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.

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.

Make Sure You Do


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.


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 boss 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.

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