I'm a student at a company and I work alongside another student (call him Jay. This is his first student work-term and has been here for 6 months). We work in the IT department. Both of us are Computer Science students and the job is a front-end web development position. Our supervisor is a Computer Science graduate with 9 years of work experience. Our manager is a Business graduate and has been in the workforce for 25+ years and I think he's a great manager.

Our job is to create specialized websites for people. We built a decent computer program / tool which automates the process of creating webpages, adding images, creating a decent layout etc.

Background information: When Jay first got here, he wanted to use certain tools, certain programming languages and certain computer applications. The supervisor didn't allow him to use what he wanted for the current job. Jay wanted to make sure that the programs he created are 100% efficient and are so good that it can handle just about anything / all scenarios. The supervisor didn't allow Jay to do this because it would take a much longer time to create applications which take into account all case scenarios. The supervisor said when changes occur and if the team is really pushed to the point that the team's programs are not working anymore and are outdated, then we will recreate them. Manager agrees with supervisor that it is better to be reactive rather than proactive in these situations because being proactive and taking into account all scenarios will take lots of time and it is unlikely that a lot of the scenarios Jay wants to take into account will occur within the next few years.

Recently, Jay had an idea / suggestion. Jay believes that the tool we use is not efficient nor good, and Jay thinks we need to recreate a better one. Jay decided to tell the manager (a business graduate who does not know Computer Science that well) about his idea and why he thinks the current tool is not efficient nor good. The manager calls over our supervisor and lets the supervisor do the talking (because the supervisor is the real computer science / full time programmer in our department).

The supervisor told Jay that we do not have the time to recreate an entirely new, efficient and great tool. Supervisor also told Jay that our team's objective is to create specialized websites for other people, not to build amazing tools which help us create specialized websites. Jay thinks that even though recreating an entirely new, amazing and efficient tool will take very long, the benefits will be much greater. The supervisor told Jay that there is no time and resources to recreate it.

I was talking to Jay last week during lunch and he told me that he is really upset. He hates how all his ideas are being shot down and that supervisor and manager do not care about anything he says. He thinks that supervisor and manager ignore all his suggestions. Jay said "I bet manager and supervisor just think 'oh Jay is just a student is he's gone in 6 months anyways, let's not consider anything he says'". He thinks supervisor and manager have something against him and he thinks supervisor and manager think he's not smart and does not know much. Jay is also upset that this is a co-op workterm for him and he's not getting the chance to learn or develop his skills since he is locked into doing things exactly the way supervisor wants him to do it and that he is locked into using out-dated tools which supervisor makes him use. Jay thinks supervisor and manager are holding him back from learning and developing skills. Jay also believes that supervisor lied to him when supervisor said "our team's objective is to create specialized websites for other people, not to build amazing tools which help us create specialized websites" because our team did spend some time to create a decent (not great) tool which helps us with the job.

My opinion on the matter: I actually think supervisor and manager are right. Our team does not have the time and resources to recreate an entirely efficient tool which takes into account all scenarios. Our team is not a team which has many talented computer science programmers who can even create the tools which Jay wants us to create. Our team is more of a front-end web developer team and our goal is to create specialized websites for others, not to create an amazing tool which can do it for us (we don't have the time and resources). In terms of the supervisor "lying", I don't think supervisor was lying. Yes, we have a decent (not great) tool which helps us but I think the tool is a need. I think that the tool which Jay wants is not a need, therefore the supervisor was still right about Jay's tool not being the objective of the group.

However, I do believe our current tool is not amazing, but it's enough to get the job done. I would love to use a new tool and more up-to-date programs and applications but what Jay wants is way too much IMO. I think Jay is a great computer science student but he does not fully understand the business aspects yet and he does not understand that in the corporate world, we analyze the pros and cons and the moment we feel the pros outweigh the cons, we shoot down the idea. We don't have time to test it out and see how it goes. We don't want to take the risk of putting in a lot of effort, resources and time to create something which may or may not reward us as much as Jay thinks it will. However, I think we can and should use more up-to-date programs (I'm going to discuss this with my supervisor next week so it's not an issue). In terms of Jay thinking that he's being held back in learning and developing his skills, I think that since this is his first workterm, there is a lot more other things to learn rather than computer science stuff (I think learning how workplaces and businesses operate, how supervisors and managers work, how to communicate with co-workers etc. is the main thing which workers should learn on this first work term.. the difference between university and work is huge and I think there is so much non-computer science stuff to learn on the first work-term.).

With that said, Jay is really upset. He mentioned to me that he really doesn't care about this work-term anymore, that he's just going to do what he is told and then leave. He said he regrets this job so much (my first job was working at the gas station, I think he's so lucky to have an IT related first job). I think that for the next 6 months, he's going to be really upset and he will not like being here from 9-5 everyday. He doesn't like supervisor and manager but I think they are great co-workers. What can I do / should I do anything to alleviate the situation?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to help.

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    You should do nothing. You are not responsible for Jay's happiness and you can't help him. – kevin cline Mar 8 '15 at 2:57
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    I think the best thing you can do, in your position, is let him vent a bit and get it out of his system... and otherwise stay out of it. He will either realize that he's overreacting and calm down, or he'll leave and discover that the rest of the world also involves compromises ... unless he's ready to go out on his own, or maybe go back into academia. He isn't ready to hear a peer's opinions yet. – keshlam Mar 8 '15 at 3:02
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    Frankly, if Jay wanted to build innovative tools, he probably shouldn't be working for a company that churns out websites for clients. He should look for opportunities at a software company. – Carson63000 Mar 8 '15 at 10:00
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    Jay basically needs to grow up. No one has all their ideas implemented and the more junior you are the less likely they are to be implemented. He needs to learn to start considering the business aspects of a decision not just what he wants to do. No one wants to listen to someone who thinks his ideas are better and that he knows more than people with more experience. No one wants to work with an employee who loses motivation if he can't get his way. You can't fix him, you should ignore him and learn what you can from yoru internship and learn from him how not to be a bad employee. – HLGEM Mar 9 '15 at 15:56
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    In your place, I would suggest that Jay should investigate this opportunity in his free time. (if he has free time.) He (or you both could team up) do it, and maybe create a new start up? – Guntis Treulands Jul 7 '15 at 18:14

What can I do / should I do anything to alleviate the situation?

You can learn - that's what internships are for after all.

This is one of those cases where everyone is somewhat right.

Business needs dictate that rewriting a working tool is not very cost effective. Rewrites have a nasty habit of taking far too long, not working very well, and generally being a boondoggle. And, frankly, your manager/supervisor probably are saying "oh, he's just a student and will be gone in 6 months". They've had years and years of students who think they know how stuff works.

On the other hand, businesses are also stubbornly blind to new better things. New better things look strikingly like new craptastic things, so businesses stick with the stuff they have, which works. Managers inevitably defer to supervisors who got there by doing the old stuff, and wouldn't know good tech if it bit them in the ass.

Jay could try a different tactic, either by trying to sell his idea from the business side: "This old tech sucks because it causes X bugs, or takes Y% longer, which cost us $Z. This new tech should help, and would take $$$ to implement." Or by spending some spare time to prototype the idea out to show in reality how much better it is. Though, he'd probably be better off just zombie-ing his way through these 6 months and doing some more rewarding project in his spare time.

You can watch and learn about office dynamics. This sort of garbage will happen pretty much everywhere you go. If you really think it's a good idea, you could do my suggestions for Jay. If you don't, then be there to listen for him.


The reality is the supervisor and the manager are the ones running the business and as such, they can run the business any way they want as long as they are held accountable for their decisions. Including those decisions that your colleague, who is seriously wrapped into himself and who is obsessed with his opinions, disagrees with. Make that, vehemently disagrees with.

The supervisor and the manager made their judgement call. If the judgement call is a mistake, then it is their prerogative to make that mistake. These two are being held accountable for what happened before your colleague showed up, for what happens when your colleague is around, and what will happen when your colleague is no longer around to take the consequences of the suggestions that he is making.

I have no idea where your colleague got the idea that he is entitled that his suggestions be approved. The supervisor and the manager listened to your colleague and came back with an objection that makes sense. I'd think that the right approach is to meet the objection and defeat the objection with an argumentation that has a sound rationale behind it - not throw a temper tantrum and pass judgement on others whose priorities and concerns are different, in particular because they are acutely aware of the limitations on the resources available to them.

The supervisor and the manager thought they were hiring an employee. What they got is someone who thinks he was hired to be a change agent. I suggest that your colleague keep his opinions to himself, back down and back away and re-evaluate his . Because the power balance are definitely not in his favor. And this company is not the place for the changes he has in mind.

Note: I totally missed your co-worker's allegation that the supervisor was "lying" to him, because you barely mentioned it - It's a heavy accusation, which says a lot about your co-worker's state of mind. If I were the supervisor, I would react VERY strongly to this accusation. And my reaction would include termination of the employment of the individual involved.

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    More importantly: change takes time and patience. I have seen tools replaced by better tools, but it takes much longer than you would expect, for business reasons as much as (or more than) technical reasons. Make the proposal with the best arguments you've go, and if they say no try again in a year or three with better arguments... and remember that the middle of a race is usually a bad time to try overhauling the engine. – keshlam Mar 8 '15 at 15:49

What you should do is take full advantage of the learning opportunity this work term is offering you. Jay is missing the lesson, and you probably can't point it out to him. Just to be super clear, the lessons are:

  • not everything is done in the way that would be most efficient in the long run. Sometimes, it's even right that it not be done that way. Other times, it's wrong, but it happens anyway
  • not everyone appreciates advice from those with way less experience (first work term, so probably NO prior experience) than them, even if it was possible someone with way more experience would give the same advice
  • it's rare for someone with no experience who just joined a team to see precisely and exactly what is wrong and how to fix it. Not unheard of, but not the norm
  • some work terms serve the purpose of helping you discover (and spot in an interview) the kinds of job you do not want to have

In my experience (I've been paid to program since 1979) the number of times a transient employee, such as a summer student or work term employee, has persuaded a team to change programming languages or tools is zero. On a few occasions such people have used a different language or tool for part of their job, but to get other people to change? It just doesn't happen. Heck, it often fails to happen when outsiders are brought in at great expense to make it happen. Jay has highly unrealistic expectations of the way most employers perceive him and will receive his suggestions.

I often tell my children, "the only thing better than learning from your own mistakes is learning from someone else's." This is a great opportunity for you to do just that.


Jay is allowing "perfect" to be the enemy of good. Sometimes a carpenter needs to repeat the same series of cuts on a board, so they make a small jig. They don't create a massive programmable machine capable of automating everything. If the time to create the tool makes up for itself in time, then you do it.

Jay needs to think of maybe a single task that could be made easier with a new tool that doesn't take up too much time. Just a few of these could add up to a great savings to the company and offer a competitive edge. This is the type of thing business wants.

You have to learn how to play the game to keep from going out of your mind. Very few jobs allow the time to work on new things or have any kind of R&D component. If Jay feels so strong about his grand idea, maybe he should develop it on his own time and put his money where his mouth is.

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