After my first internship got over, I moved onto a new one. Since I am slightly more experienced than the other two interns, boss made me the "project manager" for a proof-of-concept he wants to test. So, now I am a programmer and a "manager".

One of the interns just wants to finish the work without paying attention to what the boss said. He's more focused about a dot in the resume.

Boss wants a working prototype that he can hand over to the potential clients and see how they react. Mr. Intern just wants to flex his coding muscles and make a dummy.

So now I am bombarded with text messages by Mr. Intern asking me to get started with making a dummy and assign some tasks to him. I do not intend to be rude with this intern but I need to ensure that the work gets done as planned and not as what Mr. Intern thinks it is.

What's the best way to explain this to him?

  • 3
    Can you explain what, in your mind, is the difference between a 'working prototype' and a 'dummy'? Nov 29, 2015 at 18:12
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Imagine "dummy" as turning a UI designer's photoshop file into code. It does nothing. A "working prototype" is a working software that updates the server and all but doesnt really care about error handling. It is designed around the happy path. We expect the users to be model users.
    – An SO User
    Nov 29, 2015 at 18:19
  • 3
    The worst thing you can do when people start nagging and getting pushy via text or email is to respond with yet more texts or emails. Much better to have a polite face-to-face (or phone) discussion where you carefully and without confrontation explain the situation to the other intern. Make sure he understands the expectations and address all his concerns. That would be the first thing to try. If that doesn't work, you have a bigger problem.
    – teego1967
    Nov 29, 2015 at 19:06
  • 4
    Junior developers want to do the fun things for their own purposes instead of what is best for the project? Sounds like you're getting the exact experience you need to be a project manager!
    – corsiKa
    Nov 29, 2015 at 23:46
  • 1
    @corsiKa yeah. definitely a good learning experience.
    – An SO User
    Nov 30, 2015 at 2:08

4 Answers 4


First, sit down with your boss and make sure you are clear on exactly what the deliverable is. Then make sure to put that in writing, get the boss to sign off on it and have a team meeting to go over the requirements with the team and do the initial task assignments. When the intern brings up what he wants to do instead of what you are tasked to do, then you tell him that is out of scope and move on.

Start having daily (yes daily) meetings on the project to discuss what was done the day before, what roadblocks they ran into and what was planned for today. I agile this is referred to as the daily stand-up meeting and should take only about five minutes per person on the team. If there are problems that need to be resolved with one or more team members, get with them outside the daily meeting. If he brings up his disagreement in the daily meetings, catch him immediately after the first one where he does this and tell him that is unacceptable professional behavior. The next time, don't wait until the end of the meeting, tell him directly that the subject is closed and that he is not to bring it up again.

In those meetings, you can make sure tasks are assigned when people are done the previous tasks and that progress on the assigned tasks is being made.

Set up a system of code reviews where all completed work is reviewed by someone else and they check that work against the requirements. This will help prevent the intern from going off on his own direction unnoticed. You might make sure to do the first couple of code reviews of his work to make sure he is following directions.

If he continues to text you about it after you have clearly and unambiguously told him that it is out of scope, point out to him that the decision is made and you expect him to stop texting you about it. If he still continues or if he decides to ignore you and do what he wants anyway, discuss the issue with the person who is his official boss for guidance on how to handle.


Email him.

First texting co-workers is a last resort. This would be expected out of kids playing not people trying to accomplish real work. You texting your fellow interns about work and arguing makes me think you are in junior high.

Second as a project manager you are not his manager but managing the project. So when speaking with the other interns don't speak as their boss but just the boss of the project. It is not your concern that they have bad habits or are overall annoying or whatever.

Third, make sure that you clearly outline the tasks that you need each of them to do for the projects. Make sure you have an adequate buffer so that if they are late the project can still maintain. In each of those tasks have certain check-in points and things that should be done at those points.

Fourth, follow up with them once a day or two on the tasks. Inform the real manager that they are behind or you think they are behind.

Fifth, don't let bad attitudes make you have a bad attitude towards them. Make sure the project is going as you want it to or involve the boss and the other interns on a couple meetings to get everyone on the same page. I would actually recommend a one hour meeting every two weeks at least with all interns, the boss, and yourself to make sure that everyone is on the same page and on task. During these meetings the boss can take care of interns not working or their bad habits.

  • 2
    +1 for pointing out that PM does not make you manager of the co-worker. Nov 29, 2015 at 20:18

Just tell the problematic person that it is not your call to make and to stop texting you about it. Tell them to text the boss. I have no idea why you're taking their texts in the first place, at the very least they should be emailing not texting.

So I would explain that as well, and then block their texts if they didn't stop because it would then be obvious that they're playing with you.


First meet with the boss and other interns and clearly define working prototype.

To some people dummy data is a working prototype.

I don't agree with no error handling. My experience is you spend more time with un-handled errors than it would take to just handle them in the first place.

Is the data design complete? Then define the classes. If you define the interfaces (classes) to the server what is the harm with some mock ups that return dummy data and let him start on the UI? Later you return and get real data.

Take charge of the project. This intern should have assigned project tasks.

Once you define scope / structure then it is easy to reply task X is out of scope.

  • 1
    This is advice on how to write a prototype, but not on how to deal with the person. Not an answer. Nov 29, 2015 at 18:54
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Disagree. It does say how to deal with the person - assign him some work while I do some other work. Also, it answers the "how do I explain this to him?" part in the first line :)
    – An SO User
    Nov 29, 2015 at 18:56
  • @DJClayworth Really? 1) First meet with the boss and other interns and clearly define working prototype 2) Finish core design 3) Assign tasks that lead to a finished product
    – paparazzo
    Nov 29, 2015 at 18:58
  • @DJClayworth "A prototype" is exactly the problem. Define THE prototype and appropriate tasks follow.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 29, 2015 at 18:59
  • 1
    If you edit the post I can change it. Nov 29, 2015 at 19:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .