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Effective ways to write up an employee

Effective ways to write up an employee

As a manager, you expect good behaviors from your staff. You want them to be constructive, productive, and positive to help achieve your company goals. But sometimes the real world doesn't give you what you prefer. Instead, you get less motivated, negative, and absentees who never focus on your goals.

But, how do you deal with such behaviors? Do you terminate their contracts? Sure, disciplining employees can sometimes prove challenging and stressful. So, what should you do when you’re faced with indiscipline cases? Simple, issue an employee write up form.

This article defines employee write up form, how you can create one, why they are essential. We also cover some situations that force employers to issue their employees with write up forms.

What is employee write up form?

An employee write up form is a document that records deficiencies in the conduct or behaviors of a staff/employee. It explains the details of an employee and the protocol or organization’s rule they have broken. The document also covers correctional actions the employer plans to take against the employee.

In most cases, employers will send employee write-ups after several warnings. However, the staff still fails to adhere to the guidelines provided.

Which incidents can lead to employee write-ups?

The most encountered reasons that often lead to employee work write up are noncompliance to the organizations' values and regulations like:

  • Poor performance or providing substandard work
  • Violation of specific rules like safety regulations
  • Inappropriate conduct like insubordination

Employers may also give employees write up forms when involved or engage in negative behaviors that undermine the organization's performances or success. Such behaviors like:

  • Failure to provide helpful feedback
  • Too much negativity without providing any constructive idea
  • Unexcused absenteeism; of course, you can miss work, but it's wise for the managers to know
  • Too many excuses and failure to complete tasks assigned
  • Abusive or disrespectful behaviors like always being rude to managers and employees
  • Domineering or uncooperative behaviors
  • Inappropriate dressing code or attire
  • Repeated tardiness and lateness or missed periods of work
  • Similar repeated complaints from customers regarding the conduct of a specific employee
  • Alcohol and drug abuse or operating under the influence of substances within the work premise

What should you include in the employee write up form?

An employee write up should have the following details:

Identification of both the individual issuing the form and the name of the problematic employee.

  • The description of the behavior or the performances that warranted the write up
  • Include a statement of the company policies that have been violated and the employers’ expectations moving forward. Like what will happen in case there is no change in behaviors or performance
  • Signatures of the employee and the manager plus one witness, probably the HR, indicating that a conversation occurred and was attended by some people

What are the benefits of the employee write up form?

Dismissing or firing an employee is not an easy task. In fact, it’s a burden to the company as they have to look for new replacements, which consume time and resources.

Similarly, employees who feel the employer is dismissing them for no good reason may sue their employer for wrongful termination. Therefore, having an employee write up form is effective in several ways as it:

Offers protection against legal liability

While documenting an employee's disciplinary actions and conduct, you also protect yourself against future lawsuits. It can be easy for some employees to claim they were mistreated, and sometimes this may happen months after the incident.

However, if you didn't record the actions, you can be prosecuted for wrongful termination. But having an employee write up form ensures you records of misconducts by the employee. So, always ensure you file all the employee write up forms in a permanent file and keep them for about years even after leaving your company.

Ensures progressive discipline

Progressive discipline entails using a graduated procedure of discipline to address or solve employee behavioral and performance problems at the workplace. Its purpose is to ensure employees have reasonable opportunities to improve or correct their behaviors. It also provides fair notice of consequences employees will receive if they don't correct their issues.

Therefore, a write up form contains a small or elaborative part that guides how you plan to deal with any progressive behaviors or indiscipline cases. It, thus, allows for a well-defined and established pattern of how to handle specific unacceptable behaviors.

Help keep a record of occurrence

No one expects you to keep or remember everything. Still, you can always document activities that may be significant in the future.

A good example is to take note of every customer complaint against your staff; then, when doing employee assessment and evaluation, you record the occurrence in the employees' file. This may help in the future when you have a discipline case about the employee.

Help set standards for supervisors and managers

In companies with different managers, there are high chances that every manager or supervisor will have their own approaches to disciplining employees of their team. Some managers will be lenient with punishing or sending warnings, and other supervisors may be too strict.

Such inconsistency may sometimes create confusion, especially when an employee under one manager doesn't get disciplined, and another individual is heavily disciplined for the same behavior.

Again, the confusion will result in a system without standards where some employees feel mistreated or that the managers are unfair. However, having a well-established employee write up form will provide proper guidelines of what to include will help set guidelines or standards for managers and supervisors.

Set structure for employees

No doubt, but when employees understand and see how penalties for certain behaviors are levied, they'll become more keen and comfortable with the rules or structure they operate under.

