[Office Politics Filter] How long do I nag my boss about a crappy worker?
February 23, 2009 12:51 PM   Subscribe

We've got an intern that doesn't appreciate his chance to work in our studio, but my boss just won't fire him! How long do I keep giving my boss reasons?

OK, where to start. A little background:
I work in the post-audio industry. That's "sound for radio and TV" to normal folks. It's generally a who-you-know, unpaid internship, skin of your teeth kind of starting experience.

I use to be lowest man on the totem, but I've worked my way up into a very tight spot with the boss, being very important to the company.

Over a year ago we hired a new intern. My boss is one ofthe rare saints that actually pays his interns. (I'm not kissing ass, it's very rare in this business) The kid comes to the interview in a Led Zepplin t-shirt and sandles. This is a great example of who this kid is.

Thing is, he's also a business partner's nephew.

So he gets hired. Long story short, it's been over a year and we can still depend on him to screw up just about everything he does. My boss makes comments about how stupid he can be. A few times I've spoken to him bluntly about how we should look for someone else. I've either gotten a "for real" type response, without any real truth behind it, or, once, I got the sense my boss was trying to tell me I've not always been a shining star myself.

Now for a couple specific examples:
Last week while a scantily clad woman was on the TV screen in the lobby, Ben says to our receptionist, a middle aged mother of 2, "I wish you looked like that [Tracy]" (named replaced to protect innocent.) and then turns tome and say,"Then I'd have a reason to come in to work." So first the comment that borders on sexual harassment (?) and then admitting that he doesn't even want to work here. Reminder: this is an industry of "you're lucky if you get in" for the most part.

Then today he brought in lunch (one of his daily responsibilities that he often messes up) and he had held a bag of pizzas so all the pizzas had drifted down the box and folded onto themselves. One of the engineers begins to scold him, asking why he didn't hold the bag of boxes flat, and his response is, "Well next time I'll have you go pick up lunch." So to clarify the work environment, this is like a file person at a law office telling one of the partners to go get the coffee next time.

So you can see we've got a bad worker who's just getting worse. I've talked to my boss about him a couple times, and I get blown off. So, after all that, here's my question: How long do I keep tattling on this kid? We could replace him in a matter of days with someone who actually cares about the job and wants to be here. My boss knows this, as I've told him before. But I don't want to come off as whiny either. This kid makes everybody's job harder. If he starts slinging comments like that around clients, he could easily piss off the wrong people. Yes, he's related to one of the business partners, but with this kid's track record, we've got a million reasons to fire him. Help?
posted by toekneebullard to Work & Money (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get over it.

Honestly, just do the best job you can do and let the boss know if the intern does something that is acutely detrimental to the company.

In my opinion there are a lot of things that aren't fair about office politics, and you don't know the position your boss is in. There may be more to it. The only thing I could think you could do is try to level with the kid. Realize he is young, maybe he doesn't understand the position he has been put in.

So instead of acting like a tattly-telling snob, why don't you try talk to him. Explain to him what you just told us and work to make him a better employee, as opposed to being a jerk and getting someone fired.
posted by OuttaHere at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's also a business partner's nephew...

The awkwardness your boss would face in firing the nephew of a business partner far outweighs the petty "but when *I* was the new kid, I acted like *this*" that you feel. The short answer is to let it go, it's not your problem, and when you're the boss you can deal with it as you see fit.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

He's your new protégé.

You're his new mentor. dig?
posted by rumsey monument at 1:07 PM on February 23, 2009

I assume, not only you, but also people like the receptionist are already complaining to your boss: he seems to have a reason for overlooking the intern's lousy work.Your boss may value keeping the business partner happy over having a fantastic intern. If you really need a good intern in order to do your job well, can you suggest that your boss hire a second intern?
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2009

If the boss has the same facts you do, then continuing to bring up the issue only hurts your image and has no other effect.

AFAICT, the boss knows the kid should by rights be fired and has decided to do otherwise. The decision is based on factors outside of the normal evaluation of an employee. It is those factors that need to change in order for a different decision to be made -- the issues you are bringing up are not the relevant ones and so continuing to push them is useless.
posted by winston at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the kid getting the boot isn't going to be happening, no matter how much you may plead with your boss. There are perhaps extenuating circumstances that prevent turfing him, as much as you may like to see otherwise.

To start, I would advise you to back off a little with the complaining to your boss. Yes, I know it's a difficult situation, and that it seems terribly unfair that this kid seems ungrateful for the break he got. But you've registered your misgivings, your boss is now very aware of your position on the subject. To continue to complain will just make you look bad. (Believe me, I speak from personal experience. Don't do what I did.)

Now is the time to be proactive, and do something positive. Why not get to know the kid a little? It certainly sounds like he can't do anything right, and it sounds like he gets reminded of that fact every time he turns around. Perhaps you could take on a kind of mentor role: be the person this kid can turn to *before he turns work in*, to make sure it's up to snuff. That way, the work gets done to a standard you're OK with, the kid learns something, and the stress level in the office goes down substantially. You never know, you may find the kid has a hidden talent you weren't immediately aware of.

Oh, and good luck!
posted by LN at 1:11 PM on February 23, 2009

Building on what Meg_Murry said, where work needs to be done that is not happening you can bring up the issue of how can we get this done, without specific reference to this intern (if your concern really is the work and not annoyance with the intern).
posted by winston at 1:12 PM on February 23, 2009

You can't control the kid, and you can't control your boss. What you can do is arrange it so things that affect you get done by you. Offer to go get the pizza yourself. Don't give him enough responsibility to make your job harder.

It sucks, but attempts to get him fired are a waste of your time.
posted by almostmanda at 1:13 PM on February 23, 2009

Get over it. If this guy's just being annoying, a pest, or plain rude and that's not enough to get him fired then you've done all you could so buck up son and let the rest play out like a bad sit-com.

Your boss is keeping this guy around for reasons he doesn't bother to share with you. Maybe it's just as simple as he's related to one of the business partners, or maybe it's something more, who knows, but it's none of your business....

(I know this doesn't make you happy but let's continue)

...except with it is affecting your business.

However if the guy is having a real world affect on the productivity (in terms of time and money) to the company then you have to let your superiors know in those terms. For what it's worth, maybe your workplace is also one that follows the chain-of-command. Maybe you are buddy buddy with the boss, but try going to the slacker's immediate superior first.

* So-and-so is an ass and he fucked up our pizza order vs. So-and-so's responsibility was obtaining lunch for the business meeting with Important Client but was late, forgot client's vegetarian order, and spilled the salad dressing on the table causing embarrassment to the company and taking valuable time.

* So-and-so said the receptionist was ugly vs. So-and-so made an offending comment to the receptionist that prompted her to consider filing a sexual harassment violation to the company, which will require resources for the company to address.

You get the drift, but every workplace needs it's harmless dope. See Michael Kelso.
posted by spoons at 1:15 PM on February 23, 2009

"My boss makes comments about how stupid he can be. "

So, yeah, your boss knows what you have to say. If he's not canning the intern it's for reasons not related to those issues.

"It's generally a who-you-know...kind of starting experience. Thing is, he's also a business partner's nephew."

So you want the guy to respect the traditions of your industry which include... getting in based on who you know? Sounds like he's got that part figured out. Instead of getting the boss to can him, which clearly isn't in the cards, maybe you could get the boss to work the guy over to be less of an idiot and/or dick, instead?
posted by majick at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2009

The comment to the receptionist really stands out in your post. The rest is just the ubiquitous phenomenon of people being lazy and incompetent, with which you must learn to deal. Sexual harrassment is different. The prospect of a lawsuit would presumably change your boss's calculus, and quite apart from that, people shouldn't get to say stuff like that in the workplace and expect everyone else to "get over it". But I'm not sure how that should best be communicated to your boss. (Or does he already know? In that case you work in a horrible workplace.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: OK, I'd just like to clarify some things. I have talked to this kid. I've tried to level with him, as I'm a VERY forgiving person in this department. I know where he's coming from cause I came from the same place.

But everything I've tried doesn't work. We've made him check off lists, we've told him to come to us before he leaves for the day, but nothing works. Check of lists don't get checked off, and he will literally walk out the door without letting anyone know he's leaving.

Also, I'm not just some fellow employee that doesn't like him. My boss has told me that I'm his boss, that he's my responsibility. Typing this out makes me think it's a chance for me to show my own management skills.

I think I may just lay off. My boss isn't stupid, he knows the kid sucks, I'm just being annoying by continuing. Maybe I'll try and sit down with the kid and lay things out.

