Did you get a formal verbal or written warning at work? Well unfortunately, you should be concerned.
Warnings are part of a progressive disciplinary system: First, your supervisor may mention there’s an issue with your behavior or performance. The next step is a verbal or written warning, both of which are formal, documented measures that can involve Human Resources. If the issue is not sufficiently addressed, suspension or termination is/are normally the next step(s).
Since a warning is a formal action with serious consequences, it’s important to understand what it means, and find the ideal way to respond.
What a ‘warning’ means
Most employment situations are considered “at-will employment,” meaning the employee is able to quit at any time. It also means the business can terminate employment for any reason, so long as it’s not based in discrimination.
But even when businesses have the freedom to terminate a worker without delivering a reason, very few do so because an unjustified terminate opens a company up to charges of discrimination. Furthermore, if people are fired without reason, it can have a devastating impact on morale.
Most businesses have a policy called progressive discipline that on the notion is that actions escalate from informal warnings up to termination. For both verbal and written warnings, there is normally a formal meeting and written documentation. Typically, the supervisor and human resources will attend such a meeting. If the employee is a member of a union, a union steward will also attend.
If you receive a warning, it’s very possible to adjust your actions or behavior in a way that satisfies your manager. It also may be a good idea to update your resume and LinkedIn profile ahead of a potential job search.
The optimal way to react
Getting a disciplinary a warning can be a shock. It can also seem unfair. Regardless of how you might feel, the best way to respond is to stay calm, take notes and respond to what you think might be misperceptions.
During and after the disciplinary meeting, do your best to not get emotional. Taking notes can help you stay calm and it also helps moving forward. You’ll want to write down the exact reason why the warning was given and what you can do moving forward to get back into a good standing.
If you feel your actions or behavior was completely justified based on objective facts, you should speak up during the meeting and make your case. Be aware that this is a tricky situation: You want to defend yourself, but not seem closed-off to criticism.
If you aren’t sure is defending yourself on the spot is a good idea, you can always remain quiet, take time to gather your thoughts, and respond later in a calm, reasoned and professional manner.
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