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Sample Performance Written Warnings

Updated 2020

A letter of reprimand is issued to an employee when the employee's manager, in conjunction with Human Resources staff, sees an employee making no improvement progress after encouragement over time. The letter usually follows counseling and coaching by the manager that is carefully documented to ensure that a paper trail exists.

The paper trail is important because it provides evidence that the employee was informed and counseled at each step of the improvement process. This ensures, first of all, that the employee was aware and informed about what the organization saw as his or her shortcomings. Phrase performance objectives in a positive way. Ask employees to do more of something, rather than less.

Below are sample performance warning scripts. We recommend that your performance scripts, process, and discipline policy is reviewed by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

10 Elements of Written Warnings from the Society of Human Resource Professionals

  1. The name of the person who is writing the warning, the date, the name of the person receiving the warning and anyone else who gets a copy of it (e.g., HR), and where it is located (e.g., the personnel file).

  2. A description of the performance issue or conduct that warranted the warning, with specific examples.

  3. A summary of prior discussions regarding the issue, with specific dates if available.

  4. A summary of prior related disciplinary or performance issues.

  5. An explanation of why the issue is important.

  6. A description of the policies that were violated.

  7. An outline of the employer’s expectations.

  8. A description of potential consequences for failing to meet those expectations (e.g., a statement that “sustained performance improvement is critical and a failure to improve may result in further action, up to and including termination of employment”).

  9. A place for signatures acknowledging that the employee received the warning.

  10. A notation that the warning will be included in the employee’s personnel file.

Sample Progressive Warning in Writing

by Workable

Email subject line: Warning notice for [attendance] / Warning notice / Final warning notice

Dear [Employee’s name],

As we’ve recently discussed, your [absenteeism] is negatively affecting both your individual performance at work and your team’s productivity. We take [attendance at work] seriously and we expect all our employees to [comply with our company’s policy regarding time off].

However, you have frequently violated [this policy] and [have exceeded the number of days you can be absent from work] despite reprimands. More specifically, [in the last month you didn’t show up at work on X, Y, Z without any prior notice to either HR or your manager.] We do understand that unexpected issues may arise occasionally and we [are flexible (for example, by giving the option to work from home or take a sick leave to take care of a sick family member).] But, we still expect our employees to be professional and act in our company’s best interest.

This is your [first] warning notice. We expect you to correct your behavior and [request time off in advance and in a formal way (e.g. via email to your manager or through our HRIS.)] Otherwise, we will have to take further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

I’m available to discuss any complications you face that cause your [absence at work.] Please, contact me directly if there’s any way I can help you.


[Your name]
[Your email signature]

Sample Progressive Warning in Writing

by The Balance Careers

From: Jane Smith

Date: October 9th

Re: Letter of Reprimand

This is an official written reprimand for your failure to perform the functions of your position appropriately to safeguard the confidential knowledge you have acquired about the employees who report to you. Revealing information, that was shared with you in confidence by an employee, to other employees, is a violation of the confidentiality rights of the employee.

It is also a breach of your expected and entrusted managerial role. In fact, even if the employee had not specified that the information shared with you was confidential, discussing employee business with another employee, under any circumstances, is a failure on your part to perform your expected management role. The severity of your actions justifies the disciplinary action that could lead to employment termination.

You have received verbal counseling for an earlier offense in which you revealed confidential information entrusted to you by an employee. With this letter of reprimand, I am reminding you of the critical importance of safeguarding confidential information that your role requires.

I am also reminding you of the critical importance that your exercise of dependable good judgment as an employee entrusted with management responsibilities requires. Because of your position, further diligence in carrying out your responsibilities is required for the future.

Another breach of our confidence in your ability to carry out any of your expected managerial roles will result in additional disciplinary action up to and including the possibility of employment termination.

A copy of this reprimand will be placed in your official personnel file.

Jane Smith

Sample Progressive Warning in Writing

by the Management Center


Be clear from the beginning about where things stand in the process and reiterate that if things don’t improve the consequence will be dismissal.
Per our discussion, I wanted to capture how we’re moving forward. As I mentioned, I realize that you’ve been trying very hard, but unfortunately your performance isn’t where I need it to be, and without significant improvement I will have to let you go. That improvement needs to happen in the next two weeks, and then it needs to be sustained going forward.
My hope is that you will meet the expectations laid out in this plan, and that I will be fully satisfied with the job you are doing. I’ve tried to be clear and specific about what these expectations are; please let me know if you have any questions about what follows, so I can clarify.

The main areas in which I need to see improvement are:

1. 100% follow-through, in a timely fashion

Where possible, explain why the performance needs to be high.

I need you to take care of all of the items on your plate, including: meeting requests, issues raised via voice mail or e-mail, research requests, and other tasks that are part of the general course of business. As we discussed, this truly needs to be 100% because given the volume of issues, I can’t check back in on every item, so I need to trust completely that when I hand you an item it is as good as done. Everyone is human and mistakes do happen from time to time, but over the next two weeks (and in general over any comparable time period) if more than one item slips through the cracks then I’d deem that to be falling short of expectations.

Be as specific as possible about the level of performance you’re looking for (and how you’ll know if it’s being reached).

In terms of timeliness, it is hard to set an absolute rule, and the best guideline is that when you are in doubt you should ask. In general, though, I would assume that you would handle most issues that cross your plate that are not bigger projects – e.g. printing documents, reaching out to others around meeting requests, replying to e-mails and voice mails, etc. – within one business day of receiving them, with many happening on the same business day. If for some reason you are not able to get to items that you normally would within this time frame, at a minimum I assume you will let the relevant person know that you are still on top of the item.

2. Quality/Accuracy

I need to be able to trust that when you do take something on, it will get done in the manner we have agreed to, or where that is not possible that you will brainstorm potential solutions and, where appropriate, communicate options or your recommendations back to us. Again, my expectation is that within a two-week span there might be one instance of inaccuracy or one slip-up regarding quality, but not more.

3. Volume

Performing at a high level in this role means handling the large volume of items that come your way on an ongoing basis. I will continue to put things on your plate, and my expectation is that over the next two weeks we will reach a “steady state” where there is no significant backlog of items that you are handling.


Reiterate the consequences and be clear about the terms (severance pay) so there is no confusion about what’s at stake or how it will happen.

As we discussed, we need to ensure that you quickly reach a high level of performance. That means that this Improvement Plan will be in effect for the next two weeks (starting today, Monday, October 20). We will check in at the end of next week to review your performance against this plan. If you do not fulfill the requirements of this plan, then I would need to dismiss you, with one week of severance pay.

My hope is that you will fulfill the requirements of this plan. If you do, you will no longer be on an official Improvement Plan. You will, however, need to maintain that high level of performance over time.

You should not hesitate to be kind; just be sure it doesn’t blunt the substance of your message.

I’ve tried to be direct in laying out my expectations going forward and the consequences of this plan. What this memo does not do justice to, however, is how much I enjoy working with you on a personal level and how much I appreciate your commitment to this organization and all the hard work that you have put in up to this point.
Again, please let me know if you have any questions about what is laid out in this plan.

- Anita

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