How to respond if an employer extends your probation period

You’ve reached the end of your trial period at work when your boss informs you they have decided to extend your probationary period.

While this is usually not a good sign, it doesn’t have to be disastrous for your career. Let’s discuss how to respond to the news, and what you can do about it.

What is probation at work?

Probationary periods are common, and will begin on the first day of a new employment contract, and typically last between three and six months. They are designed to assess a new hire’s suitability for the role they’ve been hired for, but also to see if they’re a good fit for the company.

During this time, the hiring manager should clearly define the performance goals they expect the new hire to meet, and organise regular meetings in order to discuss their progress. This will allow any early concerns or challenges to be brought up and help given if required.

Why employers choose to extend probation

Choosing to extend a new employees probationary period is usually only done if the employee needs more time to assess the suitability of their new hire. This can be due to any number of reasons, but commonly:

  • The new employee isn’t meeting the required performance targets
  • The new employee doesn’t exhibit the values of the organisation
  • The new employee’s attendance or behaviour is lacking

Most companies have a way to monitor major issues and developments, usually through the probationary meetings where issues can be brought up in a constructive manner. In these cases, new employees can expect disciplinary measures, additional training and support, and counselling when deemed appropriate and required.

Any issues must be adequately addressed by the hiring manager prior to their decision to extend probation.

What you can do about it

While it may feel like a challenge, don’t be discouraged. Employers usually see value in keeping their new hires on if they choose to extend probation; after all, it’s much easier than usual to terminate an employment contract during this period.

If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is to be clear on the areas in which you need improvement. Be proactive, and show you are eager to learn. Respond graciously and humbly; remain professional at all times, even if you are emotional at the news.

Of course, just like the employer can terminate your contract easier than outside of probation, you also benefit from this. If you feel that you are not suited to the role, you’re free to look for other opportunities. Not only will you benefit from a steady income, but usually you are required to provide a much shorter notice period.

Remember, while it may feel discouraging to receive the news that your employer is extending your probationary period, it doesn’t always mean they want to terminate your employment contract. If you show that you are eager to learn, open to instruction and constructive criticism, and able to improve, you’ll prove to be an asset to the company, and any manager worth his salt would be keen to keep you on.

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