it, and how it completes them as a person. If that makes me a bitter, humorless, enthusiasm-lacking, senior curmudgeon, I’m okay with that. If I want a performance, I’ll buy show tickets.

      2. MEH Squared*

        That was my thought, too. LW was qualifying her requests by couching them in negative terms. Younger me would have felt compelled to say that I was more than fine doing it. I would not have gushed because that’s not my personality, but I would have said something like I was ‘more than happy’ to do what she asked.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      She’s not looking into a novel issue, though — she’s doing a boring admin task. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

    3. OP*

      I’m in my dream job but I don’t dream about getting a ten-minute verbal essay about how happy an intern is every time I have a check-in with her.

    4. Llama Identity Thief*

      I’m gonna push back on this from the perspective of a potential “Savannah.” I am basically genuinely feeling exactly what Savannah is described as most of the time, a year into my position. But the difference is I understand how much that enthusiasm can a) take up important time if I get too gushy during a task handoff, and b) can feel dismissive/”shut up and smile” of any level of frustration or negativity. I’m that upbeat over the top guy, but I make sure not to go into gush mode when my supervisor is frustrated with a process or a coworker is frustrated with my supervisor. IANAL, and I exist in what is a generally happy and healthy office culture, and even then there’s a level of enthusiasm I’ve learned to not wield, because of how much it could be invalidating to others not at that level.

    5. nodramalama*

      Sorry no. Most workplaces have shit work they farm out to juniors. Most of what savannah is doing is probably NOT looking into a novel legal issue. It’s probably- can you please scan and categorise million documents into three piles. Or can you search through 500 emails looking for a specific key word. Don’t research the key word, don’t analyse the keyword, just find them.

      It’s scut work and everyone knows it, including the interns. Acting like doing humdrum tasks is researching some novel legal issue and taking up someone else’s time explaining how exciting it is rather than just getting on with it, is frustrating. It would be sufficient to say “no problem, happy to do it.” It still gets across enthusiasm without reading as brown-nosing.

      1. metadata minion*

        I mean, those sincerely sound like things that I’d be excited about, because they fall into a category of “do a repetitive but necessary task and then have it be Done” that I find incredibly satisfying. But I agree that I don’t need to take up my supervisor’s time gushing over how great it will be to have everything in the right pile.

      2. LawBee*

        Yeah, if it’s a novel legal issue I’m keeping that for myself because it’s interesting—and I have the experience to know how to interpret what I dig up.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      OP doesn’t sound even slightly dissatisfied to me, and it seems to not be just Savannah. Savannah’s just the current intern, but it’s been a recurring theme. If the pep seems disingenuous or is taking over what should be routine task assignments, it’s a reasonable thing to want to correct. It’s one thing to be Detective Amy Santiago with binders. It’s another to sound like Barney, ya know?

  22. The Person from the Resume*

    I have experience with a person with a person like this in my family. She *just*so*excited about everything that I don’t believe it. So overly enthusiastic about gifts so that I don’t necessarily believe that she likes them that much.

    That’s what I get here. Savannah is so gushing and enthusiastic about everything (even tedious tasks) that people believe it performative and thus disingenuous. And then you get the problem, you can’t trust what Savannah says because she’s dishonest about her enthusiasm. And that could definately be grating.

    And back luck for my in-law, we’re a reserved family so she stands out. I personally find that amount of enthusiam tiring.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Good point and perception.

      People will think it’s performative even if it really is genuine.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It doesn’t sound like it’s about whether it’s genuine or not, just that the intern is doing it at all. The advice is for the intern to be performative going forward to hide their true enthusiasm, so I don’t think the sincerity is a concern.

    2. KateM*

      Yes. I never know if my mother really liked my gift or if she just thinks she must gush about it because I am her child, and I am never going to know, which means I am never going to feel good about her praise.

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      On the other hand, being told that your natural way of expressing yourself comes across as unauthentic, so you have to express yourself differently (ie inauthentically), in order to seem authentic to others, is deeply unnerving.

      It isn’t an uncommon experience for neurodivergent people in particular (not making any comment on whether Savannah is ND, I have no idea from this letter), and it is so confusing and alienating.

    4. metadata minion*

      I have an in-law like that and it took me a bit to figure out that no, she really is just that excited about everything. The few times that I’ve seen her sad or angry make it clear that all her emotions — or at least expression of them — are just turned up to 11 compared to mine and that’s how she is.

  23. vscol*

    I’d encourage LW to give a little thought to the gender dynamics of the situation. Definitely not enough detail in the letter to say anything, but in some contexts, this kind of self presentation issue can be particularly difficult for young women (who sometimes get told to ‘smile’ in many subtle and unsubtle ways, and can also be subject to harsh criticism when they come off as negative) to navigate!

  24. User456*

    I’m wondering if this is a case of the fourth lesser known fear response in many of the interns: Fight, flight, freeze and ‘fawn’.
    I have a tendency to fawn when I feel out of my depth. It all leads back to having a scary stepfather and was a pure fear mode. It’s pretty encouraged in many young women, so there could be a dose of that in Savannah. If you have someone reacting to a work request by fawning (rather than genuine enthusiasm) it must be pretty jarring.
    I like alison’s script on this one, a general heads up that fawning isn’t necessary.

    1. OP*

      That’s what I was wondering as well (scary father, fundamentalist church) but I don’t want to diagnose anyone, get too into their personal lives, or make any assumptions.

  25. Duckles*

    I hate legal culture so much. I just moved back to working in a law firm after working in other industries and after years of working with friendly, professional, people, I’m miserable working in an absolutely humorless, joyless, curt office. I think the LW should think about if they really want to be encouraging a shared-misery, “it sucks but we’re all in it together” culture.

    1. OP*

      My two choices aren’t saying nothing vs. encouraging a shared-misery, “it sucks but we’re all in it together” culture. We laugh and joke around as much as any office but that doesn’t mean I need a recitation of her full excitement every time I give her a task, or that she has to check in about how happy she still is every time we speak.

      1. Lynn - Head of HR*

        Right! It is about crushing her enthusiasm. It is about her learning to express her enthusiasm in ways that are appropriate for the moment — and with an eye toward the other parts of a professional dialogue. “Great – I can do that! What’s the deadline?” “Thank you!”

        She can have perk! But she needs to express competence rather than gratitude. It will get her farther.

        1. Lynn - Head of HR*

          It is NOT about crushing her enthusiasm! didn’t re-read …. not exactly competent!!

    2. Avery*

      It may be what comes to mind when it comes to “legal culture”, but not all law firms or law offices are humorless, joyless, and curt. I work for one that definitely doesn’t fit the bill. (Amusingly, within the field, I think my boss has a reputation as being kind of a stand-offish know-it-all, exactly the kind of lawyer you might think would have such a joyless office, but I have nothing but praise for him and the workplace he’s running! Friendly and professional for sure.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Seriously. I worked in a law firm for nearly 20 years. It was intense and deadline-driven, but the work was interesting and always something at least a little new – but the reason I stayed was the organizational culture and the people (who had senses of humor and were, by and large, kind, welcoming, and funny). I would not be able to stay at a place that was joyless and devoid of humor.