Generally, a well-defined behavioral or disciplinary structure ensures employees know their boundaries.

Tips for writing compelling employee write-ups

The following guidelines will ensure you create a great write-up form that best serves your intentions:

Communicate first 

Before you start writing, you need to understand the cause and source of the matter, why an employee has misbehaved, or why they haven't followed the workplace rules. So, allow employees to verbally on in a written form explain their problem.

If the cause of the issue was something out of their control, then remove the barrier and help improve their success or performances. Also, coach or train them if they aren't aware of the behavioral act before taking any correctional actions.

Be specific 

With the main reason for writing a write up form: record for future reference in mind, you have to be specific as possible. So, document exactly what happened, who did it, who saw it (witness), and when it happed, with dates and time of the occurrence. You can also include where it happened and how it the misconduct happened.

Connect and describe the conduct to the company policies

You can only pin down your employee when they have conducted something against your company policies. That said, ensure to write, quote or mention the procedure the employee has violated. This will help defend you if the employee decides to sue the company for wrongful termination. Plus, it also ensures that the company policies are not disregarded.

It would help if you then mentioned how the misconduct or the violation had affected the company. For instance, if it's a problem of poor customer service, you can describe financial loss brought by the employee's actions. Also, let the employee know or understand how their actions affect the company at large.  

Avoid or limit unnecessary commentary

Related to being specific, you must ensure you keep the discussion focused on the actual or particular misconduct or wrongdoing. For instance, when an employee failed to provide certain documents the last time, you should not return them when you find them on other mistakes.

So, limit bringing back some of the matters that the employee did in the past, making it hard for them to focus on what they need to do to correct their mistakes. But, you have the right to record the actions because they may happen in the future.

Ensure prompt delivery of the form

Regardless of the cause or reason for writing a write up, don't hesitate to deliver it to the employee in time. Let them know that they have a disciplinary note in place, then allow the employee to respond or correct the behavior in time.

Set expectations for employee improvement

You can only prevent repeating the same if you let employees know what’s expected of them in every situation. So, include your expectations on the form to give them precise details on where they went wrong. Even better, the employee should follow concrete steps for effective and corrective feedback.

Have a face-to-face meeting

Immediately you're done filling the write-up form, schedule a meeting with one or two trusted team members and employees to help review the details. This will also confirm that you made an informed decision.

During the meeting and in a neutral voice, express your feelings about the employee's conduct, listing every example referring to the company policies. You should then remind and ensure the employee reads and confirm if they had agreed to the same guidelines when you hired them.

Ensure the employee’s sign the document

Once an employee has seen sense in what caused their write-up, it’s time for them to sign the document. Signing guarantees that the employee won't claim later that they were wrongfully accused.

What happens when an employee refuses to sign a write up form?

Though it's not a good move, employees can still fail to sign, especially when they feel the reasons given aren’t valid. If employees opt not to sign the document, the HR and another witness can document their signatures indicating their presence. In case of any lawsuit, they can be called to testify of the disciplinary actions.

However, whenever employees disagree with the reasons, it's advisable the let the managers add a line at that state they acknowledge the form. Still, they don't agree with its reasons.

Keep a copy of the form in the employee's permanent file

Once the face-to-face meeting is over, and both parties have signed the document, make copies and give one to the employee. At the same time, you keep the other one in their personnel file for future references. If you terminate an employee even for a different reason, ensure to keep the file for up to a year after the termination date.

Things to do when you receive a write up form

Receiving a write up can sometimes frustrate and lower employees’ morale to do other tasks, and in most cases, some would be wild or rude. But that should not be the case, whichever the reason for a write, ensure you always:

Remain calm

Of course, you can get emotional for being criticized for your professional conduct; you should do your best not to show any weird feelings that may worsen your situation. That applies even when you disagree with the write up.

Note down key points and express your views

When you’re called to a meeting, you have to stay calm and write down any crucial information, especially those related to the reason for the write up.

After listening and noting down key points, you agree or disagree with the information. So, speak up and let your managers know how you feel. You can also send a written rebuttal, especially when you think you have been wrongly accused. Just ensure you avoid sounding over defensive. 


Terminating or dismissing employees is not an easy task. You have to first verbally or in written form warn them against specific conducts, then create a write up form when the conditions persist. Still, you have to let them know the reasons for writing them up. All in all, ensure you give employees a chance to respond to your write up forms to understand their feelings and prevent further lawsuits for wrongful termination. 

Contributor: admin
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