How to Give a Verbal Warning

by Cynthia Measom ; Updated September 26, 2017
A verbal warning should take place in a private setting.

When previous conversations with a well-trained employee -- one who knows what is expected and has no obstacles preventing him from carrying out his work responsibilities -- have not resulted in the desired work behavior or performance, a verbal warning is the next logical step. A verbal warning is a form a disciplinary action that is issued by communicating your expectations aloud to an employee and warning him that you will take further disciplinary action if his performance does not improve.

Collaborate with someone in the human resources department of your office or speak with your immediate supervisor to find out the proper procedure for issuing a verbal warning. For example, even though you will speak to the employee, you will still need to document the warning in writing so there is a record.

Review any notes you may have made in the past regarding conversations with the employee regarding the same issues that have led you to decide to enact a verbal warning. Gather the facts of the situation before confronting the employee so your purpose and warning will be clear. Knowing the facts also helps you stand your position if the employee tries to argue with you about past events. Take note of anything you previously suggested that the employee should do to improve his behavior or work performance. Plan to discuss why the strategies didn't work and why they led to the verbal warning.

Ask another supervisor to sit in as you give the verbal warning. Have the employee accompany you to a private area or office where the other supervisor already waits. Let the employee know that the other supervisor's presence is to witness the conversation. Explain the problems with his work behavior or performance in a polite, professional manner. Tell him how he can correct the problem. Ask him if he understands the issue and ask for his ideas to correct the problem.

Inform him that you are issuing him a verbal warning that is becoming a part of his permanent work record. Tell him if he doesn't take the recommended steps to correct the problem, it can lead to further disciplinary action, up to and including the loss of his job. Ask him to verify that he understands his job is in jeopardy.

Start the conversation on a positive note, deliver the negative news and finish on a positive note. For example, at the end of the conversation, tell him that you are confident that he can make the changes necessary to improve his work behavior or performance. Be firm but polite at all times.

Document the details of the verbal warning in writing for the employee's records. Sign and date the document. Ask the witnessing supervisor to sign and date the document. This step is completed after the employee has left the office, as you do not need the employee to sign a verbal warning, as the attending supervisor verifies the verbal warning through witnessing and signature. If you have the employee sign, he could later say he never received a verbal warning, which could potentially cause legal problems.


  • Even during casual conversations with the employee about work performance issues, always take notes to refer to later.

    Verify the employee understands that you are issuing a verbal warning and its consequences. Use the words "verbal warning" and ensure that he knows his job is at risk unless he takes the appropriate steps to correct the problem.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article