How to Write a Warning Letter to an Employee + Samples

    Sometimes employee productivity and behavior take a downward turn, and they go from smashing their KPIs to barely meeting them and generally becoming inefficient. What do you do when this happens? Is a warning letter to the employee the only option you have? 

    Before writing a warning letter to an employee, you should have first reprimanded them verbally. If the required change does not happen, the next stage is writing a warning letter.  A warning letter is different from a verbal reprimand as a reprimand explains to the employee how their inefficiency is hurting the company and how close they are to being let go. A warning letter also tells the employee that their misconduct has been duly noted in their file. 

    When writing warning letters, it is important that the offense isn’t a one-time thing. If the employee commits a one-time offense, the warning should be a verbal reprimand and not a letter that goes into their file. 

    Deciding whether an employee needs a warning letter, a verbal reprimand, or a termination letter depends entirely on your company and the offense the employee committed. If they commit an offense and are unwilling to change, a sack may be the best course of action instead of a warning letter. 

    In this article, we’re going to discuss what a warning letter is, how to write a warning letter, and include samples to help you write warning letters. 

    What is a Warning Letter?

    This is a formal letter that is written by the HR, manager, or CEO to an employee informing them of their misconduct or inefficiency and how this affects the company, and the repercussions if the employee does not turn a new leaf. 

    Everything You Need to Know When Writing a Letter to Warn an Employee

    In this section of this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know when warning an employee for misconduct and when writing a letter to do the same effect. 

    1. Speak to the employee before and after writing the letter

    Remember, when an employee errs, the first thing to do is not to write a letter warning them. The first thing you should do is warn them verbally, like a verbal slap on the wrist. A warning letter should be sent if the employee doesn’t change. And after the letter is sent, you must sit down with the employee, basically reiterating to them the details of the letter and the repercussions of their actions should they not change. 

    1. The warning should be sent as soon as the offense is committed

    When sending a warning to an employee, whether verbally or in a letter, the warning should be sent immediately after the employee commits the offense. This is so they’re told and understand the repercussions of their actions while it’s still fresh in both parties’ minds. 

    1. Outline the consequence of their actions

    While you may have verbally warned the employee of the consequences, you should reiterate these consequences in the letter as well. And this time, it should be done with a firmer tone than the verbal reprimand. 

    1. The employee should be duly aware

    As stated earlier, the reason for the meeting after the letter has been sent is to ensure the employee is fully aware of the measure that will be taken and also to confirm that the employee has received the warning. There are two ways to go about this. You could either decide to have the employee sign a copy of the letter as a form of acknowledgment, or you can have a meeting with them with another party involved. This can be their current manager or head of HR. If you choose to go the second route, it is important that the other party isn’t someone they’re superior to in rank. 

    1. Your Letter should be void of emotions

    Regardless of how hurt you may be or how badly the employee hurt the company, it is important that when writing the letter, you keep all emotions out of it. You should maintain the facts and figures of the offense. Maintain a calm disposition, whether in the letter or the one-on-one meeting. 

    1. Do not rule out the option of legal counsel

    Depending on the offense the employee committed, the action the company should take can vary. If the employee commits a grave offense and you’re unsure of the best route, it is okay to seek legal counsel or an expert to walk you through the case. 

    Benefits of Writing a Warning Letter

    Letting an employee go is not an easy thing to do. Both on the side of the management and the employee. This is why these kinds of letters are written, to steer the employee in the right direction and avoid taking extreme measures. 

    Here are some of the benefits associated with sending warning letters to employees:

    1. It creates boundaries

    When employees come on board and are given the company guidelines, they often do not take the time to understand them. So, when the employee makes a mistake they are unaware of, a warning letter serves to create boundaries and reaffirm the company’s rules and policies. 

    1. The warning shows good management

    Whenever an employee commits an offense that is seriously detrimental to the company, it usually isn’t the first time. Spotting a minor offense and preventing it from being something worse ultimately shows good management. 

