May 31, 2020 is a daily online magazine covering small business news. We help entrepreneurs transform ideas and innovations into greatness.

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Terminating Employees


Second Warning Letter To Employee

Employee relations sometimes require employers to take action for poor performance. Second warning letters are the linchpin of an extended termination process and here's the information yours should contain.

Wouldn't it be great if all of your employees did their jobs effectively and behaved in a professional manner in your workplace?
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Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. For whatever reason, workers sometimes fail to meet performance standards and engage in behavior that is clearly inappropriate for a small business work environment.

Although it's possible to immediately fire an under-performing employee, most business owners and HR teams elect to take a longer approach, especially if the issue isn't egregious or harmful to other workers. The process usually begins with an employee sit down and the issuance of a warning letter that is distributed and then placed in the employee's permanent file. If the behavior or performance issue continues, a second warning letter is issued to ramp up the seriousness of the problem and to lay the groundwork for termination.

Second warning letters confirm that the problem has already been discussed and that the employee is has not taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation. They also serve notice that this is the employee's final warning so that when the end comes, it's not a surprise.

  • Date and recipients. Although it sounds obvious, don't overlook the inclusion of the date and the list of recipients at the top of a second warning letter. Remember: You're trying to establish a history of non-performance or bad behavior, and when you forget to date the document you damage the documentation trail.
  • Reference to first warning. Your letter should begin by referencing the first warning letter and face-to-face conversation. It should discuss when the letter was sent (last week, last month, etc.) and summarize it's content (e.g. addressing issues that required immediate improvement).
  • Discussion of ongoing issues. Next, the second warning letter should make it clear that the problems described in the first letter have not been resolved. You should go into detail here and maybe even include a bullet list of examples that demonstrate the employee's non-responsiveness.
  • Repercussions & review. What happens if the employee still refuses to make the necessary changes? The second warning letter should describe the consequences for continued non-action and reiterate that this is the final warning. It should also articulate details about a weekly review process.
  • Dated employee signature. An employee signature is critical to prove that the person has been made aware of the continuing nature of the problem and the consequences of inaction.

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