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We are a startup company and have employed a final-year engineering student for a 6-month internship. During the first month I used to interact with him regularly, but for the past 2 months I have not been able to interact with him much, and he has been reporting to a senior member Mr XYZ. This XYZ has a very discouraging attitude, which I came to know only recently.

I got the information that XYZ has been mentally torturing this new intern every now and then. He always says that this job is really a very tough job, and the intern won't be able to do it. When I found out we had a meeting and I've tried to make things better by involving myself in the projects and having more interactions with both XYZ and this intern.

The fact is I was very satisfied with the intern's performance; as a fresher, he did more than what I was expecting.

But this morning I got a big shock when I got the following email in my mailbox:

Sir,

I am sorry to say that I am unable to continue my training due to some reasons which I cannot explain and sorry for wasting your precious time. Thanks for giving me opportunity.

Thank you

I called him immediately and tried to find out those reasons that he said he couldn't tell me. He divulged the following two reasons after much effort on my part:

a) Due to the discouraging nature of Mr. XYZ, I do not feel like working in this company any more.

b) If I am unable to get the correct results, I feel hopeless, and then I stop. I feel bad that I am unable to do these jobs. I feel like I cannot do anything in life.

Based on these two reasons, I believe that the reason b) is a consequence of reason a).

I do not want to lose this guy as he is really good, and I was about to put him on a mini live project. Secondly, he is a fresher (and we are a startup), so I do not need to pay him much and thus he is easily affordable to us. We have also already invested so much time in him that if he leaves now we will definitely lose.

My questions are:

  1. Was meeting with the intern face to face a good way to resolve this conflict?
  2. If not, how can we avoid such events in future?
  3. Is it a good idea to help the intern regain energy and confidence by putting him on very simple projects?
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    There isn't really any decisions we can make for you. If your focus is on retaining the intern I think that ship has sailed. The intern broke and there is nothing you can do to put him back together he needs to do that for himself. If you feel guilty you can offer him a letter of reference. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 19 '13 at 14:46
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    No offense, but I would not advise the intern to go back to your company. What that person really needs to do is find a place that will help them learn & grow. You're basically saying "Man, we really mistreated this guy and he left. Too bad... because he did decent work while being underpaid. How can we go back to that arrangement?" – MrFox Mar 19 '13 at 15:06
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    The intern may very well be gone, but it is still a good idea to find out why and see what can be addressed in the organization. Someone like Mr XYZ could be very costly to morale and the bottom line simply because of turn-over, lost productivity, and wasted potential. Perhaps he should not be assigned interns? – Angelo Mar 19 '13 at 17:53
  • Please post that as answer - and expect it to be accepted and heavily upvoted. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 7 at 7:49
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This is why many companies take their internship process very seriously. You probably just lost quite a few good employees over the next few years.

Something to think about: good interns tend to associate with other, equally good potential interns or fulltime hires, who then say whether your company is good/bad to work for.


1- Will meeting with the intern face to face be a good way to resolve this conflict?

If this guy is as smart as you say he is, he's done. Unless your company has an awesome benefit program or product (so there is a reason for him to stick around) it's unlikely they will have any interest they will come back.

Good employees can get jobs with good companies. You guys showed him you were a bad company which didn't care about new employees or how they are performing, the guy wants to leave. This shouldn't surprise you.

2- If not, how can we avoid such events in future?

Read this list of guidelines for creating good internships which is absolutely and entirely applicable here. My guess is you didn't follow the majority of it.

Also read this answer about how to get off to a right start with an intern. Again, I'd guess you didn't follow most of this as a company.

3- Is it a good idea to help the intern regain energy and confidence by putting him on very simple projects?

You need to talk to the intern and ask them. But, if you've read the two answers I linked, you should already know this - if this is surprising, go read them again.

None of us can give an answer here, because your company has created an internship experience bad enough the intern wants to quit. You need to talk to the intern if you have any chance of keeping them around.

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The thing is I do not want to lose this guy as he is really good, and I was about to put him on a mini live project. Secondly as he is a fresher, (and we are a startup), I do not need to pay him much and thus he is easily affordable to us. Also we have already invested so much time with him, that if he leaves now, we will definitely lose.

Your company has already lost. You treated him as cheap, expendable labour, threw him under a tyrant, and have broken his spirit. You got what you deserve.

  1. Will meeting with the intern face to face be a good way to resolve this conflict?
  2. If not, how can we avoid such events in future?
  3. Is it a good idea to help the intern regain energy and confidence by putting him on very simple projects?
  1. No. Your company has already blown this opportunity by coupling a promising intern with someone who has a terrible attitude and a demonstrated inability to work well with others. This may not be your fault directly, but that is irrelevant. He was burned out by this Mr. XYZ, the ship has sailed.
  2. Get Mr. XYZ away from any and all interns. Honestly, you're better off firing him. That kind of personality does more damage in the impact it has on others than you might imagine. I'm sure he's got a lot of peers who are hardened to his attitude, but they'd be a lot more productive and happier if they didn't need to deal with it at all. I realize that might not be your choice to make. But, that doesn't mean it isn't the right answer.
  3. It's a good idea to write him a recommendation letter, personally apologize that he had that experience with your company, and keep tabs on him professionally. It's likely he'll go on to do good things at a company that doesn't crush souls, and you might want to jump ship some day.
  • Fine answer, other than the last part of point #3, in which you're asking OP to think of the intern not as "cheap, expendable labour", but as the means to another end. How about write him a good letter etc because that's The Right Thing to Do? – Chan-Ho Suh Jul 5 '15 at 5:25
  • +1 for keeping XYZ away from interns. The attitude he shows is hard on experienced developers and DEADLY on any who are still finding their bearings. – Layna Apr 9 '18 at 9:23

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