Verbal Warning

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbal warning:

Does a verbal warning need to be documented and a copy passed on to the employee?

Signed, Warnings?

Dear Warnings?:

The rule of thumb for verbal warnings is that a boss should keep a record, but that they are not noted in writing to the employee who is warned. Many organizations have a three-step process: 1. verbal, 2. written and 3. written plus discipline. Therefore, a superior should have a record of them.

The correct answer to your question, of course, depends on what is your organization’s policy and practice. That should be in its policy book and you should consult with and keep your own boss informed. Hopefully, you don’t see yourself as the first and last word on bossing and that your employees might see you as a coach rather than as a boss. Coaches must call attention to mistakes of team members, but that should be done with respect in word and tone.

Warnings are best viewed as clarification and re-iteration of what is expected. They are most effective when they include a brief two-way conversation stating what is wrong and paraphrase by the warned individual that indicates she/he understands. Hopefully, failures are seen as opportunities to talk about reasons for policies and practices and how they relate to the goals of workplace. Conversations about such should not be preachy. Rather they should invite thought and communication about quality improvement. If you are the one giving a warning, you might recall the ways you have been warned, dating back to your youth. Which of those did you find most effective?Check out Susan Hearthfield’s suggestions on “Progressive Discipline Warning.” Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden