Any time a publication or a brand makes a recognisable mistake of misspelling a word or getting a fact wrong, some predictable jokes land in the comment sections online. A handful of people spring up out of nowhere to say, “This looks like it was done by an intern”. Or, “Oh, the intern just lost their job” – because in people’s heads, an error, by default, has to be made by the least paid, least experienced employee.

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On paper, that seems logical to an extent but to tell you the truth, in my 10-year-long career, I have rarely seen an intern make any blunder of serious nature. In fact, if you go around and really do some digging, you might find overwhelming evidence of innocence favouring the easy target.

So, why is the conviction ‘interns fuck up’ still going strong?

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Well, mostly because it is too much work for readers and viewers to try and find new culprits and the least paid, least experienced employee makes for obvious prey. The other reason is the hold powerful people have in their respective industries.

You’d probably not think that an editor could have made a typo, or a marketing head could have cracked a misplaced joke; when often, the industry leaders don’t just do the wrong thing, but also dismiss people who try to stop them. These people are sometimes interns – if it is that kind of office.

The blame rarely lands on the hotshots because among the many privileges of power, the biggest is the freedom of constructing a narrative. We have collectively come to believe that people at a certain level of professional success are immune to making mistakes because they act like it.

This is, of course, an extension of ideologies we have been raised with. Mom and dad are perfect, grandparents know everything, teachers are Gods…and the classic: boss is always right. Highly debatable! As someone’s boss, I can vouch.

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When I thought about it, I figured that money is also a possible culprit behind this misunderstanding. Masses tend to make associations between people’s salaries and abilities. That’s another big fallacy and I have a good example to prove this.

Priya (name changed), who bagged a job through her internship 2 months ago, shares that when she was offered a full-time job, her pay was increased considerably. Meanwhile, her duties effectively remained the same.

“With a smaller position comes great responsibility. Being a people-pleaser while being an intern is a difficult job. My salary is directly proportional to my position and has absolutely nothing to do with my capabilities. I have the same work, same hours – just more money. The perks and perils of turning into a full-time employee.”

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This proves two things. First, and as mentioned above, an employee’s salary is not always a reflection of their contribution, and second, a permanent post is valued a lot more than a temporary one.

From a certain perspective, this makes sense. You get a person to sign a contract when offering them a full-time position, and they, in turn, make a commitment to give notice if and when they are leaving. However, this logic shouldn’t be taken too far, because work is work at the end of the day. A topic for another time, I suppose.

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Coming back to my larger point, there is another insight from Priya that might be useful. Speaking of her work, she says, “Of course interns don’t fuck up very often. We are scared and under scrutiny. I checked everything I did at least 3 times before sending. It was further reviewed twice. The chances of an error going up drop considerably in that situation”.

Makes sense. The number of people reviewing one’s work reduces as they move up the ladder, making them more susceptible to odd mistakes.

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So there we go. The facts and the experiences – all dismiss the silly, casual comments on social media. However, they do make some very compelling points about corporate hierarchy and human psychology.

Over the years, I have seen multiple teams benefit richly from trainees who brought more to the table than they took. This is all due to their wonderful work. It looked like it was done by an intern.