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Table of Contents

Take care of your people and protect your business

Are you comfortable disciplining employees? Discipline can be a challenging part of HR, so knowing your tools, and when to use each to correct the behavior needing change, is useful. Employee write-ups are one of those tools. Read on to learn how to improve your current practice.

What Are Employee Write-Ups?

A write-up is written documentation that records new or ongoing deficiencies in the conduct and/or performance of a specific employee. The intent is to clearly explain the situation and the corrective action you wish the employee to take. Write-ups are placed in the employee’s personnel file.

What’s Included in an Employee Write-Up

An employee write-up needs certain components to be valuable when tracking performance management for your team and workforce.

Identification

Include the name(s) of the employee displaying the problematic behavior and the person issuing the write-up.

The Behavior/Performance Description

Write a thorough description of the performance/behavior that warranted the write-up. Include the name(s) of individuals involved, supporting documentation, like an employee’s time card, and any previous incidents related to the performance issue.

Example: “Sally has reported one hour late to work each day for the past week, as documented in the attached timecard.

Monday- clocked in at 9:00 am

Tuesday- clocked in at 9:03 am

Wednesday- clocked in at 8:57 am

Thursday- clocked in at 9:01 am

Friday- clocked in at 9:30 am

Company Policy and Expectations

Include a statement of the company policy that was violated, what the employer expects going forward, and what will happen if the employee doesn’t improve performance.

Example:

“Every employee is required to come to work on time at the start of their shift. Sally is expected to be to work at the start of shift, 8:00 am, for the next week to avoid further disciplinary action. Failure to improve may result in further action, up to and including termination of employment.”

Signatures

At the bottom, include a place for three signatures: the employee, their manager, and HR. This provides documentation that the conversation occurred and who attended. If an employee refuses to sign the write-up, write the statement below in all caps with the date.

Example: “EMPLOYEE REFUSED TO SIGN XX/XX/XXXX”

When to Issue an Employee Write-Up

It can be difficult to know when an employee write-up is an appropriate tool to mediate a certain issue. Consider the examples below to give insight into when a write-up should be used.

Productivity Concern

When an employee’s productivity declines, a manager should be concerned. First, they should check to see if the employee is under stress, needs training, or needs other support. If the manager determines there is no reason for the productivity decline, then the manager may move towards a write-up.

Insubordination/Policy Noncompliance

When an employee engages in behavior that is crude, disrespectful, or damages company culture or reputation, a write-up alerts the employee that their behavior is not acceptable and he/she needs to change it immediately. The same is true for repeated violations of company policy, such as the dress code.

Excessive Personal Time

Taking extended breaks, long lunches, and personal calls during the workday lowers productivity and impacts the entire team. Inquire as to any needs the employee has that might be prompting this behavior, and see how they can be met more appropriately. Otherwise, you and the manager can move toward a written warning.

Attendance Issues

A write-up is appropriate for chronic issues regarding absences and tardiness. After a manager seeks to understand why an employee is absent or late and they are given a chance to correct the behavior, a write-up may be deemed necessary. (If an employee is taking care of a serious illness or going to the doctor related to pregnancy, which are events covered by FMLA, you can get involved and educate the employee on what they are entitled to.)

Best Practices for Handling an Employee Write-Up

The practices below elevate write-ups to be a valuable tool in your performance management.

Communicate First

Seek to understand the source of this issue. Allow the employee to provide a written and/or verbal response to explain the problem to you. If the source is something out of the employee’s control (i.e. not trained or machinery failure), then you can work to remove the barrier to the employee’s success. If the employee wasn’t aware of the issue or it is behavioral, they may only need coaching to correct it.

Be Specific

When writing about the behavior/performance, be as specific as possible.

  • Who saw it?
  • Who did it?
  • What happened?
  • When did it happen? Include date and time.
  • Where did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

Quote Company Policy

Whether it is in an employee handbook or another source, copy and paste the policy related to the performance/behavior into the write-up.

Mention Previous Coachings and Write-ups

If employee behavior has continued to go against policy or practice, include a record of previous incidents and respective disciplinary actions. This documents that this write-up builds upon previous disciplinary action.

Prompt Delivery

Regardless of the reason for the write-up, do not wait to deliver it. For example, if an employee is not meeting productivity expectations, they may not be aware of it. An immediate response allows the employee to quickly correct their behavior and operate more appropriately.

Take care of your people and protect your business

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Write-Ups

If an employee refuses to sign the write-up, write the statement below in all caps and provide the date.
“EMPLOYEE REFUSED TO SIGN XX/XX/XXXX”

Yes. Every employer typically has a list of “zero-tolerance behaviors.” Whether it is weapons, drugs, or bullying, these behaviors can result in the immediate termination of employment, foregoing a disciplinary process.

The exact number depends on your company’s progressive discipline policy. A common practice is three write-ups.

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.

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