Managing Interns Is A Balancing Act



Someone said that you manage things and processes and you lead people.  I agree with that wholeheartedly. When my staff have introduced me as their “boss” I immediately shutter as I am not the boss of anyone.  I always state that I am their supervisor or that I supervise their work, or I give my job title. I also never use the word boss to describe my supervisors either (“you’re not the boss of me” in my 5-year-old voice). In all seriousness, the way that a manager thinks about their role is important to how they execute their role.


Many managers never receive formal management training before accepting the role.  Many managers were hard working employees who were promoted because of their knowledge and on the job experience.  The ability to do a job well does not guarantee that you can manage the people who do the same job well.  Managing interns (and employees) is a balancing act and a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

A good manager must balance the following:

  1. Affirm and Correct – Acknowledging your intern is essential. You want your intern to feel confident and appreciated but you must also correct any undesirable behaviors/actions.


  1. Guide and Empower – Interns are new professionals who require training and guidance, but you also want to empower them to implement their new knowledge and perform quality work.


  1. Support and Autonomy – Interns should be encouraged to ask questions and ensure they receive the support that is needed but also earn the autonomy to complete tasks assigned to them.


  1. Sustainability and Growth – Every manager wants their company to stay in business and must balance building a company that is sustainable with smart growth.


  1. Mission and Innovation – Most businesses have a written mission statement and must avoid mission drift while maintain an awareness of new business trends and intern/employee suggestions.


  1. Vision and Reality – Managers must be able to see the big picture of where the company plans to go with the reality of how long it may take to get there.


  1. Transparency and Information Overload – Many businesses are becoming less hierarchical which often means that managers must balance transparency and the potential for information overload that can lead to anxiety, confusion, or disengagement.


  1. Stability and Change – Interns want to feel a sense of security and stability but the only thing that is constant is change. Leaders must take responsibility for how growth and change occurs.


  1. Productivity and Work-Life Balance – In order to make a profit a business must produce and sell quality products. A productive intern is by most accounts a good intern. Managers must ensure that the productive intern has a healthy work-life balance to avoid burn out or resentment.


  1. Profit and Intern Development – Business exist to make a profit but some of that profit should be reinvested in the people who made the company profitable. Professional development for interns can result in a more skilled pipeline of qualified job candidates.




Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a travel and cupcake lover with a passion for self-discovery and career development. She has a strong background in developing and managing interns and successful internship programs. She is an accomplished manager, professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has packaged her Master of Social Work degree and 20 years of diverse work experience into Packaged For Success, a full service training and professional development company.

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