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How to Write Up an Employee

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Whether your employee is chronically late or absent, doesn't do her job diligently enough, has conflicts with other employees or has any other chronic problems in the workplace, there may come a time when you have to "write up" that employee. A fact-based document that follows your workplace protocol is the clearest way to communicate issues to your employee. This written warning serves as evidence that you've taken steps to help the employee improve. It is an important record to maintain should you have to fire the employee. If that former employee decides to pursue an employment suit, written documentation serves as a paper trail of your process.

Get Some Help

Many workplaces have clear protocols for how to handle employee performance or behavior problems. The first place to look is your employee handbook, but you can also consult your human resources officer or your workplace legal department for guidance or a template or form you need to follow. Often, a written warning or write-up follows a verbal warning. If you find that's the case for your workplace, be sure you've given that verbal warning before you turn to the written complaint. If you've already given the verbal warning, be sure you've documented the date, time and details of that conversation in case you need to prove later that you've followed protocol.

Lay Out the Facts

An employee letter typically includes three elements, suggests human resources consultant Steve Kane in a May 2010 article in Inc. First, it should detail what the unacceptable behavior was or the facts of the misconduct. Then state what the proper behavior should be. If the employee is chronically late, for example, you'd name the number of times the employee has been late in the past weeks or months and the arrival times, and then state what time the employee is supposed to arrive. Then you need to say what the future consequences will be if the employee continues to break the rules. This is an important part of the process that's often overlooked, says Kane.

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How to Deliver the Letter

Once you have the document written, have a meeting with the offending employee -- in person. Review the elements of the write-up so that the employee understands what she's doing wrong and what behavior you expect from her. Since documentation is so important throughout this process, have the employee sign the write-up to acknowledge that she's read and understood what you expect from her. If she wants to add anything to the report, leave space at the bottom of the write-up for her to write in any additional details. Then file the write-up in the employee's personnel file.

The Improvement Plan

To really get results, go further and create a performance improvement plan with the employee. Talk with the employee to find out whether she needs any additional resources or training to improve his performance or behavior in the workplace. In some cases, reassigning the employee to a different job, schedule or task can also solve the problem. Help the employee develop SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, and set up a regular date to check in on the goals with the employee. Come up with consequences for the employee not meeting the goals, and then have the employee sign the performance improvement plan so that you have documentation of the process.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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