I'm working as a software engineering intern at a corporate company. I'm ecstatic for this opportunity and trying my hardest to read code, ask questions, make mistakes and learn. However, I'm paired up with another intern who is doing nothing. She sits and texts all day, social media, sleeps. Yes, she actually fell asleep.

Now, my problem is I'm trying to deal with this professionally. I don't want to directly talk to my manager, as I feel like it's something I should try to deal with.

Unfortunately, in scrum meetings she just tacks on, "Oh, I'm working with him for what he's working on" and takes credit for code that I'm writing. The overarching problem is that she's putting no effort into this project and thus resulting to doing nothing. What should I do to make her engaged or at least bring value to the company.

Any thoughts?

  • 9
    In scrum meetings, let her speak first and then, when it's your turn, tell the same thing: "I'm working with her on the things she does". Then someone will ask more questions. She'll be unable to answer.
    – user48138
    May 24, 2016 at 15:26
  • 8
    @AlexandreVaillancourt because gnat thinks "duplicate" means "anything vaguely related". May 24, 2016 at 15:43
  • 5
    @CuriousFellow are you paired up with her in the sense that you two are pair-programming and are working at one machine between the two of you?
    – Max Sorin
    May 24, 2016 at 16:16
  • 4
    Do you not use source control software which would make it trivial to track who wrote what code? With that, it should be able to show she did not write the code she takes credit for.
    – marcelm
    May 24, 2016 at 19:45
  • 3
    I don't want to directly talk to my manager, as I feel like it's something I should try to deal with. You should look up the definition of managing. For one, it's not something that interns typically do. It's usually left to managers.
    – Lilienthal
    May 24, 2016 at 21:55

10 Answers 10


As far as her lack of commitment and professionalism, it's not your job to "engage her", or otherwise interfere with her habits. She's digging her own grave, and you know what they say about that.

However, her taking credit for your work is understandably upsetting, and I would certainly speak up about it. Don't address the problem publicly (don't call her out as a liar in the middle of the scrum meeting), and I also do not recommend confronting her about it - she might fight back and drag you into a bigger mess than this needs to be. Instead, start keeping track of all your work.

I'm assuming you guys use some kind of source control which probably keeps track of who's submitting code, and making changes to the code base. It would help if your manager could look at this tool and see a history of you submitting code, while she does nothing. If not, start keeping a personal log of what you've done each day:

May 24th

  • Fixed bug relating to X, in application Y. (modified method abc in order to accept parameter Z)
  • Added validation for user contact info to method def.

This way, you can show concrete evidence of what you're done, so that she can't claim credit to something of yours.

Next time she takes credit for your work you should request a one-on-one meeting with your manager (as soon as the meeting is over, preferably, so that her claims of working on "X" with you are fresh in his mind - and have your daily log with you):

Hey boss, can I have a moment of your time? I'd like to discuss something a little sensitive with you. (you step into his office, etc.) I'm not really comfortable having to bring this to your attention, but something said in today's meeting is not entirely accurate, and I feel I have to speak up. You see, "X" said that she's been working with me on implementing feature Y, however I have actually been working on that code entirely by myself. I assumed that she was working on something else, because she has not approached me about this issue at all. I was very surprised to hear her claims this morning. (you may want to add that it's not the first time it's happened)

Unfortunately you will have to deal with people taking credit for your work or otherwise throwing you under the bus your entire career. The other unfortunate part of office politics is that it doesn't really matter who does the most, or even the best work, but who is perceived as being the best.

I've read many questions on this site from people who've had their work subverted by other more politically minded individuals. I've also witnessed it happen, and have been a victim of it myself. Hence, my approach, and the approach I recommend to everyone else, is to stand up for yourself when a situation like this arises. Don't give people like this a chance to stab you in the back, or take you down with them.

Document your work, and if you start having a bad feeling about a fellow employee start sending them critical information only over e-mail, such that a record of their request and the answer you provided exists.

On the same note, however, don't accuse people of wrong-doing when you don't have evidence to support your claim. Know when you should shut up and take the injustice, and when to put a parasitic coworker in their place. Recognizing these situation will come with time, but this one is a textbook example of a situation when you have the means to defend yourself from false claims.

  • 2
    "Unfortunately you will have to deal with people taking credit for your work or otherwise throwing you under the bus your entire career." Eh, it's not impossible to find places where everyone mostly just cares about actually getting the job done, free from silly politics like this.
    – MGOwen
    May 25, 2016 at 4:45

What should I do to make her engaged or at least bring value to the company.

