A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Is Your Office Helper More of a Hindrance?
Dear Sue: In order to help with my workload, my boss hired a
part-time intern for me. She was previously employed in a separate
department. In their haste, they did not ask her former supervisor about
her work habits. I have since learned that her former department manager
was going to fire her prior to my department hiring her. He cited
several issues including her lack of respect.
I now fully understand why they were going to let her go. When she
doesn't get what she wants or doesn't want to do what she's asked, she
rolls her eyes and makes rude comments. She constantly whines about her
workspace (she was placed in a common area with a secretary). She feels
that she deserves an office as she is not a secretary. I strongly
disagree as she is an intern, only works two days a week, and offices
are typically reserved for full-time professionals that have earned
I have warned her about the workspace situation and she has since
quieted down. She is highly judgmental and feels that she is always
right. I am always amazed by her constant lack of humility. After all
she is a college student and has no experience in this field. My field
is highly male dominated. She does behave more respectfully toward my
male counterparts in my department. As a result I donít feel I will ever
trust her. I feel that she wishes to perform well but, her attitude gets
in the way.
Today, my boss will be firing her based upon the reasoning that she
is more of a hindrance than a help. Why do I feel so guilty? I donít
think itís appropriate to reprimand her upon her judgmental attitude, as
this is apart of character and a personal matter. What is an appropriate
way to handle such matters?
Sue Says: Thanks for writing. Here is my response: Now that
this young intern has been let go, perhaps you feel guilty because
youíve realized it didnít have to end the way it did. The intern is
young and gaining experience. You knew right away that her manner and
attitude were a problem and it became a problem for you. Because you
didnít think it was appropriate to talk to her about such personal
matters as her character, youíre left wondering if she understands why
she was let go. After all she is young and still learning.
You might be feeling guilty because you werenít able to give this
intern what she so desperately needed; experience, with part of that
experience including education about what itís takes to be successful at
work. Instead, she was treated like an employee who should have known
better than to behave as she did. The reality is she did not know
better. Although you did warn her about the workspace situation, you
hesitated to talk to her about her attitude and how it was hindering
Most college students who seek an internship do so to gain valuable
experience to better prepare them for their first real job. An
internship typically will benefit both the employer and the intern. The
intern does work for the employer and the employer provides experience
and on the job training, which in my opinion, includes training in all
areas to help these students understand what is expected of them.
I realize attitude and personal character are sensitive issues to
address; however, they are highly important matters that will either
propel someone forward or hold them back. Most people who have attitude
problems donít realize the impact it has on others or on themselves.
As this young womanís supervisor and mentor, you had every right to
talk to her about her attitude and behavior and to teach her what is
acceptable and what is not. You missed an opportunity to teach her
something of great value, but it is not too late. If you want you can
still let her know, especially if she asks you why she was let go. Do
her a favor and tell her the truth.
I hope this helps. Please donít be too hard on yourself--you were in
a difficult situation. I give you credit for reflecting and asking the
Thanks for writing--please let me hear from you again.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
email@example.com or visit her web site at
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