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How to Respond to a Verbal Warning at Work

Although a verbal warning may seem like a slap on the wrist, it is the first step in a disciplinary policy that, if not taken seriously, could lead to termination. Take steps to correct the situation and save your job.


  • Step 1: Ask your boss for periodic reports on your job performance. With regular feedback, you'll be less likely to get blindsided with disciplinary action in the future. While a verbal warning is just the first stage in disciplinary action, it does go on your record.
  • FACT: If an employer doesn't follow specific disciplinary and termination policies in place at the company, the company can be sued for wrong termination.
  • TIP: If you suspect that the warning was unjustified, take the matter up with your boss or your company's HR department.
  • Step 2: Take notes during the meeting in which you receive the warning. Later, when you've had time to clear your head, go over the notes and consider whether the assessment was fair and what you can do to change the situation.
  • Step 3: Ask your supervisor what behavior they would like you to exhibit instead of focusing on the behavior that earned the warning. If you know specifically what's expected of you, you'll be better able to meet expectations.
  • Step 4: Find someone who's doing well at the company and carefully note their behavior. Talk to them to get ideas and model yourself after them.
  • Step 5: Honestly evaluate the situation. Objectively consider why you received the warning and take the opportunity to think about the company and your position in it.

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