OK then, second question:
How do I level with this kid when he knows he's got it made? He knows he's not getting fired, so how do I try and get him to put in more effort? This job has the potential to get him into some exclusive places, but he doesn't seem to care about that at all.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:22 PM on February 23, 2009

Thing is, he's also a business partner's nephew.

Look, you cant fight nepotism. Your boss is probably scared to fire this kid. Just let it go. When this is all over you'll have amusing stories to tell your friends and coworkers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:25 PM on February 23, 2009

Perhaps when you have that talk with him, you let him know in no uncertain terms that he will not be receiving a letter of recommendation (or whatever the equivalent is in your industry) from you (his boss) when it comes time for him to move on. Unless, that is, his performance drastically improves. And then give him concrete examples of what you would consider improvement.
posted by cooker girl at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2009

his job has the potential to get him into some exclusive places, but he doesn't seem to care about that at all.

I wouldnt be surprised if he doesnt even understand that. Its difficult to accept that out of college the world isnt dying to hire you. He's probably always had his uncle in his life to give him breaks. Eventually the gravy train will run out. He'll need to experience this himself. Nothing you can say will change this.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:28 PM on February 23, 2009

My boss has told me that I'm his boss, that he's my responsibility.

If you don't have the authority to fire him, you're not his boss. But it sounds like you already know that anyway, even if your boss doesn't.

How do I level with this kid when he knows he's got it made? He knows he's not getting fired, so how do I try and get him to put in more effort? This job has the potential to get him into some exclusive places, but he doesn't seem to care about that at all.

Scratch "some exclusive places," how about any place at all? If it's an internship, that implies a fixed employment period, doesn't it? At some point the internship ends, right? If so, he's going to be looking for another job at some point, so perhaps you can gently make the point to him that your recommendation to potential future employers is contingent on his performance. [On preview, the same point cooker girl made]

But if he doesn't care about your recommendation or lack thereof, or any other carrots or sticks you have the authority to offer, "managing" him might mean assigning him as little responsibility as possible. If you're trying to impress your boss with your management skills, and your boss already knows this guy is worthless, minimizing the damage he can do might impress your boss more than you think.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:41 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

This job has the potential to get him into some exclusive places, but he doesn't seem to care about that at all.

I'm a grad student, but I had a bad experience with an unenthusiastic first year student. Basically you just have to pick up their slack and suck it up until they are done/get fired. They will eventually meet up with someone in their life that will not put up with crap. Luckily my advisor was that person in my situation.

Somebody's going to have to write those letters of recommendation for his next job, no? It is going to be you or your boss, and if he continues to suck, those letters are going to be extremely short and/or non-existent. I know he's just an intern, but if this internship is as big and important as you make it out to be, he's going to be really hurting in the future without a good letter from your company.

All in all, this kid sounds like a spoiled brat. Either you're going to have to ignore him and pick up the slack for work he is not getting done, or you can continue to scold him because you think his behavior reflects poorly on you. I love to complain about other people's behavior so I know this is a tough one ;) However, he is an adult, and you can't take responsibility for his inappropriate behavior -- you are not his mom, and someone (with power) will eventually have enough spine to stand up to him.
posted by sararah at 1:41 PM on February 23, 2009

A couple things:

* He's connected. You should be documenting everything. Everything.

* Certain people can work themselves into roles where they cannot be fired.

* That being said, the only way to properly fire him and protect yourself is to DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Every little thing. With witnesses if possible. You need to build a case against him.

* Your boss is probably not telling you the whole story. You respect him and I doubt he's an idiot and can see the kid IS an idiot. But there's probably some underlying story about the kid you're not getting. There generally is. You shouldn't obsess over it, just know you don't have the whole story. That should be enough to calm you down...

* Try not to get emotional about this. I know how angry people like this can make me. But you can't wish them away. Try not to let it affect your standing in the company. You don't want to be seen as petty. And you will definitely come off that way if all you do is complain about your employee.

* Punish him with work... if you're truly his boss. This should give you plenty of cases to document when he doesn't A) do the work or B) do the work properly.

Document, document, document, and have regular performance reviews going over the whole thing. If you can demonstrate you've tried to make him into a better employee, and certain (documented) themes persist, you should have more ground to stand on when you go to your boss.
posted by teabag at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2009

Let the doofus dig his own grave. The picture you're painting is that he's a slacker who doesn't really care about an opportunity. If he's keeping his job because of family connections and in spite of his screw-ups, there's nothing you can do about it.

