Can I Terminate My Intern?



Not only do we welcome interns into our companies to offer a fresh perspective and contribute to our mission, we also bring in interns as a way to give back to our industry and community. We are committed to training and developing the next generation of leaders.


Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned.


The wrong intern can send a negative ripple effect through your organization. If your intern engages in abusive, illegal or unethical behavior the decision to end the internship agreement can be quite clear. If an intern has a bad attitude, misses deadlines, or has poor attendance some managers hesitate to remove them because they want to teach and mentor.


I want to clarify that I am not recommending that internship supervisors let go of an internship at the first sign of trouble. I am social worker and coach – my first instinct is to help. I look for ways to make it better. I provide opportunities for people to improve. I have given my interns more chances to “get it right” than I have regular employees. (Truthfully, I am also slow to terminate employees.) I am fair and firm. When problems arise I start a dialogue, revisit expectations and agreements, offer additional training, set timelines, meet to re-evaluate progress, and document the entire process. If the time comes to terminate I am always at peace with the decision because I have absolutely done my due diligence and exhausted other alternatives.


In addition to being a coach I am also a cheerleader. I want to encourage everyone to do well but I can’t want it more than they do. It is not in anyone’s best interest to allow an intern to remain in your company who is rude, doesn’t contribute to the team effort, undermines authority, or simply doesn’t like the placement. (Of course there are other reasons to let go of an intern.) When you have put a course-correction plan in place but don’t see improvements in behavior, attitude, or quality of work you must terminate the intern. Your sanity, employee morale, and quality customer experience depends on it.

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Nicki Sanders, The Packaged For Success Coach, is an Adjunct Professor with an extensive background in developing and managing internship programs. She is a skilled program manager, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has packaged her Masters of Social Work degree and 20 years of work experience into Packaged For Success, a full service training and professional development company.

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