Knowing when to issue a 1st written warning or simply terminate an employee when they cross the line of unacceptable behavior takes some serious consideration so that you don't get in trouble legally. In addition these days, amid the Great Recession and the complexities of the modern job market, only the most fortunate can really afford to lose their jobs.
It's a difficult thing on everybody. While the dismissed employees are usually the first to suffer, losing wages and routines in less than a day, other people inside a business also suffer from other problems. Managers need to seek out new employees to replace the fired employee while juggling the paperwork to end the person's employment and risking backlash if the dismissal was not as fair as it seemed to the manager, while the other employees have to work harder to pick up the dismissed worker's slack until a new worker can be hired.
This is not much fun for anybody, particularly when jobs are scarce, hours are long and wages are not keeping up with inflation. Still, it is a truism of any industry that sometimes employees just don't work out, Whether it's something outrageous like assaulting a manager or destroying a fortune in company property or something more subtle such as simply being far, far too difficult to work with due to personality clashes, sometimes it really is best for everybody to terminate a person's employment. But, with all the aforementioned problems, sometimes there needs to be something between no punishment and termination.
Issuing a 1st written warning is a fairly solid way to hold employees accountable for their mistakes. What can lead to a 1st written warning will of course vary between businesses, but some matters are universal. An employee who makes a habit of missing work without warning is always a problem, and sometimes simply docking pay isn't enough to get the message across.
This is especially true when the employee's work is actually desperately needed at a business when they're scheduled to be there. The service and retail industries are particularly vulnerable to needing employees to be at the workplace when they're scheduled to be there, as missing even one employee during peak hours can have a devastating effect on the entire business. While this makes firing an employee an even more painful proposition if they're badly needed, holding employees accountable for not being there when they're needed is always a good idea. Thus, it makes sense that missing one shift during peak hours for no real reason is more worthy of a 1st written warning than an outright dismissal. Other workplace issues can also be mended surprisingly well with a 1st written warning.
Unhygienic employees who are making the workplace harder for people to deal with can also benefit from 1st warnings before dismissal. Whether it's poor bathing habits that lead to foul odors or bad personal hygiene that poses safety and legal liability risks to your business, letting an employee know that their personal hygiene is unacceptable is usually all it takes to get them back on track, particularly if other than their foul bad habits, they're good workers. A 1st written warning can also be used to hold employees accountable for slacking off on the job, whether they're napping in the back room or looking up Internet pornography on a company connection.
Sometimes all the written warning does is make it clear to an employee that their sloth has been noticed by management and that it is harming the business as a whole. Most of the time, employees slack off on the job because they believe no one is aware of it; correcting this misconception is usually the easiest way to fix these problems without causing other problems for the business by dismissing the employee.
Some employees are simply difficult to work with. While this is a far, far blurrier line than any of the obvious reasons to give an employee a written warning, sometimes an employee who other employees don't like to work with need to be warned about their behavior. Wording the warning right can be essential to showing an employee what they're doing wrong. Calling them “abrasive” and little else won't get many results, but detailing the attitudes and behaviors that are making the job harder for other employees will probably get better results. Finally, it should be noted that sometimes, employees do need to be held accountable for mistakes that are noticeable, but simply not the end of the world for your business. Therefore, after a year or more of no real problems with the employee can generally be chalked up to a simple bad roll of the dice. In these cases, a 1st written warning is great for letting the employee know that they have made a mistake, but without the severity of a dismissal over a problem that, while serious, is not a major disaster.