    1. It establishes authority

    Warning letters establish authority within the organization. This sets a clear example and precedent for other employees to follow. 

    1. Warning letters and reprimand allows you to connect with the employees

    If your employee is going through a hard time with work, in a bid to reprimand them, you may be made aware of this and provide any solution within your power. 

    How to Write a Warning Letter to an Employee

    Warning letters are official letters, this means they should be treated as such. When writing professional letters, there are guidelines and criteria that should be met to ensure the letter remains professional. 

    The letter should be structured as follows: 

    • Recipient’s address and date: This should be the first thing on your letter, and it should be written on the left side of the letter, after a line or two, including the date. 
    • Subject line: The subject should be clear and concise and not exclude any details. An example of this is “Warning Letter for James Fallon”
    • Greeting: The letter should start with greeting the recipient, following accurate salutations and honorifics. 
    • Opening Paragraph: This paragraph must go straight to the point, explain the warning, and include all the specifics. This includes the date the offense was committed and the date the verbal reprimand occurred. 
    • Body: Explain the actions the employee or company takes to correct the issue. If there’s a specific program the company’s implementing, or there are specific things the employee should do, this should be stated in this section of the letter. 
    • Final Section: This paragraph should state the actions that will ensue if the employee doesn’t change. If the next step is a demotion, this should be stated. This should also be stated if it is to fire the employee’s contract. 
    • Closing Paragraph: The letter should close on a positive note reminding the employee of your belief in them and how valuable they are to the organization. Also, remember to include the date and time the employee is expected to have a meeting. 

    The letter should end with your name and signature. 

    Warning Letter Template 

    [Recipients Name]
    [Title of recipient]
    [Address line]
    [State, ZIP Code]
    [Letter Date]
    WARNING LETTER FOR [Name of Employee]
    We are writing to continue our discussion on the [Insert date].
    Over the last couple of [weeks or months], you have failed at performing your duties and have fallen short of the required standards by [list ways in which the employee has failed to meet the standard].
    As discussed in our earlier meeting on the [insert date], we are writing this warning letter as your performance has remained below the standards. 
    Kindly take this letter as the last and final warning. If your performance remains unchanged, we will be left with no choice but to let you go.
    You are an integral part of this company, and we believe you can turn this around. If you'd like to discuss any aspects of this letter, please do not hesitate to contact HR.
    In the meantime, kindly send your signed acknowledgment of this letter. 
    Kind Regards, 
    [Your name and signature]

    Warning Letter Sample

    Jacob James
    234 Jackson Avenue
    Benin, BC 54321
    [email protected]
    February 20, 2023
    We are writing this letter to continue our discussion on the 9th of January. 
    Over the last couple of weeks, your performance has been below standard, and you have fallen short of performing your duties which include: Attending to customer inquiries promptly and ensuring all customer complaints are duly registered and a ticket is sent to the dev team. 
    As discussed on the 9th of January, we are writing this letter to officially warn you that if your performance remains below standard, we will have no choice but to let you go. 
    Kindly take this letter as the last and final warning. If your performance remains unchanged, we will be left with no choice but to let you go.
    You are an integral part of this company, and we believe you can turn this around. If you'd like to discuss any aspects of this letter, please do not hesitate to contact HR.
    In the meantime, kindly send your signed acknowledgment of this letter. 
    Kind Regards, 
    Jim Blessed
    Head of Employee Relations


    When reprimanding employees and sending letters, it is important to do this with kindness. Your employee might be going through some challenges that they may be affecting their work. If there’s a way you can help the m alleviate these concerns, then you should do it. Doing this builds a stronger team and a more committed employee.  

    Jim Blessed
    Jim Blessed
    Jim Blessed is a certified content specialist. He's a versatile and accomplished writer with diverse knowledge in creating unique content for different niches. When he's not clicking away at his keyboard or learning new things, he's listening to or reading other peoples' thoughts.

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