  26. Auntie Social*

    “ooh, I love this, it’s so great” etc. = “happy to” or “any time”. That’s how I translated overenthusiasm for our interns. They got the point.

  27. Anne*

    Man, I feel kind of bad for Savannah. For some people, that excitement you see is genuine, even for the tedious tasks (sometimes especially for the tedious tasks). If that is the case for her, it seems a bit cruel to tell her to stop being excited over something she finds exciting and to stop emoting that excitement all over the place.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I feel bad for her too, but if it’s something that’s genuinely going to hold her back I think I fall on the side of telling her as gently as possible. It absolutely sucks but sometimes the world is cruel.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Nobody is telling her to stop being excited; they’re just suggesting that she needs to dial back her outward expression of it. Moderating one’s emotions is standard workplace behavior.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I hope you can appreciate the fact that this comes easier to some of us than others. If someone approached me and told me I was too enthusiastic and needed to tone it down to be more professional, I would second guess every smile from that day forward. And probably try to find another opportunity in a less crushing environment ASAP.

        1. Lynn - Head of HR*

          It doesn’t have to be framed that way – it is about channeling her enthusiasm in ways that will work for her. Its about learning to read the room. Its about alot of soft skills.

  28. KLV*

    So I’ve definitely been one of those people who’s been put off/annoyed by a co-worker’s over enthusiasm. It’s usually been combined with other aspects of the person that don’t mesh well with me, but nevertheless, I understand the, uh, “grating” feeling.

    That being said, I think, before doing a sit down, to consider two things:

    1) Is the over-enthusiasm actually harming the interns’ future prospects? Have you noticed an actual difference in an intern’s opportunities when one is more or less enthusiastic? Because if the opportunities are pretty level, then I’d err on the side of just putting up with it. In my experience, the over enthusiasm is just a general intern thing and works itself out as the interns gain more experience. If there is an actual difference, then that can also be a good way to frame the advice.

    2) The other thing to consider is if there is a gender difference in perception. As in, are women punished or gossiped about more than men are if both equally over enthusiastic? If there is, well, I guess then having a sit down talk is a good idea. But also, it might be a sign that you could try to push back when your co-workers are more, uh, harsh to the interns. You’re obviously not going to be able to change a whole firm’s culture by yourself (and honestly, this type of bias is much larger than just your firm or even the law field; hello America Ferrera’s monologue from Barbie), but maybe just being able to redirect conversations to focus on the intern’s work would be helpful.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “It’s usually been combined with other aspects of the person that don’t mesh well with me”

      Same. I work hard to make the distinction of what’s actually bothering me, but it can be tricky.

  29. Mae*

    I think you should just let them grow out of it. And maybe their joy is genuine! When I got my first office job I was just so happy to be out of the service industry it was all amazing. I was allowed to sit down and have lunch breaks and coffee and I could take sick days (paid!) without having to convince my manager I was dying

    1. Winged Unicorn*

      I strongly agree. I’ve had some great interns and one was the very definition of earnest. If I was going to correct their behavior, I would be gentle and specific. “Alex, a simple thank you will do.” or “You didn’t have to rationalize that into something happy. It’s okay if you quietly acknowledge something is tedious.”

      A big part of an internship from the intern’s point of view is trying to get hired. That means the kids are going to want to be liked as well as much as they want to do good work. They don’t have a lot of experience to sell so they have to sell the attitude, the enthusiasm, and yeah a little bit of gumption.

  30. Melissa*

    Some of it is definitely industry-culture, and I think you can frame it as such! This sort of gushing enthusiasm might be really acceptable in some fields (I’ve worked in education, and it would be much more acceptable there). My husband is an attorney and they are so non-gushy and non-enthusiastic! Which doesn’t make anyone wrong, but it might be a jumping-off point for this conversation.

  31. Educator*

    All I will say is that I have worked in places where people bond over how much they hate the work, and in places where people bond over how much they love the work. The latter is much more conducive to collaboration, innovation, and employee retention. This intern may have some soft skills to learn, but the culture of this firm is not one I would want to be a part of as an employee or client.

  32. Eloise*

    Also a lawyer and a bit tickled by so much enthusiasm shown for cite-checking.

    Outside of a few very passion-driven areas of practice within public interest, MUCH more bonding is done in this profession with gallows humor than gushing. I think it would be a kindness to let them know that being thankful for learning opportunities is best expressed with good/timely work product, but that the gushing may come across as disingenuous because junior-level lawyering tasks involve a LOT of tedium.

    I think junior attorneys can undermine their own professionalism by being over-the-top enthusiastic about tedious junior tasks. Tone should convey “somebody needs to to it, so I will do it well and efficiently,” but not “there’s nothing more exciting to me than cite-checking!”

  33. Teach*

    Yes to everything Allison said, but I addition…have you or other senior workers considered how you might adjust your language around interns, so they don’t feel compelled to talk this way? It seems like you are having them do fairly lengthy assignments, then basically priming them to complain about them being tedious. That’s going to make an intern SUPER uncomfortable. Are they supposed to agree? Insist that no, it was interesting? Is this a test?? Think carefully about the power dynamics. Maybe just something like a neutral “how did that work go for you?” would feel less like a trap, and get more honest answers.

  34. BuildMeUp*

    A couple of things stood out to me –

    I thanked her for doing it, explained why it was necessary, and apologized for how tedious it was.

    Even when we say something mildly derogatory about having to look into a novel issue…

    You are framing at least some of these tasks in a really negative way. I’m sure with your coworkers it just comes off as commiserating or venting.

    But she’s an intern. She likely doesn’t feel comfortable agreeing that a certain task is boring or bad and feels like she needs to spin it or reassure you. If I were new to a workplace and my boss told me they were assigning me Really Monotonous Task #17, I would probably feel pressure to tell them I didn’t mind doing it.

    She might just be overly positive in general, but I don’t think your negative language is helping.

    1. OP*

      I don’t think I illustrated my negativity in a realistic way if it’s coming across as being pervasive. When I say “I apologized for how tedious it is,” I mean I casually said something like “Thanks for doing this, I know all those string cites can get a little monotonous” and left it at that. I don’t mean I’m disparaging every assignment. When we got in the novel issue I was talking to Savannah and co-counsel and said something like “Uh-oh, this timing conflicts with the stuff we’re doing for the Smith case and it’s going to take some time to figure out,” at which point he agreed and Savannah wanted to tell us about how novel issues were great and how exciting it all was. I don’t mean I’m walking around griping 24/7.

  35. Kevin Sours*

    I’m reminded of a quote attributed to George Burns (but I’ve been unable to verify either way): “Sincerity is everything in this business. If you can learn to fake that you’ve got it made”.

    It’s in reference to vaudeville. But the important point that with sincerity the perception is in many ways more important than the reality. Learning to adapt to a work culture so you seem sincere is an important skill.

  36. RNL*

    This hits close to home – I am a former lawyer who now manages BigLaw associates.

    There should be somebody who manages the summer program (OP you referenced her supervisor.) I would refer this issue to that person, who will have a better grasp of the whole picture and other feedback the intern has received, and should have experience in coaching these kinds of issues.

    Being a law student on an extended job interview is incredibly stressful, especially for those without office experience or family/social background that includes lawyers and other white collar professional. These young people are completely out of their comfort zone, and are doing their very best to fit into a very difficult environment. Perceptions like these (over-enthusiasm, unseriouness, not knowing the subleties of country-club etiquette, etc) really harm these young people, many of whom are way out a limb financially and professionally by going to law school. The critical feedback on behaviour modification should be provided very carefully in my opinion, and wrongly deployed it can be a macro microaggression. It is a major EDI issue.

    1. Walkedthetightrope*

      Absolutely this – as a now BigLaw partner (female) who had never met a lawyer before law school, it is very difficult to find and sustain this balance as a summer / young associate. Op or a program manager will be doing this intern a huge service by helping her with this.

    2. Law firm realist*

      Exactly. The person in charge of the summer associate program is the person to deal with this.

  37. Warrior Princess Xena*

    One thing that I’d point out is that as common as gallows/dark humor in a lot of professions is, especially for senior staff, a tremendous amount of advice to new people in any industry is to avoid exactly that sort of humor or kvetching until you have the lay of the land. I think you have room to talk about the problems of toxic positivity, and that it’s ok to have tasks that aren’t your favorite thing in the world, I would hesitate before encouraging junior employees to adopt any tone beyond “eh, not my favorite, but I might as well learn from it!”.

  38. Parakeet*

    For the Star Trek: Lower Decks fans among us: I’m getting some Boimler energy from Savannah in this recounting (maybe blended some with Tendi, especially early-episodes Tendi). And that’s by no means entirely a bad thing. Both of those characters are actually really competent once they get a little bit of experience! And their enthusiasm is sometimes a positive influence on the more cynical, jaded characters, just like those characters’ experience and realism is sometimes a positive influence in the other direction. But both of them can be a lot, and can be grating to the other characters (especially in season 1, when none of the ensign characters have developed any “301” level skills in how they approach work or interact with other people yet).

    I mostly agree with Alison here. Don’t shoot down the whole idea of enthusiasm, don’t suggest that they need to do a requisite amount of griping to be seen as peers (they’ll probably pick that up if they stay in the field, as all fields and all jobs have their annoying bits, even if what’s considered the annoying bits varies from person to person and job to job). But letting them know that they don’t always have to bubble, that it’s okay to do some tasks pleasantly and professionally but without outwardly bubbling – and maybe more to the point, that they don’t need to argue with coworkers who don’t find a particular task fun and exciting, in order to be perceived as sufficiently enthusiastic – seems like a kindness. If they’re taking the “internship is a months-long interview” mindset too literally and thinking they have to be in interviewee mode all the time, that could get exhausting for them, because interviews are pretty draining!

    1. Law firm realist*

      God that show is awful. All of recent Star Trek is awful. Talk about how Hollywood took a thought-provoking, inspiring, and well-acted show from the 1990s and completely jumped the shark when reinventing it…

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    I can’t tell if the issue is her unbridled enthusiasm, or is she a cockeyed optimist?

  40. Tabihabibi*

    Something I encountered earlier in my career is that sometimes a supervisor or senior colleague would apologize for assigning grunt work and I worried there was an implication that they saw me as overly precious or snobbish about the assignment, or some other generational stereotype. I went for the more casual “somebody’s gotta do it!” attitude but I remember it really surprising me to respond to somebody…apologizing?…for assigning work?…like I don’t know this is a normal workplace thing? It’s worth talking about that calibration for sure, but I also wonder if Savannah’s mode would shift at all if there’s no apology/explanation/etc. for the grunt work.

  41. TheGirlInTheAfternoon*

    I work in law career services, and this would be really helpful and constructive feedback to offer an intern. You might also consider contacting the intern’s career services team, who could share that feedback with the specific student and make a note to include it in future counseling.

  42. windsofwinter*

    This seems like one of those neurotypical catch-22 situations. Savannah is too peppy, she should know that complaining about the work is the “done thing” but then of course we don’t want *interns* complaining about the work because it’s supposed to be a learning experience that they value….like I genuinely can’t wrap my head around this. What if this isn’t “performative”? What if law interns are just generally really excited to learn any and everything? I think it’s so messed up to penalize or look down on a young adult that’s new to the workforce because they’re expressing enthusiasm. I know the LW can’t really help how the senior staff feels about this, but they kinda sound like jerks.

  43. Zarniwoop*

    “Even when we say something mildly derogatory about having to look into a novel issue, she insists on spinning it as something like, “But it’s such a good chance to dive into that area of law!””
    I think this is a genuine difference in perspective between a regular employee and an intern. RP is there to get the job done and get paid, taking time to understand a novel issue is a pain. Intern is there to learn, taking time to understand a novel issue is a core benefit.

  44. ecnaseener*

    Aww, Savannah. I remember a couple months into my first full-time job getting praised (over email) for doing some data-entry task well, and rushing off to the bathroom to google how to respond to praise at work. The response I went with definitely included some “It was a great opportunity to learn all about our systems!” gushing. Not quite as effusive as Savannah though.

    I think 2 1/2 months is a short enough time that she might yet grow out of it. Model a more even-keeled approach, and maybe drop a matter-of-fact-but-warm “you know, you don’t have to act happy about the grunt work, the rest of us sure don’t!” but I wouldn’t have a whole sit-down conversation about it.

  45. SnapsForTheIntern*

    Two points to add to the discussion here:
    1. When I was an intern (not in law but there were some similarities), getting the long, mundane and simple tasks was actually kind of awesome. It meant filling your timesheet with billable hours, having actual work to do instead of just ‘shadowing’, and doing something that you had little/minor chance of screwing up too badly on (especially if they have a tendency towards anxiety). So the enthusiasm might be genuine in its own way and instead of tamping down on it, find out why they are enthusiastic and help channel it productively.

    2. The LW should consider reminding the senior attorney in their office about all those days they walked to school in the snow barefoot, uphill both ways, or about how you can’t buy a gumball for a penny anymore. Sometimes grumpy curmudgeons need a wake-up call that young, fresh enthusiasm is a good thing, as is change. Unless this intern is channeling Elle Woods in the office daily… actually that would still be ok.

    1. Anonners*

      You hit on an important nuance here – mundane but labour-intensive tasks are kind of catnip for someone who’s eager to contribute and please but hesitant to make mistakes. The interns who are good at keeping occupied but try to, uh, limit their exposure aren’t necessarily lazy but are sometimes uncomfortable with navigating the possibility of screwing up. So uncomfortable that they’ll avoid anything that might interfere with their ability to stay positive.

