Accommodation Is Not a Shield From Criticism

Try to develop an understanding of how to talk about these issues with your employee, openly but fairly. And are there creative solutions to this situation you haven’t considered? You note that when they’re healthy you have no concerns, so I will gently suggest that what you might do here is reconcile some of the biases you have about chronic illness.

It’s OK to be frustrated. That’s human. But it is not OK to let your frustrations dictate how you treat this employee. And if readers have any articles or books you recommend for working with chronically ill employees, please do share them.

I recently quit a well-paid, full-time position to take an internship with the United Nations in a developing country. I have four years of postgraduate experience and a master’s degree. The projects and the work are close to my ‘dream job.’

However, being at the bottom again is really challenging. The work I produce is of a far higher grade than intern level, yet the respect I receive is limited, as is the pay. But my main issue is my manager, whom I find to have a very poor work ethic and slapdash approach.

In my first six weeks, she took three weeks of unannounced vacation; she’s always late and complaining about having to work; and she appears to delegate almost all her workload to the two interns who are required to be in the office 8 to 5 every day. I have made it clear that I won’t, for example, fetch a keyboard for her from next door when she doesn’t want to go get it.

I am telling myself I have to let my ego go and focus on what I want from the experience, but she also has all the power in recommending me for roles. Do I need to just suck it up and try and move on ASAP? I am aware that intern exploitation is a tale as old as time, but I’ve never actually experienced it before.

— Anonymous

I am curious how you’re defining exploitation here. You chose to take an internship even though you are not at the intern stage of your career. Clearly, you weren’t emotionally prepared for taking a significant professional step back even though you hope it will move you ahead in the long term. I get that. It’s a challenging bind. The organization hired an intern because that’s what they needed.

You acknowledge you’re doing the work you want. Not getting a keyboard for your boss when you’re asked to do so is not setting a boundary. It’s a keyboard! This is a professional request and one that falls within the purview of an intern’s work alongside the dream projects you’re working on. It could fall within the purview of many jobs. If someone asked me to grab them something, I would generally do it, just to be collegial.

As for your manager’s work ethic, why are you so focused on what she does and how? Who cares if she takes vacations? Vacations are a good thing. Delegation is part of a manager’s job. That said, being late and complaining are not ideal behaviors, but you’re engaging in a lot of policing here and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t help you grow. It isn’t going to make you happier.