Is This Correct?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a warning:

I received a verbal warning referring to a meeting I wasn’t aware I had! My director and manager said to me that it wasn’t acceptable that my work was late and that I had no good reason for it, and that I need to think ahead. This took about 5 seconds of their time once I arrived into work. I was not given a verbal warning on the day and I wasn’t given a chance to explain why it was late. I then received a letter saying that following our ‘meeting’ I am to accept this letter as a document to say I have received a verbal warning. Is this fair and correct?

Signed, Fair Warning?

DearĀ Fair Warning?:

It is a standard practice to have an employee sign she/he received a disciplinary action. However, this is not always required after an oral warning. To sign it doesn’t mean you agree you should have been warned or approve of it. Apparently, you and your director and manager are not on the best of terms. In this particular case they thought you were late, and, unfortunately, they didn’t follow a good management practice of allowing you to explain. They might be right that you do need to think ahead; most of us do. So how will you respond to this warning? Will you badmouth the director and manager to coworkers, friends and family? Will you allow this event to play like a broken scratchy record in your head and ruin your day and days? Will you allow it to crowd out any good thoughts about your work and life?

Will you take a few minutes to review this unhappy incident and look back over the past several months and ask yourself: Have I done anything that might make my superiors’ work easier? Have I added value to my job and company by cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted money? Have I performed my job in ways what cause my internal and/or external customers to say, “Well done?” Often bosses don’t take the time to establish good communication with those they boss.Apparently that is the cause or partly the cause of them warning you.

You can now carry a grudge and see your bosses as enemies out to monitor what you do and don’t do. That is natural but not a way to develop a pleasant and effective boss-bossed working relationship. I leave you to consider ways to make their and you own time on the job better. Rather than avoiding them, take time at least once a week to ask, “How’s it going? Am I doing what you want and expect me to do?” If you give this a fair try, I predict you will begin to make both their and you days better. Does this make even a little sense? If not, I hope it motivates you to find a better way to cope with the time you work because being angry at your bosses day after day makes work which is hard in itself harder.Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. This closing sentence is to suggest that how you think about what you do is under your control. You can choose to spin this event downward or to use it as a lesson on working with difficult bosses. One day you might be a boss and you will know from this incident how not to act.

Follow Up: Thank you for your advice. I would say that we don’t get on in these circumstances however we do. We have a very good working relationship I do about 10 hours overtime a week without being prompted, asked or PAID for my time. I work my holiday days at short notice without redeeming them back, i work through most lunch breaks and I would bend over backwards to do anything for my bosses. I’m really not sure where this is all coming from.

There is another director I have spoken to about it as I was very upset. He is willing to stick with me as he was here when I was left to run the office to cover other staff on my busiest work day which made my work late. Even having this do I have the right to appeal my warning without making things worse for myself? I have bad mouthed them to my sister and my partner however I felt bad as I know that we get on really well. It has been playing on my mind a lot today and i wanted to quit my job out of spite however i love my job and I love the people. I feel as if I’m in a rut. You know? Like I’m being set up. Thanks for your answer, do you have any more advise on the matter? And my other questions.

Reply: Did my advice completely miss the mark? The extended detail about your dedication to your employers and overtime without pay paints a different picture from what I gathered when first reading your question. Now my thought is that you need a bit more assertiveness. You should not work without pay unless you are salaried and one of those who benefit from profit-sharing. In terms of US law, what you are being allowed, if not coerced, to do, is to work off the clock. And that is NOT fair. So don’t you need to assert your self about this?

You wonder if things would be worse for you if you appealed your warning? You shouldn’t worry. Good bosses do not make things worse when those they boss voice their feeling that a warning was wrong. Employees should submit their perspective when they believe a warning is unfair. In your case, would in not be just that your explanation for being reprimanded for lateness be included in your file along side the warning? Would not it be helpful for your bosses, with whom you say you get along well, be told that you were hurt by not being invited to explain?

Bosses, too often, are so focused on getting a job done that they fail to ask why questions when something is done wrong or not done when expected. I often advise bosses and employees to put high on their agenda a collaborative DO/DON’T COMMUNICATION RULE MAKING session. Those rules should include such rules as: Do ask why questions before giving warnings. Do confer frequently before giving orders. Don’t forget please and thank you. Do ask for feedback. Those rules also give bosses the opportunity to say how they want and don’t want to be talked to and about. You felt badly enough that you felt like quitting a job you love. Your bosses should know that. You felt that you were being “set up”. If so, set up for what and set up by whom? Your bosses? Such a worry as this needs to be flushed out. You need to learn where you stand. If they want you to fail, you might as well learn it. And then you can know upfront what is expected.Also you say you feel like you are in a rut. I suggest that you and also your coworkers and bosses would benefit from reading a couple of books about Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. The first of these titled Fish sold over a million copies, and its follow up, Fish Tales, is even better. I’m sure your library has or can obtain these for you. They will spur you to get out of that rut. Now I know that from a distance my additional remarks may also miss the mark. But Fish Tales will not miss making its mark on you. Let me know after you’ve reflected on what I’ve advised and after you have read this text.

William Gorden