Warning Letters: What Can You Do If You Get One?

In many cases, there are signs that can signal a problem at work. If you are not included in meetings, if your boss ignores your calls or doesn’t meet with you, if you learn about changes after everyone else, and if you feel excluded by your co-workers, a warning letter may be coming your way.

If you do get a warning letter at work, here are some things you can do:

  1. Seriously and honestly reflect on the concerns that your boss voiced.
  2. Write a response to the warning, stating what you agree with and what you do not agree with, and copy Human Resources.
  3. For concerns that you agree with, state your intention to turn things around and list specific actions that you will take.
  4. Defend yourself against concerns that are not true by stating the facts.  Keep your opinions and feelings out of your response. Include facts like dates, times, and others who were present.
  5. Ask your boss to put in writing what success looks like by giving metrics and time tables so it is crystal clear what you need to do and by when.
  6. Ask for help and support. Ask what your boss will do to support you. Prove that you have not been included in meetings or have not had access to important information, etc. by stating the facts. Ask for regular check in meetings with your boss and give suggested dates and times to meet.
  7. Ask how you are doing and what you could be doing differently each time you meet with your boss.
  8. Start looking for another job to keep your options open.

Warning letters can be the beginning of the end, but in some cases, if you can discern exactly what your boss wants you to do that you are not doing, if you are willing and able to make changes, and if your boss is willing and able to help and support you, you might be able to save your job.

Tell me your experiences with warning letters and what you have done to turn things around.

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About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


About the Author

Judith Lindenberger

Judith Lindenberger is President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning HR consulting agency. She has over 30 years of experience helping clients create effective human resource management strategies to drive success for their organization and their employees. Lindenberger Group’s seasoned team of consultants offer expert guidance on all aspects of HR from recruitment and staffing to training and development to payroll and compliance. For more information, email info@lindenbergergroup.com



Thank you for being honest. I am 60 and for the first time in my career, I received both a new job description and a warning letter reflecting the new job description at the same time. They doubled my workload without an increase in pay. (I must note that when I was hired, the first thing my boss said was that no one gets raises and later I found out that 100 percent of those who work there never got one, and that could be for 13 years.) I already have the job that three people used to do, but being that I lived abroad for 20 years, and never received one, I signed it thinking it just meant that I understand what the document was saying, not that I agree. I wish now, that I did not sign. First, I can clearly see that they are trying to boot me out because the new job description is unrealistic and the goals unattainable. They do not allow overtime. Therefore, they are just covering their tracks so they will not have to pay out unemployment. At 60, it there is also ageism and it took me over a year to land this job, I have a double masters, speak three other languages, yada yada, but it does not matter.
I called HR to inquire why the new job description and then a warning refleting the new added responsibilities, I felt that it was not right. Of course, HR is for the company and she said that that is normal and asked if I signed. I noticed that once I signed, both bosses jumped up and left the room, they were done. geez. Companies are not what they used to be. I live in an at will state, so they could have fired me if they wanted for no reason, but I understand that they don’t want to pay unemployment. I believe that this is unfair. I am concerned to fall into poverty in no time, without a spouse or family. No one cares, really, I have noticed. I am not sure what to do, I am thinking of calling unemployment to see what my rights are, just in case. I am thinking of giving my notice, which is also what they want. It’s a mess. Stuck and going to be broke soon.


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