The first time I had to give someone a written warning as manager I was dreading it. An employee of mine was consistently late in submitting her paperwork and I was forced to write her up. She took it very graciously and even thanked me. I was relieved and surprised it went so well. A few day later she spread a rumor that I was sleeping with someone in office. Yeah, I guess she didn’t take it as well as I thought.
Being disciplined is difficult, here are some suggestions on how to make a workplace warning a learning opportunity, rather than a career damaging event.
- Look at this as an opportunity to grow as a person. Whatever the circumstances are, face it as a challenge to overcome. As the Dali Lama is fond of saying, “It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”
- Take 100% responsibility. Your first reaction is probably going to be to make excuses, point fingers, or maybe even blame your boss. However, the best approach is always to take ownership of what happened and define what you will do next to fix things.
- Make sure you understand what you need to change. Emotions will be clouding your perceptions, so make sure you are very clear on what employer’s expectations are. You will want to check in with your boss on a regular basis to make sure they are happy with your progress. Also, make sure you document all your actions and progress.
- Get support. This can take many forms, anywhere from more training and mentoring, to emotional support from an outside professional. Most people I have seen get warnings fail at this. Don’t be afraid to admit that you can’t do something. Remember this is a time for you to grow.
Don’t do the following:
- Blame others
- Lash out
- Complain to coworkers
- Cause more problems
- Shut down
- Give up
Keep in mind that there will be two dynamics in play after you get a warning, the “Fundamental Attribution Error” and “Conformation Bias.” The Fundamental Attribution Error happens when we humans falsely attribute the negative behaviors of others to their character, while we attribute our own negative behaviors to our environment. In other words, we like to believe that we do bad things because of the given situation where in, bad things others do is because they are flawed. So you might be thinking you are a victim, while your boss is more than likely thing your to blame. Equally as important is Confirmation Bias, the unspoken social dynamic where we tend to seek out evidence to support our beliefs. So if you boss believes you are flawed, they will see anything else you do wrong as evidence that they were correct in writing you up. So you will have to really step up your game and keep communicating.
It’s rare that you can go through a career without getting at least one warning. Make it work for you.