One of the team managers hired one of his personal friends as an intern (A). His team has another intern as well, Intern B.

He very obviously favors intern A, giving him all the 'cool jobs', takes him out to external meetings etc. Intern B is still stuck doing boring tasks that will teach him nothing. Both interns show just as much effort; I personally think Intern A is quite rude and can respond very unprofessionally to emails and questions.

He said he will offer Intern A a job soon, Intern B will get laid off, undeservedly.

Should I notify HR about this? I think a much more unbiased decision should be made.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Apr 9, 2017 at 21:25

10 Answers 10


Consider speaking to the team manager directly on behalf of B. I think it is actually safer for you, and more likely to lead to a positive result for the intern, than contacting HR.

You should not say "I'm concerned that you are favoring your friend...". In fact, I wouldn't mention A at all. I would say something like:

In my experience, B has real potential and is a hard worker. I'm concerned that he just hasn't had an opportunity to succeed here. Is there any way we can give him more of a chance to show what he is capable of?

Even better if you can make it specific and volunteer to get involved:

I think he could really help out on project XYZ that I've been working on. Is there any way we could keep him here a few more months to work on that? I'd be happy to help show him the ropes.

I think you are unlikely to stop the favoritism. The team manager probably has wide latitude in how he deploys the interns, and there is unlikely to be any decisive evidence to back up claims of unfairness. But there might be a way of giving B a chance, too, and that is your best bet.

Whether this is possible depends on the details of the situation: Is the internship fixed or open ended? Are the two clearly competing for only a single position? etc.

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    Is it really not worth making HR at least aware of the situation so that a potential pattern can begin to be documented? If that manager brings A on board as a full employee, I highly doubt that the favoritism would end.
    – krillgar
    Apr 6, 2017 at 12:50
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    @krillgar Involving HR is a nuke. A final option that can not be taken back and has a high risk of souring working relationships, even if John Does concerns should turn out to be unfounded (It shouldn't be this way, but pragmatically it is). Compared to that, talking is a very low risk option, especially in the way that dan1111 has phrased it. Apr 6, 2017 at 13:29
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    @krillgar, I think HR involvement is fundamentally conflicting with what I propose here. If talking to the manager isn't fruitful, then involve HR if you wish. Of course, if you have a conversation with the manager such as I suggest, then it will be obvious who has contacted HR..
    – user45590
    Apr 6, 2017 at 13:33
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    @TheSexyMenhir Completely agreed with you and dan on how HR is a final stroke. But like I said, I doubt the situation of favoritism would change when the intern becomes a full employee. Having the long documented pattern would be good as well. Perhaps something like sending yourself an email with what you would say to HR?
    – krillgar
    Apr 6, 2017 at 13:59

This is a tough situation. It depends on how much you're willing to risk for this intern B.

Going to HR could have drastic consequences for you and the boss. You may want to think twice if it's actually worth it. Remember, HR isn't there to protect the employees from the company, but to protect the company (sometimes from the employees).

Also be aware that if you report this and your manager gets repercussions for it, he may well piece 2 and 2 together and figure out it was you who reported him. In that case, he may plot to and/or outright fire you for false reasons as payback.

It could also be that HR is aware that your manager is playing favorites, and just decided to allow him to do that. Depending on your HR, they may not see much wrong with that. A good HR should see something wrong with that, but not all do.

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    He is not in a position to fire me luckily.
    – John Doe
    Apr 6, 2017 at 9:57
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    The knife cuts both ways, HR is also there to protect the company from this manager.
    – MSalters
    Apr 6, 2017 at 11:18
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    @MSalters Yes, but it cuts both ways. HR will do whatever is cheapest and most likely to protect the company; that could also be something like discontinuing the internship program, which would be a loss for everyone involved.
    – anon
    Apr 6, 2017 at 17:38
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    This is an extremely important point, and one that I found out early in my career and it astonished me at the time. HR is there to protect the company, not the employees. There is nothing in this situation that going to HR would help with. It would be a total lose. You might as well start looking for another job now. Apr 7, 2017 at 6:02

The question is, do you have any tangible proof?

Do you know that Intern A is getting preferential treatment? Do you know if Intern B is better than Intern A?

Do you know the full assessment of the interns that your colleague has undertaken?

I would suggest that this isn't your job. Even if your colleague prefers Intern A to Intern B, he could easily have the relevant paper trail to provide to HR to "prove" Intern A is better than Intern B.

You probably are correct, but you don't know the full assessment of the two. Maybe the colleague doesn't think B is up to it, so doesn't take him to external meetings. I don't think you have enough to make a solid case. It seems that your evidence is all anecdotal and mainly opinion (despite whether it's correct or not).

I would leave it. This isn't your job, it's your colleagues' job. He will be required to provide the relevant things to HR.

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    The person is not my manager, I just work closely with the team and the intern. Thanks!
    – John Doe
    Apr 6, 2017 at 10:36
  • OK, but the underlying point still stands. You are looking from the outside when there could be other factors that you don't know about that make Intern A better than Intern B Apr 6, 2017 at 10:37
  • John Doe is a lot less outside than you are. You presume a lot in your desperate attempt to defend the manager. Note that the question isn't whether the OP should care or get involved, that's a given. The question specifically is whether he should go to HR.
    – Jim Balter
    Apr 7, 2017 at 7:44
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    My answer states that to raise something with HR you need actual proof, Not "Oh Intern A gets to go to more external meetings" or "Oh, I find Intern A is sometimes rude etc. You need actual proof. You need evidence to present a case. If you go to HR, you are questioning the professionalism of the manager, so without evidence, going to HR will not achieve anything except affect relations with the manager of another department the OP has to work closely with. That is what I say in my answer. Apr 7, 2017 at 7:56

Correct, an unbiased decision should be made on the basis of who is the most suitable for the role. However in the real world this isn't always the case.