      Enthusiasm and fawning over low-risk tasks can really protect you from being forced to do work you feel less confident about. I suspect that some interns who fall into this pattern don’t get there consciously, but one has to keep an eye on whether they’re avoiding progressively difficult assignments that would help them develop more confidence.

  46. Kevin Sours*

    I’m also wondering if the “gunner” stereotype is playing into the intern is being percieved.

  47. Michelle Smith*

    As a former lawyer, I sincerely hope it’s performative. If not, I sincerely hope they get out of the profession before all their joy is crushed. Sheesh.

  48. WantonSeedStitch*

    I might keep things simpler than what Alison suggested here: “listen, Savannah, you seem super excited about this work, and that’s great. But I want you to rest assured that no one expects you to gush over stuff. We know you’re grateful to be here and that you are eager to learn and to be helpful, and we really appreciate that. If you’re truly this excited about monotonous, tedious stuff–great. More power to you! But if you’re amping it up because you’re afraid we will think you’re ungrateful or unenthusiastic, please don’t worry about that! We all know that’s not the case.”

    1. Lacey*

      This – bc when I was new to the work force I definitely thought I had to prove I wanted it enough and pretend things were great that were just boring or dumb.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree, I’d simplify the language in the response quite a bit. I think this is a good start, but OP needs to be prepared with a follow-up that says something like “you spend a lot of time expressing your enthusiasm, or pushing back when others seem less thrilled about something. I’m glad to hear you’re genuinely excited about the work, but that time adds up and it’s not productive to police other people’s reactions to things.”

      While the combination of those two responses is wordier than what’s written in the post, I think the break for comment is important. And those two ideas need to be separated – is the enthusiasm real, and if it is then it’s not being expressed appropriately.

  49. HalJordan*

    As someone who also supervises summer interns and is personally sort of a curmudgeon, I absolutely have handled Savannahs (male and female; I’m a woman, also, fwiw). I see a lot of comments saying ‘just let Savannah be happy!’, which is fine, but this sort of relentless (and sometimes combative!) Pollyanna-ing really gets exhausting after the first few weeks or so. [[I also REALLY LOVE grunt work and so get the enthusiasm for repetitive tasks, but I do my best not to force that enthusiasm on others. ☺]]

    A few related thoughts:
    – The interview for this position happened. The summer in its way is the next interview; but just like if you interviewed someone who said “I’ve never had a conflict with someone at work, not even a minor one about [scheduling etc], not ever, everybody loves me and I love everybody!”, being greeted with “Everything is Awesome” for everything, all the time, forces you to wonder if anything is awesome; or whether Savannah is being constantly disingenuous; or whether Savannah is just trying to make me feel good about assigning her the task.

    – I’d be concerned (absent more info) about whether she’ll ask for help if she needs it. I try to balance my interns’ task lists so nobody has five urgent projects all due the same day, but I also rely on them to say ‘hey, this is turning out to be really complicated, I’m not sure if I’m on the right track’ or ‘the external database went down this morning so I didn’t get to research X’. I can check in regularly but if they go off gumptioning because they didn’t want to sound like they weren’t properly appreciative of the opportunity, that’s a problem that’s hard to tease out.

    – At some point, the task must be done, whether Savannah is happy or not. I’d prefer to give my interns things they like doing, so if I know what they actually like I can assign as needed, and it may well be great experience for her, but that’s not the sole point of the exercise.

    – Correcting / countering other people’s minor griping is really very tone-deaf. When a client does something that causes everyone more work, or a gov’t office mishandles a filing, or a case doesn’t go well, the newest person in the office saying “oh but it’s a learning experience for me!” or w/e is simply not going to land well.

    All this to say, definitely worth a discussion with her about (a) what she’s actually enjoying, which might be everything; and (b) how to convey that she’s enjoying it without seeming to ignore or invalidate others’ opinions. A huge part of law, after all, is persuasion and the ability to work effectively with others, and if she’s alienating people she works with while trying to do the opposite, that’s something she needs to know!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Thank you, this is exactly my take on it. I’ll add to this the effect that the effusive can have on their teams – they can be emotional vampires and just suck up a lot of other peoples’ time and emotional energy. I mentioned upthread that we’ve had to shuffle seating repeatedly around our “Savannah” because she’s driving her teammates nuts. And her team is not a bunch of senior curmudgeons! They are mostly the same tenure, friendly, and working on similar work – but their manager has had to put in a lot of extra time and effort managing around “Savannah” and her team regards her as inauthentic and performative. (One of her teammates politely asked her to take it down a notch and that kicked off yet another round of drama. Her work is good, but she’s A LOT.)

      All things in moderation.

    2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      This is really good advice. I completely agree that the “invalidating other people’s opinions” aspect of it is the most serious.

  50. Lacey*

    When I was new to the work force I definitely thought I had to pretend that every task was “enjoyable” or “an opportunity”.

    Later I realized that admitting a task is boring or awful is fine and can still be done with a positive and helpful attitude. Honestly, as long as you’re pleasant to be around you can say almost anything you want – but relentless cheerfulness is usually not pleasant for people.

  51. Mouse*

    I had a supervisor many years ago when I was an intern who was like this, but with gratitude! He was overly grateful for every little thing I did, and would tell me that I’m the best and he doesn’t know what he’d do without me after handing in every little deliverable. At first I felt like I was making really meaningful contributions, but it got really grating, especially when the gratitude level was the same for task that took 5 minutes or for a complicated project that took 5 days. To me, that’s the main problem with this kind of over-the-top effusive response: if everything is fabulous, eventually nothing feels particularly fabulous.

  52. NeedRain47*

    The difference between having a positive attitude and toxic positivity….. here it is.

  53. HumptyDumpty*

    Wow, that senior attorney sounds like they’ve missed their entire childhood and started life at 40 year-old. But I do think being super-duper enthusiasticc about every little task can seem a bit naive (which they are!! They’ve just started their first job(s)!! I would advise them to only express enthusiasm about bigger tasks that are less mundane so that the being new to the workforce is less obvious all the time and people can imagine the interns more as regular colleagues which would be a good thing to exude.

    1. NeedRain47*

      I would also advise them not to contradict people who say something is boring/etc. to them. That’s borderline rude IMO.

      1. allathian*

        Not borderline rude, it *is* rude to dismiss or appear to dismiss the feelings of others. It’s not going to land well even with peers, but particularly not with more senior employees.

        1. Ismonie*

          I think it’s complicated, though, when interns are told not to complain about work and understand they don’t get to do the coolest tasks but should be grateful for the opportunity. Because that’s pretty standard advice.

        2. metadata minion*

          It’s not rude to just have different opinions about what’s tedious though, is it? I’ve sometimes responded to “boring” assignments with things along the lines of “oo, I actually like that kind of analysis; happy to take it off your hands!”

