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How to Write an Employee Warning (With Letter Template!)

How to Write an Employee Warning (With Letter Template!)

Handling employee discipline is no picnic, but it's essential to running a successful team. With tips, ideas, and a template, this guide has you covered and focuses on these employee warning letters.

The question that pops up is, what is the job of this letter? How is it created? How do you handle it tactfully and make sure that the letter is effective?

These are points I'll break down for you. I'll pinpoint important parts like identifying the misconduct, shedding light on breached company rules, and setting the tone for future conduct. And will there be fallout from these violations? We'll outline that, too.

Let's beef up your team management skills with this organized guide on employee warning letters!

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What Makes a Good Employee Warning Letter?

Creating a warning letter for an employee calls for including important features. First, it's essential to have clear statements indicating the employer and employee's part, along with their names. It's vital for the employer's company name and the disciplining body – usually a supervisor or HR officer – to be clearly noted. Why? Well, it's for keeping records!

An essential part of the letter is an honest description of the incident that led to the warning. Here, you need to detail activities, like what happened, when, and how often. Tip: Avoid emotional language and stick to the facts.

If the employee has past warnings, you will want to include these, too. It's a way of showing the constant behavior issues, even though there have been multiple tries to correct the course.

This next part is where we find and explain the breached company rule. This calls out the problem, but it also highlights the company's norms and regulations – not bad, right?

The warning letter must then offer a specific timeframe within which the needed changes need to happen. Be clear about what shifts in behavior or performance are anticipated.

An Employee Warning Letter

It's also your job to inform the employee of potential penalties if things don't improve; the severity of these consequences can vary, from a final warning to losing their job – pretty serious, right?

But, while talking about potential penalties, it's good to remember to point out available employee support resources. Employee support resources could add legal help, continuing education courses, or counseling for improvement.

Should the employee have the right to contest the warning, your letter needs to lay out a path to appeal – just to keep things fair.

The letter should wrap up with a place for the employee to acknowledge receipt and understanding of the warning – most times, a signature field works just fine. It's wise to clarify that signing doesn't mean an agreement but rather an acknowledgment of receipt. This receipt proof is essential for documenting the discipline process, and, who knows, it might be helpful legally down the line.

So, an employee warning letter carries a big load. It informs, keeps records, corrects course, and might even offer some legal protection. So, you must pull together all the pieces needed to make a thorough, fair, and effective warning letter.

#1: Describe the Incident and Cite Previous Warnings

Let's start by saying an effective employee warning letter is anchored in a thorough incident report. Solid facts like the date, time, and place of the incident in the office are crucial; these facts beef up the report, which makes it more credible and important.

Ask yourself,  what change did the employee's actions have on the workplace? Look at it this way – disrupted team dynamics, delayed projects, or a downbeat workplace atmosphere; tie these outcomes directly to breached company regulations. It's a way to highlight the need for professionalism and adherence to company rules.

Taking a close and unbiased look at every detail before signing off the report says a lot about the company; it shows we're serious about setting things straight fairly.

Describing the Incident and Citing Previous Warnings

The letter needs some backdrop – put in any previous warnings the employee has received. Hinting at past warnings creates a story, suggesting that the problem isn't a one-time thing. This info needs to be accurate; it makes the report more believable to people outside the company – like HR or law advisors.

When you bring up past warnings, it helps the employee feel the weight of their slip-up. Comparing past and current behaviors might steer them toward better habits. I'm talking about fixing one problem; it's also about encouraging overall growth and instilling company values in the employees.

And let's not forget – a level-headed workplace hinges on every employee owning up to their responsibilities. So, before you write a warning letter, test how well they know your rules. It's about creating growth and character development – not merely slapping a penalty – that could help prevent future missteps.

#2: Review the Company Policy

Cracking the code on your company's regulations is a must when you're whipping up an employee warning letter. It's important to clearly point out the rules or guidelines that got broken, according to the company's code of conduct or employee handbook. We're talking about company rules here, nothing concerning individual biases or squabbles.

With company guidelines front and center in warning letters, there's no mistake about how serious breaking them is; it firms up the connection between stepping over the line and company behavior expectations. This no-nonsense method promotes a fair administrative process free of personal influences. If this letter is meant for future legal proceedings, calling out the company rule reinforces solid adherence to these rules.

