Interns, Bosses and Caucuses

I imagine you know the excitement that comes with getting a new job, especially for entry level staff. I cannot say how delighted I was to share an office with the Academic Affairs Officer in the Nigerian university where I did my NYSC, and I cannot express the excitement I felt hosting a radio show with the Head of Programmes of the radio station where I did a voluntary internship. Anyone would be excited about a new job, but after the excitement comes the struggle to fit in, the race to do enough and be enough. You would probably have a manager who would oversee your performance review a few months after your resumption and your priority would be doing good work, so this manager gives you an A+ and advises management to confirm your employment. In organisations where good work may not be enough and where loyalty to one’s manager may be a requirement for your employment to get confirmed, interns are likely to be recruited into the boss’ caucus. They become friends with the boss’ friends and enemies with the boss’ enemies, inheriting the boss’ relationship patterns.

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Dear intern, know that you were not hired to form caucuses. The workplace is not a football field where rival teams sit across each other, hailing their respective teams and jeering at their opponents. It is simply a workplace and what you are expected to do is work. Be loyal to your boss, of course, but never inherit enemies. Everyone at your workplace is a colleague and you should relate with them courteously and learn as much as you can from them. Every single one of them. Workplace rivalry is not, and can not be healthy for your learning process as an intern. You certainly can do without that distraction. What you should be doing instead, is build yourself so well that it would be a stupid decision for your boss to let you go. Learn, do, grow, take initiatives, pitch your ideas and never let your presence in the room be ignored. Organisations love smart employees, you must know.

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It would shock you to know that some of the issues that resulted in the office rivalry you see now, happened before you got your secondary school certificate. In fact, some of your bosses inherited the rivalry from their bosses. Know that office rivalry is never pretty and if superiors choose to tear at one another’s throats, it is not your job to hold their knives or chant war songs in support of your manager. Your job is what is in your job description or your internship training plan. Face your job, intern!

 

I will remind you again at this point that your job is to learn and be better. There are opportunities that only a relationship with your boss’ enemies will expose you to. You should not miss such opportunities because of loyalty to your boss. Respect people, connect with people, learn from people – that is the best way to have a wholesome experience in your new workplace. Do not forget that you are new and can be easily discarded if found wanting. Also remember that when elephants fight, grasses get trampled upon. Choose your job and your growth over office caucuses so you do not get trampled on.

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