All Messages

Sample letter of caution to employee

  1. Home
  2. Anniversary Wishes
  3. Sample letter of caution to employee
Sample letter of caution to employee
August 17, 2019 Anniversary Wishes No comments

SAMPLE LETTER OF REPRIMAND (Print on department letterhead.) Used for Hourly and Probationary Employees. TO: Employee's Name. FROM: Supervisor's .

Sometimes employee behavior or performance gets so bad that you have to draft a formal warning letter explaining expectations and outlining consequences.  

The CEO of a small company has a wide range of performance-management tools at his or her disposal. The warning letter is kept at the back of that arsenal, only dusted off when there is a serious or chronic problem.

Typically a warning letter would be preceded by verbal conversations between the employee and his or her supervisor, both at performance reviews and in the course of the job. However, "the written communication, by its very nature, suggests that things are more serious at this point and also suggests that maybe [the supervisor's] prior communication wasn't clear enough," says Steve Kane, a human resources consultant based in Hillsborough, California. Here's how to write, deliver, and follow up on a warning letter telling an employee to shape up.


How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Does the Situation Call for a Warning Letter?

Though each company may choose to handle employee infractions differently, and the protocol will obviously change depending on the severity of the misconduct, there is a conventional progression for issuing increasingly serious warnings to the employee. "A lot of employers will start with a documented verbal warning, then they'll move to a written warning, and then a final written warning, and then termination of employment after that," says Darren Reed, a special expertise panel member at the Society for Human Resource Management.

If the warning letter is being issued in response to a serious one-time offense rather than a problem that's been developing over time, it makes sense to bypass the initial verbal warnings and proceed straight to the written reprimand. However, giving your employees continual positive and negative "feedback on their performance is the most important thing because any warning should not come as a surprise," says Kane.

But a written warning is often an indication that there has been some miscommunication on the employee or the employer's part, or both. "The issue with the employee may be that they're not understanding the importance of what you're telling them," theorizes Michele Williams, a professor at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in the department of organizational behavior. A warning letter "cues them in that this is not something you're telling me in passing but this is really critical to my job performance."

Dig Deeper: How to Write a Warning Letter for Excessive Absence

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Common Problems

There are as many reasons to write a warning letter as there are types of behavioral and performance problems with an employee. That said some problems are far more common than others. "Attendance is the most common [problem] for relatively small businesses," Kane says. "Because, at the end of the day, as Woody Allen used to say, '80 percent of life is just showing up.'"

Other common causes for drafting a warning letter include how employees treat their co-workers, inappropriate dress, and electronic communications the company deems inappropriate, such as visiting social media or pornographic websites.

Yet another type of problem is more common still than any of the issues listed above, and that is the quality or quantity of an employee's output. The quantity of work an employee does can increase with additional effort on his or her part but the same is not always true of the quality. For example, "if somebody just doesn't have artistic talent, it doesn't do a whole lot of good to give them 17 warnings," Kane says.

As a result, a sympathetic employer will attempt to be more accommodating of an employee's repeatedly failing to make their quota. If it's a certain skill that the employee is lacking, you could help them secure training within the organization or even reimburse them for outside classes. Kane explains, "it's expensive to terminate employees so you want to help them succeed."

Dig Deeper: How to Writing a Warning Letter for Poor Employee Performance

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Who Should Write the Letter?

Whoever writes the warning letter, and they are often ghostwritten by a human resources specialist, the letter itself should come from the employee's direct supervisor. However, "the actual decision to formally write [the letter] up might involve more levels of the organization," Williams says. "The direct supervisor may actually be too close to the situation to see some of the structural or supervisory factors that may be influencing an employee's behavior." When multiple people at the managerial level consult about an employee's situation, they can bring more nuanced insights to bear on factors inside and outside of the organization that might be causing the problem.

As for whether to consult a lawyer when crafting a warning letter, in most cases it's a good belt-and-suspenders measure if you can afford it, but some experts say it's unnecessary. Instead, the time to consult a lawyer is when you are first putting your disciplinary policy in place.

