Employee Reprimand Letter
A Reprimand Letter is a Calculated Response to Unacceptable Employee Actions
As of 2015, crime in the United States has been decreasing, continuing a decades-long trend. These figures notwithstanding, employers of every size are forced to confront problem employees with regard to many aspects of job performance. For most employees and in most situations a verbal warning or reprimand from a supervisor or manager is enough to motivate an employee to discontinue an undesirable behavior. In some instances though, this is not enough.
When to Write an Employee Letter of Reprimand
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Many organizations have specific guidelines for courses of employee discipline for different infractions of company policy. These guidelines often prescribe discipline that increases in severity based on the number of occurrences and their gravity. A common company policy with regard to smoking in an area where smoking is not allowed may be to start with a verbal warning, then provide formal verbal discipline and then write a letter of reprimand. After letters of reprimand have been presented to employees, they are typically placed in their permanent human resources file. Beyond letters of reprimand lays suspension, termination as well as potential civil or criminal proceedings as available options.
An employee reprimand letter is seen as a mid-level response; falling between verbal warnings and reprimands, and suspension and outright dismissal. Some employee behaviors may necessitate the foregoing of verbal warnings and reprimands. In situations where the health and safety of other workers and the general public may be at stake, a formal written employee letter of reprimand may be the best course of action.
Key Employee Letter of Reprimand Elements
Effective employee letters of reprimand contain some or all of the following elements:
- A clear description of performance issues and how the employee is failing to live up to the requirements of their job including detailed examples.
- A clear description of the standards and key performance metrics used to evaluate the employee's work.
- A clear description of alternatives that, if followed, would bring the employee's actions back into compliance.
- A clear description of further disciplinary action that will be taken if key performance metrics are not met.
- A clear time line by which conformance with key performance metrics must be achieved.
- The signature of the manager or supervisor and signature of the employee.
- Written objections to the reprimand letter made by the employee to be included with the letter in their file.
Fairness, Empathy and Documentation Are Crucial for an effective and Legal Letter of Employee Reprimand
It is essential that employees who are the subject of letters of reprimand are in fact guilty of accusations made against them. Employees who repeatedly flout the policies and procedures of companies can be rooted-out using consistent reporting and documentation. Written reports authored by a large group of supervisors and managers carries much more weight than verbal recollections. Employees deserve the confidence to know, and be sure, that if disciplinary actions are brought against them, or one of their team members, it is for good reason.
Consistent Record Keeping and Policy Implementation
One would hope that most incidents involving the discipline of employees would rarely so go far as necessitating the introduction of formal letters of reprimand. However, the letters do have their place in a calculated progression of steps to intervene with employees who have decided to make problems of themselves.
Proper record keeping and implementation of policies and procedures in an equitable, easily understandable way can help employees from ever reaching the point where even verbal discipline is necessary. Setting clear expectations with employees regarding attendance, conduct and other areas before they become areas of concern can save many potential headaches. Employees will respect employers who offer clear boundaries. Wishy washy implementation of policy and procedure is an invitation for employee problems.
If employees behave in a way that contradicts policy, their behavior should be noted and they should be disciplined in a way that is consistent across all staff members. Inconsistent implementation of any disciplinary measure is another sure-fire invitation to employee problems.
Certainly, no manager or supervisor wants to find themselves in a position of disciplining an employee who did not even realize that their actions were in contravention of any policy or procedure. Fortunately, employees like this are easily corrected. Beyond verbal warnings and verbal reprimands, the formal letter of reprimand is a tool in an escalating series of steps designed to stop disruptive employees for the betterment of all involved parties.
Provide Clear Expectations With Regard to Policy and Procedure
Employees who have been versed in the policies and procedures of their company are much better prepared to operate in accordance with them than employees who are not aware that such things exist.
Making physical and digital copies of policies and procedures manuals to employees is one step in ensuring that they understand and operate according to them. Other steps to help employees learn and retain company policies and procedures include: video presentations, slide presentations, group participation activities, quizzes and lunch and shower room displays. At least some instances where the discipline of employees has been necessary could have been avoided with more thorough training and education.
Employee Reprimand Letters Are Official Documents
The decision to draft a formal letter of reprimand should never be taken lightly. It should be the culmination of other disciplinary methods and in direct accordance with policies and procedures mandated by the employer or other governing body. Letters of reprimand are generally only issued after verbal forms of discipline are seen as having been exhausted.
Letters of reprimand should contain the following information:
- The employer name and address.
- The employee name and position.
- A clear description of the alleged policy violation.
- Behavior modification suggestions in line with prevailing policies and procedures.
- Consequences on continued violation of policies.
- The name and signature of the person writing the reprimand.
- The name and signature of the employee acknowledging receipt.
- Attached statements by the employee.
Some serious behaviors that are in contravention of policies and procedures may necessitate issuing employee reprimand letters immediately, circumventing verbal warnings. Behaviors that could cause serious injury to other workers or the general public or result in great cost to the employer are examples of issues that may cause employers to write formal employee letters of reprimand, without issuing verbal warnings first.
Letters of Reprimand: A Mid-Level Response
Falling short of a work suspension or outright dismissal, issuing a formal letter of reprimand is a serious step in making the displeasure of an employer with an employee's performance known. A series of letters of reprimand on an employee's file would be viewed with skepticism by many and serves to offer evidence of the efficacy of the practice as a deterrent. Often, the decision to terminate the employment of a problem employee comes only after the culmination of many verbal and written reprimands, usually made by several different parties. Proper documentation and record keeping provides checks and balances central to the efficient operation of any business and the fair treatment of its personnel. Reports on problem employees from several parties are often given more weight than reports from one.