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A conversation between an Employee and HR in Portugal

Written by Duarte Castelo Grande de Carvalho (dcgc)

PHONE

Cow HR: Hello, this is HR. How can I help you and who may I be speaking with?

Horse Employee: Hello, this is Horse. I want to report a case of my superiors and direct manager not providing me with anything to do at my internship. I have been working here for 7 months and have not been assigned any task or responsibility, nor did my senior colleagues provide me with any guidance or taught me anything. What should I do?

Cow HR: Ah, Horse! I’m surprised to hear you say that… Sure, of course. Can you tell me what happened?

Horse Employee: Certainly. I am currently in a one-year internship subsidized by the government, starting my career in Information Security and was told that my performance and how well I did in this company, would dictate my future here. I am eager to learn, I study on my free time while attending classes at the university, it is going to be my last year of studies. I want to develop myself and give my best, while having a great time here.

Cow HR: Now, now. We enjoy your enthusiasm but calm down. Not everything is about work in life, don’t you know? You need to enjoy your time here at the company. Your colleagues, our parties, free coffee and sweets… Don’t you like fun and freebies? What about the party we did and where our interns were unprofessional and got drunk? You didn’t find it hilarious?

Horse Employee: But… I enjoy my colleagues, talking to them about things other than work, like football, and going for lunch with them is always a blast. All the pranks we do all the time when we should be working, or the jokes we make at the expense of each other’s shortcomings; I love all of it. It’s fun all-around but what about my work and my position here? What am I doing here as an intern? What is my goal?

Cow HR: It doesn’t matter, Horse. You are here to learn how to slack, collect the money and have a big grin on your face. Enjoy while it lasts.

Horse Employee: While it lasts?… I am an intern. I am supposed to be doing some task or being taught something specific, no? I thought I was here to learn from others expertise and seniority, to learn on the job and with hands-on work. I can’t be slacking, I will have a bad feedback and evaluation at the end of my internship.

Cow HR: What about the certification trainings you had? That doesn’t count? You didn’t like the lackluster training you were provided? What about the knowledge transfer you had with our colleagues abroad? You didn’t understand what they explained at those half-assed meetings?

Horse Employee: Ah… Yes, I learned from the trainings and knowledge transfer. I studied on my own time and a lot of it has nothing to do with our use cases at work. I still appreciate it but what about my daily work, my daily duties? What should I be doing? I need to report back to the Government Employment Center and tell them what I did.

Cow HR: Don’t you worry, we can make something up and tell them you did great job, that you were the poster-horsey. We just need the head count and a lot of interns. You folks are cheap.

Horse Employee: What?… I don’t understand… I must talk with someone else. I have not worked on a single Incident, Simple Change and/or Normal Change under ITIL framework that I had to learn on my own… There must be someone who understands where I am coming from.

Cow HR: Come on, now. I am sure we don’t need to reach such extents and conclusions. We don’t want bad things happening.

PHONE_2

Unintelligible talk from the other side of the phone: Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah

Tiger Big Boss: What? You are going to leave? Why?

Unintelligible talk from the other side of the phone: Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah

Tiger Big Boss: You are working in our company for 7 months and have not done a single Simple Change? Are you serious? You are joking, right? Let me talk to your manager, so you go do a Simple Change tonight, outside of business hours, while having to do it in the office… Because you don’t have a laptop. I know it will be pouring down a lot and you have to take the bus, but a little rain didn’t hurt anyone, right?

Unintelligible talk from the other side of the phone: Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah

Tiger Big Boss: Bye, I have more important things to do now.

Words and Definitions

Mentorship: A mentor is an individual with expertise who can help develop the career of a mentee and give a starting point in the beginning of the mentee’s career. A mentorship is the protected relationship based on a group of activities conducted by the mentor, in order to train the mentee towards achieving that aforementioned development and beginning. The career-related functions that establishes the mentor as a coach, provide advice to enhance the mentee’s professional performance and development. Its focus also goes beyond learning specific competencies or tasks and builds a climate of trust so the mentee can feel secure to seek advice on issues impacting their professional success.

Mismanagement: A situation and/or events in which something such as an internship is organized or controlled ineptly, incompetently or dishonestly and where its outcome is considered a failure.

Negligence: Failure from the mentor and parent company to use the degree of care appropriate to the circumstances of the internship, resulting in an unintended injury to the mentee, mainly the lack of focus and goals of the internship, and the wasted time and potential of the mentee.

Moral of the story

Despite having an existing official regulation enforcing these expectations, internships are nowadays seen as an after-thought on the development of new workers, and more as a way of getting cheap labor. Unfortunately, southern-west European countries serve a low-tier IT service job market, therefore having an investment on new internships initiatives such as the government subsidized one. Companies want to save as much money as possible and do not want to commit to quality and standards, so the salaries paid to the workers are low and the opportunities for promotion and career progression, within the company, are few and far between.

You can have all the new, comfortable, and fancy office installations, latest and modern office supplies, top-notch and expensive computers, to carry out the work, but if you don’t have the workforce to use them to a full capacity and produce results… It is considered a waste. Human Resources and technical/business leadership are weak and mediocre. Many of these people are completely uncapable of performing and fulfilling their duties, promising several things, and in the end, having nothing changed or breaking the promises made, let alone support and guide someone. Adding to that, you have the dubious hirings of senior personnel made by the company, and the lack of technical capacity from these professionals to teach and guide an intern (some of them not even wanting to do so).

The moral of the story is that the old-fashioned and stipulated ways of doing an internship is long gone due to the lack of enforcement of labor rules and due to the greediness and unnatural growth of businesses. The relationship of a mentor and mentee, nowadays, is not based on a selfless teaching act but on a favor exchange and a power trip (“you scratch my back, I scratch yours”). You are the owner of yourself, the owner of your kingdom and you define what you want to learn and what you want to do. Don’t let these places and people dictate how you walk and don’t rely on them. Carve your own path and make your own journey.

Don’t be a wanderer, be an adventurer.

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