A Verbal Warning I Never Saw…

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about written warning without a verbal one:

I received a written warning. I asked about the prior verbal warning, as I never signed one nor discussed one with my supervisor. She produced a verbal warning, yet I knew nothing of same nor was there any signature of mine anywhere on it, nor was there even a space for my signature. Had this taken place, I would have written a comment whether there was a space for it or not, and I would have inquired as to why such space didn’t exist on this form. It never happened… What can I do?

Signed, Warned

Dear Warned:

Obviously you and your supervisor are not on the same page. The tone of your question implies that the rules and/or practice of your workplace stipulate progressive discipline: First an oral warning, second a written one and third action, such as suspension or discharge. Of course, from here, I don’t know what your company’s policy book says about discipline. I doubt that oral warnings are written up and allow for you to contest them. Verbal warnings are not something that you can see and sign. They are oral–for your ears, in order that they are not interpreted as deadly serious as are written ones. You, however, might ask about them.That being said, if you are to ever have a good working relationship with your boss, it will hinge on how you respond to this written warning.

Rather than be miffed and make a case about you not have been given a verbal warning, wouldn’t it be more constructive for you to meet with your supervisor to learn precisely what prompted this written warning and what you might do to correct it, or at least know what not to do or not do again? I assume you didn’t intentionally act in such a way as to merit a written warning. Therefore, you might wisely apologize for your ignorance, carelessness or oversight. And more importantly, renew your intention to earn what you are hired to do and to when possible to make your coworkers and your supervisor’s jobs easier and more effective.It is natural to defend oneself. Doing that can come across as adversarial unless your tone is genuinely that of wanting to make things right. You might not like your supervisor, but it is her job to monitor your work and it is your job to do what you are hired to do. So, without knowing if you do or don’t deserve a first or second warning, I challenge you to not allow them to sour you. Work is hard enough without feeling that your supervisor is out to get you. You don’t have to be friends, but you do need to work in harmony in order to make your workplace succeed. Tell me if this makes sense. And think through the psychological and practical meaning of my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. What are you doing to make your work group, your boss, and you pleased to be working together and excited about pleasing your internal and external customers?

FOLLOW UP: I asked my supervisor to let me know when I got a verbal warning and specifically what the written warning was for, she produced a documentation, which I had never seen, regarding something I readily admit I had omitted in the course of my job. I do take responsibility when an error is mad. The issue is that the vw was documented and I didn’t know it was a verbal warning, I don’t even remember having a discussion about it. Then, a written warning was issued by corporate office, in fact, 8 written warnings to employees were issues regarding the same issue. It seems, that if there is a discussion, it is considered a vw. My boss and I are on good terms regardless. I understand it is her job; I’ve been there and done it. I’m not angry, I just feel like I’ve been duped. Now, I move forward with this…and continue to progress in my responsibilities. Thanks for your time and answer; I appreciate it.

Response: Thank you,¬† for further clarification. It is good to learn that you and your boss are on good terms and with a positive attitude, I’m sure that will continue. My answer, of course, was without knowing that. Misunderstandings can prompt better communication, if they are seen way. Probably, the error made would not have been made if you had had ample emphasis on training and/or procedures.This failure to be notified of a verbal warning should motivate both your boss and you to state and restate the what, where, when and how of assignments and to expect asking questions for clarification and two-way feedback. It’s like learning how to dance. For me, it takes more than one-way instructions. I need instructions and demonstration and practice, practice, practice and repeated instructions. My best to you and to those with whom you work.

William Gorden