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I’m currently a web development intern in a small-sized company. My internship contract ends this Friday. Two months ago a superior told me there would be a possibility for me to be hired permanently in the company. I told him I was still unsure whether I wanted to enroll in university for a master program next September, but that I would of course wait for their offer and take it into consideration. Flash forward to last week, they finally presented me an offer.

I have thought about it and decided not to accept it, in order to enroll in university next September, and be able to get some rest this summer (I’ve been an intern since late 2018, and I got my Bachelor’s degree in March 2019, so I’ve been full-time working while taking my last exams and writing my thesis - it’s been quite stressful, and I haven’t had time to properly recover both physically and mentally).

Today I communicated my decision to my boss, and he tried to make me feel bad for not telling him beforehand. He basically took for granted that I would accept their offer and keep working for them. He wants me to keep working until mid-August in order for him to find another person to take my place, and not to fall behind on work when he leaves for his vacation this summer.

Tomorrow I will tell him I have no intention of keeping working after my contract ends. Even though I know I’m not in the wrong, they managed me to feel somehow guilty. I didn’t need to give notice legally, since my contract is ending, and I never told them I would for sure remain in the company.

I feel one of my biggest insecurities is the fact I lack assertiveness. I am really anxious about communicating these things tomorrow. How can I do that in a firm yet polite way? Besides, I’m really worried this fact would make my boss give bad reference for me when I apply for future jobs. I've never had any problems with my boss in the previous months.

  • 5
    Where is this? It may matter because in some places it is dangerous for the company if they give you a bad reference--especially if it is warranted. – John Spiegel Jun 11 at 15:52
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    How much notice does this give your employer? i.e. how much longer will you be working for them? Depending on how you feel about the position it might be polite to complete whatever the normal period of notice is since you've effectively been treated as a normal employee for a while now rather than as an intern. – P. Hopkinson Jun 11 at 16:18
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    Would they give you 1 month notice if they were not going to renew your contract after it ended? I highly doubt it. Also if they need you that badly, they can pay you the respective salary. – K. Gkinis Jun 12 at 11:10
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    @P.Hopkinson "How much notice does this give your employer?" - The employer had about 6 months notice, because the contract was for a fixed period of time. The employer knew, from day one, when the contract would end. I see your point, but I think the OP owes no additional notice period. – marcelm Jun 12 at 14:06
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    @DaveyDaveDave I honestly would have proposed a solution like that if his attitude was different...but now I think I'd feel uncomfortable working here even for another short period. – user105620 Jun 12 at 15:54

10 Answers 10

262

In the end you need to do what's right for you.

Just explain that you are going to go on and further your education and so this is what you're doing.

As for the timing--put it back on them. Explain that you would have given more notice had they extended the offer earlier. But you were waiting for the offer to make your intentions known. You owe them nothing. You did what was expected and fulfilled your obligation.

Now...will you feel bad? Possibly. But life is sometimes disappointing and sometimes you need to make tough choices in order to benefit the future. Stand your ground and do what you know is right for you.

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    I should add....you'd be amazed how much the world simply goes on without you. You may feel hugely guilty for walking away. A month down the road, they'll barely remember you working there. Yes--your friends will still remember you, but they'll just move on with life and the job will get done. – Keith Jun 11 at 15:30
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    I would put it in writing too (email would do) so he can never claim you did not give him notice. – Old Nick Jun 11 at 16:02
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    The only thing I would add is: don't forget to thank them for the intership and the offered opportunity to stay. It's not the right moment for you to accept that offer, but perhaps in the future you will meet again. They have a positive impression of you now (hence the offer), try to keep it that way. – DeltaLima Jun 11 at 16:10
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    @Keith: Relevant quote: "You'll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do." – Mehrdad Jun 12 at 23:56
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    "But life is sometimes disappointing and sometimes you need to make tough choices in order to benefit the future"... I think you mean "Reality is often disappointing, and the hardest choices require the strongest wills." – rodolphito Jun 13 at 3:55
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...he tried to make me feel bad for not telling him beforehand. He basically took for granted that I would accept their offer and keep working for them. He wants me to keep working until mid August in order for him to find another person to take my place, and not to fall behind on work when he leaves for his vacation this summer.

Your boss is a short-sighted ****. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say he's likely more annoyed at his loss of cheap labour rather than anything else (since his complaints are about finding someone to replace you, and not wanting you to fall behind on work while he takes a nice holiday.)

Tomorrow I will tell him I have no intention of keeping working after my contract ends. Even though I know I’m not in the wrong, they managed me to feel somehow guilty. ... I am really anxious about communicating these things tomorrow. How can I do that in a firm yet polite way?

Do so in writing - that way you can take the time to go over it as many times as you like, phrase it how you want to, and therefore also have a written record if he ever tried to dispute it.

