Final Written Warning

Question:

Can a final warning be given for an “attitude” problem without consulting first? Or first give the verbal and then the written warning?

Signed,

A Matter of Attitude


Answer:

DearĀ A Matter of Attitude:

Attitude can be felt and observed in how an employee does his/her job and interacts with coworkers, a boss, or customer. Can a final warning be given for a bad attitude? That depends on the rules and practices of your workplace.

Your question indicates that you as an employee or manager don’t know the rules of your workplace. It also suggests that you are under the impression that there are rules or laws that govern how warnings are to be given. Rules of workplace discipline are made by management and/or negotiated by management and the union, if the workplace has a union. Without a negotiated contract, the employer/management makes the rules and follows them at its discretion. Management can fire at its discretion, just as an employee can quit at her/his discretion. As you probably have heard, this is called the “at will doctrine”. Those employed under various branches of government can be either exempt from or excluded from “at will” as the law stipulates. Our site answers communication questions and makes no claim to knowledge of labor law. We don’t provide legal advice.

Whether under a contract or not, management usually has graduated steps of discipline for most employee errors of behavior: verbal warning, written warning and then suspension or firing. Some acts can fall outside the steps to firing, such as theft, fighting, sabotage, drug abuse, and acts that threaten safety.

Consult your company’s policy, departments of Personnel or Human Resources, and/or your superior to learn what are the rules and practices. If you are supposed to give warnings, learn what they are. I assume rather that you or a coworker has been given a warning and you want to know if the warning follows the prescribed protocol; given in the order that it should be. If that is the reason for your question, my advice is to forget it. The order is not something to argue about. The important matter is to learn from the warning or warnings. Don’t complain about them. Rather request an investigation of them should you think they are undeserved. Otherwise, don’t mumble and grumble about them. Rather apologize if the warning(s) are fair and pledge to not do them again. In short, that means earning the respect of those who decided to give a warning based on “attitude”.

Perhaps, your question implies that you or someone else in your workplace needs to listen to a sermon on attitude; one that speaks to being responsible, one that applauds please and thanks, one that preaches the Golden Rule, one that makes a case for a Positive Mental Attitude and one that warns against being a free-rider rather than earning one’s paycheck. Because your brief question provides so little information, I’ll not preach longer. A benediction, that is my wishes that whatever prompted your question will be resolved, is embedded in my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Understand that and attitude problems will be short-lived or no more.

Follow Up: Thank you so much Dr. G, I will forward her your message! However, the lady that she had the tiff with was asked to leave with a “package” if I can say it like that. My sister is now very confused because she feels the warning was unfair and that the whole thing was handled unfair. She mentioned to me that she was never given a proper induction of the company and do not know of any policies within the work place. I did tell her to go find out at the HR Department. I thank you for your assistance with this. Take care: Your Workplace Question has been answered. Reply: It’s good to know sister’s care. Please share my answer with her and my wish for improved interaction with the coworker. Sometimes conflict can motivate clarification of job descriptions and the ways coworkers speak with one another. I recommend hammering out do and don’t rules between coworkers and for work groups.; Dr. G Follow Up 2, I will forward her your message! However, the lady that she had the tiff with was asked to leave with a “package” if I can say it like that. My sister is now very confused because she feels the warning was unfair and that the whole thing was handled unfair. She mentioned to me that she was never given a proper induction of the company and do not know of any policies within the work place. I did tell her to go find out at the HR Department. I thank you for your assistance with this. Take care. Reply: I don’t know what “leave with a ‘package’ ” means. From here, being asked to leave implies that that individual was judged more at fault for the tiff. It might be best to let sleeping dogs lie. But if she is written up with what she considers unfair accusations, she should submit a written explanation to refute or at least explain her perspective to be included in her file. My best to you both, and if you have time, one of these days update what happens. I’m usually not available to respond so quickly.–Dr. G

William Gorden