4 Tips To Pass Your Probation


The New Year is a time for us all to reflect and reassess our goals in life, and a US survey reported that more than half of workers look for a new job after January 1. In my book, 101 HR Hot Tips: Handy Secrets for Success in the Workplace, I discuss passing your probation in HR Hot Tip #34, but I thought it an opportune time to extend on this HR Hot Tip! So if you’re starting your new role about now, or in the near future, here are four more tips to ensure you maximise your chances of passing your probation:

1. Clarify and agree expectations

Your new employer should communicate the goals and objectives for your role within the first week or two of your commencement. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always occur and if this applies in your case, approach your leader and get some clear objectives written down. This way, your performance can be tracked against clearly expressed deliverables and you can easily show how you are performing against these objectives, as well as the contribution you are making to the team and the company. Furthermore, you should also understand the length of your probation period if it isn’t expressly stated in your contract or in their policies, and ensure there is no illegal extension of the period in your case. In a recent survey, 28% of respondents said their most recent probation periods were illegally extended.

2. Learn your boss’s – and your boss’s boss’s – leadership and management styles

Learn your boss's management style.
Learn your boss’s management style

It is always healthy and prudent to sit down and have a candid conversation with your boss about their expectations and management/leadership style. Find out what their preferred method of working is and what their pet hates are and adapt your working style to suit. This person ultimately decides whether or not you pass your probation, so do everything you can to please them whilst simultaneously showing your own unique style and flair. For example, they may wish to be included in all email communication, or conversely, be only included in major, important messages and find being copied in on everything annoying. Whilst there needs to be an element of trust from them in you in order for you to achieve your goals autonomously, you still need to work to impress and show your adaptable style to their preferred way of working.

3. Take and show initiative

Whether you’re the CFO or the office gopher, make the effort to understand and appreciate the company’s mission, vision and values, and ensure your productivity is aligned to these areas. If this information isn’t forthcoming, go and seek it. Furthermore, to build your relationships with other colleagues, managers and departments, take the initiative to arrange 30 minute meetings with department managers one on one (if appropriate) to show you are eager to gain a comprehensive understanding of business operations and inter-departmental relations. It’s important that you build your credibility and reputation from the get go. Don’t sit back and wait for them to come to you.

4. Capitalise on the little things

Small actions can have a huge impact and be invaluable to build your credibility. If you have set starting and finishing times, ensure you are never late or leave early without authorisation during your probation period. Punctuality and preparedness are very important (see HR Hot Tip #54) and applies to attendance as well as meetings. Be sure to dress appropriately and not like you are going to bed, the bar or to the beach. Ensure you are warm and friendly to your colleagues and leaders by smiling and using their names. Be a positive influence and don’t swear or use any offensive language or inappropriate comments e.g. those of a racial or sexist nature. And finally, don’t engage in bitchy conversations or offer your opinion on people until you’ve figured out who you can and can’t trust.

probation 2In conclusion, until such time as your have made your mark and have earned your stripes, your conduct and performance will be under the microscope, so ensure your performance and productivity are optimum at all times. Good luck!

Need some support during your probation period? HR Hot Tip #34 and all my HR Hot Tips are available in my book, 101 HR Hot Tips: Handy Secrets for Success in the Workplace. Purchase it here.


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