How To Survive: Probationary Period

90 probationary period

How long is a probation period?

Every company sets its own probation period but most are a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 6 months. The most common is a 90 day probation period. If you are unsure of how long this period is, consult the employee handbook or reach out to Human Resources. Refrain from asking colleagues about this as the length of time may have changed from when they were first hired.

Why is there a probabtion period?

I have no clue why probation periods exist still. Most states in America have "at-will" employment. This means the employer can fire you for any reason, without warning, at any time. This is true whether you are 15 days into your tenure or 15 years deep.

However, the probation period is somewhat different than your time thereafter at the company. During this period things like being late, leaving early, and calling out are less tolerated. For example, an employee that calls out sick during their probation period may be reprimanded or even terminated. There are a number of unwritten, sometimes poorly communicated, probationary period rules that have to be adhered to.

mental health at work

As silly as they are probation periods seem to be here to stay. Here is how you can survive yours!

Call ahead if you think you are going to tardy

I respect you too much as a human to advise you to never be late. Moreover, telling someone to never come in late for 90 days encourages them to speed in traffic or rush through other important things. Speeding is dangerous and you will probably get a ticket. Getting a ticket on the way to a place you probably don't want to go in the first place really sucks.

If you hear about a traffic jam or notice the line to drop your kids off is not moving after 30 minutes, call the supervisor or Human Resources. They may or may not appreciate the call. I've seen it go both ways in my life. On a couple of occassions I've seen supervisors simply respond to messages like this by saying "It's okay, just drive safe".

I've also seen the opposite with managers telling people they need to leave earlier or prepare the night before. Statements like these are obviously insensitive and ignorant, we never know what other people are going through in their personal lives. You, as an employee, can't control how the supervisor responds but you can control how it impacts you.

Don't engage in office gossip

gossip at work

Honestly, participating in office gossip is something you should refrain from doing throughout your time at any job. It isn't productive and just contributes to the degradation of your colleague's mental health. However, when you are new, you risk gossiping with or about the wrong person.

Since you don't know anyone very well at this point, it's best to stay out of office politics. The person whose outfit you are making fun of may be the one who can fire you in the next week or so. Just be kind to others, and keep quiet when people start gossiping.

Don't complain about the company to others too much

As a new person at the company, you have no idea who hangs out with who after work. As such, you may be complaining about a manager's work style to the manager's best friend. Many companies have a weird, cult-like way of operating, and loyalty is often sought by supervisors.

When you complain too much, they may view you as disloyal and you might not make it through the probation period. This could be a blessing in disguise as nobody should have to endure a cult to earn a paycheck. Just remember, there are no safe spaces at work, complain to your family and friends when you get home.

Be careful about what you agree to

not going to office party

During your probation period, there will likely be a number of times you have to introduce yourself. This is to be expected as people don't know much about you. In addition, they may invite you out for dinner or drinks after hours.

If this is something you don't want to do on a regular basis, politely decline the invitation. If you agree to go out, even just once, the expectation is set that you will do so in the future with or without notice. Failure to comply may be viewed as disrespectful and as a result, prevent you from getting raises or promotions in the future.

I've experienced this first-hand on a couple of occassions when I've refused to attend Christmas parties and other company functions. There was a manager that once told me that I didn't "have respect for my job" because I always declined invitations to dinner and parties.

It may be awkward at first, but don't force yourself to do things you don't want to do for the sake of a job. You will probably have a dozen or so in your lifetime, being miserable over one simply is not worth it.

Master the company's software

Many questions that arise from new hires are about how the various programs the company owns or leases are used. To make yourself more efficient and eliminate the need for you to ask the supervisor tons of questions, consult user guides, or request training from the vendor.

This, of course, needs to be done during work hours. You need time away from work for the family, friends, and your personal goals. If the supervisor says that you can't do this during work hours, they are doing a poor job running the department.

Work on becoming independent

One of your goals during the probation period should be to become fully autonomous in your daily tasks. You will want to be able to complete most tasks without guidance or supervision. This will require you to ask the right questions during training and shadowing.

It's also important to determine where the information you are looking for is located. Smart companies use electronic job aids and company intranet sites to house information employees need to perform certain tasks. If the place you are working at does not have one, create your own.

As long as the company has an Office 365 subscription, you can use tools like Excel to store information about tasks and procedures. If you have access to SharePoint, you can create a site that houses relevant documents and contains a to-do list to help yourself be more productive.

Not surviving this period is ok too

Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance that you won't make it through your probation period. Laws don't exist to protect employees from termination unless they violate EEO laws. Even then, you will need to hire a lawyer to prove your wrongful termination, which could take a while and your other bills will begin to pile up.

Sometimes jobs and people are just not a good fit. There are tons of other opportunities out there, keep your resume up-to-date and your head held high, and you'll survive whatever employment has in store for you.

Matt Irving is the CEO of Super Easy Tech, LLC.
Matt is the CEO of Super Easy Tech and creator of Super Easy CRM. He is a passionate software engineer, tech blogger, and gamer. Feel free to connect on any of the platforms listed below.

Posted by: Matt Irving on 5/3/2022