Warning Memo Part 1

Category: Newsletters Published on Feb 21 2017



Would you please provide me with some tips for writing a written warning? I’ve found samples on-line but they don’t always fit my needs.


Jordan, PA


Dear Jordan,


There are two elements to writing a good written warning: layout and content. To give both elements their full expression, I am going to talk about layout this month and cover the content issue next month.


Below is an outline for a generic written warning. Some elements (marked with a *) need to appear, but location or order is not necessarily important. The remaining elements should appear in a logical order to enhance the effectiveness of your message.

 - *Date of meeting (you should meet to go over the written warning and this may or may not be on the same date you originally draft the warning.)

 - *Employee name

 - *Your name / title

 - Topic line 

      = Example: Re: Written Warning

 - Issue paragraph – What are the specific reasons that prompted the written warning?

      = First sentence should be a summary of what is to come

      = Example: Sam you are being issued a written warning for attendance issues.

 - Impact paragraph – How are others, both in the company and outside the company, impacted when this behavior occurs?

      = Be specific, and think big

      = If there is no impact – should they be getting a warning? 

 - Change paragraph – Exactly how do you expect behavior to change? How will you and Sam both know if behavior has become acceptable?

      = Example: The following conditions must be met.

 - Consequences paragraph – What will happen next if Sam fails to change his behavior?

      = Never threaten anything that you are not willing and able to follow through on

      = Example: Failure to adhere to the conditions of this written warning, development of new or related problems, and/or continued unsatisfactory performance will lead to more serious corrective action up to and including discharge.

 - Signatures – Should be last

      = Both employee and supervisor should sign and date the warning.

      = Include acknowledgement that employee has read and understands the issues included in the memo.


If you have multiple issues that have different impacts, the format can be changed to be as follows:

 - Issue 1 description including impact

 - Issue 2 description including impact


As a final note, depending on the issues and consequences of the action there may be legal ramifications to your actions. When in doubt, be sure to have your warning reviewed by someone with legal or human resources training.


Next month I will discuss issues regarding the actual content of the written warning.


Have a great day!