Also, constant echoes of these rules underline their significance. Slipping up becomes less likely when everyone's on the same page about the rules. Think of a warning letter as a friendly nudge, reminding employees where the boundaries are. Nothing like a little reminder to boost awareness about the company's norms and guidelines.

Reviewing the Company Policy

So, what's the end game here? The prime focus is documenting the misconduct and nudging employees towards better behavior. Sure, the immediate goal of a letter is to deal with rule-breaking and such, but let's think bigger. The long game should be to create a culture that values and follows company guidelines. Let's be real; every misstep is an opportunity to deepen the respect and understanding of company standards within your team.

Putting the company's violated policy in the warning letter makes things pretty serious. It helps to clear up any misunderstandings, supports fairness, and deters further slips. So, when you draft that warning letter, be sure to tackle the issue while constantly underlining the commitment to keeping up with standards.

#3: Talk About Expected Improvements

Let's chat about "expected improvements." For this, you must clearly describe what you foresee changing in an employee's behavior. How do you choose what changes? Look out for actions or behaviors that are concrete and measurable. For example, if you have a salesperson lagging behind, I might suggest setting a clear goal, like "boosting their monthly sales by 20% in the next three months." What about if there's a problem with behavior? Maybe your expectation is "no inappropriate language at work for the next 90 days." Why am I suggesting such crystal clear, measurable goals? It makes it easier to check out the employee's progress.

Clear as mud? Well, it needs to be clearer than that! Your employee needs to know the exact steps they need to take to make the necessary improvements. If they could misinterpret your plan or if it's unclear, you have to boost your phrases to ensure they are easily understood.

Process Towards Expected Improvements

When we're talking about making changes, putting a timeline on it can significantly help. By setting a specific timeframe – think about phrases like "in the next three months" or "over the next six months" – you give your employees something to shoot for and let them know when you'll be reassessing their progress. Neat, huh?

These improvements need to be continually assessed and updated. Once the timed period is up, have another chat with your employee. Has the improvement happened? Fantastic, let's set some more developmental goals! Do they still need work? Well, you might need to think about further disciplinary steps. Scary things, right?

All in all, these "expected improvements" are designed to help your employees succeed and make your workplace a better place to work at! This process has many uses beyond setting corrections in place; it genuinely supports your employees' process to succeed within their jobs.

#4: Explain the Situation and Potential Consequences

First, let's discuss how to bring up the consequences of disappointing performance. You have to explain the situation in a short, non-biased way. You start with a simple talking-to for minor problems – but for repeat or severe rule breakers, these talks get formal and written down. Each mistake should bring about real consequences, no matter the size.

As the situation continues, the employee could get a final warning – a loud and clear signal that they'll lose their job if they don't shape up. The whole process must be crystal clear; you want to avoid surprises or misunderstandings.

Explaining the Situation and Potential Consequences

The unwanted end to this story is a job termination. That happens when someone continuously chooses to break rules or cross lines. Believe it or not, it's imperative to stress that firing someone isn't done on a whim. It's the last straw after every other strategy has been tried and exhausted. In cases of serious misbehavior, immediate action is essential to keep a safe and friendly work environment.

Before giving anyone the boot, checking in with Human Resources or a labor law guru is a must – you have to ensure the company is safe from any possible lawsuit while ensuring the employee is treated fairly.

Knowing what could happen should spur an employee to change their behavior, and this could reduce the need for more discipline. So, how clear, short, and effective is your infraction process? Well-educated employees are usually more proactive in correcting their behavior, leading to a better work atmosphere, right?

#5: Give Support and Resources

Let's crack the code to write an effective employee warning letter. You need to find a way to talk about the consequences if they continue to break the rules, but in the same breath, offer them a helpful way out of their current situation. If it's a performance issue, they might benefit from additional training or one-on-one coaching. On the flip side, if it's behavioral, pointing them toward an employee assistance program or available counseling services could be difficult.