In certain circumstances, however, getting the input of an attorney can be crucial. When you encounter situations that are completely outside of your ken, or need to be handled delicately because of a confluence of factors, it's time to get your general counsel on the horn. For example, Reed says that if the employee in question recently "made complaints of racial or gender discrimination, yet the behavior or performance problem does exist, it's a good idea to talk to an attorney about how you might approach that person."

Kane notes that another reason to consult an attorney is "if you have reason to believe that there's some legal defect in what you're asking [your employees] to do." This is not to say you're asking them to do something illegal, but maybe you have a stringent policy that others might find unreasonable, Kane gives the example of a Hooters franchise having an unwritten expectation that the wait staff behave in a coquettish manner. The lawyer will sit down with you and say, "'gee, let's see if we can figure out a way to defend your potentially goofy policy," Kane says.

Dig Deeper: Should Your Lawyer Specialize in Entrepreneurship?

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Document Everything

Documenting your written communiqués is simple enough (just start a file and print duplicates of everything), but keeping track of your verbal communications can be a chore. Still, it can be useful both for reminding an employee of what you've already told them and when, and for protecting you in the event of a lawsuit down the road.

Once you're at the stage of issuing a warning letter, you may want to ask the employee to sign somewhere on the document to confirm that they received it and to verify that they understand and agree to conditions they must meet. Some employees are resistant to that idea but Kane suggests that "if they say they won't sign it, then the smart thing to say is 'okay, would you mind writing something that says I refuse to sign?' and oftentimes they'll say yes."

Dig Deeper: How to Write a Termination Notice

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: What it Should Contain

There are three main components of the body of a warning letter to an employee. First you need to outline the prior conduct that was unacceptable then you need to identify, by contrast, the required or expected conduct. "Lastly," says Kane, "and this is what's most often left out, is the consequences of a failure to follow that prescribed or proscribed behavior." Reed notes that it's important to be as specific as possible both in the text of the warning letter and in the verbal communications that lead up to it. That way, there is as little room as possible for misinterpretation.

The tone of the warning letter can also vary dramatically depending on the severity of the infraction the employee has committed. At the two extremes, you can either create "a formal letter that's really designed to open the door for improving the employee's performance," says Williams, or one "that's really just documenting the reasons why you've got to let them go."

Dig Deeper: A Sample Behavioral Change Warning

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: How to Deliver It

Once you've written the warning letter, the most difficult task is still ahead of you. It's not the kind of thing you can just leave on an employee's desk or shoot to them in an e-mail. It has to be accompanied by an in-person conversation. This conversation is also a good point of reference for the employee in case "you worded the letter more harshly or more leniently than you intended to," Williams says. If you have a virtual employee, follow up on the written or electronic copy of the letter with a phone call or video chat.

Since small businesses often have closely-knit workforces with almost familial bonds, it can be uncomfortable for an employer to confront an employee about their behavior, which sometimes leads the manager or CEO to postpone the conversation until the conduct becomes intolerable. At that point, the supervisor's anger and frustration will likely come across in-person or in a letter, which is counterproductive. Responding to developing problems quickly and role-playing the conversation with a fellow supervisor or manager before reaching out to the employee can help you avoid such an outcome.

Even if you keep your temper in check, it is easy to accidentally humiliate the employee if you don't consider their need for privacy in the matter. Holding the conversation privately and holding it without the person's co-workers knowing are too separate things, but if you exercise discretion and communicate via e-mail that you need to speak with the employee, you can keep the situation under wraps.

Finally Williams suggests that you could soften the blow of the warning letter with positive feedback but that you shouldn't do so at the expense of clarity. "I think that it's very import to stress the positive, but at the point where you're writing a letter and you're thinking of firing the person, you have to make sure that you're not including the positive to make it easier for yourself," she says.

Dig Deeper: How to Communicate in a Crisis 


How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Being Consistent

An important component of warning an employee that they need improvement is being consistent over time. You will begin to look foolish very quickly, and possibly even weather lawsuits, if you criticize one employee for his or her lateness and not another.

In addition to drawing on your policies and precedents in your company's history, one way to be more consistent is to have standard templates for documenting problems as they develop. The consistency must encompass not just the documentation, or even the warning letter itself, but the follow up actions you take. "If you say, 'one more time and I'm going to fire you,' and you don't, then you're in trouble," Kane says. You could very well lose your authority not just in the eyes of the employee you're attempting to penalize but in front of the rest of your staff.

Dig Deeper: How to Handle Employee Complaints

How a Write a Warning Letter for Employee Conduct: Following Up

Whether your employee responds positively or negatively to your warning letter can depend largely on how you handle the situation. If you've handled it well, then the desired behavior will begin to manifest in the coming days and weeks after your conversation. However, if you've let your anger or frustration with the employee seep into the tone of your written and verbal communications, they can respond with withdrawal behaviors – often characterized by a lowered desire to complete their work.

Another possible response is that the employee will feel personally slighted, and he or she might even want to take revenge of some kind. Of course the primary indicator that the warning letter has been a failure is that there is no behavioral change on the part of the employee.

If the employee responds well to the warning letter and changes their behavior, be sure to follow up with positive feedback for their efforts to change their conduct. If the employee reacts poorly to the warning letter you need to decide if it's because you handled the situation badly or because they simply do not want to accommodate the rules you laid out for them.

If the latter situation is the case, you want that employee out of your company as soon as possible so that they do not cause further problems. But if the former is the case and you were overly harsh in meting out your criticism, Williams says: "I don't think you can underplay the value of an apology. You can sit down and say 'I really communicated this in a way I didn't intend and I really value you as an employee.'"

Dig Deeper: How to Improve Employee Retention

A warning letter to an employee is issued by the boss/employer for unacceptable behavior or action on the part of the employee. This letter is used as a last.

Employee warning notice email template

sample letter of caution to employee

Corrective action is a process of communicating with the employee to improve behavior or performance after other methods such as coaching and performance appraisal have not been successful.

All employees are expected to meet performance standards and behave appropriately in the workplace. The goal is to guide the employee to correct performance or behavior by identifying the problems, causes and solutions, not to punish the employee.

In general, corrective action should be progressive, beginning with the lowest severity action before employing actions of more severity. Any formal corrective or disciplinary action must follow the principles of "Just Cause". 

After establishing that corrective or disciplinary action is warranted, use some or all of the following steps:

Verbal Warning

The supervisor should:

  • Set a time and place to ensure privacy.
  • Make notes about what they want to say in advance.
  • Remember that the employee has a right to choose representation. (Weingarten Rights)
  • State clearly that they are issuing an oral warning.
  • Be specific in describing the unacceptable performance or behavior.
  • Remind the employee of the acceptable standards or rules. If they are available in writing, they should be provided to the employee.
  • State the consequences of failure to demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement, or further disciplinary action may warranted.
  • Note the oral warning on their calendar.

Written Warning

If the supervisor gave an oral warning and the problem performance or behavior persists, a written warning may be given. This action may be used more than once, however if the problem continues to persist repetitive letters may not be the solution. A template letter may be requested from an Employee Relations Consultant. A written warning should:

  • State clearly at the outset of the letter that it is a written warning, and cite the appropriate personnel policy or contract provision.
  • Describe the performance problem(s) or work rule violation(s) in very specific detail and attach documents which support the supervisor's conclusions.
  • Outline previous steps taken to acquaint the employee with the issue and attach copies of the documents that are referred to.
  • Describe the impact of the problem.
  • Note the employee's explanation or that the employee declined to offer one. If it was unacceptable, the supervisor should explain why.
  • Explain the expectations regarding behavior and/or performance.
  • Clarify that if the employee doesn't demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement, the consequence may be further disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
  • Note the appropriate policy or contract provision for the employee's appeal rights.
  • The warning letter should be delivered to the employee using appropriate delivery procedures such as Proof of Service, and a copy forwarded to HR to be placed in the employee's personnel file.

