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How to Write Up Disrespectful Employees

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Writing up a disrespectful employee requires sufficient documentation and well-supported evidence explaining when and how the employee acted out of line. Emphasize specific examples, keep careful records and keep your emotions in check. Even if you operate your business in an at-will employment state, careful observation and thorough documentation can protect you in a legal case, should an employee attempt to sue you for wrongful termination. Plus, you'll have evidence to back why the employee forfeited a pay raise or a promotion.

Cite Specific Examples

Document specific examples of how and when the employee exhibited inappropriate behavior. Avoid general phrases, such as "The employee had a bad attitude" or "The employee responded poorly," and instead list specific words or actions that demonstrate how he violated work policies or the company's code of conduct, suggests Paul Falcone, author and human resources executive in Los Angeles. For example, you might write, "On February 2, 2021, Tom Jones rolled his eyes, stomped his foot and said, 'I don't get paid enough for this,' when I asked him to correct the mathematical errors in his monthly report."

Avoid Prejudice or Bias

Avoid any type of language that could be construed as prejudiced or discriminatory. Don't mention the employee's age, gender, race, religion, pregnancy or any disabilities she has. Instead, focus solely on her tone, word choice, body language and disregard for your authority. Employees have a duty to uphold and follow their manager's directives – as long as they aren't illegal – even if they disagree with the job requests, according to Human Resource Executive Online. Document every incident of disrespect or insubordination so you can prove that there's a pattern to the employee's behavior and that it wasn't just a one-time occurrence.

Keep Records and File All Paperwork

Keep a copy of all relevant memos, emails and sticky notes the employee has written so you have evidence to back your write-up. Document any complaints other employees or clients have issued about the disrespectful employee. Write-ups should include the date the write-up was written, when and where the inappropriate behavior occurred, who was involved, a detailed description of what happened, policies that were violated and your signature. List any steps you expect the employee to take to correct the matter, such as apologizing to a coworker or re-reading the employee handbook. Give the employee a copy of the write-up to sign and return, and keep it in her personnel file. Include a statement at the bottom of the write-up that says the document will be kept in her personnel file.

Address Write-Up Challenges

Be prepared for the employee to challenge your assertions. Stay calm, unemotional and objective, and politely remind the employee that disrespectful behavior won't be tolerated. Avoid discussing personal issues that the employee says are the root cause behind her unacceptable behavior, suggests The Littler Learning Group. The goal is to maintain a high-level of professionalism. Explain the consequences if the employee fails to correct or improve her behavior, such as discussing the matter with senior management or termination.


As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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