Definitive Guide to Employee Write-Up (Examples Inside)

Are you planning to hand out a written warning to a problematic employee? Read this guide to employee write-up and make it impactful.

Whether you are a business owner or manager, handing out employee write-up forms is never a fun task. It is a device to tell an employee about their mistakes in a documented manner. It is a widely held notion that employees who receive written warnings do not respond well to them. But that is where the misconception gets it extremely wrong.  

Following verbal coaching, non-documented warnings, or scheduled performance reviews, an employee write-up form, or employee discipline form, could actually be an indication for pertinent employees to get their act together. Reading this guide to employee write-up will allow managers and supervisors to clearly describe workplace violations and incidents. While making the employee write-ups a part of the employee records, it also gives employees an opportunity to know exactly what the violation was. Additionally, the employee may agree with the way it is described.

An employee write-up form

An employee write-up form effectively highlights the problem at hand. It also clearly references why it is causing an issue in the first place and prevents any room for confusion in understanding the situation. This way, you leave no room for your employees to misunderstand why they are receiving the warning in the first place.

As a result, those employees who are serious about their jobs do their best to reform their behavior. They do it in order to not repeat the problem. By receiving a formal warning, employees also get the chance to define their side of the problem. This could actually be quite helpful in opening a channel of communication between you and your workforce.

On the other hand, those employees who actually do not respond well to write-ups indicate that the issue at hand is larger than just a misunderstanding. They either cannot understand why they are receiving the formal warning in the first place or they chose to ignore the reasoning behind it. It tells you that they might not just be a good fit for your business. This way, you are able to part ways with them. Without putting your business in further jeopardy due to their actions.

How to draft written warnings

Overall, write-ups deem to be a very essential part of an effective employee discipline policy. It lets you be fair to your business and the employee at the same time. Write-ups also ensure that both sides are operating with equal advantage to remedy a bad situation. Knowing how to draft written warnings for corrective action is highly important to any business owner or manager.

Given that employee write-ups are a complex subject, you need to understand the relevant nuances at play. Then you can go ahead with distributing them to every employee who was remotely out of line. Understanding these aspects can be quite tricky at times. We are here to outline the most important information regarding employee write-ups and, additionally, how you can make them work to your benefit. 

Definitive Guide to Employee Write-Up (Examples Inside)
Guide to employee write-up

Guide to employee write-up

If you are currently dealing with a difficult employee or just need to cover your bases with a holistic employee discipline program, it is imperative that you read this guide to employee write-up. It’s because an employee write-up is not exclusive to conveying your concern to the relevant employee. It is also about being prudent in case the situation leads to letting go of the employee. In which case, you need to present ample grounds for them. 

Keeping this in mind, you need to read this guide to employee write-ups in order to relay your feedback while also highlighting the problem at hand. This allows you to maintain employee records in a transparent way, but it doesn’t stop there. It also provides you with historical data to present to the employees. Either during performance reviews or at the difficult yet important decision of letting them go. As a result, you are able to safeguard your business and put your business on a consistent path to success.

Define the issue at hand

While learning how to draft written warnings, perhaps the most important part to understand is the way to highlight the relevant issue in a prominent way. This lets you get through to your employees. It also defines just how their actions or neglect in performing their duties is harming your business. 

One thing that you need to make sure of is to be as direct in the written warning as possible. Some companies or business managers make the mistake of wording their written warnings to make them sound non-confrontational. This makes it difficult to highlight the specific problem. As explained by the Society for Human Resource Management, this vague language creates more problems than solutions in providing written feedback.

For example, if the whole reason for you delivering the warning is because the employee in question had a verbal altercation with one of their coworkers, then simply writing it off as a “personality fit” doesn’t do any good for either of you. You might think that writing about the actual incident might be too bold or look bad on paper. It is actually only going to be helpful in resolving the actual problem. Make it a point to be as clear and transparent in recalling and mentioning the incident as possible.

Reality check

For those employees who simply need a reality check to get their affairs in order, this simplification of the problem puts things into perspective. It gives them a chance to understand how their actions are affecting the business. Additionally, how they are harming their actual job.

