Editorial

15 Mar 2021

How To Issue An Employee Warning Notice

Mary Isaeva

Writing a transformative employee warning notice is something of an art. Find out how you can refine your disciplinary style for the most productive and peaceful resolution.

At what point does it become necessary to issue a written warning to an underperforming employee?

Human Resources leaders must know when to send a verbal warning for unsatisfactory employee performance and when an employee signature is needed. Underperformance means that an employee is not doing their job properly according to the company policy.

HR professionals may write employee warning letters to address inappropriate behavior at work or not following company policies and principles.

In the case of an employee performing poorly, this inappropriate behavior might negatively impact the overall business, leading to decreased productivity, high turnover, and unhappy clients.

Whenever an employee is experiencing performance issues, it becomes crucial to issue a formal written warning.

This piece will guide you through the best practice of issuing a verbal warning to an employee.

You will soon learn what a written warning is and the importance of an effective employee warning notice, written according to the most appropriate employee warning notice template.

We will also cover the appropriate corrective actions that should be taken before a formal warning is issued and why a human resources department should keep a record of verbal warnings. So, let's get started!

What Exactly Is A Written Warning?

A written warning is a form or document issued by HR or company management to formally warn employees if they consistently underperform or show signs of serious misconduct. A breach of company protocol or policy violations at the workplace is also cause for a warning notice form.

This warning is a formal letter that an employer usually issues at the end of the disciplinary procedure of an employee. A warning letter is explicitly written to notify an employee if their performance does not improve or they do not demonstrate adequate plans for improvement.

Once the disciplinary meeting is conducted, the employer sends the employee warning. This type of document is vital for all co-workers. It is usually written when the fairness of a disciplinary procedure is put into question.

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If the warning is related to an employee performance appraisal, it should also include some details about the training given to an employee to improve their working standards. If there is a severe issue, it must be rectified or identified with a warning notice form to prevent further damage to the company.

Being handed an employee warning notice is obviously a highly stressful and alarming experience. Managers and HR specialists must ensure that this process is carried out with the right level of sensitivity and calm.

Steps Before Issuing A Written Warning

Some basic steps are carried out before issuing a written warning. This process might seem pedantic and exhaustive, but your full dedication to this corrective action will ensure your company’s full protection from an undesirable element.

Considering Different Options

When you want to confront an employee for incompetence reasons, you don't always need to write an employee warning form straight away. You can consult your company employee handbook and consider the different resources available.

The first step in the disciplinary proceedings conducted before issuing an employee warning form written notice is to understand the possibilities for dealing with the employee in question. An employer must first consider whether they can solve the problem informally or not.

There must be a private conversation between both parties to resolve the issue. Conduct an employee appraisal and interview the employee about behavior types that you find unacceptable.

Carry Out A Fair Process

Once an employer has considered the different options, a fair process is carried out if they feel that it is necessary to start a disciplinary procedure. Managers or HR must inform the employee in writing about the possible consequences of an employee's bad behavior and poor performance.

Ensure that any employee comments related to the subject are duly considered. It is always advisable to acknowledge the employees' side of the story.

Investigate The Situation

In this step, the employer investigates as much information about an employee's unsatisfactory performance or misconduct as possible. It's time to make use of your investigative skills and get to the bottom of this employee-relates issue.

With flair's performance management feature, your team will be able to access any feedback cycles and performance reviews at any given time. Having a comprehensive examination at hand means that you do not have to seek out relevant information at your own expense.

Conduct A Disciplinary Action

In this step, disciplinary action in the form of a meeting or hearing is conducted. Both employer and employee must attend the meeting as it is a chance for both parties to state their case.

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Evidence is presented by both parties while taking notes of the essential points. Think of this procedure as a court case of sorts, where your workforce's healthy and productive future should take priority.

Note: Before conducting a meeting, the employee should be informed about it so that they can prepare accordingly. Every employee should be given a fair chance to defend themselves.

Determine The Possible Results And Further Actions Of The Disciplinary Meeting

The possible consequences are determined based on the investigation and findings from the meeting. Every business has its policy for deciding on the outcome of the disciplinary meeting.

Before dismissing an employee with a termination of employment, it is always better to give a specific period to improve. Remember that these remedial measures can take some time to implement and internalize and that an employee warning letter isn’t a quick fix.

You can find all of this information within an employee handbook. Click here to find out more!

Follow Up After The Disciplinary Procedure

The details and outcomes of the disciplinary meeting must be kept confidential. However, in most cases, an employer can talk about the disciplinary process with their employees.

When an employee becomes embroiled in a controversial disciplinary procedure, their coworkers' morale can be affected, and managers must mitigate this stress.

