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How to Write a Rebuttal Letter to Your Employer

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Controlling your emotional responses is an effective first step to writing a rebuttal letter to your employer. If you're dissatisfied with a performance rating or feel you've been wrongfully discharged or accused of a company violation, defensiveness and anger are likely the emotions that you feel immediately upon learning about your employment status. Once you manage your emotions and sit down to craft a well-thought-out rebuttal that explains your position, you'll be in a better frame of mind to write a letter that warrants a reasonable response from your employer.

Check Company Procedures

Before you fire off a letter to dispute your performance appraisal or present your side of the story concerning a sexual harassment accusation, check with the human resources department or your supervisor about the proper steps to filing a rebuttal. Many organizations have a formal process for appealing performance appraisal ratings, disciplinary action or incidents involving policy violations. Ask for a written copy of the steps or take notes during your meeting to discuss how to file a rebuttal and repeat the steps back to the HR staff member to demonstrate your understanding of the process.

Gather Facts and Documentation

Always begin with a draft statement that clearly and succinctly presents factual information and gather your accompanying documentation. For example, if you're accused of inappropriate behavior, such as engaging in sexual harassment, prepare a statement of facts and chronology of events leading up to the accusation. In this case, you might include facts about your position, the accuser's position, the nature of your relationship -- supervisor, subordinate or peer -- as well as the dates on which you received training concerning the company's harassment prevention and anti-discrimination policies. If your rebuttal is related to a poor performance appraisal, assemble such documents as previous performance appraisals, disciplinary statements, commendations and a list of successfully completed tasks or projects that demonstrate your expertise and competence.

Prepare a Draft Statement

Create an outline that begins with the facts and documentation you assembled. Then proceed with a brief statement of why you are rebutting the accusation or performance rating. Refrain from using incendiary phrases and confrontational language. For example, don't write, "My supervisor is unfair and gave me a poor appraisal rating because she wants to terminate me." Instead, write, "On October 1, my supervisor and I met to discuss my performance appraisal for the preceding 12 months. The purpose of this letter is to present facts and information to support my request for a management review of the performance appraisal rating."

Point-by-Point Rebuttal

Clarify the reasons why you request a review and why you disagree with the performance appraisal rating or accusation. Using bullets or numbers can be an effective way to list the reasons, point by point. This is especially helpful with rebutting a performance appraisal. In this case, you might list A, B, C for each area of the performance appraisal, such as job skills, interpersonal relationships, attendance and so forth. If you're rebutting an accusation, respond to each point of the accusation and state the reason why you dispute the accusation.

Refine Your Rebuttal

Sleep on it, meaning wait a day before you refine your draft rebuttal. To prevent yourself from writing a letter that puts the recipient on the defensive, finalize your letter with your desired outcome in mind. The outcome you want is consideration or review by someone higher up in the organization or, at a minimum, a letter that becomes part of your official personnel file. End your letter with a respectfully written paragraph that asks for review, consideration or a meeting to discuss the points you raise.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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