How to Handle Failing Your Probation

Male employee looking stressed in casual meeting with boss

Whether you've recently received the news that you've failed your probation or are concerned about the possibility, it's important to approach this situation with resilience and a positive mindset.

Failing your probationary period can be a challenging and demoralising experience. It can leave you feeling uncertain about your career, self-worth, and future job prospects. However, it’s essential to remember that setbacks are a part of life, and how you handle them can make all the difference.

In this blog post, we will provide advice to those who find themselves in this situation, offering perspective, next steps, and tips on rebuilding your confidence.

Tips when working through your probationary period

Before we jump into the worst-case scenario, let’s first look at some essential tips so that you can avoid hearing the bad news.

Clarify Expectations: Misaligned expectations can be one of the primary reasons that you may fail your probation. Before you get near your final probation meeting, ensure you have clarified expectations, so you can understand whether you have met them.

Ask Questions: Starting a new company is a completely new challenge for anyone, no matter how experienced you may be in your job role. There’s no shame in asking questions so that you can effectively do your job and excel in your new role. Not only will this relieve your anxiety, but it will also show your manager or employer that you are eager to learn.

Set Goals: As well as having your manager’s expectations in mind, you should also set your own short and long-term goals so that you can stay motivated and always have a target to work towards.

Seek Feedback: Seeking feedback throughout your probation can help to give you a wake-up call if you’re not doing well. Again, it shows an eagerness to learn and improve, and creates a good impression of your work ethic to your colleagues.

Learn and Adapt: During your probation, think of yourself as a sponge. Learn to soak up how the company operates in terms of working and the social aspects of the job. Demonstrating how well you fit into a company’s culture could be the difference between passing and failing your probationary period.

How to deal with finding out you’ve failed your probation

It is never easy to receive the news that you’ve failed your probation, and it can be disheartening, but it’s essential not to dwell on negative emotions. Here’s how to navigate this challenging time:

Remain Calm: It’s easy to let emotions control you in a moment like this but remember to stay calm and allow the news to fully sink in before you make any big decisions.

Seek Clarification: Even though you’ve not passed your probation, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for clarification on why you haven’t passed it, to make sure you aren’t repeating those mistakes in the future.

Accept Responsibility: Owning your own failings or areas you could have done better is a vital skill to have in the workplace. Use this setback as a way to hone that skill.

Reach Out for Support: There’s no doubt that someone you know has been in a similar situation before. Reaching out to a friend, family member or mentor can help to settle your mind but also offer invaluable advice.


Female boss speaking to male employee with a serious expression


Focus on your well-being and next steps

Now that you’ve processed the initial shock, it’s time to focus on your mental well-being and the next steps in your career:

Self-Care: Take care of your mental and emotional health. The news you’ve received isn’t great but be kind to yourself and try not to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings.

Learn and Improve: Failure is a great tool for growth. Using this time to practice self-reflection will mean that the endeavour wasn’t a waste of your time, but merely a stepping-stone to your next career move.

Networking: Use your newly acquired free time to reach out to your professional network for job leads, recommendations and advice. Don’t be embarrassed to share your circumstances, people are more helpful than you’d think.

Update Your CV: Just because it didn’t land you a full-time job, doesn’t mean you didn’t learn skills during your probationary period that are well worth putting on your CV. Take some time to add them to your CV so you can get back on the job hunt as soon as possible.

Interview Preparation: Proper interview preparation will help you to secure a job sooner rather than later. Practise common interview questions and brush up on your own skills to put them across to a potential employer.

Consider Professional Development: Using this period to explore opportunities for additional training or education is a great use of your time.  This could fill gaps in your experience or even relate directly to your manager’s feedback.

Failing your probationary period is undoubtedly a setback, but you mustn’t let it define your entire career. Remember that success is often built on a foundation of resilience and determination. With the right mindset and actions, you can rebound from this setback and thrive in your future career endeavours.


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