If he tries to draw you into a verbal discussion - just give yourself a firm but polite line in advance you can keep repeating until he "gets it", something akin to:

I've really enjoyed working here, but I've decided it's time for me to move on so I can concentrate on my studies, and I'm afraid that decision is final.

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    @user105620 I'd still send it in written form, if nothing else so you have a record. If you want to follow that up with "hey boss, just so you know I've put my notice that I won't be renewing my contracting in writing. It's been great working here, and I wish you all the best" there's nothing wrong with that either of course. – berry120 Jun 11 at 15:50
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    @user105620 this doesn't/shouldn't stop you from doing so in written. – Helen Jun 11 at 16:03
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    I'd be surprised too if an intern decided to not take a job offer. In many sectors of the economy it's still hard to get a paying job, most interns would jump at the offer to change their internship into a real job... – jwenting Jun 12 at 3:52
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    @jwenting That depends on the location and work sector though. In my country developers (or any IT-related graduates really) are often contacted and sometimes even hired while still finishing up their last year in school. – Blub Jun 12 at 6:41
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    +1 for the "while taking a nice holidays". Part of the problem is probably ruining the internal holiday schedule, not so much about caring about the OP. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 13 at 5:11
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Keep in mind that all your boss wants is cheap labor.

If he wanted you that much, he could have offered you enough to make you stay there; but he didn't offer enough. Obviously, you don't matter to him that much as you, as a person, all he wants is a cog in the machine to keep grinding.

You don't have any more obligation to him than his attitude deserves.

EDIT: And, if he chose guilt-tripping instead of improving his offer, it's not a place or a boss that you want to work for.

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    nowhere does it state the contract offered is "cheap" for the employer. So let's assume it's a regular contract with reasonable wages for the seniority level of the employee (which is a junior position, obviously). – jwenting Jun 12 at 3:54
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    The contract they offered me was actually pretty decent, and the pay was average for my experience and skills. If I weren't willing to proceed with my education I would have probably accepted their offer. – user105620 Jun 12 at 15:58
  • @user105620 He could have offered you consulting fee for 50x that amount. Just saying. The point is probably that you will be paying more for a new resource. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 13 at 5:07
  • Just because it's reasonable for you doesn't mean that it isn't cheap for the company. – Wayne Werner Jun 14 at 14:29
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You should not be faulted for making a meaningful decision about what you want to do with your life. You had already given your boss feedback that there were other options you were considering pursuing. He either assumed he could win you over or ignored what you said. Neither one of those is your fault.

Unfortunately, this is probably not the last time that someone will try to put pressure on you to recover from their own poor decisions. I used to keep a sign on my desk which said "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" Came in handy for situations like this.

9

You're obviously a decent person and that is being used against you. I was similar situation a few times in my career so I speak from experience on this.

I'm going to a little brash here and say it how I see it. Your boss was basically manipulating you to make you think that a perfectly acceptable decision is wrong.

Your own physical and mental well being supersedes the wishes of any company. If something were to happen to you, your company would get on the phone and contact a recruitment consultant to replace you and not give you a second thought.

Your situation is frankly no different. You've given them adequate notice....they chose to mindfully ignore it.

I would have quick conversation with you boss and say him the following:

' I have had an amazing time at ABC corp and I am massively looking forward to the next chapter studying at XYZ University. May I take this opportunity to Thank you for the amazing time I had at this company. You were an amazing person and I learned a lot from you, and I want to keep in contact with you in the future.'

He is obviously not going to be happy about this but hold your metal and stand firm. If he says that's inconvenient, I will have to find some one blah blah blah.

Just repeat.

I appreciate you will have to find a replacement for me, surely you are in the process of finding a replacement right now. I'm KNOW you will find some who will massively appreciate the opportunity to work here - they are lucky to have boss like you. Once again,thank you and lets stay in contact on LinkedIn.

(exit stage right)

In summary:

  1. As you can see your not burning any bridges but you are ELEGANTLY letting him know you are leaving.

  2. Your last day is not up for negotiation.

  3. Your ending the conversation by walking away ( to buy your colleges some krispy creme donuts)

  4. Finding a replacement is his problem. Not your problem. His problems are not your problem. Do not allow yourself to be pressurised. If he's unhappy about that. So what.

All the best.

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Keep in mind that real life comes in more shades of grey than you can see on an ATI Radeon. Intent is a highly subjective matter. Any conversation may be interpreted in a number of ways; many of which can be correct, many wrong and many of them correct and wrong at the same time. Your boss may have been having a tough day after getting told off by his boss, his wife or the person who got him his coffee at the deli. Or, he may have an odd sense of humor. Or, he was just plain bitchy that day. He did get approval to hire you, which may have taken time. Or, he figured that he can hire you at a lower starting salary than he would if hiring an experienced person.

On the other hand, you might have been extra sensitive to things that were not said that day and mistook what he said for bullying.

