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Some background: I work as a software engineer for a big company in Germany. I have been looking for a student that will support my work for quite some time, did some interviews and most of the applicants came with no prior programming experience whatsoever, so it took some time to find one who did. The task he is given is not mission critical, it's just to deal with some stuff that might make my products better, but it's not essential and I just don't find the time besides my daily work to deal with these topics.

The student has been working with me for 2 months now and he is working ~40 hours a month. Tough in the first month he has been here for a lot more since he didn't have to go to university in that time.

To be honest, after about 100 hours of work he spent with us, he didn't deliver any result at all until now. I take a lot of time talking with him, explaining things and telling him what exactly he has to do next. He never takes any notes during those talks and I actually have the feeling that he understands what we are talking about. I also ask him at least once every two week if everything is ok, if he feels comfortable working in our team etc. No complains from him.

Everytime we talk about what he has to do next, the next time we sit down together, nothing of what we talked about has been done. He mostly did other stuff. Stuff I explicitly told him to postpone until he completes other tasks. E.g. creating a concept before writing any code, or thinking about testcases for his concept before writing any code. He always end up writing throw away code, because he didn't think about the steps he should take before. If he gets stuck, he does research on the internet which leads him to the wrong conclusions instead of talking to me.

Besides all that he is asking my boss if he can do an internship after his student activities will end in september. He even asks is his brother can also do an internship with us.

On top of that we even allow private use of the company internet and working from home. Even for students. Now I am the last person who is strictly against this, quite the opposite. I use both options quite regularly myself. But when he is working on site, he tends to work for 6-7 hours. When he is working from home, he is working almost 10 hours. We can see this from his time sheet.

Basically I am very dissatisfied with his performance and I feel like he doesn't do any work when he is working from home, because I cannot see any progess whatsoever. I even asked him to write a protocol of what he is working on when he is working from home, but I never saw one of those up to now. When he is working in the office, the first few hours I feel like he is doing personal stuff and not work on his tasks. I am not sure how to handle this situation? Should I confront him, or is it my bosses task to do so? Should I just let it go and wait until his contract is over and try to make the best of it? I don't feel that it is my obligation to tell him that his work is now what we (I?) expect. How can I solve this situation without me ending up being the "bad guy".

closed as off-topic by gnat, Philipp, Chris E, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey Apr 15 '15 at 21:35

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here." – gnat, Philipp, Chris E, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    Do you have the power to hire and fire? I'll note that you are going to have to tell him what you are thinking soon, because you are creating in that student the misleading impression that you are happy with his performance. And I have no doubt that when you tell him, what you tell him will come to him as a shock and if he is conceited enough, he will blame you as the bad guy and taking ownership of what he is doing that's short will be the farthest thing from his mind. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 10 '15 at 11:42
  • hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck! – gnat Apr 10 '15 at 11:45
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    During this time has any of the dissatisfaction been communicated to the student? For example, you said the next time we sit down together, nothing of what we talked about has been done. He mostly did other stuff - I would think that during that time, your dissatisfaction would have been communicated. OTOH if you just blew it off, maybe he doesn't realize what you're expecting? – Brandin Apr 10 '15 at 14:15
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    It sounds like you are expecting a student intern to perform like an experienced employee. Ramp up on new projects can take 3 months (~500 hours) and that is with experienced professionals, not students who are still learning the trade. – Eric Apr 10 '15 at 23:19
  • It sounds like you didn't hire an experienced developer. – BAR Oct 5 '15 at 1:33
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I've had a few student workers during the years. You don't do him any favors by being too permissive. He will have to grow up to become a good team member if he wants to keep a job - part of your responsibility as a mentor is to teach him this. That means you set specific tasks and ask to see the results. If he doesn't deliver, tell him that it's not ok. If he keeps it up (and it seems like he has) let him know that managing him takes some of your time and that you can't keep doing it if he doesn't keep his end of the deal. Don't worry about being the "bad guy" too much.

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    One of the best ways for a person to learn how to be a better employee is to make a mistake and suffer the consequences. (not that you need to jump right to firing him, but sitting them down and say "look, you're not delivering on time, disregarding priorities, etc. Shape up or ship out") – RualStorge Apr 10 '15 at 14:03
  • OTOH, the OP needs to evaluate whether the assigned tasks are beyond the intern's current understanding. Creating a concept before code might sound easy but for someone who hasn't had to do it yet on something "real", it isn't. Thus, they do what they know and hope that in the process they did what they are supposed to have done. You don't hire an intern unless you plan to have them do very trivial work or intend to provide good mentoring. It sounds like the intern isn't incompetent since they get some stuff done. It seems more like they don't know how to do what is being asked of them. – Dunk Apr 13 '15 at 19:17
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I agree with everything Andreas said in his answer. It sounds like it's time to put him on a performance improvement plan. Set up a meeting with your student. Lay guidelines for him. And from here on out document everything regarding his performance.