To have a more specific outline of the steps that should be carried out throughout the written warning process and what it should include, check out flair's written warning template.

The Difference Between The First And Final Written Warning

As the term implies, the first written warning is usually issued for the first time once the employer notices the employee's underperformance or misconduct.

Specifying The Path Ahead

If the employee does not show good performance within a set time frame, or their performance does not meet the required standards, or they repeat any misconduct, then the final written warning will be issued by an employer.

In this written improvement note, an employee is warned that they will be dismissed, and there will be a termination of employment if the requirements for a written notice are not met.

Think of this process as formalizing a game plan for an employee. They should regard this warning letter as a constructive and productive opportunity for improvement.

Intolerable Circumstances

In some cases, the employee's actions may cause serious harm to the business. For example, an employee may have committed theft, fraud, or breach of contract.

In severe cases like these, instead of sending a written warning letter, dismissing an employee or taking legal action against them is better. While it may seem like an extreme measure, especially if the employee is otherwise a valued member of your company, such crimes can be thoroughly damaging to your company’s wellbeing.

You also need to consider your staff’s safety. No one wants to work around an antisocial individual, after all.

Before dismissing an employee, it is always recommended to have a conversation with them first, as communication must always be open between an employer and an employee.

If the discussion concludes the parting of both an employer and an employee, then there is no need for a disciplinary process or writing a warning letter.

The Importance of Keeping a Record of Written Warnings

The disciplinary process in any business must be written or documented. If any disciplinary procedure is carried out, both employers and employees must know about each stage of the process and the documentation.

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They should also know where to find this vital piece of information so that corrective action is taken to view the seriousness of the situation.

Moreover, keeping a record of written warnings is very important as it may reduce the risk of legal liability. Employers can make better decisions while having a good knowledge of the facts and figures.

Without written records, there can be a considerable risk for the business. Should a legal dispute arise from this situation, your company will be covered with the proper and legally acceptable documentation.

To manage your employee documents better, you can use different document management software in your business. But make sure that you choose software that is up to high data protection standards.

How To Write A Good Employee Warning Letter

Verbal warnings will often be an employer's first resort when an employee's unacceptable performance becomes alarming. While you may not want to be too harsh on your employees, the written warning strategy should never be too far off your mind in these types of situations.

Although a written warning is often regarded as a punitive or even terminating resource, it can yield many positive outcomes and benefits for a struggling employee. Let's find out how to ensure that you are always fair and commendable in your disciplinary actions.

Establish Your Tone

Your warning letter's tone should set the scene for the ensuing disciplinary hearing. It should also construe your objectives.

Are you concerned with bettering an employee's work standards, attitude, and behavior, or have you reached the point where termination is the only outcome left? A guiding or supportive warning letter will have a lighter tone than one prompting a termination.

Coordinate With Management

Unless you understand the situation very well and have plenty of experience in employee disciplinary action, you should consult with other managers and HR specialists when writing your employee warning.

You will probably find that your level-appropriate managers can provide plenty of useful feedback and insight, especially those leaders that have worked directly with the employee in question. You should also decide who will write the warning and who will be tasked with delivering it.

While HR specialists and experienced managers can write an appropriate warning letter, it would be best if the supervisor that worked most closely with the employee under scrutiny conducts the delivery. This familiar manager will know the situation best and how to communicate with the employee satisfactorily.

Formalize Your Letter

Beyond all the subtle and sensitive details that go into writing an employee warning letter, some formal guidelines also need to be considered. Consult your company policies and guidelines regarding warning letters, and format your letter accordingly.

In the case of a termination, your written warning could easily serve as a relevant legal document, and so you need to ensure that you were pedantic in your letter's structuring.

Refer To Company Policy

Employee warning notices should be drafted by the book. Consult your employee handbook when writing your employee warning notice and refer to the exact policies that the employee crossed.

A summarized charter will suffice if you do not have time to go through the contravened policies in such minute detail.

Be Objectively Thorough

The employee's offending behavior needs to be described in detail, along with any or all of the cases where the employee broke your company rules. It helps to include as many details as possible for each incident, such as the time, date, and place of the offenses.

You should also have a thorough background of the contraventions and be able to describe what happened in detail and which other employees were involved. It is vital that you leave emotions or personal biases out of the equation and remain as objective and truthful as possible when writing your recollections.

Outline Your Outcomes

Even if you have admirably carried out the employee warning letter procedure, it might all have been in vain if your outcomes weren't clearly stated or carried out.

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An employee might not understand or appreciate the point of a thorough disciplinary hearing if you did not adequately communicate their collective point.

