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Sample Performance Warning Verbal Scripts

Updated 2020

A quiet chat and a letter of concern often solve problems in the workplaces. Below are sample performance warning verbal scripts. We recommend that your performance scripts, process, and discipline policy is reviewed by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Sample Progressive Verbal Performance Warning Script

by Old Dominion University

Meeting to Address Problem Performance or Behavior

1. Statement of fact or observation.

  • Today you were late for the second time this week.

  • Your time and attendance form was due at 3:00 and I do not have it yet.

  • This memo contains three typographical errors and the work you gave me

    yesterday also contained several errors.

  • Your inspections have had deficiencies once each week throughout this


  • The customer you had difficulty with this morning has phoned a complaint

    to the director.

  • During the past two weeks the quantity of xyz’s that you have processed has

    decreased significantly from 456 to 123.

2. Pause (If silence does not result in employee explaining – then ask why?)

Permit the employee to explain fully. You may express understanding or empathy as you feel appropriate to the situation. (For example: I can imagine your frustration with finding that your car won’t start every morning. OR: I know it is easy to be distracted with all of the student traffic that we have in our office.)

  • Can you tell me why this happened?

  • Please explain what happened.

  • Why is this happening?

3. State the standard or expectation.

  • Your shift begins at 8:00 and you are expected to be here and ready to work at that time.

  • Your time and attendance reports are due by 3:00 each Friday without prompting from me.

  • The University expects exemplary customer service in all situations.

  • The standards for your work are outlined in the daily tasks list and you are expected to complete each task on the list.

  • The printed work that leaves this department must be error-free.

4. Ask the employee how he/she plans to correct this problem in the future?

Permit the employee to develop a plan of corrective action and tell you about it. If the situation is complicated – allow the employee a few days to develop a plan and bring it back to you. Thank the employee for coming up with a plan to address the problem and express trust that he/she will be successful. Tell the employee you will follow up with him/her – and when that will happen.

5. Follow up
Meet with the employee as you indicated above and discuss progress toward success.

Sample Progressive Verbal Performance Warning Script

by the American Management Association

Anne, we need to talk. I called this private meeting with you because I’m suddenly sensing a difference in your approach to working with our guests. When you started with us last year, you would leap tall buildings in a single bound to help anyone and everyone who needed something. I was so impressed not only with the energy you displayed but with your selfless attitude. Your energy and smile were almost catching, and I teased you on more than one occasion about your smile being the greatest asset and how it increased your “face value.”


Now I’m sensing a totally different Anne: someone whose energy and willingness to help are palpably lower, someone who’s not smiling or generating an energy that’s catching, and a person who, quite frankly, appears disengaged from her work and mildly bothered by the guests.

That’s my initial impression, anyway. Now tell me your side of things. [It’s true that I’ve got a lot on my mind lately, and I’m afraid that my home life is bleeding over into my work life. I’m sorry about that, Paul, and I never intended that to happen.]

Okay, fair enough: I understand that such things happen sometimes. I guess my question to you is, are you willing and able to turn that trend around? [Yes.]

So when faced with that type of perception problem, Anne, how would you recommend turning things around? [I’ll be more mindful of our guests and do my best to reenergize myself so I can return to the old Anne.]

Thank you. Those are very good answers. Let’s talk about specifics. I want you to keep a few things in mind about customer service. And I’m not just talking about our hotel or this particular job: I’m talking about your entire career. Nothing is more important—nothing—than the perception you create for guests, coworkers, and, most important, your supervisors. Anyone willing to go above and beyond excels in their career because, well, people just like being around them. So if you ever sense that you’re in a slump for any reason, think objectively from a career development standpoint about how you could improve and “plug back in” to that zone that you know so well.

Next, speaking of career development, remember that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. It’s easy dealing with nice and happy people: The challenge in your job and mine is “getting inside their heads” and figuring out how to diffuse a problem. That’s the most creative part of your job, and it, more than anything, will help you stand out as a rarity among your peers.

Finally, remember that this job—and a career in management in any company—should be about selfless leadership. As you grow and develop in your career, understand that it’s not about power: Power is one-sided where you get to do whatever you like just because of who you are. Instead, it’s about strength—helping others get what they want through you. And that strength that you could provide others may be hotel guests, subordinates, or family members. Your goal is to help them be the best that they can be. That’s what it means to lead a life well lived. That’s the secret to it all. Apply it to everything and everyone you come across and you’ll find that everything you do will be easier and more enjoyable.

Okay, I didn’t mean to get too lofty there, but give it some thought. I have a lot of faith in you and see so much potential. Just don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, whether that’s your career, the company’s profitability and well-being, or your overall sense of self. You have so much to give—and so much to gain from your giving. I’m glad we had this talk. Come see me any time you feel like you need a reminder, okay? [Okay, thanks Paul.]

Sometimes these minor challenges give us opportunities to bond with those we work with. Applied selectively, such discussions help you connect to your subordinates at a much deeper level, and the bond of trust and respect that forms at moments like this—when you lift the employee up when she’s feeling bad about herself or about her life—is a gift that may never be forgotten.

Click here to see sample written warning follow up email/letter templates.

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