This may be a non issue, if Intern B does not want the permanent job anyway, therefore it may not be worth rocking the boat. Even if the situation is unfair.

If it were me, I would try to gauge from Intern B how much this is affecting them. If they would like the permanent job, if they too feel it is unfair, and if they do would they actually want something done about it. You may want to do this subtly.

Remember, by involving HR not only are you potentially causing problems for yourself but you may also cause problems for Intern B even if he was to get the job instead. The manager may hold a grudge against both of you.


An alternative I don't see listed here: Does your company have an Ethics ombudsman? Many companies have a mechanism by which someone can raise concerns about violations of ethical standards without "going to HR" per se. What's been described here sounds like just the sort of thing an Ethics officer ought to look into.


It's risky. If you really want to do something, consider talking to his boss.

Part of the team managers job is to manage - it looks like he's not doing a good job here, making decisions that are not optimal for the company. Since you're not in a position to evaluate, hand over the info to someone who does. It is their job to decide whether to act or not.


First of all it depends on your priorities. I think that if you ignore morality from purely monetary perspective upsides are nonexistent for you if you say something.

Secondly if you feel you should speak up sometimes a good strategy is to use language in which you are helping somebody to improve themselves instead of going against them. So

BAD: You are favoring your friend.

BETTER: Sometimes people can unconsciously prefer their friends in a work environment. Don't get me wrong, A is awesome, but I have noticed that B also does some really good work and I think he would be up to the task if you would give him same opportunities as you give A.

That being said I doubt manager is unaware of what he is doing, so my guess is that either way he will be upset at you.

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    "upsides are nonexistent for you". Not necessarily. Others may value your willingness to make a principled stand. Having this kind of reputation often (not always) pays off in the long run.
    – user45590
    Apr 13, 2017 at 8:42
  • In theory, and in Hollywood. :) IRL I do not feel that things play out like that. Apr 15, 2017 at 3:10

I've tried this before and it absolutely will not help to talk directly to the manager making the decision. Their decision is made and your interceding will just make them put up their guard and work against you in the future.

If you feel safe to do so go to this person's boss directly but have all your facts in order, making sure to delete anything related to emotions. Be prepared to suffer the consequences if his boss hands the issue back out to the sub to take care of....

  • This seems like an awfully strong conclusion to draw from (presumably) a single data point of experience. Are you really sure this would be true of any manager in this situation?
    – user45590
    Apr 13, 2017 at 8:46

What are the options available in order to give better chance to Intern B? The HR might ask you about your suggestions regarding that. If its a large company with large number of employees under different departments then the HR can move him to some other place as a result of your notification. But if its a small company and the Intern B will not have a chance to move to somewhere else then this might result in further drastic situation for him. Additionally it can result in your own bad relation to the manager too.

A better idea would be to talk to Intern B and communicate to him about how he should present his case to the manager himself or the HR in a polite way that. For example he can narrate like "I want to perform more challenging tasks than what I am currently doing. I feel that I have lot more potential and my skills can be utilized more fruitfully for the organizational success. So please entrust me with more work as I really want to be a helping hand to my entire team. etc"


Not until you weigh the risks. The fact that you hesitate to make a decision shows your internal conflict. What's at risk if you notify HR? What's at risk if you do nothing? If the risks are the same, then you are free to make either choice.

You are making judgments about the situation at your job. You have judged the team manager's treatment of Intern B as unfair. Do you sympathize with Intern B's experience? if so, you might be projecting your personal experience onto Intern B.

Projections are internal issues for you to work on and they create bias, so you may not see the situation free from your personal bias. The fact that you are bothered by favoritism indicates you could be feeling anger, sadness, and/or shame about what you've observed regarding the two interns. I recommend that you first process your emotions before making a decision. There are organizations, possibly near you, that can offer free help with this. Woman Within International and Mankind Project are two examples.

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    It's interesting how many people here arrogantly lecture the OP and assume he's a clueless git, rather than simply answering the question asked. The fact that the OP is bothered by favoritism could just mean that he's a decent human being with scruples.
    – Jim Balter
    Apr 7, 2017 at 7:48
  • This doesn't even remotely answer the question. Also it's baseless speculation.
    – user45590
    Apr 13, 2017 at 8:45
  • @JimBalter First of all your job role has to match what you are trying to do. Otherwise you are just doing wrong.
    – muasif80
    Apr 13, 2017 at 20:52
  • @muasif80 Your assertion is absurd. You might as well claim that, since people aren't paid to eat or take a dump, they're doing wrong to eat or take a dump. The OP's question is not about their job, or about doing HR's job, it's about whether they should speak to HR. And it's not your job to comment on SE, which you're doing wrong in any case.
    – Jim Balter
    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:30
  • @JimBalter Its only your way of thinking how to approach a situation. Mine was a different opinion. Its absolutely necessary to first analyze your own standing before going to talk to HR. Commenting on SE is no one's job neither voting down. :) Enjoy yourself and be happy.
    – muasif80
    Apr 14, 2017 at 12:27

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