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Letters of Reprimand

How to Write Letters of Reprimand for Employee Performance


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Letters of reprimand are written by the supervisor to provide an official statement of a performance problem that an employee must improve. Letters of reprimand are often a step in the formal disciplinary action process that can result in additional disciplinary action for the employee up to and including employment termination if the employee fails to improve.

Letters of reprimand are a significant component in the documentation of an employee performance problem for the employee and the employer. Written letters of reprimand clearly and specifically state the performance that must improve and the consequences if the performance does not improve.

Letters of reprimand generally follow verbal coaching by a supervisor. They are frequently preceded by a verbal correction to the employee, called a verbal warning or formal verbal warning, about the performance issue or related performance problems.

Depending on the immediacy and the severity of the performance issue, though, the letter of reprimand might start the performance discussion, but this is unusual.

Components of Letters of Reprimand

Effective letters of reprimand have these components.

  • A clear statement of the problem or the performance issue that the employee must improve.

  • The reprimand letter might enumerate several examples of ways in which the employee can change performance to comply with performance expectations. (This provides the employee with a shared picture or shared meaning around the supervisor's expectations.)

  • The impact of the non-performance on the employee's and the organization's success. (How the failure to perform is impacting the workplace.)

  • If relevant, a timeline within which the employee's performance must improve.

  • If relevant, a due date or end date at which time, the performance will be re-evaluated.

  • A clear statement about the consequences an employee can expect if performance fails to improve as described.

  • The signature of the supervisor or the manager of the employee.

  • The signature of the employee whose performance is the focus of the reprimand letter. The letter generally contains a statement that the employee signature represents receipt of the letter, not necessarily agreement with its contents.

  • An opportunity for the employee to object, in writing, to the contents of the reprimand letter. The employee may agree, disagree, express contrition, and so forth. Rebuttals are attached to the original letters of reprimand.

Sample Letters of Reprimand

Disclaimer: Please note that Susan makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice on this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel. The information on the site is provided for guidance only, never as legal advice.

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