15 Mar 2021

How to Issue a Written Warning to an Employee

female hands writing on a laptop

At what point does it become necessary to issue a written warning to an underperforming employee? Human Resources leaders must know when it is essential to send a verbal warning for unsatisfactory employee performance. Underperformance means that an employee is not doing his job properly according to the company policy. It may include unacceptable behavior at work or not following company policies and principles. In the case of an employee performing poorly, it 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 post is all about issuing a verbal warning to an employee. You will get to know what is a written warning, the importance of writing an employee written warning, what steps must be taken before it, and why the human resources department should keep a record of verbal warnings. So, let's get started!

What exactly is the Written Warning?

written warning is a form of document to formally warn an employee if he underperforms or shows signs of serious misconduct or policy violations at the workplace. It is a formal warning that an employer usually issues at the end of the disciplinary procedure of an employee. A warning letter is written specifically to put the employee on notice if his performance is not improved.

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 at the time when the fairness of the disciplinary procedure is put into question.

If the warning is related to employee performance, it should also include some details about the training given to an employee to improve performance. Because if there is an issue, it must be rectified or warned to prevent further damage to the company.

Steps Prior to the Written Warning

There are some basic steps that are carried out before issuing a written warning, which include:

  • Understanding different options
    The first step in the disciplinary proceedings conducted before written notice is to understand the possibilities. It means that at first, an employer must consider whether the problem can be solved informally or not. To resolve the issue, there must be a private conversation between both parties.
  • Carry out a fair process
    Once an employer has considered different options, if they feel that it is necessary to start a disciplinary procedure, then a fair process is carried out. The employee must be informed in writing about the possible consequences of an employee's bad behavior & poor performance.
  • Investigate the situation
    In this step, the employer investigates as much information about an employee's unsatisfactory performance or misconduct as possible. With flair's performance management feature, your team will be able to access any feedback cycles & performance reviews at any given time.
  • Conduct a disciplinary action 
    In this step, disciplinary action in 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. Evidence is presented by both parties while taking notes of the essential points.
    Note: Before conducting a meeting, the employee should be informed about it so he can prepare accordingly.
  • Determine the possible results and further actions of the disciplinary meeting
    Based on the investigation and findings from the meeting, the possible consequences are determined. Every business has its policy for deciding on the outcome of the disciplinary meeting. Before dismissing an employee, it is always better to give a specific time period to the employee to improve. All of this information could be found 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 the employees.

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.

Difference between the First and Final Written Warning

As the name implies, the first written warning is usually issued for the first time once the employer notices the employee's underperformance or misconduct. If the employee does not show good performance within a set time frame, or his performance does not meet the required standards, or he repeats any misconduct, then the final written warning will be issued by an employer. In this written improvement note, an employee is warned that he will be dismissed and there will be a termination of employment if the requirements for a written notice are not met.

In most cases, the actions of the employee may cause serious harm to the business. For example, it may be the case of theft, fraud, and breach of contract, etc. At this time, instead of sending a written warning letter, it is better to dismiss an employee or take any legal action against it.

Before dismissing an employee, it is always recommended to have a conversation with an employee 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.

Importance of Keeping a Record of Written Warnings

The disciplinary process in any business must be written or documented. If there is any disciplinary procedure carried out, both employers and employees must know about each stage of the process and the documentation. They should also know where to find this vital piece of information so that corrective action must be 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. Plus, 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.

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

Tips on Writing Written Warnings

There are different tips and techniques that may help employers in producing the employee written warnings. 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 a legal document.
  • While writing a warning letter, all relevant information from the personnel file must be included. An employer should also determine the reason for writing the warning. He must be clear whether he wants to terminate the employee or wants him to improve.
  • A warning letter must only be issued 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, 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 case of physical violence, theft, and use of alcohol or drugs at the workplace, or any other serious misconduct that may harm the business.
  • The signature of an employer giving the warning and an employee receiving the warning is essential. In case if 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 Warning Summed Up:

No matter if you have a small business or a big corporation, underperforming employees may harm the business, so it is essential to address employees' poor performance. And it is possible only if employers issue an official written warning for an employee. A written warning is a formal document that deals with the issues or misconduct shown by an employee at the workplace. As it is in writing, several tips and techniques must be considered to follow a fair procedure. However through progressive discipline and a concrete improvement plan you can make sure to avoid underperformance in the future.

In short, when the performance of an employee 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 issue an established written warning with our interactive written warning template that can be found here.

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