When Your Terrible Intern Is a VIP’s Son. Here’s a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. When your terrible intern is a VIP’s son
One of our company directors has brought his son on as an intern. His son has been assigned to the same department I work in, but he appears to have the reading, writing, and communication skills of a child. He has misspelled his own name and his father’s name on memos. He misspells common words; doesn’t use things like commas, periods, or capital letters; and writes everything in one long run-on sentence. He was unable to file things in alphabetical order without checking with me to confirm the order of the letters.
I’ve tried to help him, but he keeps making bigger and bigger mistakes. Last week he sent a typo-filled, run-on sentence email to another department and that person’s manager came back to us because no one could understand what he had written. When the director found out, he blew up and was angry that anyone would say anything about his son’s writing skills. He said his wife home-schooled his sons and she taught them everything they needed to know and no one should question his son’s ability.
Before the blow-up, I had gone to my manager because fixing the mistakes has been taking up more and more of my time. After the blow-up, my manager told me to leave it alone so we don’t incur the wrath of the director, but trying to fix these mistakes is getting in the way of my own work. Should I talk to my boss again or do something else about it?
The director is doing his son a terrible disservice, at least if the son might ever have a need to hold down a job anywhere else. But that’s not your problem, nor is it anything you can do anything about. It sounds like the director has made it clear that he’s not to be questioned on this, and so apparently you’re going to have a terribly unskilled intern for the next however many months.
Go back to your boss and say this: “I understand that we shouldn’t raise the problems with Mark’s work. Can you give me some guidance on how I should handle issues X, Y, and Z that are coming up when I work with him? How would you like me to handle those?”
You don’t need to solve this yourself. You just need to identify for your boss the problems it’s causing for you (workload, or whatever else) and let him tell you how he wants to handle it. It’s possible that he might tell you to just give the son busy work that no one will really see, or that yes, you really do need to prioritize correcting his work over another project, or who knows what. But it’s his call to make, as annoying as the whole situation is.
2. Should I bring up my disability in my review?
I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids. I work in a small office, and I believe all my coworkers and supervisors know of my hearing loss. I think they forget this fact and don’t understand the sheer effort and amount of concentration that hearing requires for me. I don’t blame them, but I feel like they are judging me harshly for being “too quiet,” particularly on conference calls, during group social hours, and with the inter-office chatter. These are all situations which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to participate in.
I am worried that my quiet nature is seen as a lack of assertiveness, comprehension, or care and that this might come up during my review. Should I try to explain how my disability affects these things? I am starting to feel like I have a reputation for being aloof, when really it is because I struggle to hear.
Yes! But bring it up now, before it’s review time so that lack of knowledge of this doesn’t end up influencing (consciously or unconsciously) your manager’s evaluation of you. Say this: “I wanted to mention to you that my hearing loss can sometimes make it hard for me to hear clearly on conference calls and at things like group events. I end focusing so much on hearing that I’m often not able to participate as much as I would otherwise. I don’t want you to interpret it as me being less engaged or not interested in being there! I am — they can just be tougher situations for me.”
A good boss will appreciate knowing this, not only so that she can check any wrong assumptions she was making, but also so she can work with you on ways to make it easier for you to fully participate in these situations.
3. My manager invited one of us to her wedding, but not the rest of us
I found out recently on Facebook that my boss, Mary, invited one of my coworkers, Elle, to her wedding. About 10 other people and I, including Elle, share the same job title. I’m hurt because I wasn’t aware that Mary and Elle had a closer relationship than anyone else in our department since I generally feel well connected to them. I don’t think saying something to either of them would accomplish anything or improve my feelings, which are my problem to deal with. So I guess I’m just wanting to know, is this uncool in general or am I oversensitive?
It’s a little uncool, yes. Managers have a higher level of obligation than other people not to appear to play favorites, because it can make people wonder whether they’re being fair in things like work assignments, recognition, raises, professional development opportunities, access, etc. Because of that, Mary should have invited everyone she manages or no one (preferably no one, to preserve professional boundaries and not make people feel obligated to attend and/or send a gift).
So yeah, it’s a little weird. Not outrageous levels of weird, but less than ideal, and I’d have told Mary not to do it. But since she’s done it and you’re the one asking for advice, I’d say to write it off to “some people find themselves clicking unusually well with certain people, and managers don’t always think about the weirdness this can cause when they show it” and try not to be bothered by it.
4. Interviewers who are late
What’s the best way to handle the situation when the interviewer is late? In three recent interviews, my interviewer has been late, two by 5-10 minutes and one by 20 minutes. Although I haven’t let it influence my performance, it’s frustrating since I know they wouldn’t have seen me if I had been late. I feel it shows a lack of respect for me and my time. It’s been suggested to me that these were done on purpose to “test” me – is that really a thing?
There’s definitely a double standard about lateness to interviews. As a candidate, you’re expected to be there precisely on time, but interviewers aren’t held to the same expectation. In part, this is similar to the manager/employee dynamic, where you need to be on time for meetings with your boss, but it’s understood that things may come up in your boss’s schedule that take priority. And in part, it’s just the convention that has grown up around interviews.
Because of that, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at an interviewer who was 5-10 minutes late. Stuff comes up — meetings run over, work emergencies come up, etc. Who knows, maybe the last interview ran over slightly or your interviewer needed time to jot down notes about the candidate. You wouldn’t want those things to be rushed with you, so it’s reasonable to extend some grace on that. 20 minutes is pushing it more — but even then, as long as the interviewer apologizes to you, I wouldn’t be too put off. But if the wait goes much beyond that, then it’s approaching a point where it’s rude and unreasonable.
And no, it was almost certainly not done to test you. People just run late sometimes.
5. Asking people to stop leaping on me as soon as I walk into the office
I have a pet peeve: I hate it when I’m walking into work in the morning (i.e., have my coffee in hand, gym bag, purse, jacket) and someone stops me in the hallway or follows me to my desk to ask a question (which is not an emergency). How do I tell them to please give me 10 minutes to decompress and put my things down without sounding rude?
“I’m just walking in. Give me 10 minutes to get settled, and then I’ll be able to help you.”
If you encounter resistance (“it’ll just take a minute!”), hold firm: “I have some things to take care of before I can help you. Come see me in 10 minutes and I’ll be able to.”
Of course, if it’s your boss or someone else quite senior, you may not have this option — you need to apply some judgment to it.