  54. Bookworm*

    I can identify from the other side of this: previous feedback and conversations with others have indicated to me that I was *too* quiet, not enthusiastic enough, etc. This is simply my personality but this was apparently mistaken for lack of enthusiasm, a lack of interest, etc. So finding that balance has been a journey (experience helped).

    I would have loved some of the suggestions in the comments and Alison’s answer: maybe a bit of mentoring/feedback, a frank discussion of what is acceptable in the workplace, etc.

  55. Jiminy Cricket*

    “But also, ideally you’d push back on your colleagues when you hear them complain about the interns’ pep, pointing out that they’re new to work and have probably been told to show enthusiasm — and maybe suggesting that they invest in coaching them on it if it bothers them.”

    This right here. If you’re annoyed by youthful enthusiasm, that’s a you problem.

    Also, keep a close eye on the possibly gendered nature of older male partners finding younger female lawyers “grating.”

    1. NeedRain47*

      As an older female professional, this comes across to me as “someone told this poor kid that her employer will like it if she’s enthusiastic and she’s taken it to the max.” I have seen it in young professionals, not just women. They usually calm down after a while.

    2. OP*

      If it helps I’ve also seen it applied to another (also white) male intern. I realize that it can in some instances be a very serious diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility issue but so far I haven’t seen that to be the case.

    3. HalJordan*

      There definitely might be gendered elements at play here, but all OP says to identify that “grating” comment is “more senior attorney”. Jumping from that to ‘older male partner’ is statistically plausible but also pretty gendered in its way!

      And as a female, relatively non-senior professional, [what appears to be] performative Pollyanna-ing could easily rise to “grates my last nerves”

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        73% of all lawyers in the United States in the year 2000 were men. (Today it’s 63%.) So, if that senior attorney has been practicing for more than 20 years, it is a statistically pretty solid leap!

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Women can be sexist too. Especially in male-dominated fields where they had to conform to male standards to rise in the ranks.

        (but OP has said elsewhere that enthusiastic male interns are seen as equally annoying)

        1. HalJordan*

          Exactly! Watching out for that sort of “young woman==excited/enthusiastic/peppy/uptalky==grating/childish==unserious” false equivalence is important no matter who it comes from, and often in male-dominated fields like law it comes as much from the senior women who Toughed It Out.

          (Veering off a bit: It’s also hard to know what ‘more senior’ means and the built-in social assumption that “serious & senior” lawyers are men also is self-reinforcing and helps push women out of the profession. OP could have specified gender there but didn’t)

          But also, yeah, based on OP’s other descriptions, though, this doesn’t seem like a typical “golly, that darn naive kid” level of enthusiasm, or as though “young woman==unserious” is the dominant issue

  56. Aphrodite*

    I haeted that rotten movie and character–Pollyanna, of course–as much then as I do now. Reading this letter was a painful reminder of why even though. I don’t need a reminder. Someone I work with is a Pollyanna. Some people think of her as upbeat; I find her so fakely horrible I avoid her as much as possible. Being upbeat comes in my forms; Pollyannas are exhausting and even toxic.

    1. Can't think of a name*

      I am naturally more of a matter of fact, straightforward person who seems to find the flaws in everything. It’s my personality. I can’t fault Pollyanna-ish types for theirs. Luckily, I have a wicked sense of humor or maybe I would be considered a downer, but I see more posts about people who drag gown the atmosphere instead of those who lighten it. Give the intern a bit of time, unfortunately the down side to being a Pollyanna is that when reality sets in, there can be a great let down.

    2. KateM*

      What grated me most about Pollyanna (the book, I haven’t seen movie) was that it was all “you should be happy that other people aren’t bedridden like you!” until she herself was in that same situation, then it was “oh but it is different when it’s myself”.

  57. LinZella*

    I can see why (sort of) the interns act this. When the OP (and likely other supervisors) assign a task, but add on an apology because it’s boring, tedious, below their skill level, whatever, I understand why the interns act as enthusiastic as they do. They must have certainly been told that there aren’t any jobs (especially as a new intern) that are beneath them and to do anything assigned without grumbling.
    Certainly and obviously people go overboard, but keep in mind all the advice from darn near everyone on how to act.

    1. HumptyDumpty*

      This!!!! I think you’re hitting the nail right on the head in saying that the interns may just be acting on all the advice going around for debutants in the workforce.

      Often people just starting out are being told that it’s vital to be easy and agreeable to work with, that nothing should beneath them, that they have to earn their way up, and be eager and extremely curious.

      This can easily be translated to seeing everything as a learning opportunity and showing enthusiasm for every mundane task, as surely that way they’re being agreeable, curious, eager and never too good to do the simple tasks?

      I can understand why lots of interns get stuck on hyper-optimism.

  58. jane's nemesis*

    OP, please send in an update to Allison if you do end up having a conversation with Savannah!!

  59. Indolent Libertine*

    I feel for Savannah. This very likely seems like a “gotcha” to her. LW is absolutely feeding this by continually harping on how awful and boring the work is; it would be presumptuous in the extreme for an intern to agree with a superior about that. LW should first model more neutral, non-value-judgment-laden behavior, and then would be in a better position to offer some correction to Savannah and encourage her to aim more toward the “sure thing, that’s what I’m here for” end of the spectrum rather than the “squeeeeee!!!! Bestest opportunity EVAR!!!1!1!! So humbled and thrilled to be chosen” awards-ceremony-acceptance-speech end.

  60. Picket*

    Even when we say something mildly derogatory about having to look into a novel issue, she insists on spinning it as something like, “But it’s such a good chance to dive into that area of law!”

    I don’t think expecting an intern to agree with “mildly derogatory” things about the place they are interning is reasonable. It could make a terrible impression if she did. I don’t blame Savannah at all for spinning that one.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think based on OP’s descriptions they’re concerned that this is verging into toxic positivity, but overall I’d agree with you! Joining into the kvetch circle can be an equally unhealthy habit.

    2. OP*

      I don’t need her feedback at all in most of these instances, which is part of the reason it’s so grating. I said something to my co-counsel about how this was going to take up time and clash with another case, and she took that as an opening to discuss it.

      1. Seconds*

        And that example is what says to me that she is at least a little infected with toxic positivity, plus doesn’t understand the problems with correcting people who are more senior to her. This doesn’t look to me like a simple excess of enthusiasm.

      2. ina*

        Wow this isn’t a Savannah issue, this is a management issue as a whole – you need to loop in their coordinator for this program because I can’t get why someone would think it’s ok to do this and disrupt the work flow. You should be able to find the tools to shut her down gently though; it’s most certainly a social faux pas that has nothing to do with being effuse – you don’t interrupt people at work with your chitter-chatter, period! There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing.

  61. My Take*

    Oh horror of horrors, someone in the legal profession is expressing positivity and joy?!?! Quick, file an ethics complaint. She certainly can’t be allowed to make it until her spirit is sufficiently crushed.

