How to Write Employee Performance Letters of Reprimand

Flustered employee sitting at desk looking upset after receiving an unclear letter of reprimand.
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Letters of reprimand are letters written by the supervisor to provide an official statement of a performance problem that an employee must improve. Letters of reprimand are often a step in the formal disciplinary action process that can result in additional disciplinary action for the employee up to and including employment termination if the employee fails to improve.

Letters of reprimand are a significant component in the documentation of an employee performance problem for the employee and the employer. Written letters of reprimand clearly and specifically state the performance that must improve and the consequences if the performance does not improve.

These formal business letters generally follow after any attempts at verbal coaching by a supervisor. However, they frequently come before a verbal correction to the employee—called a verbal warning or formal verbal warning. All steps should focus on the performance issue or related performance problems.

Components of Letters of Reprimand

Effective letters of reprimand have several components in common. They should have a clear statement of the problem or the performance issue that the employee must improve. It might enumerate several examples of ways in which the employee can change their performance to comply with performance expectations. Giving examples provides the employee with a shared picture—shared meaning—around the supervisor's and company's expectations.

If relevant, include a timeline within which the employee's performance must improve. This reference can be in the form of a due date or end date at which time, the supervisor will re-evaluate the employee's performance.

Explain how the non-performance impacts not only the employee's but the workplace and the organization's success. Give a clear statement about the consequences an employee can expect if their performance fails to improve as described in the letter of reprimand.

The Importance of Signatures

The signature of the supervisor or the manager of the employee is important when it comes to reprimands. The letter generally contains a statement that the employee signature represents that they have received the letter. It does not necessarily indicate that they agree with its contents. You must be specific in the wording so that the employee understands they are acknowledging receipt not wrongdoing.

Give an Opportunity for Employee Response

You should give the employee a chance to respond to the issues raised in the letter of reprimand. The objection should be in writing, dated, and signed by the employee. The employee may agree, disagree, express contrition, and so forth. Rebuttals written by the employee are attached to the original letters of reprimand.

Sample Letter of Reprimand

This is an example of a letter of reprimand. Download the letter of reprimand template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Sample Letter of Reprimand #1 (Text Version)

To: Jeffery Jones

From: George Peterson

Date: September 1, 2018

Re: Letter of Reprimand

This is a formal letter of reprimand to notify you that your performance is not meeting expected levels of contribution. In your job as a technical expert for customer support, the job expectations were developed by the entire group of technical support experts and their manager. This means that they are the accepted standard for each technical support expert's performance.

You are failing to perform in the following ways.

  • The number of customers that you serve in a week is 30% below the standard that the rest of the tech support experts are meeting.
  • The degree of difficulty of the problems you choose to respond to is 40% below the standard that the rest of the staff are achieving.
  • The length of time that customers spend on the phone with you exceeds the rest of the staff by 25%.

As you can see, in the three most important performance measurements for your job, you are not succeeding. Your supervisor has spoken with you numerous times and you received additional training. Consequently, we believe that you are not willing to perform. This is adversely affecting the workload of the rest of the tech staff.

We need to see an immediate improvement in all three areas of performance or additional disciplinary action up to and including employment termination will occur. We have faith that you can improve. We need to see immediate improvement.

George Peterson, Supervisor

Marian Demark, Human Resources Manager

Sample Letter of Reprimand #2 (Text Version)

To: Linda Rodriguez

From: Mary Wilmont

Date: September 1, 2018

Re: Letter of Reprimand

The purpose of this letter of reprimand is to put you on notice formally that your attendance is adversely affecting your ability to complete your job. While salaried, exempt employees are not required to work specific hours, a forty-hour workweek is standard and expected.

You have failed to show up for work at least one day a week since starting your new job and are working only thirty-two hours a week. Your manager has informed you of the availability of FMLA time off for personal or family medical issues. He has also asked you if you need an accommodation so that you can effectively perform your job.

He has suggested that you visit the Human Resources department to discuss these issues and your attendance. You have refused all three opportunities that we offered to help you improve this poor performance.

The reality is that you cannot perform your job in less than forty hours. You are missing deadlines for your work assignments and your lateness is adversely affecting the work of your marketing department coworkers. They are missing their deadlines as a result of your failure to perform. 

Additionally, your unfinished work when assigned to your coworkers is putting their workloads into overload since they already have jobs that require forty hours of work a week. This is unfair and we will not tolerate these negative impacts on the workplace starting now. 

We need to see an immediate improvement in your attendance or we will terminate your employment. This means that you must attend work five days a week. If you fail to attend work five days a week, you cannot meet the goals for which you have been employed.

Our standard paid time off policies give you six paid sick days and two personal leave days that you must use over a year. You must apply for vacation days in advance.

You have already used four of your sick days and all of your personal days with your current absences. We do not plan to give more time to you. This leaves you with only two sick days and your paid vacation time that you must request in advance.

If you have an absence above your available paid time off, we will terminate your employment. We hope that you understand how close you are to losing your job. You will receive no more warnings.

Regards,

Mary Wilmont, Manager

Thomas Credence, Human Resources Director

Employee Acknowledgment of Receipt

It is important to create a paper trail of employee reprimand actions. This process allows for the creation of proof that the employee received adequate notice of problems and steps—such as counseling—were taken to remedy the situation.

A simple acknowledgment of receipt for guidance clarifies that the employee received a reprimand.