You personally should do nothing.

You are an intern, not her boss. If she doesn't want to be engaged or bring value, you cannot make her.

Let her boss deal with her failings, and concentrate on doing your own work to the best of your abilities.

If it really offends you when she says "I'm working with him" during a scrum meeting, you could say "No, sorry. I'm currently working alone." This is unlikely to make her feel engaged or bring any value, but it might stop her from taking partial "credit" for your work.

  • 4
    I don't see how the boss recognizes her failings in this situation.
    – user8365
    May 24, 2016 at 18:57
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    @JeffO - this is an intern who "sits and texts all day, social media, sleeps". If the boss doesn't recognize such failings, then that's his problem, not another intern's. May 24, 2016 at 19:39
  • 8
    You don't address the other employee claiming the OP's work as her own, which is a pretty big part of the issue.
    – AndreiROM
    May 24, 2016 at 19:42
  • 5
    The boss notices. In technical roles, especially at the intern level, it is painfully obvious who is putting forth effort and who is not. "I'm working with him on what he's working on" is such an obvious red flag. Just keep your nose to the grindstone and your work will be recognized. May 24, 2016 at 20:41
  • @JoeStrazzere Good for you, but there are bosses out there who aren't all-knowing and all-seeing. And while I agree that mere lack of effort on somebody else's part isn't the intern's concern, falsely claiming credit in public crosses the line where it does become their (and, by extension, the boss's) problem. May 25, 2016 at 12:34

If another worker is slacking, but this isn't affecting you, then it's normal and fine to let it go and let someone else work out that they are slacking. however in this case it is affecting you, because they were claiming they worked on something you were working on.

Take the other intern aside and say "You said you were working on what I was working on, but you didn't talk to me about it, and I didn't see any code you checked in. What exactly did you do on this story yesterday?" You may possibly get a satisfactory answer, in which case you were mistaken. If not you need to dissociate yourself from this slacker.

A good scrum meeting should include everyone saying what they are going to do next day, as well as what they did yesterday. If the other intern says "I'm going to be working on what CuriousFellow is working on" say "I don't need any help there, why don't you work on something else".

If this persists, try taking it up with your boss along the lines of "XYZ says he/she was working on the same things i was, but I didn't see any actual contributions".

My bet is that your bosses already know about this. Vague descriptions of work done, that happen to be the same as what someone else is working on, area a dead giveaway of slacking. Somebody will eventually get around to looking at your code checkins. If your fellow intern has a mentor they probably already know what their work is like.


Welcome to the professional world. You will spend the rest of your life working with people of all commitment levels, from those that don't care at all to over-achievers that will never let you get anything done. Experience has taught me that you cannot control what someone else does (especially someone over whom you have no authority)... only what you do and how you react.

Take a deep breath

It is great that you are enthusiastic about what you do, and for any of us that are passionate it isn't uncommon to have a healthy level of annoyance at unprofessional behavior. Annoyance is normal, especially when your name starts getting dragged into it. Realize, however, that there is nothing you can do to fix her. Slacking is her choice, and making an issue of it with her directly is simply going to create conflict. It is her supervisor's job to monitor her work and gauge her progress.

Do the best you can

Keep doing a good job and people will see it. As mentioned by others, when she gets asked to report on progress an never gives anything but vague answers, it is pretty obvious what is going on. When you are asked to report, focus on the way you changed the world, and forget about what she didn't do. If you have a decent manager they will see your accomplishments and you will be rewarded appropriately. If you don't have a decent manager, well, you probably don't want to play that game anyways.

Be consistent and document

Make sure your accomplishments are documented. You don't have to parrot your every line of code, but having good check-in notes, frequent and consistent check-ins, a work log, and a history of responsiveness to requests will go a long way towards pointing out where the problem lies.

When things go wrong

When a project doesn't get done on time, people will come looking for answers. Be prepared to present your evidence and let it speak for itself. I've seen a lot of developers that can do little or nothing for a while, but eventually they are expected to produce something and can't, and their lack of skill or professionalism quickly comes to light.

Don't cover for someone else

If you see someone consistently putting forth little effort and you are going out of your mind trying to get work for two done, don't. If you are supposed to be pair programming, send an email breaking down the tasks. "Sally, we need to do X, Y, and Z. Which ones did you plan on taking?" Don't jump in and do it. When asked, simply say, "Oh, Sally wanted to work on that and said she would have it checked in by PDQ." If it doesn't happen, then she has to explain it.

