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At some point in your career, your boss may present you with a written warning to discuss performance problems, absenteeism, or a behavioral issue, and ask you to sign the document. While you can refuse to sign if you disagree with the writeup, consider the potential effect that can have on your career and other ways to respond.
You may be surprised by the write-up, and feel that it is untrue or unfair. Keep in mind that your signature doesn't necessary mean you agree with the warning, but that you have received the document. Therefore, before you react, read the document closely, to determine what's actually being said.
Sign or Not
It might seem wrong to sign a warning that seems unfair or untrue. Although signing the document does not mean that you agree, you might believe refusing to sign it will indicate your disagreement. Not true, according to attorney Aaron Morris of Morris & Stone in Santa Ana, California. On the firm’s website, Morris writes that refusing to sign a warning could result in additional action being taken against you – including termination for insubordination.
According to Morris, you could sign the warning and write "signed under protest" beneath your signature. Your company may provide a comments section as well, allowing you to respond, or you may also want to write an account of your version of events. To avoid an unproductive or adversarial situation, remain objective and avoid placing blame. Be polite, professional and avoid objectionable language.
Receiving a written warning can be a shock – no one enjoys being told his performance is unacceptable. After the shock wears off, consider the warning’s feedback objectively. If there are areas requiring improvement, make those changes. While a written warning can remain in your employee file for some time, its effect diminishes if you proactively address the issue. This also helps you develop as an employee. However, if you still disagree with the write-up, and feel there is no incentive to change your behavior, it may be time to consider another job.
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Mason Tilford-Mabry has extensive experience writing human resources and training materials, both as a corporate manager and as a small business owner. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in English: technical communication from Minnesota State University, Mankato.