One of the most frequently sited reasons for wanting a Federal job is job security. And, this is a benefit that is true. Job security comes from the promise that the government isn’t likely to go out of business (though it may shut down occasionally) and the many procedural protections offered to government employees from termination. Unless you’re within your probation period.

Wouldn’t be nice to do more than just pass that probation period? Below are some tips to make sure you shine!

Probation typically lasts for one year after your start date, but it’s length will be specified in your offer letter. During that probation period, management does not have to give an employee the opportunity to improve his/her performance and the requirement for documenting significant performance or conduct issues is significantly lower for a non-probationary employee. In the same vein, employees have less opportunities to file grievances for a termination decision during their probationary period.

Keep in mind, however, that is in the supervisors’ best interest to help an employee through that probation period. Why? Because:

  • He/she made the decision to hire you in the first place.
  • Supervisors often dread giving negative feedback – never mind the dread of telling someone they are fired.
  • It may have a negative impact on the morale of the rest of the team.
  • The work of the new employee will still have to be done by someone.
  • They have to start the hiring process all over again – including a long stream of time consuming interviews.
  • It still takes time to go through all of the processes to terminate an employee.

But, in order to make it successfully though that probationary period you’ll need to do your part too.

Considerations during your probation period


Hours kept. What time do you come in? When do you leave? Are you consistently late or do you leave early? Be assured – it is noticed.

Calling in. Are you frequently ‘sick’ on days with big deadlines or important meetings? Do you follow through? Do you go the extra mile to get things done on time?

Quality of work. Is your work frequently returned due to spelling, poor formatting, or incorrect information? Do your work products not improve after getting feedback about it?

Missing in action. Are you away from your work-space frequently? Are coworkers aware of when and why you’re away from your desk? Do you miss meetings? Do you frequently reschedule meetings with your supervisor without explanation?

Work products

Hit deadlines. Do you frequently miss deadlines? Is your supervisor following up several times after you miss a deadline? We offer some tips to avoid missing deadlines.

Transparency. Does your supervisor know what you’re working on? Do you ask questions to understand what they need? Is your supervisor in the loop with status updates? Do you let them know if something is going wrong?

Staying on task. Are you constantly on the phone for non-work related reasons? Does your supervisor frequently walk in on you to find you texting or on social media? Are you more in tune with the social activities going on in the agency than what you’re supposed to be doing at work?


Collaboration. Have you taken the time to meet with your coworkers and get to know them? Do you keep to yourself and avoid speaking to others? Do you help others out on the team when they need it? Are you difficult with people in other parts of the agency (e.g., HR, finance, partner departments)? Do you argue with or yell at your supervisor?

Probationary periods let supervisors continue to evaluate whether they made a good hiring decision. This period is not (or should not be) a ‘gotcha’ period. It’s an opportunity to show just how great of a decision your boss made!

Check out our post for more tips on how to manage your reputation as a new employee. Trust me. You don’t want to leave your reputation to chance.