Eventually, either his internship will end or he will be given some real responsibility. If he's got the work ethic and skill level you're describing, he'll screw up something more important than pizza-fetching.

Just make sure you're not lined up to be the scapegoat when it happens. If I were you, I'd try to find someone else to be his official babysitter so that when he screws up big, the mistake doesn't reflect on you.
posted by cleverevans at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2009

You're having to start at the basics. Stop giving him more work to do until he can do things like hold pizzas flat and not sexually harass the other employees. Starve him out.
posted by rhizome at 1:51 PM on February 23, 2009

But I don't want to come off as whiny either.

Too late.

Your boss has made it clear that (a) this kid's not going to be fired (b) you're his boss and (c) he knows this kid is a shitty worker.

The obvious conclusion when you take those things together is that you have been ordered to minimize the amount of damage this kid can cause. It's possible it's an order to make the kid's experience negative enough that he decides to quit, but be more careful with that assumption, given the kid's connections.

Personally I'd make that a much higher priority than documenting anything.
posted by phearlez at 1:51 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: OK, a little more clarification:
We're a very small company. 10 people small. The kids job is running for food, keeping up with supplies, and helping out. So picking up the slack means doing his job forhim, which I fear will only make him lazier.

As for me getting in with the who-you-know business, I did a 3 month unpaid internship that got me a nice letter and I came into the company at a time of growth. I got lucky and I worked hard. But thanks for hating on me anyways.

Thanks to everyone who gave advice. I appreciate it. I won't complain anymore about the kid. I think I'm going to look at him as a chance to learn managerial skills in reference to horrific employees. I'll experiment and see what I can do to get this kid a tiny bit of work ethic.

Thanks again for your help guys. Once again MetaFilter proving it's the best 5 bucks on the internet.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2009

firewall and isolate. Non-essential tasks. He's the new assistant vice president of hamster lettuce maintenance and sawdust procurement. He's king of finding environmentally safe ways to dispose of the used coffee grounds. He's in charge of blowing the dust out from between the tracks on the old vinyl.

Identify non-essential scut work and let him fester till he's earned better treatment.

Your boss has said that you're this kids boss, but you aren't. If you can't fire him or discipline him, you're his babysitter. So treat him like the child that he is and keep him out of your hair- and your bosses'.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:02 PM on February 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

Rig up a really important situation so that, when he screws it up, there is irrefutable evidence that his negligence fucked over your company.

or just ignore him.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:03 PM on February 23, 2009

Have you ever asked him why he's such a screw up? I mean, when he screws something up, ask him why he did it. Just out of curiosity's sake. Pester him for an answer if he doesn't give you one; if you have authority over him, you're entitled to an answer. This should help both of you understand why he's such a screw-up, because he's probably never put much thought into it.

When he has answers, try to use them to help him do better. When he absolutely insists that he doesn't have an answer, make suggestions. When he has batshitinsane answers ... good luck.

Also, I agree that you should write him up every time he screws up. Put in his response to your "why" questions. You don't have to turn in your write ups right away; maybe just show them to your boss on a monthly / quarterly basis, or when asked.

I think what you really need is a person to vent to on a regular basis. That person probably isn't your boss. Do you have somebody like that around?
posted by jabberjaw at 2:09 PM on February 23, 2009

Oh yeah, try to get to know his dad. Whoever his dad is, he doesn't seem like a bad person to network with. It might make the whole experience more tolerable.

Also, I would not recommend trying to frame him or set him up. He'll likely screw up on his own without your help, and you probably shouldn't stoop to implicate yourself like that (it's bad office politics).
posted by jabberjaw at 2:12 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does the partner know that his nephew is a jagoff? If he does, and doesn't care, then there's nothing you can do but suck it up. But it's possible that the partner doesn't, and would be embarrassed to find out that his nephew is depending on nepotism to stay employed, and will jerk the rug out from under the nephew. Uncle is the only one who can clarify whether or not being fired is a real possibility.
posted by fatbird at 2:17 PM on February 23, 2009

Is he really an intern? Or a gopher? I'm not sure about the rules, but I thought for insurance purposes, interns had to get college credit. Doesn't intern imply that he will leave after a few semesters?
posted by spec80 at 2:28 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: Just to answer some questions:
His "internship" is indefinite. If he does well enough he can advance up and whatnot, but he's probably not going to. He look at this job the same as he did his last job, which was bagging groceries. It's a paycheck, nothing more.

