Sandra asks: I have been given a written warning at work for talking behind people’s backs; they said I am the worst one at this in our store. I was not given a chance to prove myself because it was their word against mine, three-to-one. They only told half the story and my side was just dismissed. My job is now on the line.
The important thing to remember with warnings is that it’s important to respond. Not responding doesn’t mean the warning goes away or won’t count (no matter how much you might want to just forget about something which must’ve been a stressful experience for you).
Address the issues they raise in the warning and give your side of the story. Try not to get involved in “She said, I said” or attribute blame as such, even though it might be really tempting – the tone you’re going for is respectful, simple and business-like. Keep a copy of everything you send as well – I’m not saying the situation is going to escalate but it’s good practice to keep a record of any business correspondence – you never know when it will come in handy.
Here’s some more general information which is good to know about warnings.
• Warnings don’t have to be in writing;
• Don’t sign anything you disagree with;
• You have the right to take the warning away with you for consideration and advice before signing;
• If you’re made to sign on the spot note on it what you disagree with and that you’re being made to sign under duress;
• Keep a copy of anything you sign.
Workplaces can sometimes be really tricky to navigate and things we say in a light-hearted way can unintentionally offend someone; or comments made in confidence about other colleagues can sometimes come back to bite us.
As a rule of thumb it pays to remember that workplaces, no matter how relaxed they might be, are still places of employment and rules apply which don’t between groups of friends or family members about what it’s ok to say and do.
It’s so easy to be dragged into conversations that would really better to walk away from – as you’ve discovered. Don’t panic though, make sure you send that letter to your boss giving your side of events and let them know you want to keep your job.
Why don’t you call the Australian Unions team on 1300 486 466? They can go over this with you as well as give you some general advice about anything else which might be worrying you. They can also help you join a union, which is the best way of making sure you’re protected for the future.