What to say at my difficult probation review?

posted 4 months ago in Career
Post # 2
22 posts

Speaking as someone who’s managed people who were struggling and had to have these difficult conversations in the past, I don’t think either approach (tell him how I’m feeling vs act cheerful/talk self up) is quite right, here. 

Tonight, prepare by thinking about the things you did wrong, and be honest with yourself about both what you’ve learned from them/improved on, and the things you still have to work on. 

In the review, the key is to go in with a constructive, professional attitude. Take his feedback gracefully, and then work with him to discuss both what you feel you’ve learned in the past 6 weeks, and also what you need to do to improve. Work together with him to build a plan for how you will improve. This might mean setting goals, making schedules, changing your workload, and increasing your level of supervision. 

I’m not sure it’ll be productive to get emotional, talk about your struggles, or complain/give excuses. I know it’s unfortunate, but these things almost always work against you. Just stay professional, constructive, and positive. The key is to portray yourself as someone who will soon be a peer and a full member of the team. 

Good luck!! x

Post # 3
2307 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

Well, how did you screw something up? Do you just mean you did something wrong? In that case, I am not sure that can be incredibly surprising 6 weeks in…you’re going to make mistakes.


Now, if it was something like you missed a major deadline, or sent sensitive information to the wrong person/client, prepare to be reprimanded and also prepare an action plan on how you can ensure that won’t happen again.


What are you hoping to get out of this preliminary meeting? Do you truly want constructive criticism now, so you won’t potentially be blindsided at your 6 month review, or- and be honest here OP- are you really just hoping to be reassured by your boss that you’re doing fine? No judgment either way, I personally like validation as much as the next person does, but acknowleging to yourself what you really hope to accomplish with this meeting is important.


During the meeting, I would follow his lead. I agree with the first poster that being able to take criticism and not get emotional, defensive, or overwhelmed is really crucial.


Remember that you have been there six weeks, so your company has already invested a lot of time and money training you, so it’s in their best interest to help you fit into this role, vs cutting you loose and starting over. But that requires you to be open to receiving feedback that may be hard to hear.

Post # 4
4769 posts
Honey bee

Well, probationary reviews generally mean they can get rid of you for just about any reason as long as it doesn’t violate a law.

As someone who does probationary assessments, I can tell you that I’ll give second chances and extended time to people who take ownership rather than blame external factors and have the self-awareness to assess how they are doing (positive and negative because I want to know both what they are comfortable with and what still needs work) and explain to me what steps they took to correct things and what steps they are taking towards making it better in the future.  Mistakes happen when you are new and that is what learning is about and no one expects that you never make a mistake.  But you do need to show that you’re capable of learning from that mistake and applying it to future scenarios instead of just making the same mistakes over and over.

So someone who is clearly struggling but comes in overconfident and acting like everything is going well is my indicator that not only are they lost, but they are so lost that they don’t even know what they don’t know and that usually means they are beyond simple mentoring at that point.

On the flipside of that, I’m not interested in your “feelings”.  I have a job that needs to be done and you need to learn.  You’re either capable of it or you’re not.  But if you’re feeling like people think you’re dumb or feeling stressed above and beyond the normal stress and growing pains of a new job,  I’m not going to change the job to lighten the load of a probationary employee to make you feel better – I’m just going to assume this is not a good fit for you and go find myself someone with a stress tolerance and confidence level that’s a better fit for the environment and job duties.  I only care about your feelings to the extent that you have the self-awareness to know whether these feelings are a temporary stressors you can overcome or you decide to self-select yourself out because you recognize this isn’t a good fit for you and what you can handle.  Otherwise I want tangible things directly related to the work and what you intend to do about them beyond just working late for the rest of your career where I in a leadership position can actually help – set up some OJT, find a class to send you to learn the skills you are weaker in, pair you up with some who can mentor you, etc.

I’ll assume you are salary or at least not union because here my employer can actually get in trouble if employees are putting in extra time uncompensated.  And that isn’t a tenable long-term solution unless the issue is you’re just a slow reader who takes a little longer.  But if you continue to make the same mistakes after repeated instruction, then you’re going to need a better gameplan than just “work more hours”.

Post # 5
526 posts
Busy bee

As someone who hired/trained/managed a large team… I focused on two things:

Attitude: is the person cooperative, open, willing to learn?

Ability: is this person able to do the job or can i teach them?

If someone had a bad attitude – excuse making, blaming, deflecting, hostile, etc. Then my limit for them was very short. I could teach just about anyone, but I cant fix a bad attitude if someone is determined to have one. 

If someone lacked ability, but had a good attitude — I gave a huge grace period. I found through experience that most people could learn the job in ~30 days. But I had 10-20% of new hires who took longer. Sometimes 60-90+ days. (this was an entry level simple job). As long as they had the right attitude, I would keep working with them. And in 6 years of running that team I never had to fire a new person because they couldnt learn the job. Some took longer, but they all got it eventually if they approached it with the right attitude. 

Is this job way beyond your skills in a technical sense? Are you struggling with internal processes? I think identifying *where* your struggles are and owning them is step one. step two would be a plan of action to improve these things and reduce mistakes. Every new person is going to screw up, so thats not a big deal. Just try to improve and ask for reasonable help where you need it.

Post # 7
7022 posts
Busy Beekeeper

View original reply
shadows9x :  All in all it sounds like a good meeting! 

Post # 8
417 posts
Helper bee

It sounds like it was a good meeting. You seem like you may be your own worst critic and reading something negative into what seem like positive opportunities for growth to me (ie. training a new grad). You should keep doing what you’re doing, the best that you can. Focus on doing the job well and meeting your goals (you will make mistakes) and push all the noise and some of your self-doubt out. It sounds like you’re doing well.

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