saying no to an intern who wants to extend her internship

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A reader writes:

I’m managing an intern for the first time this fall and it has not been great. Some of that is on my inexperience and discomfort with managing but also this intern is terrible at communicating (not just let me know if you’ll be late, let me know if you’re going to miss a deadline!). I emailed her reminding her of her end date as agreed on at the start of the semester and got a response that said basically “can I extend my internship?” The answer is no, we need someone who can at minimum be on time and stay awake, but I’m not sure how to tell her that kindly. I tend to be blunt and worry about verging into rudeness, though I know I need to be direct. Language would be much appreciated!

I have talked to her about the issues previously but on more of a one-off basis. There was a big “you absolutely cannot be three hours late ever without saying anything” conversation her second week because she did that three times, but other than that it’s just been one offs. I suspect I may have been too gentle in those though or not clear enough — I worry a lot about coming across as mean (have been told it’s an issue for me) and she gets sort of weepy-eyed very fast with feedback.

One option is to just say, “Let’s plan to stick to the current end date and wrap up on (date)” without elaborating.

But it would be a kindness to her to explain why, if you’re willing to. I wouldn’t do that in email though; you’d want to meet with her in-person for that. You could then say something like this: “I wanted to talk with you about your request to extend your internship. I’ve had some concerns throughout your internship about your reliability and communication. Showing up on time, letting me know if you’re going to be late, and talking to me if it looks like you missed a deadline are all really crucial things, not just here but at most places you’ll work in the future. I know we’ve talked about these things a few times, but I haven’t seen the improvement I was hoping for. Because of that, we can’t extend your internship, but I hope that getting this feedback will be a useful thing to take forward to your next job.”

Also! Take this as a nudge to work on getting more comfortable giving frequent and clear feedback to future interns or employees. You will do yourself and any future interns/employees who you manage a huge favor if you learn to see giving feedback as both (a) a kindness (because it lets people know what they must change to succeed, which most people want and deserve to know) and (b) a non-negotiable part of your job as a manager, rather than something to shy away from.

Frankly, it sounds like this intern might have been problematic no matter how clear you were, so I don’t think you need to beat yourself up too much over this … but it’s definitely something you want to tackle next time.

saying no to an intern who wants to extend her internship was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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November 23, 2016 at 02:01AM

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