Whereas, for your business itself, explaining the issue that you are facing with the particular employee gives you a historical record of documenting your grievance. If you have been providing the same feedback to the employee verbally for a while to no avail, then the paper trail makes it easier for you to track how things have been progressing for the employee in question. When it comes to choosing between giving the employee additional chances and deciding to let them go, this makes the decision-making process easier for you and relevant members of your team.

Definitive Guide to Employee Write-Up (Examples Inside)
Guide to employee write-up

Refer to disciplinary actions in the past

It is essential to keep this point in mind while reading this guide to employee write-up. While you could drone on about how a problem has been affecting your organization, it would not hold the same weight as you referring to past actions related to the problem. 

By referring to disciplinary actions taken in the past, you are reminding the employee that this is not the first time that you are broaching the subject. It creates a sense of importance to the issue and highlights that you have been attempting to resolve it for a while to no avail. But now it calls for serious action. 

This is where your progressive disciplinary policy would come into play. You will need to be mindful to highlight any and all actions or incidents that led to the written warning. Including the employee’s behavior, the actions taken by your organization, and the employee’s reaction to them. Creating a factful picture of past events helps you prevent any room for unnecessary arguments. Additionally, lets your employees appreciate the situation with the gravity that it deserves.

All in all, this reference to past actions, and how they lead to a written warning, tells your employees that it is vital they look into reforming their behavior. This works wonders on getting your point across. It also makes your written warning be seen with the importance that it deserves. This is one of the most important things to remember and implement whenever you are about to give out an employee write-up.

Encourage improvement in behavior

In certain situations, the written warning should show your inclination to improve things rather than giving the employee a final ultimatum. Learning how to draft written warnings this way is important in order to deliver effective feedback. 

But seeing that the whole purpose of giving a written warning is to set a serious course of corrective action rather than painting a picture of everything being fine, this encouragement to improve behavior could affect the overall impact of the action. So what do you do in such situations? Well, the answer is to strike a perfect balance between being assertive and helpful.

It could be difficult to walk this fine line between showing your intention to take corrective measures and being there for the employee as they try to reform their behavior, but it is important to do so in order to make sure that you are doing all you can in order to protect your employees, even if their own actions go against them for the time being. 

Learning how to write employee warnings

Learning how to write employee warnings this way helps you resolve the situation in a manner that is once again advantageous for both your business and its employees. You are able to save those employees from getting fired who are actually going through something and just need a helping hand, while also bidding farewell to those who do not intend to contribute to your business in any way than doing the bare minimum.

The key here is to show your inclination to improve things for the sake of both your employees and your business, but also to know when to use this approach effectively. For instance, this could be quite relevant for an employee who has shown a sudden drop in their performance, which could be due to a personal issue that’s affecting their time at work. At the same time, this wouldn’t really apply to an employee who has actively been involved in insubordination despite repeated verbal warnings, which would call for a more stern than helpful approach to things.  

Definitive Guide to Employee Write-Up (Examples Inside)
Guide to employee write-up

Make sure to highlight the repercussions

After understanding the basics of how to draft written warnings, go ahead with creating one. You should also be clear enough. Highlight the consequences of the employee’s lack of steps towards improvement mentioned in the written warning. There should be no doubt in expressing to the employee that their past actions have been unacceptable. This is the time for them to take a reflective look at what they are doing. 

This is even more important if your employee write-up is a final warning in the course of your progressive disciplinary program. Since this warning would be drafted with a certain seriousness, it is important to convey it to the respective employee in order for the action to have optimal effects that beneficial for the employees and your business.

Write a customized warning than copying one word to word

It is also important to note that you are not simply copying and pasting write-up templates from the web. You need to create a written warning in your own words and tone. This is a surefire way to make sure that you are making an impact with the action. 

The tone of its overall communication tells your employees that the action being taken is not inspired by a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than being a template and coming off as a measure taken for the sake of showing movement, a customized and well-developed written warning shows that you are serious about the corrective action you are about to take. 

With that being said, it is good to have some examples in mind. To help you make sure that you are on the right path with creating your written warning for difficult employees. 

