Intern-al Idea Theft

, , , , , , | Working | October 3, 2020

At my summer internship, one of the intern duties was logging and responding to complaint and query letters. Once we were done with the response, it was reviewed by a supervisor and then sent out. This ensured that responses were approved while sparing the salaried employees a lot of the grunt work researching them.

Because it took several days for a letter to be approved, I suggested to a fellow intern — there were five of us — that we create a shared doc about who was working on what so that we wouldn’t all accidentally write responses for the same issue. He told me he didn’t like the idea. I still brought it up to our supervisor, but she told me not to, because when there were multiple responses to the same issue, it allowed them to pull from all of them and give the most accurate response. I dropped the idea.

Towards the end of the internship period, I was talking to another intern and venting about a difficult response I’d been researching. She was confused and told me that I hadn’t marked down that I was working on that. I asked her to explain and discovered that the first guy I’d talked to had taken the idea for a spreadsheet and had been passing it off as his own among the other interns. 

I wasn’t sure how to handle the issue, but luckily, fate resolved it for me. One of the other interns mentioned the spreadsheet in front of our supervisor, who was less than happy about it. She asked me about it, since it had been my original idea, but since my name wasn’t on the doc, I was the only one who didn’t get lectured about it.

To make it even sweeter, the guy who stole my idea in the first place got called into the big boss’s office and was yelled at about how stealing someone else’s ideas and passing them off as your own is unethical behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated. He didn’t end up getting fired, but he was on probation for the rest of the internship. I’m guessing he didn’t get a good letter of reference out of the whole thing.

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