Do you have a probation period? Avoid these 4 traps

Woman feeling anxious about passing her probation period at her new job

The majority of companies across the UK have a probation clause within their employment contracts and the reason for this is the probation period provides both the employer and the employee an opportunity to test the waters. As you start your employment, a probation period can last between three or six months, or sometimes even a year. There is currently no UK employment law around the minimum length of a probation period, however many companies have adopted their own standard. 

While your CV and interview performance has provided the hiring manger the confidence in your skills and expertise, a probation period is an opportunity for them to evaluate your performance on a day-to-day level within the role. A probation period is also an opportunity for professionals to test out the role for themselves and see if it meets their expectations.

According to recent research by CIPD just over one in five employees (22 per cent) have left a job during or at the end of their probationary period. Research by the CV Library has found that 12 per cent of people have been dismissed during a probation period, although almost half (44 per cent) of them agreed it was the right decision. The reasons for their dismissal included poor performance, the company being unable to keep them on, and being the wrong cultural fit.

Speaking with CIPD about their findings Phil Sheridan, senior managing director for Robert Half UK commented: 

“Ensuring new employees are provided with an onboarding plan and clear overview of what is expected of them in the role is essential,” he said. “The training and support organisations provide from day one sets the tone for the employee's tenure at a company and immediately makes him or her think it was a good choice to join a firm.

“Setting a good example, rewarding creativity, offering training and helping staff achieve a work-life balance are some ways in which employers can boost employee morale, and build relationships based on mutual respect.”

Related: Evaluating a job offer: your checklist for future happiness

Let's consider that you are happy with your new role and you are keen to pass your probation period with flying colours, avoid falling into these traps as they could send off 'red flags' to your manager:

Don’t make special requests

Try to avoid doing anything out of the ordinary within your probation period. Now isn't the time to be asking for extended holidays, an internal transfer or racking up sick days unless you have serious health issue or a family emergency. If you haven’t had a holiday for three years, that’s your problem.

Don’t take on the boss

Your probation period is not the time to assert your rights, challenge management’s decisions or suggest the way processes are carried out are incorrect. While some managers will be eager to hear your thoughts and insights as you get to grips with your new role, keep these criticisms to yourself until you are confident you understand why things are done in a certain way.

Don’t get involved in office politics

It’s easy to find yourself taking sides and expressing opinions about the inevitable conflicts and divisions within a workplace. Don’t do it. Your job is to be Switzerland – completely neutral on all issues – because you never know who you might be upsetting.

Avoid controversial topics

Now is not the time to be making public statements on Save these discussions for your friends and family if you need to have them.

While a lot of this advice might sound like common sense, instead make sure you follow these simple mantras:

Put your best foot forward

This probably should go without saying, but some employees get lulled into a false sense of security. Do your job to the best of your ability and do whatever it takes to gain the skills you need. Turn up a little early, leave a little late and give every indication that you are a good investment.

Get along with your workmates

It’s not just your skills and competence that people are assessing during your probation period but also your cultural fit. Take some time to get to know your colleagues and get along with your fellow employees – their opinion of you will matter in the long run.

Know what’s expected of you

Ask your boss for key performance indicators (KPIs), a full job description, regular feedback and someone to help with your onboarding into the role. The more responsibility you take for getting it right, the better you look to the higher-ups.

Now that you have started your new role on the best footing, it may be time to turn your attention to your career development.

Career development tips

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