Suspension Without Pay

A suspension may be the next step in progressive corrective action after written warning(s). Typically, suspensions will prevent an employee to work and requires the employee to leave without pay for one to ten working days, as specified in the letter.

The letter should:

  • State that the action is a suspension without pay.
  • Inform the employee of the number of days they will be suspended with the beginning and ending dates.
  • Describe the problem, the previous corrective measures, and the impact of the continued behavior or performance.
  • State the supervisor's expectations and the consequences of failure to improve.
  • Notify the employee of their appeal rights, if appropriate.

Depending upon the contract or personnel program the employee is covered by, a letter of intent to suspend may be required, which provides the employee with the right to appeal the intended action to the next higher management level before the action is implemented. Contact your Employee Relations Consultant as well as the appropriate policy or contractfor more information. A template letter may be requested from your Employee Relations Consultant.

Reduction of Pay within a Class

This alternative is normally used when a supervisor does not wish to remove the employee from the work site, but serious discipline is appropriate. Contact your Employee Relations Consultant for more information regarding this corrective action.

Demotion to a Lower Classification

This action involves moving an employee to a lower level position, and may be temporary or permanent. Demotion may be appropriate in cases of inadequate performance of responsibilities at a particular level, rather than violation of work rules. It should be based upon a reasonable expectation that the employee will perform successfully in the lower classified position. Contact your Employee Relations Consultant for more information regarding this action.


This action may be appropriate after performance counseling and progressive corrective action have failed to get the employee to correct the problem(s). Contact your Employee Relations Consultant for more information regarding this action.

thank you letter for speaker at event
But i love you baby
letter to collect money
How to write a formal email introducing yourself
sweet letter to my wife
Free business writing templates
my love for you will
Example resignation letter thank you

Reprimand an Employee For a Breach of Policy

sample letter of caution to employee

Are you looking to create your first warning letter to employee or want an official communication mechanism in your HR department? This blog shares some frequently used warning letter templates that you can copy and use immediately. Further, we have explained the entire process that you must use to transform employees’ behavior.

Let us first understand why we need to issue a warning letter to employees.

What calls for a warning letter?

A warning letter to an employee is a formal HR process to record misconduct, a disciplinary issue or poor performance and discuss it with the employee. The letter also helps in setting expectations for future behavior and may be a precursor to termination.

A warning letter is a formal communication mechanism that allows HR managers to take control of the situation and take necessary actions that follow the Company Policy.

When verbal communication between an employee and their supervisor (or HR Manager) do not lead to the desired changes, a written warning letter helps in highlighting the situation and recording the gaps. The process helps in ensuring the following

  • Documenting a warning through a formal letter ensures that the employees understands the matter is serious and needs timebound improvement
  • Storing written communication in an employee file allows easier access if the behavior is repeated
  • Official warning letters to employees can be used legally if termination (or other legal action) must be carried out

What to do while issuing a warning letter to employee

The following guidelines should be followed when you want to issue a warning letter to an employee. By adhering to these, you will ensure that the process has the desired impact

  • Setup a time and location with the employee where you will discuss the issue. This should preferably be done by sending an email to the employee or a written request (if the employee is not on email). Follow it up with a phone call to ensure the employee understands the importance of the meeting.
  • It is advisable to discuss the warning letter in a formal setting such as a meeting room, your office or a supervisor’s cabin and never in public places such as restaurants or company cafeteria.
  • Always create the warning letter on your company’s letterhead.
  • Print two copies of the warning letter, one for the employee and the other for office records.
  • Start the discussion by sharing why you have setup the meeting and discuss the issue with the employee citing specific areas which were of concern. It is better to be prepared with in depth details of the issue since the employee will often try to justify their behavior.
  • Discuss the specific outcomes that are expected from the employee in a specific timeline.
  • Document the employee’s thoughts (if any) on the company copy of the warning letter.
  • Share a signed copy of the warning letter with the employee and get the signature of the employee on the company copy. File the letter in employee records.