His responsibilities are really just gopher stuff. Lunch, supplies...that's basically it. You'd think it would be hard to not do that right...but he makes it look so easy.

I've decided on a daily check list and a weekly performance evaluation. It'll either whip him into shape, or he'll be to embarrassed to continue working here. If that doesn't work, I'll subvert to gold star stickers.
posted by toekneebullard at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2009

Combining your need to cover your ass and your desire to learn managerial skills, it's appropriate for you to bring "how do I manage this kid?" questions to your boss. You might start by explaining you're shifting your perspective to see this as an opportunity to learn management skills. Then discuss what you've tried and not tried, what does (s)he suggest? With "managing Dave" as one of your new job duties, I'd begin to make clear to your boss the time you're spending to train him and the other job duties that are getting less attention as a result.

Second point, I agree with "starve him out." After he screws something up two or three times, don't give him that task to do anymore. You don't want to be wasting too much of your time trying to teach him skills he's essentially refusing to learn. Check with your boss as this happens.

I'd ultimately work for a "transfer." After both 1 & 2 have progressed for a while, you can eventually go to your boss with a question like "do you have any suggestions for tasks that Dave can help with? I'm running out of work that he can do here (or "I'm concerned about meeting this deadline if I continue to spend six hours a week supervising him"). Maybe someone else could use his help?" If you're lucky, he might get transferred to the mail room or to an "offsite internship" where he "works from home" or something.
posted by salvia at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2009

Going to highlight what rumsey monument said above:
He's your new protégé.

You're his new mentor. dig?
If you're his boss and he reports to you, then it's to everyone's benefit that you make a sincere attempt to see that this kid doesn't off himself or burn down the building. To reiterate some of the other advice above: document, consult your boss, reward competence and punish fuckups (by removing those opportunities), but keep it in your head that you're building a resume not just as a team player, but as management material further up the food chain. That means, in part, showing that you understand the importance of employee development. Keep things in perspective, though: his failures are not yours.

I'm dealing with some of the same sorts of issues at work, so I feel ya. Best of luck.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:15 PM on February 23, 2009

I have two ideas.

One, start giving him lots of research projects. It will keep him out of everyone's hair, and he won't really be able to screw anything up if he's just looking things up (potential new clients to reach out to, new and exciting places to obtain lunch from, totally awesome office furniture, better deals on supplies, etc.) on the internet.

Two, start sending him home early. You can either be nice about it ("Gee, I don't have anything left for you to do, so why don't you clock out and enjoy the rest of your day?"), or tell him that he's behaving inappropriately/carelessly/unprofessionally/whatever and that he needs to leave and come back for his next shift ready to work like a responsible adult. If he sees this job just as a way to make money, he will either shape up or quit.
posted by kitty teeth at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2009

I'd suggest a few things - I was in a similar situation here where I work, and taking the kid out for lunch, coffee, or drinks after work. I don't mean PAY for him (he's getting enough of a free ride) but do some group things once in a while and actively involve him.

Did this with the kid here at work, and once he started to see us all as people, people that he's broken bread with (so to speak), he started to feel a sense of obligation ... not that his attitude changed much in terms of wanting to "get ahead", but at least he started to do what was required of him, and didn't just brush off everything we asked him to do.

Hope it helps!
posted by Admira at 4:46 PM on February 23, 2009

We had one of these "interns" at my office. HR director's son in my case, but we were stuck with a horrible paid employee just the same. You can dream about him getting fired, but it won't happen so work with what you have.
In our case, we attempted to give him the duties of past interns and he either failed at the tasks or simply didn't do them because he was lazy b/c he knew he was golden. It got to the point where he was doing more harm than good in the office and we (my collegues) got tired the scenario but knew we were stuck with him. As I believe you are.
We eventually gave him jobs he was capable of performing; thus giving him status lower than intern, if that's possible. Forget about the fact he's getting paid for messing things up around the office and give him things to do that match his level of professionalism (nil). Your boss is obviously aware of the situation and might even be grateful if you keep him away from clients. Maybe make up projects (like the research idea) and give them to him to keep him busy and learning (gasp!) but don't risk the real work with him. If he want's to leave w/o telling people, be grateful he's not in the office messing things up.
posted by MuckWeh at 4:53 PM on February 23, 2009

Does he ever do work related to what your company actually does? It sounds like all he does is run for lunches and office supplies, and well, who would be enthusiastic about that? It sounds boring as hell. If he's given tasks that are a little more on point to the job, does he put some effort into them?