You want to show that you're rooting for them to succeed, eliminating the chance of them thinking you're out to get them. Be sure to stress that you're there to lend a hand with them getting better before rushing to slap them with a punishment. Maintaining a positive and encouraging attitude can do wonders for morale, and it can really help to keep the message in the office friendly and welcoming.

It's essential that whatever plan or resources you lay out can set your employee up for success and that they can improve both their attitude and performance. They'll need a simple rundown of what's expected of them and a clear timeline for when they should want to meet these expectations. Phrases like "I'm getting you signed up for a time management course to pick up your performance" or "I think it'd be a good idea if you chat to our company counselor about how to better get along with your office mates."

Giving Support and Resources

At the end of the day, it's in keeping an open dialogue and creating an atmosphere that drives change. Your employee must know the company is in their corner, rooting for their development and improvement. They're not seen as a problem that needs solving but rather an opportunity for growth.

But here's the kicker – just pouring resources into someone won't guarantee you'll see changes overnight. Any actual, lasting improvements depend on whether the employee is ready and committed to using what they've learned. Having said that, continuing to support them sends a clear message: the company is committed to every employee's growth and success. It's one of the must-haves for keeping great employees and making the work environment a great place to be.

Example Letter (and Free Template!)

Identifying the problem is the first step to writing a mighty good employee warning letter; you have to figure out what's going wrong, find clear examples of the bad behavior, and then let them know what they should be doing instead and when this needs to happen. This way, there's no room for any misunderstandings and no chance of getting caught up in the same issues down the line.

A Manager Writing a Warning Letter

Your warning letter should start with your company details like your title and location, the date, and the employee's name and job title. Keep the title of the letter simple, maybe something like this:

[Company Name and Address]


[Employee's First and Last Names]

[Employee's Job Title]

Subject: Written Warning

Dear [Employee's First Name],

This letter serves as a formal written warning regarding your [specific behavior/performance issue] as outlined in our company policies. Specifically, on [date(s)], you [describe the unacceptable behavior or performance, including specific examples].

Previously, on [date], you received a verbal warning regarding [state the behavior or issue]. Despite this, we have not seen sufficient improvement.

To remain employed with [Company Name], you must [describe the required improvements and timeframe].

Failure to meet these expectations may result in further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

We value your contributions to the team and believe in your potential to improve. [Optional: Offer specific support or resources available to the employee.]

Please sign below to acknowledge receipt of this warning. This acknowledgment does not necessarily signify agreement with its contents.

[Employee's Signature] _____________________ Date: ___________

[Supervisor's/HR Officer's Signature] _____________________ Date: ___________

Try to end things on a high note, maybe by telling them you believe they can sort this out or detailing any support you can offer. But, remember, this is very up to you.

And finally, but importantly, make sure the employee and their boss, or someone from HR, both sign and date the letter. But remember that they're only saying they've received the letter, not agreeing with it. A simple "Please sign here to show you've received this warning" should be sufficient.

Improve Your Team Performance

A warning letter to an employee is a useful tool that managers need to tackle to ensure a smooth work environment. It's essential that this document gets packed with details! We're talking information about the employee, a clear explanation of the incident, and a record of prior warnings – if any exist.

Adding all these features brews a fair and constructive warning letter, a sort of guidance for rectification while making room for future growth. Why are the fairness and effectiveness of these letters so really important, you ask? Managers ought to know the worth of these documents and the whole creation process. Delving into these features refines employee management and can give a healthy boost to your team's productivity!

Managing a Productive Team

Let's talk about one of our programs here at HRDQ: Learning to Manage. This powerful training program is tailor-made for new managers. You guessed it; it doesn't stop at finishing performance and behavioral problems. It can be a platter of insights into the core of effective management.

This program focuses on individuals, projects, performance, issues, or personal growth - it embraces everything! A great next step for your manager process. It's packed with valuable things: allocating tasks effectively, promoting clear communication, encouraging employee growth, and handling crises for the win. Does joining this program broadcast your dedication to improving your team's performance and personal development as a leader? Absolutely! So, go ahead and embrace the challenge, take up this opportunity, and say hello to change.

Check out Learning to Manage or some of our dozens of other helpful assessments and training programs at HRDQ, which are designed to improve management and leadership.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.