Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Warning Letter to an Employee

Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Warning Letter to an Employee

Issuing an employee warning letter is a common HR practice.

This method allows HR managers to discipline the staff and to make sure that all employees observe the rules written in the company policy.

In addition, a warning letter is also a way for employers to reduce legal risks when firing an employee. In this case, such a letter serves as a disciplinary measure that warns an employee about the violation of the company’s code of conduct.

With that in mind, writing a warning letter to an employee can be a delicate thing to do. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind and to avoid to make sure that you deliver the message correctly.

So, let’s take a look at a few do’s and don’ts of writing a warning letter to an employee.

DO Consider the Structure

As with any formal letter, it is important to keep the employee warning letter organized. Following this structure will help you lay out the details of the situation more consistently and will add a confident tone to the letter.

When writing an employee warning letter, you can use the following structure:

  • date of the warning
  • the subject of the warning letter
  • name of the employee
  • section with the details of the violation
  • reasons why this situation is considered a violation
  • disciplinary actions that the company will take
  • your signature

If you decide to hand over the letter to an employee with a union representative, consider adding the representative’s signature to the letter as well.

DO Go Straight to Details

After starting the warning letter with the date, subject, and the name of the employee, start your letter by describing the situation right away.
When clarifying the situation that led to this warning, keep in mind the following:

  • Mention the date when the situation happened. This is important to add credibility to your letter.
  • List the details briefly and clearly. Don’t use long sentences and go straight to the point.
  • Avoid excessive emotions. Maintaining a professional tone when laying out details of the situation will help you avoid conflict with the employee.

Here’s a good example that follows all the above-mentioned criteria:

Image credit: Templatelab

It is important to be as straightforward and specific as possible when writing a warning letter to an employee, especially if it’s not the first one, because these letters will be added to the employee record and will be the evidence of the history of disorderly conduct.

DO Include Disciplinary Actions

When writing a warning letter to an employee, ensure that it has the list of consequences that the employee will face. This is usually a short paragraph that describes further disciplinary actions that the HR department will take if the conflict proceeds.

Here’s how the description of disciplinary actions can look like:

Image credit: Templatelab

Image credit: Templatelab
The employee that receives the warning letter should be aware, which consequences and actions are taken as a punishment for the disorderly behavior to keep this situation from happening in the future.

DO Offer a Solution

The employee that receives a warning letter should be given a list of solutions, how to improve the conflict situation.
When writing this part, keep in mind not only the company’s interests but the interests of the employee as well. That’s why it is important to have a verbal warning first to see and understand where the employee’s actions come from, and if the situation repeats, offer a solution.
Here’s an example of how you can do it:

Image credit: Templatelab

By offering solutions to the conflict situation, you avoid the hostility between the company and the employee and ensure that both sides still benefit from the situation.

DON’T Go Personal

In order to meet the goals and expectations of the employee warning letter, avoid taking a personal approach when writing it.
Adding an emotional tone to such a letter can cause deviations from its initial purpose. So, when writing a warning letter to an employee, try to focus on specific wrongdoing without attaching it to any personal feelings.

DON’T Make Baseless Claims

If you do want to add more credibility to the employee warning letter, what you can do is describe how this wrongdoing could harm the goals and the image of the company.
However, try to avoid making baseless claims. This means that you should support your letter using statements from company documents.
For example, you can use excerpts from the corporate employee conduct policy to support your claims, or you can generally refer to official company documents that describe the wrongdoing in question, like here:

Image credit: Templatelab

Image credit: Templatelab

Providing such proof in the warning letter also adds more credibility to your claims regarding the disciplinary actions.

DON’T Forget to Proofread

We already mentioned that every warning letter is typically added to every employee’s record. So, naturally, there should be no grammatical or punctuation mistakes.

That’s why make sure you proofread the letter after you finish the first draft. You can use online editing and proofreading tools like Grammarly, TrustMyPaper, or TopEssayWriting. You can once again use these platforms to proofread the letter after you’ve done editing the first draft.

Keep in mind that leaving out grammatical or punctuation mistakes in an employee warning letter can lead to ambiguity and misinterpretation. So, try to be as thorough with proofreading as possible.

DON’T Forget to Ask for Employee’s Signature or Follow-Up

Once you deliver the warning letter, you need a confirmation that the employee has received it.
That’s why, at the end of the letter, add a space that requires an employee to sign the letter. In case you send the letter via email, ask for a follow-up proving that the employee has seen the message.

One more important thing to remember is that your letter should encourage an employee to write a written response. An employee has the right to appeal to the warning letter. So, remind them of this option in your letter and give the necessary contact details.

Over to You

The do’s and don’ts we discussed in this article are general. While they can help you write a structured and consistent employee warning letter, you still need to follow your company’s guidelines and protocols.

With employee warning letters, it’s important to be straightforward. Keep it detail-oriented and direct, refer to corporate policies to support your claims, but keep it professional and polite to avoid unnecessary tension or potential liability.

About The Author

Nicole Garrison

Nicole Garrison is a professional writer and editor at Subjecto. She’s also passionate about employee management and loves educating others on creating a safe work environment. For more of her blog posts, you can check here. Don't hesitate to ask her questions.

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