    Or, maybe…she really likes blue booking and is excited/grateful for a 1L summer job when those can be challenging to come by.

    And, also: we need to make room in the profession for optimistic, thankful, joyful types. See, e.g., the legal profession’s depression, anxiety, alcoholism stats. (Is there room to fight the hypothetical and posit that the grouchy partner is actually the one who is “grating”?)

    1. Middle of HR*

      I’m not a lawyer, but of course HR touches on legal issues as well as people’s health and livelihoods.
      If a junior employee doesn’t know why “This is an amazing opportunity for me!!” is an inappropriate response to “There was a system issue and now we need you to go through and make sure no one was erroneously removed from their health insurance, I’m sorry that it’s tedious work but we can’t risk any issues” then yes, some kind feedback is necessary.

      It’s fine to enjoy your work but part of learning a profession (unless it’s like, clowning maybe) is learning that Not Everything Is About You. It also sounds like she’s wasting time giving a grateful spiel every time, which comes across as sycophantic rather than genuine, so even if she really does see the opportunity in everything, it doesn’t need to be announced constantly.

      1. Ismonie*

        Lawyers are kind of different. For litigators, if we are on the scene, something has gone wrong and it is going to cost the client a lot to fix. Being interested in the law, even publicly in front of co-counsel, is totally normal. And sometimes, it’s how you end up building a reputation as a subject matter expert. E.g., if a lot of lawyers hate, say, choice of law research and you think it’s cool, talking about how cool it is helps you build your reputation and practice.

  62. Barb*

    My son is currently an intern at a law firm.
    He is a college student hoping to go to law school.
    He is really happy they are letting him do real work – research, presentations to the paralegals, etc.
    I don’t think he’s gushing, that’s not really his personality, but he really is happy to be there and to be assigned work.

    1. HalJordan*

      It’s hard to tell from the outside, but I have had a lot of great interns (male and female) who can and do express their general happiness and interest in doing tasks / being at our office without the sort of minutes-long expressions of defensively rose-tinted glasses that OP is describing.

      When I assign a task, I can trust they’ll say “oh, cool!” or “okay, sure” or “I’m not sure where to start” or “sounds good, what’s the timeline?”, which is really what I’m looking for! I’m certainly not penalizing people for enjoying the work, or saying that Topic X is something they’ve always wanted to learn more about, and I’m always happy when they’re happy to tackle a project, but it sounds like Savannah’s gone too far.

      1. Middle of HR*

        This exactly! A pleasant “Yes, ill take care of it.” Followed by any questions they have or a “I’ll let you know if I have any questions!” with a smile works well to convey “happy to help!” without essentially changing the subject to “why I love my internship”.

  63. (still) Annoyingly Enthusiastic About My Job*

    As a formerly peppy newcomer to a field….I do just want to say that even the tasks that *seem* tedious or boring can be thrilling and exciting when you are starting out! The first time I got to dig through an archival box, I was over the moon about everything in it, reading all the papers and being very invested in the whole process. By my 100th archival box, I knew what to look for and how to sort through the information and it was a whole lot less exciting and a whole lot more tedious and boring.

    I also remember how crushing it felt when my seniors talked down to me about what I was finding exciting or were clearly annoyed when I was having fun doing a task they hated. I had a coworker who would give me the most disgusted face she could when she saw me digging through the archival box with a smile on my face because she thought everyone should hate that task as much as she did. And guess what: even though archival boxes are now an incredibly boring and routine part of my job, I still….really enjoy it! And I am still pretty enthusiastic about it, to be honest.

    But when you are new and this is the first time you are doing something…well, its only natural to be excited. Especially in a field where a lot of newcomers are very enthusiastic (and that, for a lot of people, is a dream career they have been working towards for many, many years!)

    Have a little sympathy for the interns! They are new, bright eyed and bushy tailed! I feel like Alisons advice and the LW’s problem are coming from the perspective of seasoned workers who have been doing this for so long that everything feels routine and tedious. But it is the first time a lot of these interns are doing this, so of course they are enthusiastic about it.

    I would encourage the LW to remind their coworkers what it was like when *they* were first starting out and encouraging a lot of patience and forgiveness towards the interns. I would only suggest saying something to the interns if their enthusiasm is getting in the way of doing their job (AKA, instead of doing the task given to them with excitement, the interns are giving an hour long speech to the person who assigned them the task about their whole life story and how this task fits into a grand plan for their life or some other extreme situation!)

    At the *very* most, I would suggest maybe reacting to their enthusiasm with mild surprise or noting that this is a task they will do frequently or otherwise commenting on your *personal* feelings towards this task. In other words, if you assign an intern the task of sorting through legal citations and they are super excited and enthusiastic about it, you can say “oh, this is super boring to me because I have done it so frequently,” or “I am surprised you enjoy this! I find it rather tedious.” or something else along those lines. But don’t crush these poor intern’s spirits! Just because your coworkers have lost their joy doesn’t mean you should rob it from others!

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      I’m going to softly counter this with a quote from the OP in the comments.

      When we got in the novel issue I was talking to Savannah and co-counsel and said something like “Uh-oh, this timing conflicts with the stuff we’re doing for the Smith case and it’s going to take some time to figure out,” at which point he agreed and Savannah wanted to tell us about how novel issues were great and how exciting it all was. I don’t mean I’m walking around griping 24/7.

      I tend to be a very enthusiastic person, but frustrations do happen. And responding to a frustration with all the ways it’s a blessing in disguise can be VERY belittling of the actual concerns in place, and only exacerbate the frustration. I don’t have as much of an issue with the enthusiasm on task hand-off (although I’d still push back and say if you’re going full gush on every assignment hand-off, that’s time that adds up!) But this is a direct case of toxic positivity – trying so hard to find the positives in a situation, when some situations Are Just Headaches. I express that enthusiasm a lot – for new projects that other coworkers have struggled with, for new tools coming down our pipeline, for new opportunities to grow my career when coworkers are walking away from the spotlight. But I DON’T express that enthusiasm when it’s someone venting about a headache that’s come up in their overall workflow. It’s not adding happiness to the situation, it is indirectly stating that the other person’s frustrations are invalid.

      I’m not saying to kill Savannah’s happiness or even tone it down. I’m saying she needs to learn to consider when expressing that enthusiasm is not being timed well. She needs to learn how to feel it just as strong, and save it for when it’s not going to cut straight over someone else.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        I agree with this comment and think this should be the focus of any feedback she gets (this and how, according to the OP, she wastes a lot of time with her gushing comments).

      2. Ismonie*

        Not to be overly harsh, but anyone who is put off by an unexpected research project (or even an unexpected motion) and gripes about how it affects the timeline for existing litigation may not be cut out to be a litigator. Because that is our bread and butter. Sometimes it means you have to borrow people from other teams or bring on contractors, but judges are always asking questions. Once at trial, we would send research questions to an old law school buddy of mine in London, and she would do the research and write the bench memo overnight. At firms where there is no buddy in London, lawyers do that stuff all the time.

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          I’d say you can gripe about something that is a recurring factor of any job, and yet lean into that frustration as a source of motivation to get the things that need to be done, done.

          1. Ismonie*

            Idk, we just used to shrug and get it done. Even at small firms we rarely had to get an extension or move deadlines because something unexpected popped up in a case.

  64. BellyButton*

    Aww, big-law will crush her spirit soon enough. ;) She does need to know these things, part of being an intern is learning things like this instead of finding out the hard(er) way.

  65. TootsNYC*

    I would make it less about “bonding over the frustration or tedium of the work” and more about “matter-of-factness being an easier reaction for other peoplel to interact with.”

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      100% this. It could be a really misleading message to send if it comes off as encouraging interns to complain.

  66. Extra anony*

    Would it be possible for you to preface the assignments with less commentary? I wonder if she feels like she has to be upbeat because she’s afraid of seeming like she agrees with you saying it’s a tedious task or when you make negative comments about research or whatever. I’d try that first and see if it makes a difference before addressing it directly with her.

    1. OP*

      I think I have mistakenly given the impression that I’m venting to interns, but I made what was essentially a one-sentence throwaway comment that checking string cites could be a bit tedious but important and moved on, or rather tried to move on before she again started gushing about her enthusiasm. When I spoke about the novel issue, I was passing a remark to my co-counsel that the timeline was too tight with another case and we’d have to adjust, at which point she started talking about how helpful it was to research novel issues. These aren’t extended kvetching sessions on our part and we haven’t asked her about her feelings or level of interest in these things, she just interjects it.

      1. allathian*

        Sounds like Savannah needs to learn to stay in her lane and wait to be asked for her views. Just because something’s said in her hearing doesn’t mean that her comments are welcome.

        I hope that you or the intern supervisor can coach her in office norms. Sure, an internship is often essentially an extended interview, a chance to prove yourself worthy of another internship next summer or a first job after graduation. I can certainly understand why some interns react like every assignment is fabulous and something they’ve been looking forward to doing their entire life, but a 10-minute exposition on how grateful Savannah is to be working with you every time you assign her a task sounds exhausting.

      2. Ismonie*

        She’s probably just trying to express that she isn’t unwilling to do the work. If you kindly tell her that is assumed, and you appreciate her enthusiasm but assignment conversations have to be faster, and you will assume that she’s excited about the work because she has been so positive, that may nip the part that irritates you in the bud.

        Sometimes as a young lawyer, I got feedback that I was too enthusiastic with experts/a client/co-counsel. I got that advice from a deeply dysfunctional firm. My later supervisors appreciated those qualities, because I built good relationships with people, which means they would come through for us in a pinch. (For experts, lower rates, quicker turnaround, willingness to take on smaller projects than they preferred. For clients, repeat business. For co-counsel, more referrals.)

        Now in the case you describe with the co-counsel, sounds like she was butting in annoyingly. Usually, I let that stuff go if it’s a one-off. If not, I would say something like, “your enthusiasm is appreciated, but in general I would like to lead conversations with co-counsel and have you in more of a listening role. Since we are all on the clock for the client, we want these conversations to be brief and to the point. Most clients don’t like to pay for lawyers talking to each other.”

  67. Kotow*

    LOL Baby Lawyers do this. And these interns aren’t even actual lawyers yet. I like Alison’s advice but really, the coaching should also be directed to the attorneys criticizing the enthusiasm. They’re interns and may have never worked in a professional job before, and they’ve probably been told to show enthusiasm. Soon enough, this field will naturally take away the enthusiasm. If you’re going to have interns, you have to expect that they’re going to do things like this. FWIW, I was a lot like Savannah in my first legal job and that stopped after about 3 months.

  68. nnn*

    One thought that crosses my mind about relentless peppiness is how that’s sometimes a requirement of front-line customer service jobs – often the kinds of jobs that students have.

    That might be a useful framing if you’re talking to students in a general orientation at the beginning of their internship. Rather than “Enthusiastic personality is bad and wrong and unprofessional”, it could be framed as “Performative customer-service peppiness is not something we’re expecting or evaluating you on in this kind of job.”

    When I (not in the legal field, but am an intern supervisor) do intern orientations, I include a “How this internship is different from the classroom” section and a “How this internship is different from jobs you may have had” section. This sort of guidance would fit well in there.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Honestly, this is what I thought when I read the letter. If this is their first job in an office, it’s a tough transition from retail/service industry jobs- that sense of being “on” at the job is just wildly different from scooping ice cream and giving it to a customer than it is when you’re in an office.

      If this is genuinely their first job ever, their primary interactions with anyone in a professional setting might be service people (cashiers, wait staff, etc) or people who are customer facing (sales reps, receptionists, etc). Probably they’d have seen professionals (doctors, office staff at school, etc) but not in the context of them interacting amongst themselves so they wouldn’t have an idea of how much enthusiasm is normal amongst coworkers- and even then, that varies wildly between fields and offices, etc.

  69. Brown*

    Use humor.

    “You just have to eat the s**t sandwich, you don’t have to pretend to like it.”

    “I think you misunderstood. I’m didn’t say ‘take a trip to Disneyland,’ I said edit these files. If you make it through, you’ll deserve a trip to Disney, but you won’t get one. The reward is some work that is Even More Boring!”

    “Awww, interns. They still have light in their souls. Quick, Bob, find some more files to pile on her before she burns all of us old vampires up.”

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      These sound quite sarcastic which could come off a little snarky – without providing clarity on what the issue is and why it matters. I don’t think the intern needs to be mocked. They just need clear direction (don’t waste time when you’re handed an assignment, and don’t be dismissive of other people’s negative feelings).

    2. metadata minion*

      This sort of humor works well when you know someone, but for a new intern it could come off as kind of crushing, especially if she’s either frantically (and self-defeatingly) trying to show what she thinks is the required amount of enthusiasm or is genuinely enthusiastic about checking citations because it’s all new and shiny.

  70. Flax Dancer*

    While it’s understandable that older, experienced staff members find the upbeat / peppy behavior a bit wearying, it’s also important to remember that being trusted with even the most boring, routine tasks IS exciting to young people who’ve never had that experience before. I’d come down more on the side of gently reminding the more senior people that this reaction isn’t unusual and isn’t necessarily performative – and that working with very cheerful people is far less of a drag than working with a Debbie or Donny Downer. How, after all, are these interns actually hurting anyone by finding their assignments thrilling?

    When I was 14, I listened to the Republican presidential convention as it was broadcast over the radio; it was the first time I’d paid any attention to politics and when I finally went to sleep, it was with the sense of having heard a very real part of American history. The next day, a columnist described that convention as having been planned by “six bores and a sadist” and I couldn’t understand why he’d write that – I’d found it thrilling! Would I agree with that columnist today? Absolutely! But would it have been realistic to have expected that blase reaction from a 14 year old? Absolutely not! Nor is it realistic to expect those interns to stifle themselves when what they’re doing is in no way injuring others.

