How Should I Respond To A Written Warning?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about written warning response :

I am employed by a small hotel with only 6 employees. The owner being one of the employees. I have been with the company for almost 9 years. I received a written warning regarding some paper mistakes and the comment on the warning was that my work has been bordering on questionable lately. I have been having multiple stress factors in my life right now and my boss/owner and I have actually had serious talks about these things in which both of us have shared personal information.

I and the other workers in the office have received copies of our paper mistakes before. I am not the only one to make these mistakes and the boss/owner makes some of these same mistakes. Now, my question is after so many years with this small company and what seems more like an extended family than a regular workplace, was this the right way to go?

I did not receive a verbal warning that if the behavior continued a written warning would be given. So, should I just sign this warning and watch my Ps&Qs? Or should I try and talk to the boss/owner? I would like to have this taken off of my permanent record and a verbal warning issued instead. Would asking this be considered insubordination? Your insight would be helpful.

Signed, Written Up

Dear Written Up:

Should I assume this is the first time in nine years that you have been written up? You are stressed and don’t feel it is fair to have your manager/owner write you up without first giving a face-to-face warning. You are right. That would have been more courteous. Apparently, since your workplace is small, there is you don’t have annual or semiannual performance reviews. The write up might be your boss’s way of giving a performance review. Possibly, since you and the owner/boss have shared personal information about the stresses in your each of your lives, she/he wanted you to understand that making paper mistakes is serious.

Obviously, the additional note regarding your “work has been bordering on questionable lately” tells you that the boss is frustrated more generally about your work. You ask: Should I just sign this warning and watch my Ps&Qs? Or should I try and talk to the boss/owner? You have worked in this hotel for nine years and although you have exchanged your anxieties, apparently you two have not spoken candidly and frequently enough to have an effective working relationship.

You need to schedule a private time to talk and to establish a regular time to make sure you are on the same page; a page without mistakes or at least with fewer mistakes and one that focuses on making your small hotel the best it can be.The first item on the agenda is to affirm you loyalty to your place of employment and to state your commitment to doing quality work The second item of such a talk is to acknowledge that this written warning worries you, in particular it worries you to see the note your “work has been bordering on questionable lately.”

This should then open your boss to speak more generally about what he/she wants and finds inadequate in your performance of late. You need to note what this means with specific tasks. You might know that others make similar mistakes, but this is not the time to defend yourself or to justify mistakes because others also make them. Rather it is time collaboratively to problem solve. It would be wise for you to bring suggestions that might prevent such mistakes and other ideas you have that you think can make your hotel more desirable to clients. Before you conclude, if possible come to a plan that will prevent mistakes and work in specific ways to perform as expected. Also ask that a time be set each week for your boss and you to review how well you are doing and to briefly discuss assignments for the next week.

Should you suggest that you think that verbal warning should be make before a written one and that this write up be deleted? To ask that is not insubordination. However, asking that would hinge on how well your session goes. I don’t think it would be out of place to say in your own words of course, “Mr. Jansen, as you know I have worked here faithfully for nine years and it worries me to have a write up in my personnel file. I hope before you write me up in the future, you will talk with me about my mistakes and together we might discuss how they might be prevented. Also if I can prove my commitment to doing quality work, I hope you will soon delete this written warning. Of course that is your business, but I would like to add a note to this write up before I sign it, saying that I regret my mistakes and suggest such mistakes can be prevented in the future by me being more careful and more generally we need to do so ___ and so to prevent them.”Does this make sense? There is no fail-proof way to handle a write up. Biting your tongue is not the way to deal with stress. Nor is it wise to obsess and to gossip about it with coworkers. It’s best seeing this as an occasion to think and act creatively. Use this frustration as a time to practice being professionally assertive.

Use it as a time for renewed commitment to making your small hotel a great place for clients and in which to work. Use it as a time to demonstrate how you can get back upon your feet after being knocked down. Use it as a time to walk in your boss’s shoes; to empathize and see the big picture, as does your boss. Do not allow this write up to sour you and to see your boss as an enemy. Do not permit yourself to withdraw from the family feeling of in this little hotel. Will you keep us posted on what you do and how you fair after a couple of weeks? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what I predict can come out of this write up.

William Gorden