No one likes to discipline an employee who was hired with high hopes of becoming a top performer for an organization. But whether you’re an HR professional, manager, or supervisor, sometimes writing up employees comes with the territory.
Here’s what you should do when writing up an employee if you want to avoid legal or ethical ramifications and if you want to see effective change in the employee who is being written up.
1. Ensure You Have Already Provided Fair Warning
Never consider writing up employees if you haven’t first provided them with a verbal or written warning. Before officially taking action with signed documents that will go in their permanent personnel files, make sure they’re provided with a fair chance to rectify their unwanted behavior and that they’re fully aware of what they’re doing that’s unacceptable.
Otherwise, they could potentially have grounds to sue or pursue other types of legal action against your organization if they end up being terminated.
2. Differentiate Whether It’s a Performance or Behavioral Issue
When writing up employees, first recognize what type of issue they’re exhibiting. If they suddenly have a behavioral issue (i.e., rude or disrespectful behavior), consider offering them counseling services.
If they’re suddenly not meeting their sales quota or project requirements, consider the root cause of their performance issue, and offer training or coaching when necessary. Different types of performance issues will require different types of long-term solutions.
3. Be Concise and Direct
When writing up an employee, be sure to be direct when addressing behavior that needs to change. Do not beat around the bush. Simply state, “Behavior ‘x’ needs to change immediately.” And be incredibly concise to alleviate confusion or intent. Typically, you won’t want to allow the meeting to go over 10 minutes.
4. Provide Concrete Examples of What Needs to Change
Before writing up an employee, make sure you have ample evidence supporting your disciplinary action. Are customers complaining that the employee has been rude to them? Are coworkers reporting that the employee is consistently missing important deadlines? You don’t even have to use real names; simply record instances that occurred, and offer them as examples of behavior that needs to change.
Doing this also allows you to remain unemotional and objective when formally disciplining an employee and offers you an outlet for remaining professional in a situation where passionate or negative emotions will likely be present.
5. Set Clear Timelines and Expectations for Desired Behavior
Again, when writing up employees, be very direct and concrete when telling them what behavior needs to change. Give them a clear timeline of when such behavior is expected to change, even if it is immediately. And make sure they’re aware of the consequences and what will happen if they don’t implement the change (i.e., termination, demotion, etc.).
6. Have Employee Officially Agree to the Change that Will Be Made
Lastly, have your employees sign a document that officially records their acknowledgment of their behavior that needs to change where they also acknowledge the consequences of what will happen if they don’t change their behavior.
Follow the tips above when writing up an employee if you want it to be effective.