  71. Miranda yes, Iago no*

    As usual, Shakespeare said it best. Remember “The Tempest”?

    O, wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
    That has such people in’t!

    ‘Tis new to thee.”

    ‘Tis new to the interns, who may have dreamed since childhood of becoming lawyers. Cut them some slack, OP; enthusiasm and even wonder is far better than burnout and cynicism.

  72. Hillary*

    I read it as very authentic, and also grating. I’ve framed it for interns or those in their first professional jobs like this. “you are sprinting. you are winning a sprint, and the reason people might be getting a little annoyed is that we are all running a marathon. you are going to collapse before the finish line, and we need you, so pace yourself. your emotions also have a gas tank and you are burning too much fuel on X when we need you here on Y.”

  73. AFormerIntern*

    First, I’m not saying that this is what Savannah or other law interns are going through, but I know that I personally was extremely enthusiastic as an intern in part because I was just so desparate to make a good impression. I was homeless, barely making ends meet (read ramen was too expensive), and needed to make a really good impression to my boss. One of the ways I did that was by volunteering to do everything from boring tasks that other employees hated to random things I knew would be visable to multiple directors. My boss noticed and tried to talk me down, but I was just so anxious that I couldn’t stop. I did end up being offered a job (the only intern out of 27 who was) that allowed me to grab an apartment and quit my second job, but the enthusiasm was ingrained and I’ve been struggling for a while to quit it. So could it be an ingrained habit from either stress of breaking into the field or from a need to stand out? If your interns, like me, had that enthusiasm pay off previously then it could also be a moment of “this worked there so it should work here.”

  74. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I was accused of being like this by one colleague in a previous role. She hated the role and complained about how boring the work was all the time. I have a pretty nerdy level of interest in certain aspects of the work which everyone else especially hated, and I used to get excited about it. I didn’t realise until much later how much it annoyed the more negative people in the team (one in particular).

    Hopefully people could tell I was authentic in my enthusiasm, and I always was sympathetic to people’s negative experiences. I definitely had some negative experiences myself too!

    I think the inauthenticity, and the appearance of dismissiveness when people are expressing negative emotions are the biggest issue for this intern, rather than the enthusiasm itself.

    But do consider as well that sometimes people are quite enthusiastic, even about work that is very tedious. They might be excited to be there or, as they say, learn about a particular area of law.

  75. JustMe*

    I work closely with a prestigious US Law School. In some instances, law students are taking internship courses in conjunction with their summer internships, or they’re meeting with career advisors/internship coordinators and talking to their professors to get advice on how to behave at a law firm. Many of these people have only worked in academia. Some have worked in law firms, but often a very long time ago. I’d say it’s VERY likely your interns have been told by their advisors/professors/career office/internship coordinators that that is how they’re supposed to act, especially if they want to get a job offer at the end of law school.

    If this is something you’re consistently seeing, you could even bring that up in the initial training/onboarding–perhaps by asking how their school has prepped them for their internship or what they believe a Good Intern is. That could segue into the conversation, “Hey, you may have been told you need to be a peppy law robot, but we are colleagues and we want you to just be yourself.” or whatever your advice is.

  76. Law Career Development*

    As someone who works in a law school career development office I think that there are caveats to this advice. I’m a big believer in providing students with coaching and mentorship on the job and all too often employers shy away from the harder coaching conversations that will help a student in the long run because the conversation may be uncomfortable or hard to navigate. It’s great that OP wants to provide useful feedback to the student and is being sensitive to how that feedback is given.

    HOWEVER, the law is a profession where enthusiasm often quickly wanes because of stress and burnout. Why tamp down a student’s enthusiasm prematurely? I would frame this more as, “I’m glad to see that you’re enthusiastic about jobs that others in the office find tedious or mundane. Someday you may find these tasks to be tedious as well, and finding ways to tap into the enthusiasm you have now could help you manage your stress and burn out down the line.” There are also a much higher number of students who have mental health diagnoses going into the law because many states have (finally) removed questions about mental health from their law school and bar applications, which often prevented students from seeking professional help when they needed it. If a student is reacting to something in a way that is outside your perception of the norm, it is always good to engage in some reflection about our own mental state and the student’s possible mental state. It’s possible your colleague’s burnout is contributing to them finding the student “grating,” just as it’s possible that your student is overcompensating with enthusiasm to hide anxiety or some other concern.

    OP mentions that most of their student interns/law clerks have just finished their first year. Enthusiasm to get out into the world of practice and get practical experience is normal at this stage, especially because it’s a welcome respite from the challenges that 1L presents. A student’s first legal job can be incredibly formative for them in terms of helping them understand not just the subject matter areas they’re interested in, but the type and size of practice that’s the best fit for them. Telling them to tamp down their enthusiasm may tell them something valuable about whether your type of workplace is a good long-term fit for them, or it could make them feel like an outsider in a profession rife with stress, burnout, anxiety, and imposter phenomenon. I agree with Alison that the best way to address this sort of issue is to set some general cultural norms at the beginning of the summer, rather than singling out an individual student who technically doing nothing wrong.

    Also, I agree with the assessment that the student has likely been told to engage in this sort of enthusiasm. We advise students to think of their supervisors and other professionals in the office as their clients during their internships, their job is to satisfy your needs, not complain about the work they are being asked to do. Trust me, an overly enthusiastic intern is far preferable to a rude or jaded one.

    1. AFormerIntern*

      I wish I could give this so many thumbs up. As someone who was an intern and now manages them, trust me when I say that you would very much prefer “an overly enthusiastic intern” over one who ‘relates’ to you via frustration over how boring or tedious the work is.

  77. Mmm.*

    I was a teacher and saw this with new teachers.

    They MEAN it.

    That old fogey who said it made her look bad should try to remember when he first started working in law. Hopefully he wanted to make things better and was excited to do so.

    Don’t make people jaded too early. The job does that enough without our help. And some never get jaded because they’re never told to…and they’re the ones who make things better.

    Also, some people are just happy. This is essentially “your personality is bad.”

  78. Justin D*

    I was like this when I was younger, really excited, overly positive, always trying to smile and say hi to everyone even if they never responded. Over time I realized how grating that was and reeled it in. Now I have a guy in the office who ALWAYS has to start conversations and talk about how great his energy is. Now I really get why it’s annoying lol.

  79. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    I think it’s great if the students can see value in doing the grunt work. And those complaining that they are too upbeat, are perhaps too jaded and burnt out and need to change paths so that they can be more enthusiastic.

    Honestly, the one thing I liked in north America was how upbeat CS workers are. At the time in Europe, anyone working in CS would make it clear that any customers needing service were a damn nuisance and it would kill them to smile at you when the only reason they were there was because they needed the money. I know the waitress in New York is only smiling because it’s part of her job description, but smiling makes the job more pleasant for all, including her.

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