Should Big 4 Interns Be Hazed?

This is our second intern-themed post this week, which gets me thinking that some of you are neck-deep in coffee jockeys. This can be a trying time for those of you that are A) impatient B) dicks C) control freaks D) all of the above. As such, the following has probably crossed your mind at one time or another:

Hi Caleb,
 
I just wanted to know if you had an opinion on interns at the Big 4? Is hazing an intern such a bad thing? They should be able to handle it, and if they aren't, then maybe they should be looking into a softer (local) accounting firm. Not trying to come off on the wrong foot, but nowadays there are some dumb people in the profession and weeding out the bad ones can help a firm become the best and the greatest. Well, I just wanted to let it out there, so let's open this up for the group to see what kind of responses we get. and if we get some good responses, I will share my knowledge and expertise.
 
KPEYwCloitte
Dear KPEYwCLoitte,
 
I'll address three of your statements before releasing the hounds: 
 
1. Do you have an opinion on interns the Big 4? – Yes. They are human equivalent of those god-awful Spotify ads. In other words, annoying to the point that you won't to gouge your eyes out with an unsanded wooden spoon. No, but seriously, I love interns. They're young. They're ambitious. They never get your dinner order wrong (if they do, they can kiss their career good-bye). Yes, they come begging you for work when the best thing you can do is have them stand at the copy machine for hours on end but grunt work is part of the intern code, amiright. Is your memory so short that you don't remember when you showed up tugging on your senior's pant leg every 20 minutes? You can easily solve this problem by asking them to do something worthwhile and not being a self-righteous, know-it-all dick when they don't get it perfect and say, "This is probably a stupid question." If you don't remember a time when you could barely turn on your laptop without burning down the building, then ask one of your superiors. They'll remind you. 
 
2. Is hazing an intern such a bad thing? – No. Hazing of various methods is fine. For me, it would be imperative to know if your intern has a sense of humor and doesn't take him/herself so seriously that they aren't above a little self-deprecating behavior and/or can survive some mild embarrassment. They will encounter far worse things in their careers than a laptop that disappears for 24 hours, fetching dinner for 10 people on a snowy winter night or picking up the partner's dry cleaning. The trick is you have to recognize who can handle the hazing and who cannot. If someone tears off their shirt sleeves or is brought to tears, then you've clearly misjudged this person.
 
3. [N]owadays there are some dumb people in the profession and weeding out the bad ones can help a firm become the best and the greatest.  – "Dumb people" in the profession? GET OUT OF TOWN. I hope you're holding spots for people other than interns. Just look at the people at PwC who still can't figure out email. "Weeding out the bad ones" isn't as simple as picking on them until they develop an eating disorder and/or quit. And even if you do happen to get rid of the less stellar performers, will your firm all of sudden become a team of Tim Tebows? Obviously not. At every level within your firm there are those that can perform and those that can't. Good associates don't always make good seniors; good seniors don't always make good managers, etc. etc. Someone who was a rockstar manager may not be able to hack it as a partner and therefore is "dumb" in the eyes of some observers. I don't think you can avoid this inevitability by making sure you identify the worst sling blade types early on.
 
If you've got empirical or anecdotal evidence that supports either side of the hazing debate, please share below.

 

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