Written Up At Work: A Beginner’s Guide

No employer wants to write up employees at work, and have that tough talk with an employee who isn’t holding up their end of the work responsibilities. Whether it’s coming in late, not meeting deadlines, or workplace harassment, it’s a difficult conversation that, unfortunately, just has to happen.

When multiple conversations and subtle asks don’t change the behaviour, you need to take a more formal approach as the employer.

Enter: the employee write-up. Being written up at work should signify to your employees that you’re serious and that you need to see a change—or else.

In this article, we’ll teach you what being written up at work means, why you write someone up, and what the steps are to write up and deliver a note to an employee.

Hopefully, this makes it a little less intimidating and a little more empowering.

What does being written up at work mean?

Writing someone up means creating a formal document with details about an employee’s behavior, performance, or policy violations. It creates a written record of a situation and outlines the problem, expectations, and potential consequences. 

This can sound pretty intense, but we promise that write-ups aren’t meant to be punishment—it’s actually the opposite. They’re there to correct the behavior, giving your employees really clear feedback to help them be better at their job—and keep it.

In many ways, write-ups are also there protect an employer in case you do need to take further action. It keeps a record of communication between you and your employees. Having these things written down is always a good idea.

Why do employees get a write-up from work?

Employees can get a write-up from work for lots of reasons, but you want to make sure that you’re very specific about what those things are. No one likes a surprise write-up for a policy they had no idea about.

Some of the typical reasons you could write up an employee are:

  • Write up for being late to work: Constantly being late can disrupt other employees and customers alike.
  • Violation of company policies: If it’s a policy to wear a uniform so they’re easily identifiable, but they keep showing up in jeans, that policy needs to be enforced.
  • Write up for poor performance: Everyone makes mistakes, but repeated poor performance needs to be addressed.
  • Harassment or behavioral issues: Everyone deserves a safe place to work without fear of harassment and toxicity. These instances shouldn’t be ignored and should be written up at work immediately. This shows your employees that you’ve got their backs.

Every workplace is different. If you run a restaurant, you’re going to have policies in place around food handling and cleanliness that people could get written up for. So, figure out what’s important to your place of work specifically and create write-up policies around that. 

Things to include in a write-up from work

When an employee gets written up at work, it’s important to include some key details on the record.

Create a template for yourself with the following sections:

  • Description of the incident: This is where you write a detailed account of the issue, including dates, times, and specific incidents that happened.
  • Company policies: Have a clear write-up of the company policies that were violated.
  • Expectations: Set expectations for how you want this problem solved or how to prevent it in the future. This gives your employees a clear direction to move forward.
  • Consequences: If this is a first write-up, let them know what will happen if this happens again. If this is a second write-up, escalate the consequence and reset that next consequence if there’s a third incident.
  • Signatures: Both you and the employee need to sign the document, acknowledging that it was received and they understand what happens next.

Steps to writing up an employee

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to give an employee a write-up at work.

1. Gather information 

The first step is to collect all related details and evidence around the issue before initiating the write-up process. This may involve asking other employees some questions to clarify all of the details, watching security tapes, or talking with customers.

2. Document the incident

Now it’s time to sit down and write it all out. Just state the facts, and leave any subjective thoughts out of it if you can.

3. Schedule a meeting 

Once you have the write-up typed out, schedule a meeting with the employee to deliver it. Try and arrange for a time at the end of their shift so they’re able to take some time to decompress. 

4. Deliver the write up

Here’s the hardest part—deliver the write-up. Make sure you’re in a private location and lead with empathy if you can. Focus on giving constructive feedback and solutions, and don’t make it personal. Show them that you want to help them; not punish them.

5. Open up a dialogue

Review the write-up and then give them space to talk. It’s important to hear them out and allow them to ask questions. Feeling listened to can help them feel valued.

6. Get a signature

The last step of the meeting should be to get a signature saying they read the write-up and understand the next steps.

7. File the write up

Keep a copy of the document in the employee’s file. You can also provide a copy to the employee if they want to review things after some time to think.

8. Follow up

For a little while, keep a closer eye on the employee, making sure you see real change. Offer support and resources if they need it. It’s also good practice to follow up with them after a week or so and ask them how they’re feeling. Keep those lines of communication open so that it’s clear you’re helping your employee stay on track, not micromanaging them.

Being written up at work is never fun. If you can make the process easy and remind your employee that it isn’t a punishment, just a correction, you can both leave these difficult conversations on the same page and with the same goal—to make the workplace a great place to be.

Need help with write-ups at work?

Homebase not only offers help with compliance and HR issues but can also keep those signed write-ups for safekeeping. Start today for free. 

Written up at work FAQs

Can an employee refuse to sign a write-up?

Yes, an employee can refuse to sign a write-up, but that doesn’t mean the write-up isn’t valid. The signature is just to say they received it. You can note on the document that your employee refused to sign.

Can an employee respond or dispute the details in a write-up?

Yes, an employee can respond and dispute the details. When you deliver a write-up, you should give your employee an opportunity to give an explanation or perspective. It’s important to hear them out and record anything they feel is relevant.

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