How To Issue A Warning

Whichever stage in the disciplinary process you are at, it’s important to use the correct vocabulary. Whether you’re in a meeting delivering a verbal warning, or you’ve given a written warning to an employee, formality and professionalism are important in your vocabulary.

On these pages, we’ll outline a Verbal Warning and a Written Warning, briefly outlining the procedure and providing some vocabulary options to help you remain professional and respectful.


1. Verbal Warning

A verbal warning occurs when you inform an employee that if their work, behaviour, or actions within the workplace don't improve or change, there may be further action taken against them. The employee is usually offered the opportunity to bring a colleague or representative with them.

Following the procedure, the manager:

  • explains the reason for the meeting

  • has any related discussion necessary

  • explains the company policy and disciplinary procedure relevant to the situation

  • delivers the verbal warning to the employee

  • explains the next stages of the disciplinary process to make the employee aware of any further consequences

Here we have two examples of management delivering a verbal warning to an employee.

Example 1

An employee has been called into a meeting by his manager for arriving to work late too many times this month. The manager is planning on giving the employee a verbal warning. The employee thinks they are being informally cautioned about their lateness and is none the wiser about the verbal warning.

When a manager sits down with an employee in this context, they tend to open the conversation with something polite and professional, like:

Thank you for meeting with me today” or “I appreciate you coming to meet with me today”.

After this, the manager explains the reason for the meeting and the disciplinary procedure. This part is very straightforward. Vocabulary for delivering the verbal warning looks something like this:



  • Considering how many times you’ve been late…

  • Because of your late record this month…

  • As a result of how many times you’ve been late this month…

  • …we’ve had to take action to try to stabilise/remedy the situation. A verbal warning has been put in place.

  • …it was necessary to issue a verbal warning.

  • Due to the high amount of lateness you have accumulated this month…

  • On account of the number of lates this month…

  • …we have to give you a verbal warning. We’re hoping the situation will be under control from now on.

  • We’ve monitored the situation for as long as we could…

  • …but we had to step in before it got out of hand. We are issuing you with a verbal warning.


Example 2

An employee has continuously turned in a lower standard of work over the past few weeks. Management have addressed the situation informally and they set a plan with the employee to help them overcome their blip in the road. The employee hasn’t followed the instructions set out for them for improvement and finds themself below expectations. Management have called a meeting.

In this instance, vocabulary for delivering the verbal warning looks something like this:



  • We’ve done our utmost to help you through this difficult period…

  • We apologise that it has come to this…

  • Things unfortunately haven’t gone the way we hoped, so…

  • …but we feel we have no other option but turn to a disciplinary sanction. We will be issuing you with a verbal warning today.

  • it was necessary to issue a verbal warning.

  • we have no choice but to issue a verbal warning.

  • In the interest of the company, we’ve had to make a decision on your situation.

  • On the grounds that you’ve massively underachieved recently…

  • We’ve had to intervene before this went any further…

  • We are giving you a verbal warning today. We will continue to help you improve, but action needed to be taken.

  • We need to act now to stop this developing further.

  • We are issuing a verbal warning today and hope to see improvements in the near future.


Verbal warnings are usually the first step in disciplinary proceedings. Let’s take a look at the written warnings, which are usually the follow-on procedure from a verbal warning.

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