Career Advice

Probation Extended – Should I Be Worried And Start Looking For Job?

It is the end of your probationary period and you are looking forward to falling into regular employment status. But then you learn that your company decided to extend your probationary period. You wonder, with probation extended, should I be worried?

It is never a good thing to be under probationary status at your job. But you should realize this is not a threat. It can be an opportunity, depending on how you respond and what you do.

First, it is important to realize that many new hires do not successfully complete their probationary period. A recent study of the hiring practices of managers and human resource executives found nearly half (46%) of all new hires fail probation. While that is not necessarily comforting, it shows that sometimes new jobs are not always a good fit.

Let’s review what this means and what your options are to do next.

What does employment probation mean?

The concept of an employment probationary period is to provide your employer with flexibility. Many companies create a structured process for existing employees to progress through a disciplinary process. This includes disciplinary warnings, a formal improvement plan and maybe other steps before firing an employee.

For new hires, companies use an employment probationary period to determine if the recruit is right for the job. Probationary periods typically begin on the first day of a new job and can last between three and six months. They are designed to evaluate a new employee’s performance and suitability in their new role at the company.

During this probationary period, the hiring manager should provide clear information to the new hire. This includes specifically defined performance goals that the new hire is supposed to meet. There should be regular meetings, such as weekly, to discuss the new hire’s progress.

These meetings allow the employer to discuss any concerns or challenges the new hire is experiencing. The meetings are also an opportunity for the new hire to ask for guidance to meet expectations. Most companies use these meetings to monitor any issues and development during a new hire’s early tenure.

New employees should bring up questions and seek advice in a constructive way during these meetings. They can ask for more training, support and even counseling if it is desired. In some cases, employers might require additional training or even disciplinary measures if the employee’s behavior warrants it.

In most cases, an existing probationary period suffices and the new hire proves capable in the job. But if they do not, companies use the probationary period to let the new hire go without the lengthy progressive disciplinary process for existing employees.

Why is a new hire’s probationary period extended?

This is a legitimate business practice that is part of the company’s internal policies. When the company exercises its right to extend the probationary period for a new hire, they are preserving their flexibility. By extending probation, the company is signaling it still is not sure if the new hire is right for the job.

The most common reasons for employers to extend the probationary period include failure of the new hire to meet performance targets and goals. The new employee also may not exhibit the skills and values that the organization is seeking. The probationary period extension also may be due to the new hire’s behavior or attitude.

Managers should provide new hires enough information about the reason for the probationary period extension. They should also offer guidance on areas of improvement and how the employee can meet performance expectations. The employee also should ask for guidance on ways to successfully complete the extended probationary period.

The good news is the probationary period extension is not a termination of a job. The company is also saying it believes the new hire might work out if given more time. This is the most hopeful view of the extension of a probationary period and offers an opportunity to improve.

How should I react to an extension of probation?

It is important that you develop a productive response to news that your probation is extended. First, determine what issues might be of concern about your performance at work. Even if you do not agree with the reasons cited, you must develop a plan to address them.

It is best not to become defensive or argumentative when asking about the reasons for the probation extension. Whatever the reasons, they are significant enough to keep you on probation. Consider the perspective of your employer and how you might be able to change their perception.

Think about your actions and how they may be interpreted. Consider how you respond to supervisors or colleagues who approach you with a task. Take note of your body language and how that might be perceived in work discussions.

If you have opportunities to take on special projects that would expand your work network, consider volunteering. Evaluate your weakness in your role and seek help to learn how to improve from colleagues. Be willing to research certain tasks if you do not know how to do them or find someone to teach you.

Always ask advice from your colleagues when you need it. Think about showing your finished work to a colleague for their critique. Your network of colleagues and mentors at work is important because it can help you resolve issues like an extended probation.

What’s next after learning the probationary period is extended?

This is obviously a challenging time, but you should not get discouraged. Focus on the value your employer recognized in keeping you in your position. Remember, they are investing in training you and teaching you how to do the job.

For that reason, your chances of completing the extended probationary period successfully are good. Instead of letting you go early, your company decided to continue helping you improve. Focus on that positive aspect of this difficult time as you work toward improving.

Look for ways to continue improving in your job and to resolve issues that your manager explained led to the extension of your probation. Be proactive in seeking the support you need to improve and grow in the job. You should respond to colleagues and supervisors graciously and humbly, despite the difficult period you are navigating.

You should identify some colleagues you trust to constructively criticize your work and to offer ideas for improvement. Veteran employees have seen other new hires work through issues or leave because they could not do the work. Find out how those who succeed do it and how you can apply their experience to your situation.

Ask those trusted colleagues how you come across at work. Is there something that you are not seeing that leads others to consider whether you can handle the job? You are seeking guidance from others who may be able to help you see what you have not seen about your performance so far.

Should I begin looking for another job?

As was noted earlier, the employer retains the right to terminate a new hire during the extended probationary period. This can be worrisome, and every new employee will handle this in their own way. You can choose to seek guidance for improvement and commit to meeting expectations.

On the other hand, you also have the option of beginning the search for a new job that might be a better fit for you. You are not required to pick one course of action or the other. You can do both at the same time if you truly commit to giving each the attention it deserves.

While you are on the job, focus on improving and meeting the expectations defined for you by your manager. Listen to your colleagues’ advice and seek help from others at the company. Meet regularly with your manager to assess progress and to see if you should shift your focus.

While not on the job, begin the process of exploring other job opportunities in your field. Make the necessary revisions and updates you need on your resume. Begin sending out resumes to companies that interest you and answering ads for job vacancies for which you qualify.

Remember what famed baseball player Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” Whle you may be struggling in your current job, you may thrive in a new one.

It is important that you separate your job search from your job. You do not want to be accused of or come across as looking for another job in your current one. Give your full attention to your job regardless of whether you start a new job search.

Remember, this will be a challenging time for you and you will learn from the experience. It is important to continue doing the right thing by your employer. But it is also important that you take care of your interests, and that may include finding another job.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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