Intern-al Matters

16 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: As is true of many college graduates these days, I’ve had my share of temp internships – four so far. My latest non-paying internship looks like it will pay off in every sense of the word. I’ve just heard I’m up for a fulltime position in my field, a non-profit organization. The salary is low, but there’s room for advancement. Here’s the problem: The other intern, who also will be hired in the same position, isn’t pulling her weight at all. I’m doing double the work with longer hours just to get everything done, thus making both of us look good. She doesn’t have to try because she’s the daughter of a big donor. I love working here, but I realize I’ve got a delicate situation. Is there anything I can say to her to get her to pitch in more without jeopardizing my job?

–Burning Out

Ms. L.B. is surprised there isn’t a nepotism policy at your organization against hiring family members. Your colleague feels she’s entitled to slack off, so you must proceed carefully. Say nothing to anyone at your workplace. Presumably you are cheerful and non-critical on the job and friendly to your colleague. If you aren’t already having lunch with her, invite her casually, maybe once or twice a week. After the two of you are hired, invite her to have dinner with you to celebrate. You can lay out your thoughts about job responsibilities, mindful that it may not make any difference, and you must continue to pull her weight. Regard this as a testing ground, as first jobs often are – you’re building your resume. (Just in case, quietly document her slacking off. If your bosses question you, stick to the facts, remain unemotional and stress that you’ve been concerned that the extra work keeps you from your own responsibilities.) Meanwhile, at dinner say this to her, gently:

Isabel, we did it! We can congratulate ourselves on getting good jobs in our areas of interest in this economy. Maybe they don’t pay well, but we’re on our way. Now that we’re on staff, do you have any suggestions as to how we can handle our job responsibilities?  I’ve been putting in such long hours, that I can’t keep going at that pace. We won’t be able to get everything done without dividing the duties. [Listen carefully to her at this point, and take your cue from what your co-worker says.]

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