Here are three warning letter templates that you can copy to a word document and issue to employees as the need arises. You will need to fill in the data that is applicable to the specific situation by filling in replaceable data that is indicated between angular brackets (< >)

Warning Letter: Discipline Issue

Note: This warning letter is to be issued to employees in case they have violated key sections in the company policy document. Examples include harassment and violence.

Date: <The date when the letter was generated>

Name: <Full Name of employee>
Address: <Address of office location>

Re: Warning for Disciplinary Incident

Dear <First name of the Employee>,

This letter is to serve an official warning to you for the incident that happened on <Date of Incident>. We were informed about <Describe in brief the Incident>. This kind of misconduct is not expected in the workplace and is against Company Policy <mention the name of policy, page number, section no, para number, or serial number in the company policy document>.

Our policy and guidelines are designed with a goal to make the work environment and company culture open and safe for all employees at all levels. We expect every employee to respect and follow these guidelines in order to encourage a collaborative and performance oriented work culture.

Since you have been found to be violating the rules, we are hereby putting you on a warning period <Mention the duration of warning Period>. During this period, your behavior will be monitored.

Any re-occurrence of the violation will ensure strict action against you that may be followed by

(a) Suspension without pay or

(b) Termination without prior notice.

We continue to believe that you are a valuable part of our organization and expect you to show immediate improvements. Looking forward to seeing positive outcomes of this discussion.

If you need of my assistance or have queries, please feel free to reach out to me anytime. You are requested to sign a copy of this letter to indicate your acknowledgement of the discussion.


<Your Name><Employee Name>
<Title><Employee Title and Department>
<Signature><Employee Signature>
<Any notes and follow up action>

Warning Letter: Performance Issues

Note: This employee warning letter documents issues related to employee performance and is a formal mechanism to indicate that the employee needs to achieve their goals, or they may face termination.

Date: <The date when the letter was generated>

Name: <Full Name of employee>
Address: <Address of office location>

Re: Warning for Poor Work Performance

Dear <First name of the Employee>,

This letter serves a written warning to you for not meeting your objectives as outlined in your <Appointment Letter / Job Description / Prior performance appraisal / Goals as agreed between you and your supervisor>.

This letter confirms our discussion held on <date> regarding your below-par performance.

As intimated by <the management / your supervisor>, we are putting you on a Corrective Action Plan commencing from < mention date>. This plan is being introduced to bring your performance up to an acceptable standard, considering your capabilities and requirements of your job role.

Each member in our company is expected to contribute to the best of their abilities and meet the objectives laid out in their job role. Hence, we would like you to immediately improve your performance and meet expectations of your supervisor and company management.

We believe that you have the potential to be a meaningful contributor and would like you to work with commitment and resolve.

If you need of my assistance or have queries, please feel free to reach out to me anytime. You are requested to sign a copy of this letter to indicate your acknowledgement of the discussion and also document specific outcomes in the notes section below


<Your Name><Employee Name>
<Title><Employee Title and Department>
<Signature><Employee Signature>
<Any notes and follow up action>

Warning Letter: Frequent absence

Note: This warning letter to employee is to be issued in cases where employees are frequently absent or do not follow their time schedules.

Date: <The date when the letter was generated>

Name: <Full Name of employee>
Address: <Address of office location>

Re: Warning for Irregular Attendance

Dear <First name of the Employee>,

This letter is to serve a written warning to you for being irregular at work in <specify period>. We have observed the following issues. <Remove the non-applicable items>

  • You are taking too many leaves without prior approval of your supervisor
  • You are late at work or often leave prior to the close of office hours
  • You do not spend required hours in office
  • You do not conform to your shift timings

It has come to my knowledge that your supervisor has already discussed this with you multiple times but there are no improvement seen so far. Please consider this letter as an official warning from the management of our company.

