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Recently I started a new job in a publishing company and is serving a 6 month probation period. It is my first job since I graduated 6 months ago. I feel that many people are scrutinizing my work performance. This is unlike when I was a student, where I can have all the flexibility I want. Although my mentor comments that I am doing well, I keep having a feeling that I may get dismissed anytime. I think this is because I am unsure of what to expect during a probation. When a company placed you under probation, does it mean that they are unsure of hiring you, and is somewhat prepared to dismiss you anytime? How and what should I expect to behave or expect the company to treat me during probation?

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    Probation period is for the employer to have a "test run" with the new employee without having to give the commitment of a long term contract. From my experience you need to really mess something up in order to get dismissed. Just because you can get dismissed more easily now, does not mean your employer will dismiss you just because you came 5 min late to a meeting. The same rules apply to you and to others who passed probation. Unless you have 0 performance, escalated personal conflicts with others or inflict any type of damage to the company, you will probably be fine.
    – Chapz
    Jul 21 at 6:41
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    The probation also works the other way round, if you don't like the company, you can terminate the job easier. We had two cases of people who were let go during the probation period of the last two years (company of about 150 ppl). One simply didn't fit in his team from a social point of view, as well as from his preferred focus of work. That termination was a consent. The other guy simply didn't meet our expectations and his potential. Though this also was a form of "not the preferred focus of work", he let it show way more.
    – Erik
    Jul 21 at 7:59
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    This question would benefit from a country tag.
    – Carsten S
    Jul 21 at 8:04
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    In some countries and some industries, a 6 month probation period is normal for all job applicants, whether they are fresh out of college or already have 20 years of work experience.
    – alephzero
    Jul 21 at 12:45
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    The emotions you're feeling sounds like Imposter Syndrome, which literally everyone I've ever spoken to has felt after starting their first job. If you're getting positive comments, you're probably ok.
    – Korosia
    Jul 21 at 13:42
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It is very uncommon to be fired during probation. Probation itself is very common. This is from a european perspective where after probation it becomes extremely difficult to let some specific person go if they behave somewhat normal.

Hiring someone is a lot of work and for most jobs you are not really bring in much money in the first months anyhow. It also means that the person hiring you made a mistake.

So: When do people get fired during probation? If you underperform (they will warn you, at least subtle) or if you and your colleagues just do not get along and the company sees more problems than benefit in you staying. A third variant is of course if your company takes a hit.... E.g. many affected companies let everyone on probation go when the first corona wave hit. This is rare and outside of your control. So do not worry about it.

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    The number of variants you indicate is contrary to your statement "it's very uncommon to be fired during a probation period". It certainly is more common to be let go during a probation period than after you successfully transition to a permanent position/condition. I would argue if the author were to be fired, it would be during their probation, not after they successfully transition out of probation status.
    – Donald
    Jul 20 at 17:54
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    @Donald I think SelfEnergy tries to respond to the displayed unease of OP and fear of getting dismissed anytime (for their own actions). But if their mentor says they are doing fine then this fear is baseless. If they were let go it likely would not have anything to do with their actions (but rather an event). So I think it is an appropriate framing given the displayed nervousness. Because on the whole it is still not likely (even if it might be more likely than after probation)
    – Felix B.
    Jul 20 at 21:06
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    Another possible reason to get fired during probation: Sometimes, especially in retail (from my experience in Germany) where hiring new people is cheaper than in most other industries, people even get hired without the intention to keep them after their probation period is over. Seasonal workers would be an example for that. They'd get laid down for any fitting reason up to two weeks before their probation period ends. Although with the rise of temporary employment agencies, this behavior got less common over the last 10 to 20 years.
    – Tim
    Jul 21 at 9:59
  • @Tim - I am not sure “seasonal employees” can be considered to be probationary employees. Seasonal employees are typically just referred to as “term employees” since their employment term is fix vs the permanent nature of a probationary employee who concludes their probationary status
    – Donald
    Jul 21 at 12:34
  • @Tim: In Germany there is no requirement to provide any reason for letting someone go during probation.
    – SelfEnergy
    Jul 21 at 16:40
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Probation period is a trial period during which it's easier to let an employee go if the company wants to. It also usually means you're not eligible for some bonuses and benefits. It's not common for employees not to pass probation in office work in general (that I'm aware of), but with many trades industries and others it's pretty common.

