Red flags are behaviours that endanger one’s well-being, that of others, and create feelings of discomfort and unfulfillment in the workplace. As a student entering the workforce as an intern, it is crucial to be vigilant about these behaviours and recognize the signals as early as possible in order to address them and ensure they do not hinder your career development.
Here are some examples of red flags in the workplace and tips to deal with them:
Unsafe Working Conditions. When working in an organisation that deals with machines or physical infrastructure, ensure that safety measures and provisions are made. Watch out for hazards such as faulty equipment, inadequate ventilation, unsafe machinery, or improper storage of hazardous materials. Unsafe working conditions can lead to accidents, injuries, and loss of lives.
Non-Compliance and Violation of Agreements: This may be reneging on informal agreements or breach of contracts. This may include consistently failing to pay stipends or wages on time, not compensating for personal resources used, not providing you with the necessary training or resources, or not allowing you to learn and grow. These could indicate lack of commitment to fair compensation or poor human resource management.
Bullying and Sexual Harassment: Bullying is a repeated behaviour that is intended to intimidate, harm, or humiliate someone. It can take many forms, such as verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or social exclusion. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances or conduct that makes your work environment uncomfortable. This can range from making sexual comments or jokes, touching someone inappropriately, or demanding sexual favours. An example of this is a coworker consistently making unwelcome advances and comments of a sexual nature towards you.
Conflict of Values: These arise when your personal beliefs clash with the company’s culture or practices. Having conflicting values is bound to occur in the workplace. However, if the everyday operations or inner workings of an organisation is consistently in conflict with what you believe, this can take a toll on your mental health and well-being. This makes it difficult to give your best to the organisation during your internship.
In the event of encountering any of these behaviours or related issues in your workplace, it’s crucial to express your concerns to someone you trust for guidance and clarity. This trusted individual could be a senior colleague, mentor, counsellor, guardian, or parent. They can provide valuable perspectives to help you assess whether these concerns merit genuine worry. It’s important not to rush into accusations of wrongdoing or publicly sharing negative experiences about the company on social media without first attempting to address the issues internally. Organisations do not take this lightly due to the reputational damage it can lead to.
Once it has been established that your concerns are indeed valid, consider taking the following steps:
- Engage with Supervisors and HR: Initiate a conversation with your supervisors or approach the organisation’s HR department. You can seek clarity on the issues you’ve observed, asking questions to gain a better understanding. Additionally, share your concerns with them, providing evidence of their occurrence.
- Elevate Concerns to Your Institutional Internship Office: If you feel that your concerns are not adequately heard or are being disregarded, do not hesitate to contact the internship office at your educational institution. Provide them with comprehensive information about the incidents. They are well-equipped to take appropriate actions to address these concerns.
- Explore Alternative Internship Opportunities: If a resolution is not found within your current internship, they may offer guidance or connect you with internship organisations elsewhere. Your well-being and safety must remain top priorities during your internship to ensure your career development isn’t jeopardised, and you can work in an environment conducive to your professional growth.
Your well-being and safety are essential and remain top priority in your internship experience. It is first your responsibility to ensure that you are not endangered in your pursuit of career development through an internship.