Office is a place where your presence matters. Every employee (including you) has work targets and responsibilities and unexpected absence of any team member hampers the productivity and eventual outcomes that everyone is working for. Irregular attendance also affects the team morale and company discipline.

We are putting you on a warning period of <specify duration> and your attendance will be observed closely. If you continue to violate these policies and do not show changes in your behavior, the company reserves the right to terminate your employment without any further notice.

If you need of my assistance or have queries, please feel free to reach out to me anytime. You are requested to sign a copy of this letter to indicate your acknowledgement of the discussion and also document specific outcomes in the notes section below


<Your Name><Employee Name>
<Title><Employee Title and Department>
<Signature><Employee Signature>
<Any notes and follow up action>

Concluding Thoughts

  • Linking a disciplinary issue with an online Performance Improvement Plan helps you ensure that feedback is timely and remedial action can be taken.
  • If your employee responds well and shows improvement, don’t forget to follow up with positive feedback and words of encouragement.
  • It will be helpful to manage the entire “warning letter to employee” process in your HRMS to allow standardization of templates and an easier generation process.

This Employee Warning Letter is designed to be used by an employer early in the disciplinary process. For example it may be used for a first or second warning.

11+ Employee Warning Letter Templates

sample letter of caution to employee

When chronic absenteeism occurs in your workplace, the standard step that follows a verbal warning is a written letter to the employee. It’s important to remember that frequent absenteeism is often the result of illness or personal or family issues, so a level of sensitivity in the approach is required while still being firm about the individual adhering to the company’s policy. The team at ATS have created a sample employee warning letter for absenteeism, for more in-depth information on minimizing employee absenteeism, check out our free Attendance Policy guide.

To learn more about what you can do to prevent your company from losing money using time and attendance best practices, check these posts out:


What to Include In an Employee Warning Letter for Absenteeism

Writing a warning letter for absenteeism can be tricky business. It needs to be written in such a way that it informs the employee that he or she has not adhered to the company’s attendance policy while avoiding an overly authoritarian tone. The letter should be generally positive with a view to helping the employee change the problem behavior and improve performance.

The letter should detail which infractions have been committed by the employee, including specifics. The letter should clearly indicate what the consequences of further absenteeism will be.

A means for the employee to get back on track should then be outlined in the letter.

Sample Warning Letter

Employer’s Name

Company Name

Business Address

City, State, Zip Code


Employee’s Name

Employee’s Position

Employee’ Address

City, State, Zip Code

Dear Employee’s Name,

This letter is an official written reprimand that serves to emphasize the seriousness of your recent unauthorized absence from work. On DATE, you took leave from your job without requesting or receiving prior permission from your manager. This written warning letter comes soon after a verbal warning you received following several late arrivals for work. In the absence of mitigating emergency circumstances, this kind of behavior is seen as a sign of gross negligence of your duties that goes against our company’s employee attendance policy.

If additional unauthorized absences or late arrivals occur, you will be subjecting yourself to possible further disciplinary action.

At company name, we value attendance and consider it to be an important factor in any employee’s position. It is our sincere hope that you will adhere to the company’s attendance expectations to avoid further actions.

You are hereby advised that further infractions of our attendance policy will not be accepted and that proper attendance is required.

Kindly treat this matter with all the urgency and seriousness it demands. A copy of this letter will be enclosed in your official personnel file.

Employer’s Signature

Employer’s Printed Name

Company Name

Every employee warning letter for absenteeism can be slightly modified or changed to reflect the opinions or policies of the company, but this sample will usually have all your bases covered.

While ATS is passionate about time and attendance and excited to support organizations navigate workforce dynamics around timekeeping, we recommend you reach out to your regional and/or local HR chapter for more information on common workplace advice and procedures.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: HR Basics: Employee Discipline

Free employee warning letter 10 Printable employee warning letter 10 · Icon · Download.

sample letter of caution to employee
Written by Gozilkree
Write a comment