In your case there aren't any of the normal warning signs.

An employer has already invested quite a bit of time and resources to onboard a staff member, their goal is to retain them, not to get rid of them. So if there were issues that needed to be addressed they would make you aware of them before the probation review. This hasn't happened to you so don't worry about it.

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Once you are hired, even with probation, you cost the company real money. Salary, taxes, health insurance, cost of putting you on all systems, etc etc etc. That’s not done lightly. The company expects probably at least 80-90% that you stay past the probation.

You will quit during probation if you find something that is so badly wrong with the company that you rather look for a different job than staying. And the company will let you go if they find there is something badly wrong with you, so they rather lose their investment so far and find someone else. It’s unusual both ways.

(The records for shortest probation that I personally encountered was one guy who got himself fired within two hours, and quite rightfully, and one guy who started a new job 9am on Monday and called the old company at 9:10 am to ask if they’d have him back). It happens, but is unusual.

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If they didn't want you, you wouldn't even get a chance to be on a probation period. It is highly unusual not to make it to the end of a probation period. When you don't, the reasons range from your performance, to the company is in financial duress, and can't afford to hire you.

Relax. Yes, you are being tested in a new way; but, this is not the kind of test you pass or fail and then it is over. After you complete your probation, you'll still have to work to keep your reviews strong. If you set yourself up to believe you only have the goal of six months in sight, you'll find that after the six months are done, there's not a university style chance to rest.

Instead go to work every day like it is work. If they want some sort of unsustainable work load from you, you won't be able to sustain it. If you have horrible work skills (it's possible, and not a reflection on the person, some people just haven't learned how to work for others yet), then your employer will balance the need for you to develop with the benefits you bring before they consider letting you go (probation period or not).

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"When a company placed you under probation, does it mean that they are unsure of hiring you?"

  • Yes - in theory. This is exactly what probation is about. The hiring process in anything but perfect and only time on the job proves suitability.

"and is somewhat prepared to dismiss you anytime"

  • Typically this does not follow. It might be true, but typically you will have been hired in good faith and a dismissal will only occur for a good reason.
  • @SelfEnergy already notes the main reasons.

"How and what should I expect to behave or expect the company to treat me during probation?"

  • Unfortunately this varies a lot, often a reflection of how the effective the organisation has been in the past at managing probations.
  • Ideally, it will do right by hires even when they are struggling. This means providing regular, clear and specific feedback on how the probation is going. I like to do this even when hires are doing well precisely in order to assuage insecurities on their part. Graduate hires may need clear feedback on expectations of behaviour in the workplace.
  • Commonly this does not happen. However, usually you might find that if there is a problem, informal or formal processes swing into place.

You say that your only feedback is from a mentor and is informal but positive. I would take that at face value and everything is fine.

If your mentor is not your manager, you should consider asking the manager directly whether they have any concerns and how you might address them.

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This varies by company. At most places I've worked at (UK, Hong Kong, Singapore) probation was a formality. You get in a room with manager, chit chat and formally say you have passed. There was never any serious question of being failed. From a companies perspective, hiring someone can take 2-3 months then a 3-6 month probation. If you got rid of that person and hired again you could easily be 6-12 months of "behind schedule" for whatever you were trying to hire that person for. This is not something a company would ever do lightly. The one company I did work at that took probation seriously had 3 month probation. As a manager I was told, your job is to hire people that will pass probation and do well. If the person you hire doesn't pass probation, it will reflect badly on you. The probation period was very structured with clear goals (do 3 pieces of work of increasing difficulty). In your case it doesn't hurt to ask your manager for feedback on your performance. In particular with reference to probation.

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