Q. Any tips on how a student can improve his/her relationship with a difficult boss?

June 11, 2010 at 11:21 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Getting along with one’s boss is key to a successful internship. Be grateful that your student has confided in you that he/she is having issues with their boss because then you can take steps to fix the problem before it spirals out of control. Here are some tips: 

  • Talk with your student to find out what the problems are in order to determine if they are personal issues, such as the boss isn’t friendly (or is too friendly) or constantly finds fault with your student, or if the complaints are related to assignments, such as not enough information, unrealistic deadline expectations etc. Make sure that your student isn’t leaving early or taking long breaks, which may irritate the boss.
  • Next, if you know the so-called “difficult” boss, consider how accurate your student’s claims are about that person. If you don’t know the boss, see what you can find out from former interns or from your contacts at the company. Now you can sort out the root of the problem and come up with solutions.
  • If the student is being overly sensitive about how the boss treats him/her, you could do some role playing with the student to help him/her react appropriately to challenging situations. Let the student play the “difficult” boss, and you can demonstrate how best to deal with each issue. You can do this online or by phone.
  • If you’ve discovered that the “difficult” boss is having a hard time for either personal or work-related issues, such as going through a divorce, being short staffed, or intimidated by company layoffs, ask your student not take the behavior of the boss personally.
  • To improve the work relationship, your student may have to be proactive. He/she can ask the boss for feedback on a completed assignment, thank the boss for guidance, and ask the boss for more projects. The intern may even ask the boss how he/she can improve performance at the internship, illustrating commitment.
  • The student could also volunteer to stay late at work or come in for an extra day if there’s a rush job or deadline. The “difficult” boss may turn into an appreciative mentor who will gladly write a glowing recommendation for your student.

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