While it’s not necessarily the most enjoyable part of any manager’s role, becoming adept at writing up employees is key to people management success.
As a manager or business owner, it’s vital that your employees respect workplace rules and regulations, as well as your enforcement of these guidelines.
Failing to consistently write up employees when they have breached company policy can lead to staff members bending the rules, as well as claims of unfairness if one worker gets written up for a breach while their colleague doesn’t.
Perhaps the most important reason for write ups, however, is to protect your business should a disciplinary procedure take a legal turn.
With this in mind, here’s how to write up an employee in six simple steps.
Create an Employee Write Up Form
As mentioned above, it’s very important to be consistent in your writing up of employees in order to avoid claims of unfairness.
A standardized process means that every manager across the company is approaching write ups in the same way. Every employee is asked the same questions and given the same platform to tell their side of the story.
This allows you to optimize the process as well by ensuring that no important information is left off. This will ensure that – should you need a reference for a dismissal process or legal proceeding down the line – you’ll be confident you have everything you need.
While the completed write up form is the end product of your write up exercise, you should also ensure you standardize the process from start to finish, so every employee receives the same treatment.
For instance, this process may just involve a phone call with the individual’s manager, but it may become more comprehensive if the employee is a repeat offender. In these cases, you may look to conduct a number of meetings with senior management.
Whatever your process, it’s important to write it down. What happens at every stage of the disciplinary process, from first rule breach to dismissal? Codify this and train your managers to follow it, without exception.
Example Employee Write Up Form Template:
- Employee name:
- Date / time / location of incident:
- Detail of company policy breached:
- Description of incident:
- Witness accounts:
- Agreed actions:
- Agreed consequences for failing to follow the agreed actions:
- Employee response:
- Employee signature:
Refer to Your Company Policies or Employee Handbook
When it comes to your reason for the write up, you need to have clear evidence of the employee in question breaching company policies or the employee conduct rules.
It’s impossible to come up with this evidence if you don’t have your company policies or employee conduct rules written down and easily accessible by staff.
If you don’t already have one, create an employee handbook that contains all of your company policies. These should include behavioral policies, diversity policies, promotion policies, and disciplinary policy.
But most importantly, your handbook must set out exactly what is expected of your employees during their working day, and what happens if they don’t consistently meet these expectations.
This way, when it comes time to write up an employee, you can very clearly quote the part of the company policy they have breached within the write up form, and then go on to explain exactly how they have broken the rule.
Record Every Detail
Perhaps the most important function of your write up is to record all the details you won’t remember in the future.
Some details may seem irrelevant, but you never know how this information could come in handy in the future in the event of termination of employment or legal challenges.
Write as much as you possibly can about the incident and the context surrounding it, including dates, places, times, the reasons given for the breach, and the people involved. It’s a good idea to fill in your section of the write up form as soon as possible after the incident has taken place. Your future self will thank you!
Use Witness Accounts
When it comes to disciplinary incidents, you don’t want it to be your word against theirs. Even if you write an incredibly accurate and detailed account, there’s nothing to stop a disgruntled employee from publicly questioning your version of events.
If the incident isn’t particularly serious – such as tardiness – then you’ll likely just need a short statement from one other employee confirming the details.
However, in the case of bullying or similarly serious incidents, it’s within your best interest to collect as many witness accounts as you can.
There are a number of different ways to obtain witness accounts.
You can interview the witnesses yourself, request that an impartial party such as your manager or business partner interview them, or ask them to simply write up their own account of what happened on paper. The best solution differs depending on the size and structure of your company.
However you go about it, the most important thing is to make sure each witness account is committed to paper and signed and dated by each employee.
Clearly Set Out the Agreed Actions
Whatever the disciplinary consequences of this particular rule break, you need to set them out clearly within the write up.
After all, there’s little point to just writing down what happened without taking action to prevent it from happening again or to demonstrate that it was unacceptable.
Your course of action will depend on the form and severity of the rule break in question – as well as how many write ups the employee in question has been given recently – but here are some examples:
- Probationary period
- Weekly personal development plan meetings
- The employee must do [action] [this often] by [date]
Each action must be accompanied by a timeline and the consequences the employee will face if they do not carry out the action in the agreed upon manner.
It’s also important to record their level of success in completing the agreed upon actions, and to set a date to review their case when they’ve had sufficient time to change their behavior for the better.
Include the Employee’s Response
It’s crucial that you give the employee the right to reply within the write up.
This part of the write up is of course designed to give the employee the opportunity to tell their side of the story. This is particularly important if they feel wronged or as if they have been misrepresented by your version of events.
Usually, team members will agree with the facts of your account, and use the response section to give their reasons that the situation arose.
For instance, they may accept that they came in 30 minutes late three times in one week, but they may feel they have a valid excuse for this, such as a broken down car, a family emergency, or unreliable public transport.
Whatever their reasons, the most important element here is to ensure the employee agrees to the actions and consequences set out in the form – and believes them to be fair.
If they do not, you will need to take the situation to an impartial and more senior person, who will be able to decide whether you have taken the right course of action.
Finally, the employee must sign the overall document to show that they agree with your account of events and to the actions you have set out, and that they will do their best to carry them out.
Once you’ve set this write up process in motion, before long, you should see your employees’ behavior begin to improve.
What challenges have you faced when writing employees up? Let us know in the comments: