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How to Write a Letter of Reprimand | Fairygodboss
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Here's When to Put a Warning at Work Into Writing
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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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While no one likes having to send or receive a letter of reprimand, it’s sometimes a necessary step in correcting unacceptable or inappropriate behavior in a work context. It can be used in a range of situations to indicate that a problem is occurring and that an employee’s behavior or performance must improve, as well as to outline the consequences to which they will be subject if there is no improvement.

What does a letter of reprimand mean? Generally speaking, it signifies that some type of problem is occurring that an employee needs to correct. It may mean the employee can expect to be subject to consequences, including dismissal, should the behavior continue. 

Is a letter of reprimand discipline?

A letter of reprimand may be part of disciplinary steps an employer takes or a warning that discipline will occur if certain problems continue. In most cases, such as in the military, it will be kept on file as documentation that an incident has occurred. 

When to use a letter of reprimand.

There are many different contexts in which an employer will issue a letter of reprimand. For the most part, they will do so in order to create a paper trail documenting the employee’s unacceptable behavior. Often, it’s a necessary step prior to dismissal, meant to demonstrate that the employee has been warned that they will be fired if they show no improvement. Some situations in which these letters are commonly used include:

• Poor performance

• Habitual tardiness or absenteeism

• Failure to comply with company policies

• Insubordination 

In some cases, a letter of reprimand may be issued after a supervisor has attempted to correct the behavior in person with no avail.

How do you write a letter of reprimand?

Include all pertinent information at the top of the letter.

This includes the date of issue, the employee’s name and title, the supervisor’s name and title and the HR representative’s name and title.

Clearly state the problem.

Spell out the reason for the letter of reprimand in detail. Include specific examples and dates the incident(s) occurred. Explain why this is a problem — for example, perhaps it violates the company’s policy as described in the employee handbook. Also note any previous warnings that were issued, whether verbally or in writing.

Explain what the employee must do to improve.

In some cases, this will be obvious — for instance, if the employee is repeatedly tardy, they will need to start showing up on time. Still, you need to state this. Be as specific as possible about the steps the employee must take so there’s no ambiguity. 

Describe the consequences that will take place should improvement not occur.

Explain what will happen should the behavior continue or should a repeat incident occur. This could be termination. If appropriate, issue a deadline for improvement. You might also note how many times a repeat incident can occur before consequences will take place. For instance, you might note that the employee cannot show up tardy again without a valid excuse.

Sign the letter and have the employee sign it as well.

The employee should sign the letter to confirm that they have received it and understand it. This does not mean they are acknowledging wrongdoing; it just indicates receipt.

3 sample letters of reprimand.

Poor performance.

Usually, if an employee’s work is not up to par, they must be given the opportunity to improve. A letter of reprimand serves as notice that the employee’s performance is not meeting the employer’s standards and documents the necessity for them to improve. 

Alex Smith

Manager, Marketing

Jeanne Jones

Manager, Human Resources

January 12, 2020

Clare Emmett

Assistant, Marketing

Dear Ms. Emmett:

This serves as a formal letter of reprimand for work performance that does not meet the standards of XYZ Corporation. Your work is full of errors; for example, you entered incorrect data in a marketing analytics report that was presented at a board meeting on December 5, 2019.

Although your supervisor, Alex Smith, has given you warnings on three occasions and provided one-on-one training, your work has not improved. You also received unsatisfactory performance reviews on two occasions, November 7, 2019, and March 4, 2019. 

Your performance will be closely monitored for the next month. Should we not see improvement by February 12, 2020, your employment with XYZ will be terminated. In the meantime, we suggest reviewing the procedures for your position and asking for additional help if you are unable to complete the required tasks without guidance.

We believe that you have the capacity to improve and hope that you will take strides to do so.

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Alex Smith

[Signature]

Jeanne Jones

I acknowledge receipt of this letter of reprimand and understand its contents. I also acknowledge that I understand this letter will be kept in my employee file.

Signature: 

Habitual absenteeism.

If an employee is frequently late, routinely fails to show up without proper notice or uses vacation time to which they are not entitled, a letter of reprimand is warranted.

Alex Smith

Manager, Marketing

Jeanne Jones

Manager, Human Resources

January 12, 2020

Clare Emmett

Assistant, Marketing

Dear Ms. Emmett:

This serves as a formal letter of reprimand for four unexcused absences. According to the company policy, which is outlined on page 7 of the employee handbook, you are entitled to 12 paid vacation days each year. You must receive written approval from your supervisor prior to using this paid time off

On November 7, 2019, you failed to show up to work without informing your supervisor, Alex Jones. On April 16, 2019, you informed Ms. Jones that you would be taking an impromptu vacation that morning, two hours prior to the start of your 9:00 am shift. You provided written notice that you would be taking vacation on December 23 and 24, 2019, but you had already used your allotted 12 days of vacation time for the year.

Ms. Jones has informed you of your right to FMLA and to use up to 10 sick days per year for illnesses as per the company policy. Should you have one more unexcused absence without providing documentation of an emergency or medical condition, your employment will be terminated.

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Alex Smith

[Signature]

Jeanne Jones

I acknowledge receipt of this letter of reprimand and understand its contents. I also acknowledge that I understand this letter will be kept in my employee file.

Signature: 

Failure to comply with company policies

Failure to comply with the company policies is often a serious offense that can sometimes warrant immediate dismissal. For example, if an employee puts another employee in danger, you’ll probably terminate their employment immediately. In smaller-scale situations, a letter of reprimand may be issued as a warning.

Alex Smith

Manager, Marketing

Jeanne Jones

Manager, Human Resources

January 12, 2020

Clare Emmett

Assistant, Marketing

Dear Ms. Emmett:

This serves as a formal letter of reprimand for unacceptable use of company equipment. On December 4, 2019. Your supervisor, Alex Jones, witnessed you using your company-issued laptop for personal use. This is a violation of XYZ Corporation’s policy on acceptable use of company property as outlined on page 7 of the employee handbook.

Your company-issued laptop is to be used for work purposes only. Should we witness you using it for any other purpose at any point in the future, you will no longer be entitled to use a company-owned computer and may be subject to additional consequences.

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Alex Smith

[Signature]

Jeanne Jones

I acknowledge receipt of this letter of reprimand and understand its contents. I also acknowledge that I understand this letter will be kept in my employee file.

Signature: 

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