As I said, multiple things could be true or false at the same time. The safest course in a work environment is to be polite and reply with "Thank you for the offer and the experience but I feel I should decline..." blah, blah. Unless, he says something unambiguously inappropriate. In which case, be polite and move on. In a month, he'll be over it and you'll be over it and you'll still leave the way open for yourself if you want to rejoin the firm in the future.

It takes a lifetime to learn how to speak to your superiors, peers and juniors and most of us still get it wrong.

2

How did they make you feel guilty?

They're obviously surprised you didn't take their offer, which suggests they have no reason to believe you didn't like working for them and consider the offer to be a fair one (whether either is true I'll leave out of consideration as you didn't mention anything about it).

In the current economy, it's often hard for fresh graduates to find a job, let alone a decent job in the field they're trained for. Thus the apparent surprise you didn't jump at the chance to take the job being offered is quite understandable.

As they made you an offer, they're of course happy with you and therefore disappointed they're losing you. An internship is after all not just a means for a junior employee like you to gain practical experience and learn things, but also for a company to see if a person would make a good employee for them in the long run, and costs the company so they're losing an investment (they should have a fund set aside for this of course, as there's no guarantee for either side to want to continue the relation once the contract ends). Again, no surprise there and nothing to feel guilty about.

In the end, you have to decide for yourself what's best for your future and you seem to have decided that that's to continue your education and get your Master's. Best of luck with that and hopefully you'll find it a great experience and leading to a good job you'll like after graduation, a job at least as pleasant as the one you turned down.

And if you can keep good relations with that company, keep talking to them, maybe there's another more senior position with them when you do graduate :)

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    "In the current economy" - is this not making an unwarranted assumption about where OP is based? – Peter Taylor Jun 12 at 7:11
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    @PeterTaylor sounds very much so. In my area web devs are really sought after. And the OP is not really a fresh graduate since he has experience (this internship). – Jan Dorniak Jun 12 at 7:17
  • @PeterTaylor it's still in large part an employers' market, especially for junior positions (less so for seniors, true, but to an extent even there). It's not as bad as some years ago, but companies still can be rather picky. – jwenting Jun 12 at 9:25
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    I think you may not have understood my point. Are you sure that this is true in every country? For all we know from the question, OP might be in (to pick somewhere at random) Chad, and I see no reason a priori for assuming that the job market in Chad is similar to the job market where I live. – Peter Taylor Jun 12 at 10:31
  • @PeterTaylor In one of his comments on his OP, it sounds like he is in Italy. – Mike Waters Jun 12 at 21:32
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A lot of people are making assumptions about (bad) intentions the boss might have, or responsibilities on your side.

In the business world an intern has NO responsibility for staying longer than his contract. (Assuming no explicit agreements were made regarding this). So that leaves the intentions.

I would be cautious to assume intentions of someone you may not know very well, fortunately it is likely not relevant. The following lesson I learned from a comedian:

A beggar will stop asking for money only when he knows he won't get it from you

In this situation, the most important thing to do is not 'flirting' with the business and pretending like you might stay. If you made your decision, be decent but clear in communicating this.

If you present this very clearly (NO 'thinking about it some more', or 'maybe a better offer' or 'perhaps just a little bit longer') then regardless of his intentions, you take away any incentive for the boss to show his bad side. (The first moments may be akward, but likely this is the nicest way to move on after the pain gets accepted.)

Conclusion:

Be respectful but clear to ensure the best experience for everyone

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I would like to suggest another option if it is possible and you feel that you have time to do so. And also if it is possible in with the assignments you have.

If you don't want to burn any bridges, say that you will consider coming back to work for them when you have finished studying. Furthermore, check if it is possible to work extra hours here and there when/if you have time available, during weekends/semesters. That way you keep the doors open and "don't leave them hanging". As well as keeping an extra income stream and getting some more work experience to put on your resume.

End the contract as is and ask if you can negotiate a contract where you can work hours when you have the possibility.

0

You had a lot of good answers about guilt and how you should voice your goodbye. I would like to comment on

Besides, I’m really worried this fact would make my boss give bad reference for me when I apply for future jobs

You are in Italy. A prospective company (one you would like to work in) cannot just call your previous employer and ask about how you were doing at work. The previous company is legally forbidden to provide such information.

This is what a work certificate is for: it states when you worked and which position you had.

If a company asks you for references you can put whoever you wish. If they insist on the previous boss you can then build the story of how things went (there are other questions here about how to address this point).

There is of course the small probability that the boss of the new company knows the boss of the previous company and would go and directly ask. This could be the case either in small communities (geographic or areas the companies work in) or if you are at a very senior position.

In other words - I would not worry about that one.

As a side note, my opinion is that the whole idea of references is completely flawed and in my career I just got one request. My (professional) friends were very happy to oblige. have you ever seen a LinkedIn reference which is not an eulogy?

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