Employee Reprimands Help Employees Improve Performance

Why Would an Employee Receive a Reprimand Letter?

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An employee reprimand is an official notice to an employee, either verbal or written, that his or her performance is failing to meet expectations in one or more aspects of their job. The employee reprimand is provided following the failure of informal supervisory coaching to help the employee improve the required performance.

Usually, the first step in a progressive disciplinary action reprimand is a verbal reprimand. If the employee fails to improve in the areas pointed out to them, the next step is a (more serious) written verbal reprimand. This should escalate the disciplinary action to a new level of concern for the employee.

Progressive Disciplinary Action 

While every situation is different, typically, as the disciplinary action progresses the employee will find that the next steps involve increasing numbers of unpaid days of suspension from work. Employees who find themselves the recipient of increasing levels of disciplinary action, the employer expects to see immediate progress

It doesn't always happen.

Consequently, at each stage, the employer needs to state verbally—better yet, put in writing—that the employee's lack of response can lead to additional disciplinary action up to, and including, termination.

This covers the employer if at any point in the disciplinary process it becomes apparent that the employee can't or won't improve their performance. Once this is determined, there is no point in continuing the progressive discipline. It is time-consuming and troublesome for a manager who needs an employee to step up and do their job, and for whatever reason, the job doesn't get done. 

Purpose of the Employee Reprimand

The purpose of a reprimand is to get an employee's attention. It puts him or her on notice that failing to improve their performance will result in more disciplinary action and may lead to getting fired. 

The majority of employees who receive a verbal reprimand never require the employer to escalate to a higher level, and you always want to give an employee the benefit of the doubt. An employee may decide to fix the problem or negotiate with their manager to move to a different job or job search and quit after finding a new opportunity.

A Paper Trail Is Key

While most people want to do a good job, there is always the odd employee who continues to fail, despite the reprimands. Performance reviews and verbal and written reprimands will provide the documentation necessary for an organization to eventually fire an employee. If fair warning has been provided, the employer has the right and legal grounds (i.e., documentation) to take the necessary steps to terminate.

Most medium- to large-size companies have an employee handbook that clearly outlines the reprimand and disciplinary action step policy. This handbook should always be made available to all employees.

The Employee Handbook

In keeping with the policy outlined in the employee handbook, an employee reprimand may be the first, the last, or the only step required before employment termination. It all depends on the severity of the non-performance or the precipitating event.

If your business is small you may not know how to write a letter of reprimand, so it's best to look at some sample ones.

It's important to note that employment laws and regulations vary from state to state, so there are no definitive grounds for hiring an employee unless they break the law. Always check with your lawyer before taking legal action.