As explained by experts, there are four basic structural elements of a written warning. Those four elements should always be present in an employee write-up. They include descriptions of the following aspects. 

  • Employee’s action or behavior. 
  • How it affects company policy. 
  • Actions taken and warnings delivered by the company in the past. 
  • Repercussions of the employee continuing to engage in said behavior.

These simple instructions highlight what should constitute an effective employee write-up and gives you plenty of directions to draft your written warning with ease.

A couple of examples of common employee write-ups are mentioned below. 

Example 1. Tardiness.

Dear [employee’s name],

As highlighted recently, your frequent tardiness has been affecting your work performance as well as the company’s productivity. 

As you are aware, [business’ name] takes punctuality very seriously and expects all its employees to adhere to it. The employee handbook also defines this requirement clearly. Frequent instances of reporting late at work are considered a serious violation of the policy. 

But as we have discussed previously, you have shown frequent violations of the policy in the past month alone, where you have reported late to work for the following days.

  • May 2, 2019; 40 minutes late. 
  • May 5, 2019; 75 minutes late.
  • May 8, 2019; 35 minutes late. 
  • May 10, 2019; 40 minutes late. 

As explained during verbal warnings delivered on each of these dates, arriving late at work with no explanation is serious misconduct. Despite repeated discussions and warnings, the problem has not been resolved and has only grown frequent with time. 

As you are aware, [company name] does its best to cooperate with its employees in instances where they have personal issues or prior commitments that keep them from reporting to work on their scheduled timings at specific days. But given that we have received no explanation, documentation or prior intimation of your behavior, we have to keep the company policy in mind and remind you of its violation. 

First written notice

This letter acts as your first written notice against your tardiness. We expect that you will look into your behavior and take the required actions for improvement accordingly. 

If you identify that you might not report to work in time on a given date, you need to inform your immediate supervisor a day in advance. Failure to comply with this requirement and repetition of the aforementioned behavior will result in further corrective measures. Which include up to and including termination.

If you have any concerns or need to discuss the reasons for your tardiness, feel free to visit me in my office or reach out to me at [email] or [phone number]. I will be glad to find ways that can help you manage your responsibilities while also keeping in line with company policy. 


[Your name]

[Your title]

Definitive Guide to Employee Write-Up (Examples Inside)
Guide to employee write-up

Example 2. Verbal Altercation.

Dear [employee’s name],

As highlighted recently, your verbal altercation with one of your coworkers on [date] is a serious violation of the company’s policy.

As you are aware, [business’ name] takes professional conduct very seriously. Any verbal altercation with your fellow coworkers is a major misconduct. 

Since this is the first time that such an incident has occurred, we need to make it clear that it is a gross violation of required professional conduct, as described in the employee handbook. 

This letter acts as the first and final written notice against your aggression towards your coworkers. We expect that you will look into your behavior and take the required actions for improvement accordingly. 

Failure to comply with improvement in your behavior and repetition of the aforementioned instances will result in further corrective measures. Which include up to and including termination.

If you have any concerns or need to explain the reasons behind your behavior, feel free to visit me in my office or reach out to me at [email] or [phone number]. I will be glad to find ways that can help you manage your behavior in a manner that is professional and in line with the culture we promote at [company name]. 


[Your name]

[Your title]

Employee write-up

As you can see, both of these examples use the advised structure for a write-up while also adjusting the language wherever needed. 

Reading this guide to employee write-up could seem tricky at first. But the aforementioned examples go on to show that as long as you have a clear reason behind the write-up, you can issue a written warning about any incident that violates your company policy or jeopardizes its operations. 

Just keep in mind when a written warning is absolutely essential and when you can do without one. You would be able to maintain the gravity of issuing such a warning effectively.

Do you have any tips to improve our Guide to employee write-up? Leave a comment below, to let us know!

New to the management role? Check out some additional Brand My Cafe guides like Job Interview Questions for Cafe Workers, Using Buddy Punch to Track Employee Hours, or even Learn How to Effectively Manage and Coach Teenage Employees.

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