Fiction Sampler: The Probation

The Probation

By Rowan Edmonds


Jake Frobisher is a lucky man.  He has just secured his dream job, working for one of the country’s leading employers, The Institution.

However, it is not long before Jake discovers that there are sinister forces at work at The Institution, which threaten to turn his period of probation into one long trial.

Trapped in a dystopian workplace, Jake is faced with an awful dilemma: remain true to his convictions, or give up everything to become a ‘company man’.

ISBN 978 1 912226 24 5


Chapter One

You have the best job in the world.  It might have been designed especially for you.

Of course, you realise that you are fortunate to have found any job.  It isn’t as though you aren’t well qualified––quite the opposite, in fact––it is just that since The Cuts the sad reality is that year-on-year unemployment has steadily increased and the expectation of a career for life, which you had once heard your father talk about, has become something of a folk memory.

Your degree is in quantitative analysis––looking at statistics, basically––and in your final year of university––Exeter––you had added a module of study on emergent world development and international aid, and so to be able to put some of this knowledge to a practical purpose so shortly after leaving university is like a dream come true.  Particularly since the job you have obtained is working for The Institution.  It is hard to imagine how you could have better landed on your feet.  Your father would have been proud of you… probably.  Of course, you are still only on probation, but this status is to be reviewed after three months and, if your first couple of days are anything to go by, you don’t envisage any difficulties ahead in making the position a permanent one.

You are employed in the Directorate of Development and Enterprise at The Institution.  It is a large section, split into several separate and distinct teams.  Each team is comprised of a manager, a deputy to the manager, an assistant to the deputy and then, at the bottom of the organogram––although, of course this nominal hierarchy that you are portraying only actually exists on paper; The Institution is scrupulous in upholding the principle that all staff are equal––your own position of probationist.

The key tasks that you are expected to undertake as part of your job, The Institution’s mission statement––“To further the work of The Institution through best practices and procedures at all times.”––and your own Directorate’s sub-mission statement––“To support the mission statement of The Institution in the areas of Development and Enterprise.”––were all outlined to you at an induction meeting on your first day.  The induction had been very thorough––as anticipated––and had covered topics as varied as The Institution’s current five-year business plan and how your own Directorate’s strategy feeds into this plan, to more mundane––but no less important––matters such as the location of the nearest WC to your workspace, and procedures for evacuating the building in case of an emergency.  You had left the meeting with a thick handbook pertaining to staff regulations, a bundle of loose-leaf A4 sheets of your own handwritten notes, and a glowing sense of pride at being able to identify yourself as an employee of such a caring, efficient and respected organisation.

You had read the handbook of regulations from cover to cover at home that same evening.  As well as containing information about The Institution’s policies regarding Equal Opportunities, Sexual and Ethnic Discrimination, Freedom of Expression, Grievance and Disciplinary procedures, Whistleblowing, and Ethics and Diversity it also listed at great length The Institution’s generous package of benefits and welfare for members of staff.  There is a final-salary pension scheme––paying above-average returns, judging from the figures displayed in the accompanying pie-charts and graphs of projected forecasts––there is a private healthcare scheme and there is an allowance towards childcare costs––not that you are in need of that.  You already knew that you were entitled to 25 days holiday each calendar year, rising to 30 days after completion of two years’ service.  You had discovered this information at the time of your interview.  You still find yourself cringing slightly at the memory.

The problem was that you had already booked a holiday for yourself before you had seen the advertisement for the vacancy at The Institution.  Ten days trekking in Iceland––“Geysers and Glaciers Tour.”  At the time, it had seemed like the ideal antidote after the pressures of final exams and the equally stressful long-summer wait for your results.  Iceland was still reeling from its own financial meltdown a few years’ prior and was consequently more affordable to you than it would otherwise have been: it seemed like the perfect right-place/right-time destination.  You had deliberated long and hard whether or not to broach the subject of your holiday at the occasion of your interview––it was only a matter of a month away, and you could hardly imagine that it would gain you any credit if it was revealed that you would be requiring to take annual leave so soon after starting––but, at the same time, you were looking forward to the trip and you had had to lay down a fairly substantial deposit, which you risked losing if you were forced to cancel at the last minute.  As it happened, your interviewers could not have been more accommodating:

“No problem.  Happens all the time.  You may find yourself in need of a holiday by then.”  Big laughs all around.

Well, that was all so much history now.  The fact is, holiday, or no holiday, you were offered the job.  After the turmoil of the last year––exams and studies aside, the real downer, of course, had been the whole, big, father-issue––you wondered whether perhaps you had turned a significant corner. 

You could not help but smile to yourself as you went to bed that evening.  For the first time in a long while, the prospect of a happy, prosperous future stretched ahead.  You can recall once reading in a self-improvement management manual that the key ingredients to a successful and fulfilled career were job satisfaction, a clear sense of personal identity and a defined and well-structured routine.  With the start of your new job at The Institution you feel confident in being able to place a big tick beside each of these criteria.  Of course, the generous salary is an added bonus, too!

And, if any more over-egging is required, Geysers and Glaciers will simply provide the icing on the cake.


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