If she blames it not getting done on you, that is when it is time to talk things out with the boss. Approach it constructively. "Mr./Ms. Manager, I really want to complete this on time, but I haven't gotten any code check-ins from Sally all week, and I am afraid I am going to miss the deadline." Let the boss figure out why Sally isn't checking in code.

Don't make assumptions

People seem to think that busy == productive. I've worked with folks that could produce more great code in an hour than others could in a week. This might not be the case for Sally, but something to keep in mind going forward... Sometimes people also log in from home to complete projects, or simply haven't been assigned enough work. The point is, you don't know if someone gets all their work done before breakfast and has nothing to do all day. Their manager needs to figure it out.

  • Best answer NA.
    – 8protons
    May 24, 2016 at 21:10

I had a similar situation. Except it wasn't a pair up but another co-worker. This person did nothing all day but played on the cell phone. We used github and what I noticed is that she would wait until the project was over and then looked at the PR and copied code from it to hers. Near the end the bosses started to ask her to complete her work on time so what she did instead was wait until people pushed their code up and then looked at it before it became a PR. Near the end I just never pushed my code and her stuff was delayed till the end.

Unfortunately this was one of many reasons for my leaving and unfortunately if your management does nothing then there is ultimately nothing you can do. I recommend definitely bringing up your concerns to your manager as if things fall apart then you will be blamed.


It's not your problem to engage her and make her an asset to the company. As an intern you're there primarily to gain experience in real life. This is valuable experience about people in the workplace.

Any manager used to working with interns already knows whats going on, knows that you are doing the work and knows that she's not. It's one of the main things they look for and monitor. Quite often the actual work an intern does is secondary, because often no one cares about it much beyond it being done properly.

So my advice would be to just keep soldiering on, if she wants to waste her time, let her. Interns should not create scenes. Don't assume she is under the radar, that would be the sign of a bad manager.


I've heard this problem before in different places. The rules never really change. If you are old enough to be out there working at any level it is up to you to tell the other person where they stand.

Having been treated to her version of the truth you must tell her calmly and firmly that from now on you will be taking direct responsibility for your work and not hers. Whether she is confused or overwhelmed (as she may be, she certainly does not know that you're there) she needs to work out what she is about and get to work or make other plans.

In addition you must make the situation clear with the boss (who may well be aware, thanks guys) that you think she may be overwhelmed, confused or at least unclear on the instructions you have both been given. This may sound like the strategic way to poison her efforts but you are expressing legitimate concern both for both of you.

If you are taken down politically by acting in a mature and measured way then you will be able to explain exactly your actions to anyone who cares to know.

I started another answer to make the point that you must take the action but you need to do it with her and/or the boss, not in a meeting with both. That will turn the boss into the mom with the arguing kids. You are (trying to be) a professional. Working productively with people whom you don't have to love is one of the skills you will acquire. This is lesson one.

If you start with the boss you can probably skip her but take action.


Before the next sprint planning meeting, select a specific task from the work you would otherwise be doing unaided. The task should be doable give her qualifications and training.

The objective is to divide up the work, and have her take responsibility, in the sprint planning meeting, for at least one specific task. If she wants to select a different task, be flexible, but insist on her committing to her own tasks. You can even warn her that you are going push for her commitment to specific tasks, and discuss with her which tasks would be most suitable.

The best outcome is that she becomes engaged in completing her tasks. If not, the problem will become apparent to the rest of the team when Task X consistently shows no progress at each scrum, and more senior people should do something about it.


It's pair-programming and not one person does everything programming. Let go of the keyboard and mouse. Stop sitting right in front of the monitor. If you're logged in with your account, logout.

Alternate every 30-90 minutes. She needs to take her turn. If that means sleeping the whole time, not much you can do about that.

You may want to pose the question to her, "If someone asks me what part you did, what would you expect me to say?"

You may want to suggest a partner rotation if possible. That's typical and you'll learn more.


Warn her that the next time she claims to be collaborating with you in a meeting, you will ask her in the meeting, in front of everyone to elaborate.

Meanwhile, document everything you do so that she cannot take credit for your work.

  • 6
    Making a scene is hardly the best approach
    – AndreiROM
    May 24, 2016 at 15:53
  • 2
    Agree with AndreiROM. Especially as a Intern.
    – manu97
    May 24, 2016 at 19:49

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