Maybe part of his plan should include the revocation of some benefits... like working from home. His time sheet may say 10 hours a day, but his deliverables beg to differ.

You can still be supportive of him during this time. Let him know that you are disappointed with his progress so far instead of angry that he's not getting his work done.

Let him know that if he really wants an internship with your organization, he's going to have to step up his game.

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For my younger interns I have a real simple method of making sure we are on the same page. First we have a meeting every 2 days. We go over what the next steps and expectations are.

The second step is that they email me what they plan on working on over the next two hours. Every two hours, another email. I know it seems like micro-managing (and it is) but it really should help both sides. You know what he is working on ahead of time, and if you don't say anything then you are "OKing" it. Then on his side it is good to not waste his time on something that is not needed. And even bigger is the fact that if he says I am going to try to do X and then the next email comes through saying, still doing X you can infer that he may need help if X is an easy task.

At the very least you can ask him where he is with X and judge whether or not you should meet or maybe it is as simple as pointing him in the right direction.

I feel with my interns that they aren't saving me much time until about month 3. That is when I can knock the emails down to once or twice a day and they are a little more secure in their knowledge of what we do and what they need to do. If they still need to email me every 2 hours they fall into one of the following buckets:

  • really talented but acts like a kid and goofs off. I will usually spend time micromanaging this type because they save me work. Also I find very positive reinforcement works with these types. I might never hire this type (unless they were ultra-talented) but they can intern for me. Ask yourself is this person getting nothing done or are they goofing off. I don't care if my interns goof off if they are putting out work. The best intern I had literally did nothing half the day.

  • head in the clouds, kind of gets it. I just let them go. After 2-3 months of micromanaging and a person who still doesn't get it, they aren't going to change.

  • +1 for recognizing that interns are not graduates. They usually require effort and sometimes you lose more productivity than you gain. We usually hope to get our interns acclimated their first go-around and have them return in 1 or 2 semesters and actually provide decent value on their 2nd internship. Intern's are a last choice for project leads but the company pushes to maintain ties with the local colleges as being part of the community, so we sometimes don't have a choice. Plus, they cost "relatively" next to nothing, so any added productivity is a big gain from management's perspective. – Dunk Apr 13 '15 at 19:26
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First, be sure your behavior sends the message that he can ask you for advice. He may be trying to show that he is trying to solve the problem before giving up on it (a trait which is valued in many places). If he feels that you are too busy, or if he feels you have told him (either explicitly or implicitly) that you're too busy to be bothered with these little things you want him to do, it would be understandable that he would be reluctant to interrupt you. So make sure he knows you're available to answer questions, and that you prefer he ask you before asking the Internet.

There is a distinction between disregarding instructions given and not meeting expectations, though in this instance, it appears the student is failing in both. If you are his supervisor/manager/boss, you owe it to him to identify the problem clearly (sloppy work, wasted time), and clearly state what you need him to change about his performance (tests first, design first), and then clearly state what will be the result if the changes are not made (loss of employment). Give him a deadline for showing the changes being made. Then follow up, and follow through (do what you said you would do).

It is entirely possible that, when faced with the reality that his job should not be taken for granted, the student will shape up and make the changes. Be sure to acknowledge his success as well.

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Basically I am very dissatisfied with his performance and I feel like he doesn't do any work when he is working from home, because I cannot see any progess whatsoever. I even asked him to write a protocol of what he is working on when he is working from home, but I never saw one of those up to now. When he is working in the office, the first few hours I feel like he is doing personal stuff and not work on his tasks. I am not sure how to handle this situation?

If you are dissatisfied with his overall performance, then you should let him go. If you are only dissatisfied with his performance when he works from home, then you should require him to work in the office and tell him he is not permitted to do personal tasks at work.

Should I confront him, or is it my bosses task to do so?

If you have the power to hire and fire, and you are responsible for his work then you should fire/confront him. If not, then someone else should.

Should I just let it go and wait until his contract is over and try to make the best of it? I don't feel that it is my obligation to tell him that his work is now what we (I?) expect. How can I solve this situation without me ending up being the "bad guy".

Sometimes managers must be the "bad guy". Why don't you consider this your obligation? You selected him, right? You manage/supervise him, right?

Let him go now. Learn from this what you can do to choose a better student next time.

[Note: obey all local laws with whatever actions you choose]

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