Verbal Warning. What Exactly Does That Mean #NewToHR

Verbal Warning – What Exactly Does That Mean?

We recently received an email asking me about verbal warnings.

Hi. My name is Sarah and my boss gave me a verbal warning about my tardiness. What does that mean? Will that go in my employee file?

There is a lot of confusion by employees on how they should perceive a verbal warning.

Each employer has it’s own interpretation and practice on what a verbal warning is and how they handle it.

The reason we give an employee a verbal warning is because their behavior or job performance is not meeting the set standards developed by the employer.

An employer gives an employee a verbal warning as an indicator that they are doing something that needs to be addressed and corrected immediately. Confusion occurs when it comes down to defining the difference of an informal and formal verbal warning.

This is our personal interpretation and the way we would handle the scenario.

Informal Verbal Warning

An “Informal Verbal Warning” for tardiness would be given to an employee who is constantly tardy (Make sure you have the dates and how tardy they are, whether it is 3 minutes or 1 hour).

Discuss with the employee what the policy and procedure is. Ask them if there is any specific reason that they are having a problem? Find out if there is something you can do to help fix the problem. Make sure you let them know that you are going to place a note in your files that you have had a discussion with them (with the date on it) regarding their constant tardiness and that the behavior needs to be corrected immediately.

It is important that the employee knows they are a valued employee and you want to give them the chance to improve without having to initiate the “Progressive Disciplinary Process”. You want to make it known that if the behavior continues that they will receive a “Formal Verbal Written Warning” because you have already discussed the problem with them.

Once you give a “Formal Verbal Written Warning”, a copy will be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

Formal Verbal Written Warning

An employee is usually given a “Formal Verbal Written Warning” after they have been given an “Informal Verbal Warning” and the behavior or job performance issue has not been corrected or has gotten worse. Once you give a “Formal Verbal Written Warning”, the “Progressive Disciplinary Process” has begun.

A “Formal Verbal Written Warning” needs to clearly identify the offense, what the expectations are (a time frame, if indicated) and what the outcome will be if the expectations are not met. You need to sign the counseling. Request the employee to sign that they have had the counseling reviewed with them and are being given a copy.

Let the employee know they have the right to provide a written response. If the employee refuses to sign acknowledging receipt of the document, note it on the counseling form and have another manager witness you giving the employee a copy and have the manager so note it on the copy of the warning.

Make sure you give the employee a copy. If they refuse or say they do not want it, make sure to document it on the counseling form, as well. Place both copies in the employee’s personnel file.

After giving you background on formal and informal verbal warnings, here is our response to the questions asked.

Based on the information we have, we are responding to you presuming this is a first occurrence. Receiving an “Informal Verbal Warning” is giving you a heads up that your tardiness has become a problem. Your boss is offering you a chance to improve. You need to take advantage of this.

If you do not correct the problem now, it will turn into a “Formal Verbal Written Warning” and you do not want it to go that far. Is there a specific reason causing you to be tardy? If so, discuss the problem with your boss. Maybe he or she can help you come up with a solution. You never know unless you open up and let them know what is causing the problem.

Will that warning go in my employee file?

An “Informal Verbal Warning” is usually documented by your boss to use for future reference. They will use it in the event that your tardiness continues.

Your boss has the documentation that they have previously discussed the problem with you. Most of the time, your boss will keep all “Informal Verbal Warnings” in a separate file. Like we said, if the tardiness continues, then it will become part of the documentation used for a “Formal Verbal Written Warning” and yes then it would go in your employee personnel file.”

To ensure you know how your employer will handle the situation, we like you to ask the Director of Human Resources what their specific policy is on the subject. Each employer has developed their own policies and procedures so their policy may differ from the practices that we have described.

We hope this helps answer your question. Good luck on correcting the problem!

This information is based on our professional opinion and how we have handled “Informal and Formal Verbal Warnings” throughout our careers. This in no way means this is the only way to handle the issue, it is just the way we would handle it.

© New To HR



  • A Harrison
    13/02/2018 at 04:07

    Is it considered a Informal Warning if you have to sign it? I work a Dollar General and have gotten two verbal warnings. One that I willing signed (it stated my register was short , don’t know how but I can see it happening) and the second one I refused to sign due to not agreeing with it since I don’t understand why I was the one in the wrong. I did not receive copy of neither.

  • A Harrison
    13/02/2018 at 04:09

    At a* willingly* either* …had to correct myself

  • David Abel
    30/05/2018 at 18:36

    Hi we are members of a club that was on the verge of closing. A lot of us clubbed together to get the money to cover the depts and keep the club going not just because we love the club but all the members. As the people who ran it wanted it to go into liquidation and get redundantsy one is the finance person and the other is the stewardess . The members want them out and I can see why . I would like to give the both an in formal warning for misconduct towards the members because because they put themselves before the people who pay their wages and paid membership for a place to go . And the stewardess has verbally abuse an unpaid member of our staff so how many informal warnings can be given to these people as I have to do this on Saturday so the members no we are there for them and we mean what we say this is difficult because I have seen first hand how nasty the stewardess can be. But we need to show authorityplease help.

  • Rajesh Khanna
    05/07/2018 at 23:14

    When does the 6 month of verbal warning start the date the offense occured or on the date that warning was given.

  • Aarron David Guthrie
    07/10/2018 at 09:47

    I was recently fired from a job. I had no verbal warnings or any write ups. I was randomly targeted by unprofessional supervisors that created a hostile situation and told me either I go to this place or I go home no job… Anything I can do?

  • Sam Ayam
    12/10/2018 at 04:50

    A “verbal written” warning? Ridiculous. Just do away with the “verbal” warning altogether. since everything gets documented today anyway and a piece of paper in an employee file clearly is not saying anything aloud!

  • Peter
    21/10/2018 at 15:08

    I work for the Council in N.IRE
    I was given a verbal warning due to a work related issue. I was then off again due to a work related issue. I had to wait 2 weeks for a decision. I received a final writing warning. Can someone please advise me if i should have gotten a 2nd warning before a written warning. I do i need to sign it before i agreed to it.
    Many thanks

  • sandra lewis
    14/06/2019 at 19:09

    Question: Can you be verbally warned for remarks made in a private meeting with management?

    I received a verbal warning for remarks I made about my Accounting Tech not being competent in a meeting with the Account Tech, Director, and Myself. They felt the fact that even though she can’t use Excel, she had no qualifications, she was put in Accounting because she could not get along as a clerk, so the Director gave her a promotion, and I stated this out loud. I was told I insulted her. It was the truth.

Post a Comment