I work for a small start-up company as a software developer. I'm usually given quite a bit of freedom when it comes to choosing tools I work with, how I manage my working hours etc., as long as how I spend my time benefits the company's overall goals and deadlines are met. So far, this works well.

Recently our company got a new intern who aspires to become a part-time employee. There's been an agreement that he would spend three days per week (20 hrs total) on doing development work for two weeks so that both the candidate as well as the CEOs could reach a conclusion if permanent employment was an option.

The intern was given a new project to work on, that isn't vital to the company, but nonetheless would be very benefical to growing the business further. He worked on the project for some hours and the first impression was OK.

However, the intern turned out to be unreliable about the work schedule agreement. He tried changing the aforementioned three days per week to other days of the week for several times, and so far has shown up for no more than perhaps half of the agreed time per week.

So presently it is hard to evaluate if he would perform well at his job in the long term, because so far, there isn't much work that he did given the short amount of time he's been actually working. Also, it's unclear if any agreement will be reached at all, given the unreliability regarding working hours agreements so far.

I'm now wondering if I should take the initiative and continue working on the project the intern started, or if that would be disrespectful (possibly hurting his chances of getting into the company eventually). Given all options, I would assume that continuing his project would be the most valuable task I could spend the upcoming hours with.

Given flexible working hours, I would have to start working on that project before I could talk to someone from management. Also, the intern won't be in for at least two days. Just to clarify, I could easily choose a different task to work on. It wouldn't be painful for the company it I didn't continue the intern's project, it's just that I believe it had the greatest gain if I did.

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    I think you could boil this down to about one paragraph. That would be helpful.
    – mikeazo
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:21
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    I think it's pretty easy to evaluate if he would perform well at his job if he doesn't show up for the hours he's agreed to working.
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 5:11
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    I would wait until the intern is officially off the project. Then I would talk to my direct manager about taking over. I think it's the cleanest, safest and simplest way. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 7:55
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    "Given flexible working hours, I would have to start working on that project before I could talk to someone from management." I don't understand this. Why can't you send an email to management outlining your concerns?
    – StuartQ
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 9:11
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    "...and so far has shown up for no more than perhaps half of the agreed time per week" - Why would you ever consider hiring or working with someone who does not show up half the time? Go to management and report this, and they will get rid of him immediately.
    – mafu
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 10:34

4 Answers 4


Short answer:-

If you're not management, don't preempt management responsibilities and role.

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    Well, this is only partially true -- I already had the responsibility of explaining the project to the intern as well as overseeing his progress.
    – tmh
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:24
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    That's beside the point, you want to make a management decision. There is so many ways this could backfire on you, and no real advantage for you personally that would make the risk worthwhile.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:24
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    I normally love Kilisi's short, terse answers because they don't contain "fluff" but I feel this one is a little too short. I think it would be better if it explored what opportunities OP has, for instance raising the case to management.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 1:46
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    Look at it from the intern's point of view. It your supervisor unilaterally decided to come in one weekend and take over working on one of "your" projects, how would you feel about that? (I'm assuming you don't work weekends yourself, of course). Even if this intern is useless, you don't want him/her telling other students, or his/her college staff, that your company is a **** place to work.
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 1:56
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    @corsiKa the OP already said that is not an option in the question. So there is no options to point out, either he goes ahead on his own recognisance or he doesn't.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 2:06

Choose a different task.

As you pointed out, this task isn't vital to the company. However, the boss is using it as a way to test the viability of a potential new hire.

If you perform the task, you've just ruined the test. Maybe the boss will find another test-task. On the other hand, maybe the boss will just hire someone you'll later regret.

  • Ruining the test is actually a valid point, as giving the intern another task would prolong things even further. If completing the project soon is really of a higher priority than evaluating the internship, management could formally transfer the project, in which case I would have their OK.
    – tmh
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:39

Since management specifically gave the project to the intern, I would not take it over at this point. At worst, it will only be a few more weeks until they are no longer working there. At which point, take it over.

  • And make sure the intern supplies all source code for the project. It belongs to the company, not him.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:56

I disagree (only partially for the sake of providing another view point, i.e. disagreeing) with the other answers:
If the intern is to become a permanent employee, i.e. join the team, he will have to work in a team. That means he won't be the only one responsible for a task/project.

Oh wait, that's depending on your company culture: Do you have a truck count of 1 on all projects?
Truck count is the number of people that have to be hit by a truck so that a project will fail. If everyone has fixed responsibilities and no one knows the details on what the other is doing, your truck count is 1.

If your company tries to not have a truck count of 1, then it might be worthwhile to proceed on the project and write a report of what you've done in a check-in comment and/or email to the intern. When he's back talk to him about your changes and maybe (your decision) about his working hours: You might want to make clear that you won't cover up, if he's not upholding his side of agreed terms.

Oh wait again, you have flex time! Are you sure he doesn't? How do you know, he's working too few hours? Aren't hours spent in front of a computer a bad measure anyway?

Also there's the "code envy" point to mention. It's not yours or the intern's code. It's company code. However this is also very dependent on company culture.

There's a lot going on. Ultimately, you'll have to find a balance between "working the hours" and "being most useful" as well as "covering up for a colleague" and "tossing a slacker to the dogs". Usually I'm trying my best to be useful and honest, to the point that I not actively damage other's careers. However if asked by management, I won't cover slacking. For example, last time I was asked "Who would you send to another team?", I put up a meaningful/skeptical face and asked back "Do I really have to answer that?". My project lead did know whom I meant, no name or pointing needed.

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