How to Fire an Intern

Be tactful when breaking the news to your intern.
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It isn’t pleasant to fire a fresh-faced intern excited about her first taste of the working world, but in some cases, it can’t be avoided. If you spend more time helping your intern with her work than completing your own work, or your intern violates company policy, it’s time to end the relationship. Before you schedule a meeting with your intern, rehearse your speech to ensure that you explain the situation as tactfully and gently as possible.

    Step 1

    Tell the intern that you no longer need her services and let her know when her internship will end. Explain any factors that influenced your decision, such as chronic absenteeism, failure to complete assignments or violation of company policy.

    Step 2

    Let her talk after you break the news. Your intern might be emotional or angry and feel the need to vent. Mention that you know this is an upsetting experience, but don’t give her false hope that you’ll change your mind. Emphasize that the internship is over.

    Step 3

    Ask the intern to return any company property, such as identification badges or keys. Tell her that all passwords have been changed and that she won’t be able to access company computers.

    Step 4

    Offer to write a positive reference letter if she was fired for circumstances beyond her control. Perhaps she didn’t yet have the capability to succeed in the internship, but did successfully perform lower level tasks and was a reliable intern. Mention her positive attributes in the letter if you feel she has the ability to be successful in another type of internship.

    Step 5

    Accompany her to her desk or workstation while she packs her personal belongings. Although no one likes to think that an employee or intern will harm company property, it’s a good idea to ensure that a disgruntled intern doesn’t damage computers, files or other company property.

    Step 6

    Inform the college or university internship director that the intern will no longer work for you. Briefly explain the reasons why you terminated the intern.


    • Give the intern ample time to improve before you fire her. Chances are this is her first real exposure to the corporate world and she might be confused about tasks and performance standards. Explain clearly what you expect her to do, how you expect her to do it and when you expect her to do it.


    • Don’t be too hasty to terminate an intern, particularly if her internship will end soon. First Venture Legal notes a disgruntled former intern might attempt to generate negative media attention for your company. It might be better to keep the intern on board, but assign her less critical tasks.

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