How to Pass a Probation Period at Work

A new job is nerve wracking enough without the added pressure of worrying about how to pass a probation period. It can seem daunting to think of yourself on trial in a new environment. But as long as you perform to your potential, you have nothing to worry about. Remember that the probation period isn’t there to set you up to fail, employers want you to pass.

If you keep some of our tips in mind during probation, you’ll be your way to passing with flying colours. It can be calming to remember that you too are putting the workplace on probation. This is your chance to see if it is the right fit for you. Adopting this mentality can help with those early nerves and help you take back some of the power. 

What is a Probation Period?

Many large and small businesses adopt a probation period for any new employees which is used as a safety net.

It’s there to ensure the right candidate has been picked for the job. It also allows the new hire to see if the role will work out for them too.

During probation some contractual benefits may not apply. This can include notice periods being shorter, and no enhanced sick leave. Your employer will review the probation as it comes to an end.

At this time, you’ll either pass and become an employee on a full contract or you will be dismissed. Your employer may also extend your probation period. The process should be outlined in your contract. This will mean that you know when to expect your probation review and what will happen next.

It this isn’t mentioned, then it’s advisable to ask for this information to be made clear before you sign anything.

Why Do People Fail Probation?

There can be so many reasons why probation doesn’t go to plan and employees fail. It can be down to performance issues or sometimes it’s just that things don’t click into place as they should.

People tend to fail probation when they:

  • Show a lack of motivation or the ability to take some initiative when completing tasks.
  • Continually missing achievable deadlines.
  • Lack the skills to work in a team or are causing tensions in the workplace.
  • Have poor communication skills and lack the confidence needed for the role in question.
  • Regard constructive criticism negatively and fail to take on board any feedback they are given.
  • Do not have the right temperament for the position, eg. they get too emotional or don’t have enough patience.
  • Break any of the terms as set out in the contract such as dressing appropriately.
  • Lack good time-keeping skills and have shown up late on more than one occasion.
  • Show a lack of interest in the job or the team of people around them.

Top Tips to Pass Probation

Our top tips will ensure you have the best chance of sailing through your probation period and are ready to shine in your new job role.

13 may be an unlucky number for some, but our 13 tips will pave the way to a fast probation pass in the workplace.

To pass probation be sure you:

  1. Show enthusiasm right from the start, first impressions are so important.
  2. Be friendly and communicative with the team of people you are working with. After all, it’s likely their opinions will be sought.
  3. Show up punctually every day, pay attention to the dress code and try not to clock watch.
  4. Organise your time well and be sure you are going to be able to meet deadlines. If you risk not making one then be open about it – honesty is always appreciated.
  5. Accept any feedback you are given whether it is positive or negative. Being able to gracefully accept the opinions of your workforce will go a long way in showing your boss you are keen to learn.
  6. Are confident and open with your colleagues but not in a way that makes you seem OTT. No one likes the new team member to waltz in, taking over and putting everyone’s noses out of joint.
  7. Aren’t afraid to ask questions or ask for help if you get overwhelmed with tasks. Everyone was once in your position and they will be able to help you and will appreciate your honesty.
  8. Regularly read through your job description as this will help you stay grounded and carry out the role expected by you.
  9. Avoid getting caught up in office politics and drama – try and stay out of anything like this.
  10. Play to your strengths. If you know you are good at something then make sure others see this too. It could be a task, something technical that needs solving, or something else.
  11. See the bigger picture as much as possible and don’t get too caught up in small dramas or gripes. Let it go when you can and concentrate on the end goal.
  12. Don’t self-sabotage your probation. Know your contract, your duties, and your employer’s expectations and be sure to live up to them. Don’t deliberately rebel by being late, leaving early, getting into arguments etc.
  13. Are always visible and keen to get involved. Be a face that is always seen in the workplace and show an eagerness to learn new things.

Make Sure You Do…

Let’s look at some of the do’s and don’ts to help pass your probation period at work. Keeping these in mind can help adopt the right mindset heading into your trial period.

Show Willingness

Your willingness to learn from others and to get stuck in will go a long way to impressing the managers.

This means showing enthusiasm, self-motivation, using your instincts when required, and also being able to learn from mistakes.

Take the advice you are offered onboard, even if you do not agree with it. Humility will go a long way. No one is perfect and everyone can learn something from someone, this is an important attribute to remember.

Believe In Yourself

You were chosen from a group of interviewees for a reason and your probation period is your time to shine.

Have confidence in your abilities and the decisions you make on a day-to-day basis. You will quickly learn your strengths in your new role so be proud of these. With any tasks you find challenging, don’t be worried about asking for help.

Remember, “believe and you will achieve”.

Show Professionalism

Show your boss and the other staff that you have professionalism down to a fine art. From the way you dress to the attitude you show.

If there is a dress code for your job then make sure you stick to it. Another important aspect of being professional is to make sure you remain punctual. Tardiness doesn’t go down well with employers in general. There will be days it can’t be helped but make sure it isn’t a recurring theme.

A big part of being professional is learning your role and being prepared to do whatever is required of you.

Become Part Of The Team

It can be daunting starting a new job with lots of new colleagues, let alone trying to fit into the team.

You may be tempted to just keep your head down in case the boss thinks you are enjoying the social side too much. However, it is important to get a balance here between being sociable and unsociable.

Your boss will likely seek the opinions of other colleagues so it’s important you make a good impression. Be friendly, be approachable and wear that smile on your face whenever you can.

Accept Feedback – Even If It’s Negative

Receiving positive feedback is a real morale booster. Let’s be honest, we all want to hear we are doing a good job.

However, it’s also important to remember you won’t always get everything right and sometimes feedback is there to help you learn from any mistakes and to grow as a person. Be humble in the face of feedback and thank the colleague for their time. Of course, you should always put your side across but feedback is there to help you learn.

Remember To Use Probation To Your Advantage

The probation period is as much for you as it is for the company you are working for. Remembering this can help settle any nerves.

It should be used as a period of reflection before you delve into a full-blown contract with the company. Does it feel right? Are there any problems that need addressing? Are your colleagues approachable and friendly to work with?

Consider those first few weeks much like a dress rehearsal. Once you pass the probation period, you’ll feel confident you’ve found a good long term job.

Make Sure You Don’t …

Become Complacent

The best result you can hope for in a new job is fitting in right away and feeling like you belong. However, this runs the risk of becoming a little complacent and perhaps taking passing the probation period for granted.

It is great to show how well you are slotting in but it is important to remember that you are still on probation.

Make sure you scrutinise yourself and your day-to-day actions from a different perspective from time to time. Choose your battles and know when to let the odd irk pass by without drama.

Display A Bad Attitude

There will be the odd stressful day in any job and it can be these days that define a person.

Not only this, but it may be the occasion your boss uses to review how you deal with tricky situations. Try to remain level-headed and calm and keep an even temperament until the situation has been dealt with.

Bend The Rules

Even on probation, you are still expected to follow all the rules and it is important not to bend them.

Be back from breaks on time, leave the mobile phone in your bag, dress appropriately, and arrive on time each day. Attention to the rules is very important and one of the key parts of your probation to be scrutinised.

Become Involved In Office Politics

Urgh, office politics and conflict can be very stressful to deal with and can impact staff morale quite severely.

Try not to become involved in any office gossip – however juicy it is. Being seen to be engaging in gossip may put you at a disadvantage. It can be tempting to “fit in” by getting involved but it won’t help you to pass probation.

Don’t Let Problems Fester

It would be quite unusual not to come across the odd hurdle during your probation period. A new job can be a steep learning curve.

It is important not to let any issues remain unresolved so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This isn’t a sign of incompetence, it’s showing a willingness to learn something new and accept the help of your colleagues.

Problems left unaddressed will often mean your fears about them being signs of you won’t pass probation will become reality. Tackle those issues head on.

What Will Happen if I Don’t Pass Probation?

Dealing with the reality that you failed your probation period can be soul destroying, This is particularly true if you really had ambitions to become a permanent member of staff.

Hopefully you had at least one review during your probation period so you should understand why you have found yourself here.

It may be that your manager suggests an extension of your probation period and this should be viewed positively. It means your employer sees definite potential and just needs a longer period of time to assess this. Be brave and ask what your weaknesses are that have led to this extension so that these can be addressed going forwards.

On the other hand, it may be starkly apparent after the probation period that this job isn’t for you. If this is the case, you should be issued with notice as per your contract and will be asked to leave once this has passed.

This can be a hard pill to swallow and it can be a worry when it comes to other job interviews in case it comes up. Not everyone is suitable for everything though – a decent employer won’t let this put them off.

What if the Job isn’t Working For Me?

Perhaps the shoe is on the other foot and it is you that has decided the job isn’t working out the way you hoped?

If this is the case, then you can hand in your notice and leave once you have worked to the contracted notice period.

You do have to give notice, even when you are on probation so make sure you read the contract carefully so you are aware of the entire process. Our guide on handing in your notice on probation has a detailed overview of the rules around this.

There may be some leeway in some situations where the job isn’t working out and sometimes both parties may agree to end things there and then.


How to know if you’ll pass probation at work?

You’ll likely have some meetings with your employer during your probation to evaluate how you both feel it’s going. You’ll be able to raise any concerns you have and your employer will feedback with any points they’d like to digest moving forwards. It’s also good to trust your gut with how you feel probation is going, as well as pay attention to body language and overall vibes.

How likely is it to pass probation at work?

You are more likely to pass probation than fail if you look at current UK statistics which suggest just under 1 in 5 fail their probation. This is good news as already the statistics are in your favour. Show motivation and a willingness to learn and you are well on your way to success.

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