Warning Letter | Meaning and Definition

What is a warning letter?

A warning letter refers to a formal document allocated to an employee by an employer under the Human Resources (HR) processes for misbehavior, misconduct, or poor performance. The letter is helpful in establishing expectations for proper behavior in the future. It is a way of communicating formally and taking action to rectify the situation and taking control of it under the Company Policy. When repeated instances of verbal communication do not seem to yield any desired shifts in disposition or attitude of the employee, a written warning letter is provided. This document formally highlights the scenario and enlists the gaps.

Before dishing out and writing a warning letter to an employee, the following things must be considered:

  •   Consult the employee
  •   Identify the conduct problem clearly.
  •   Prepare a warning letter
  •   Issue the letter of warning to the employee


An HR warning letter can be deemed as an ultimatum provided to employees under specific circumstances like underperforming continuously, infringement of company’s laws, repeatedly misbehaving in the workplace, and so on. A warning letter is a part of disciplinary procedures, which is sent to the new employees post the release of Probation Extension Letter format to them after the workers fail at outpacing their (PIP) Permanent Improvement Plan or prior to terminating the employment contract. However, when it comes to permanent manpower, a warning letter can be allocated at any phase of the lifecycle of an employee, wherever it is applicable.

A typical warning letter includes employee name, current date, location and time, content (letter body), infringement nature, penalty, remedial/ corrective measures, issuer’s signature, and consequential actions.

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