Writing a Letter of Reprimand

An employee or subordinate has broken company policy.

You have been asked to address the issue and write the person a letter of reprimand.

Sounds easy, but it requires careful thought and planning.

Here are a few tips to help you:

1. Determine the specific action or behavior that triggered the need for the letter.

Check this action or behavior against company policy so that you know exactly the severity of the reprimand.

targeting bad behavior

When I say "action," it can also mean a failure to act. Perhaps the employee failed to do something or refused to do something. However, this failure or refusal violate policy as much as an inappropriate action does.

2. In the letter, spell out the employee's wrongful actions or behaviors.

State specifically what the employee did or failed to do that caused them to get the letter of reprimand.

Recently, you have failed to clock out at the end of your shift, in spite of multiple reminders from your supervisor. Records show that this occurred on March 1, 4, 8 and 11.

3. Specifically state the action required by the employee to address the issue.

Actions have consequences, so now that you have spelled out the actions, it is time to tell the recipient the consequences of their violation of company policy.

Beginning on the date of this letter, you must be accompanied by Ms. Jane Doe each day at the end of your shift. Once you have clocked out for 30 consecutive shifts, you will no longer have to be accompanied. However, further failure to clock out at the end of your shift will result in further discipline.

4. Don't get personal.

Do not use "I" or "we" in the letter. These consequences are not personal, they are standard company discipline. So, avoid things like:

"I noticed that you..."

"I am requiring that you..."

Also, be careful that your discipline does not sound threatening. For example:

"If you fail to comply, you will be terminated."

"If you do not cooperate, you may be demoted or lose privileges."

This can get you, the letter writer, in trouble, with both your company and the EEOC. So keep the letter impersonal. It is a business letter.

5. Get it signed.

When you give the letter of reprimand to the employee, you should provide that person a copy, as well has have them sign a copy to go in their personnel file.

Also, go over the letter with the individual and address their questions before they sign. If there is any discrepancy, you may have to re-do the letter or call a meeting to resolve the issues.

It's never fun to have to write a letter of reprimand. However, done right, it can be beneficial to both the employer and employee.

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