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What To Do If You Recieve a Warning At Work

13 October 2019

Getting a warning at work means your supervisor is displeased in some way, either with your attitude, attendance, or work performance. Getting a warning at work is never pleasant, and you should always take it seriously.

What does a warning mean?

Warnings at the workplace are a form of progressive discipline, meaning the warning process begins informally and then escalates if performance does not improve. Before a written warning your boss may alert you informally that something is amiss in your performance. Next would be a verbal warning, which is documented, then the written warning. When warnings are documented it usually goes through human resources, and both you and your employer would meet with human resources and have a formal meeting. Finally, if your performance hasn’t improved, your boss may consider termination. Gross misconduct such as assault, violent behavior, or abuse of company policy would result in immediate termination without the warning process.

Should I take a warning seriously?

You should always take a warning seriously because it means your performance or behavior at work is unsatisfactory. It is also serious because a warning, even a verbal one, could be the first step of termination. However, this also means your supervisor is willing to work with you and allow you time to improve before escalating the warning process. If you want to stay with your company, be sure to work on the issues addressed in the time frame given to avoid subsequent warnings. Some employers might have a “three strikes” policy, issuing two written warnings and then the final warning, allowing more time to improve or resolve issues.

How should I respond to a warning at work?

You may have many different feelings after receiving a warning at work, such as anger, resentment, confusion, or anxiety. How you respond to the warning might be taken into consideration if your boss is contemplating your termination.

First of all, stay calm, which is easier said than done. In these types of situations, it can often be difficult to control your emotions, and with good reason. Getting a warning, even a verbal one, can sometimes feel devastating and may have caught you off guard.

During a formal warning meeting, keep track of what was said in the meeting and make a list of issues your boss needs you to improve on, if necessary. Documentation on your part can also help you if you feel the warning was unjustified. This will help you make your case if you need to defend yourself.

At the end of the meeting, ask your supervisor what you did wrong so you fully understand the warning and how to rectify the situation. Sometimes the situation is very straight forward, such as improving attendance if you miss too many days, or the issues could be more vague, such as having a negative attitude or not being a team player.

If you think you have received a warning unfairly, submit a written rebuttal with human resources. Be sure to have adequate documentation so you can defend your actions if need be.

How can I avoid getting fired?

After the warning process has been initiated, and you are actively trying to improve, check in often with your manager to give you feedback or more concrete goals to work towards. If your boss gives you a timeline in which to improve, work hard to achieve those improvements within that timeframe to avoid further action, including termination.

Final Thoughts

It is never easy to receive a warning at work. React calmly, resolve your issues in a timely manner, and your work situation should improve. Just in case, however, you may want to start a job search and update your resume, so you are well prepared.