When it comes to negative employee behavior, should you jump to write a formal written warning? It depends.
Have you spoken to the employee about the behavioral, attitude or performance issue; specifically told them what you want to change; and offered them a reasonable amount of time to make the change? If not, do that first.
However, if you have done all of the above and the employee has made no effort to improve, writing a formal warning is smart for two reasons:
1. When things are written down—and require the employee’s signature—the employee perceives them as more official and is likely to take them seriously.
2. You create a paper trail, complete with the employee’s signature, that can establish a pattern of poor conduct or performance, should you have to terminate the employee. That protects you againstclaims.
We highly recommend that you start with a face-to-face meeting to discuss issues and set expectations, but if that doesn’t work, draft a written warning that includes the following:
Prior steps taken to rectify the problem. Note the dates of previous discussions you’ve had about the issue.
What needs to change. Describe in detail the actions or behaviors you have observed that are inappropriate or unacceptable.
How to fix the issue. Specifically tell employees what they need to do to bring the performance up to an acceptable level or to fall in line with the organization’s rules or policies.
A deadline for making changes. Some problems should stop immediately, such as cursing in front of customers. Other issues, such as increasing sales, will take some time. Decide what is reasonable, and make it clear in the document.
Your and the employee’s signature. This is key in showing that you took the necessary steps to help turn around the employee’s behavior.
—Adapted from “5 Common Questions About Tricky Progressive Discipline Issues,” Paul Falcone, www.shrm.org.