If he does, then I'd suggest giving him more opportunities to get involved in real work, and making them contingent on not fucking up his stupid scut work that could be done by a helper monkey.

If he doesn't, then I'd start holding lots of conversations with him about where he sees his future, and what kind of other opportunities are out there in the great wide world. And at other times, tell him all kinds of stories about friends who had jobs they hated who finally quit them and moved on to do other things that they loved and how happy and successful they are. In short: subtly encourage him to leave of his own volition.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2009

I'd make him repair his own mistakes.
At his own expense.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:36 PM on February 23, 2009

He's a paid intern? Tie the checklists to the pay.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

A bit of strategy...
Is there any chance your boss would let you bring in another short-term intern -- paid or unpaid? You could identify an eager, exceptional person who would love the chance to prove themselves. Have the new intern work alongside the nephew. Suggest they split up the work. The nephew might have a sense of competition and get his act together -- or the nephew might let the new intern do all the work. Either way, the work gets done.
posted by valannc at 6:59 PM on February 23, 2009

I think you have to divorce your feelings about the perceived degree of his ungratefulness from his actual performance: yes, you work in an interesting industry, yes, other people would love to have his job, but that's just a matter of degree (some people would be happy to have his old job bagging groceries, and so on), and your personal feelings about the industry.

One thing nobody's mentioned so far is, maybe he wants to get fired? Have you asked him flat out why he's doing the job so badly? What he really wants to do in life? Could you help him get a job as, say, a runner with a company which shoots rock videos, which might be more his style? Encourage him in his dream of moving to Humboldt County and living up a tree or whatever?

And how about you interview four or five seriously qualified applicants for the intership (don't get their hopes up at all) then present your boss with their resumes and say "look, this one's made three short films, this one does his own computer animation, this one has two degrees and a doctorate, but we've got [guy's name] and he can't even fetch pizza right".

And adding one more vote that "just doing your job badly" and "sexually harassing co-workers" are in very different categories. You should document and report everything like that and get him warned very specifically to stop by someone as high up as possible.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:00 PM on February 23, 2009

Two conflicting ideas for you:
You could try the Full Metal Jacket approach: If you are his supervisor, then think of this as follows: his success means you have prepared him properly, his failure means that you have failed to motivate him properly. More work, lots of screaming and so much hell time that he'll either be looking for a new job quickly, or stepping up to the challenge.

You could also try the Karate Kid approach: give him simple repetattive tasks such as photocopying, folding and mailing... keep the work as simple as possible - more akin to a single task. Don't give him anymore work until he is completely and utterly frustrated with the task. If he finishes, give him the next sucky task and give no timeline (unless there is one). When one day he gets it, then train him.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:41 PM on February 23, 2009

How do I level with this kid when he knows he's got it made? He knows he's not getting fired, so how do I try and get him to put in more effort? This job has the potential to get him into some exclusive places, but he doesn't seem to care about that at all.

He may not care, but you sure do. All I'm getting from your posts is that it truly grinds your gears that this kid can screw up as much as he wants to and he won't get fired. And he knows it. Too add insult to injury, he'll probably land himself a cushy network job (or whatever the elite positions are in your industry) just by virtue of having a well-placed relative. Welcome to the corporate world. This happens just about everywhere. Your boss probably has his orders to nurse the kid along, don't pressure him too much, and don't fire him. Your boss is probably just as frustrated as you, but there's nothing he can do about it. And the more you "tattle" on Intern, the more you look like a jealous whiner. All you can do is let the kid screw up and clean up his own messes. Focus on your own job and get on with it.

I used to work at a Fortune 500 company which had a "policy" of giving Summer jobs to the kids of high-ranking executives at the Big 3 (our main customers at the time). Many of these co-op students (as they were called) ended up in my department. They wore jeans to work (while regular employees had to follow a strict dress code), took two-hour lunches and spend most of the day on the telephone. Nothing was said, they got their weekly paychecks, and I'm sure all of them went on to get far better paying positions than I ever did.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:43 PM on February 23, 2009

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