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What is a Verbal Warning?

What is a Verbal Warning?

A verbal warning is a part of the disciplinary procedure enforced by company management to put erring employees in line. In this article, you will find a brief explanation of what is a verbal warning and how is it supposed to be administered.
Omkar Phatak
"Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability." - Roy.L.Smith

The importance of discipline in a workplace can never be overstated. For an organization to function like a well oiled machine that moves steadily towards the accomplishments of its objectives, it's essential that self-discipline be followed by every employee. When each employee does his part of the job, to the best of his ability, the business as a whole is bound to function smoothly and profitably. Such a well functioning organization can be compared with an orchestra in perfect harmony, creating sublime music.

A single jarring note in such an orchestra can break the harmony and that's what an erring employee, who unintentionally or intentionally deviates from his expected role in the company can do. Such disciplinary or behavioral issues need to be dealt with immediately. A verbal warning is one of the first steps taken by employers in dealing with such disciplinary issues.

What are Verbal Warnings?

There are various ways in which employees can be motivated to work to the best of their abilities. Some of the positive ways include recognizing their contributions, providing incentives or a simple pat on the back. Those who are willing to listen and naturally compliant to the discipline code, do not need to be reprimanded. However, those who choose to disobey the code of conduct put down in a workplace and continue erring, need to be served a verbal warning.

A verbal warning is a direct communication from the employer to the employee, that points out his or her violation of the code of conduct in the workplace. It may be that the employee is grossly ignoring his duties or responsibilities or causing unnecessary friction in the working of the team due to attitude issues. It may be that the employee is up to the mark, as far as his work profile is concerned, but may be causing nuisance that makes it difficult for other team members to work. There are various scenarios that may lead to a situation where the manager feels that a verbal warning is necessary.

A verbal warning is the first step in disciplinary proceedings and is usually communicated privately, by the human resource manager or departmental head directly. It is usually not given in written form, but serves as a precursor to a written warning, that is formally added to an employee's record, if he or she does not pay heed to the verbal one. Usually department heads and HR managers preside over such disciplinary meetings. The employee's attention is drawn towards the main points of concern for the management, regarding his or her behavior.

The exact problem areas are underlined and a concrete action plan is suggested, which would help him or her improve performance and mend ways. In case there is no improvement in the behavior despite the verbal warning, a written one will follow, which will be added to the employee's performance records and negatively impact his future prospects. A written warning prepares ground for firing the employee in case of further non-compliance of company policy.

When certain employees don't understand the subtle hints dropped by the management, that point out his or her undesirable behavior, a verbal warning is a necessary first measure. Through this warning, the employee gets an opportunity to rectify his or her behavior, before any serious action in the form of written warnings is taken. It's essential that an employer administers the right dosage of discipline, while also sugar coating the warning by highlighting the positive points of an employee's work. That way, the employee understands that you care but at the same time, you don't tolerate indiscipline.

The employee himself needs to understand that this is all a part of pure business and it shouldn't be taken personally. If the verbal warning is given rightly and taken in the right spirit by the employee, it can lead to a significant performance improvement. To conclude, remember that vocal warning is a mild private reprimand which serves to open the eyes of an erring employee to rectify his or her behavior.