Let your employee know exactly what you would like them to change in their behavior or work standards. An unproductive employee warning letter severely admonishes an employee without providing constructive strategies or resources.

Define The Consequences

Equally crucial to your expected outcomes are the potential consequences of an employee's further misdemeanors. Be as precise as possible when defining the penalties for a second breach of company policy.

While threatening an employee with termination should be left as a last resort, the offending employee should know that you will not tolerate any further abuse of company resources or staff.

Gather Your Signatures

One of the final steps in this disciplinary process is to ensure that all the relevant participants sign their names on the document.

The needed signers are generally the manager issuing the warning, the receiving employee, and the witnesses that were present for the warning's issuing.

Personally Deliver The Warning

This might seem like an obvious condition, but please ensure that you deliver this written warning in a discreet and intimate manner. You can arrange a private meeting to hand the employee their warning letter personally.

Whatever modest tactic you land on, remember that simply emailing this warning letter to an employee or leaving a physical copy on their desk is unacceptable.

Some Employee Warning Pitfalls To Avoid

This disciplinary solution can become controversial if the proper guidelines aren't followed or if prejudice happens to form part of the charge. Let's make sure that you avoid these potentially ugly situations that can cause more harm to the business than the offending employee's misconduct.

Avoid Getting Personal

An employee warning letter must be written in the most professional and systemic way possible, meaning that any personal grudges or opinions must be left out of the rhetoric.

Remember that an employee is being disciplined for breaking company policy and not your personal standards or expectations.

Becoming emotional can derail the otherwise constructive nature of a formal warning letter, and an employee could easily misconstrue the entire situation as a personal attack.

Avoid Making Baseless Claims

Any claims or accusations that you level against an employee in your warning letter must be backed by hard evidence and must be in accordance with company policy.

If you would like to make your warning letter more credible, try to link the employee's wrongdoings to the actual harm done to a company's image, goals, and productivity.

Any baseless claims can not only be disproved by the employee but can also be turned against you with malpractice accusations. Witness statements are an excellent resource for adding credence to your warning letter's main points.

Avoid Being Unclear

You probably don't need to be told to write an employee warning letter as legibly and correctly as possible, but know that any punctuation or grammatical errors could cause this process to backfire.

The last thing that you want is for your employee warning letter to be misconstrued or become open to interpretation due to syntax errors. Be as clear and concise as possible, and make sure that the main points of your letter can't be left to interpretation.

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We recommend that you proofread and edit this document until any potential language ambiguities are entirely ironed out. Ask your co-managers to read through this letter for you and make use of writing tools such as Grammarly.

More Tips on Writing Written Warnings

Let’s consider several different tips and techniques that may help employers produce polished written warnings for employees. These include:

  • A written warning must be fair and reasonable in the given circumstances.
  • Always use formal guidelines for written warnings as they may end up being legal documents.
  • While writing a warning letter, you must include all relevant information from the personnel file. An employer should also determine the reason for writing the warning. They must be clear whether they want to terminate the employee or want them to improve.
  • You must only issue a warning letter to an employee if you follow a fair procedure in which you understand the options, investigate them, and undertake a disciplinary hearing.
  • To dismiss or fire an employee, know that there is no specific process. As an employer, you must follow the six steps of the disciplinary procedure (mentioned above). Moreover, the company's policies related to the incident must also be stated.
  • A written warning must set clear expectations about what needs to be done. Outline the consequences that result from incorrect employee behavior.
  • Employees can be given written warning letters, or they can be dismissed in the case of physical violence, theft, use of alcohol or drugs at the workplace, or any other serious misconduct that may harm the business.
  • The signatures of both the employer giving the warning and an employee receiving the warning are essential. In case there is any witness to the meeting with the employee, then the signature of the witness must also be stated on the written warning.

Written Warnings Summed Up

Whether you have a small business or a big corporation, underperforming employees may harm the business. It is essential that you address employees' poor performance.

Dealing with these kinds of situations is only possible if employers issue an official written warning to an employee. A written warning is a formal document that deals with the issues or misconduct exhibited by an employee at the workplace.

While this process may be seen as a cumbersome formality, it can be used as a superbly effective resource for bettering an employee. The more detail you add to a formal warning letter, the better an employee can understand where they went wrong.

Given that an employee warning notice is formalized in writing, you must consider several tips and techniques to follow a fair procedure. However, through progressive discipline and a concrete improvement plan, you can avoid underperformance in the future.

In short, when an employee's performance does not meet the required standard, it is time to issue a formal warning to an employee. And flair is here to help you to publish an established written warning with our interactive written warning template that you can find here.

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