Do you need to better understand the use of letters of reprimand in your workplace? They are a useful tool when written properly, legally, and to better communicate performance issues to an employee. Managers are often reluctant to take disciplinary action at work. They fear that it will damage their relationship with the employee and potentially demotivate the person to the point that their performance deteriorates even further.
But, the reality of the situation is that if you are thinking about disciplinary action, that trust is already damaged in such a way that to rebuild the trust would take enormous effort and deep commitment. You no longer trust that the employee will perform some aspect of their job; the employee thinks that you are out to get them which is confirmed when you write them up.
Why You Use a Letter of Reprimand
A letter of reprimand is issued to an employee when the employee's manager, in conjunction with the Human Resources staff, sees an employee making no improvement progress after encouragement over time. The letter usually follows counseling and coaching by the manager that is carefully documented to ensure that a paper trail exists per the possibility of a lawsuit.
The paper trail is important because it provides evidence that the employee was informed and counseled at each step of the way during the improvement process. This ensures, first of all, that the employee was aware of and informed about what the organization saw as his or her shortcomings. This is the recommended first step in a performance improvement process. You never want to blindside an employee with a performance issue that is first brought to their attention in a letter of reprimand.
Final meetings with an employee before a formal reprimand is issued are often attended by HR staff to ensure that the manager is effectively communicating the problems to the employee. The HR staff member also provides a witness who can testify to the existence of and the content of the improvement meetings.
The goal in any progressive discipline actions is to ensure that the employee is not blindsided by the reprimand. It should occur as a logical and expected extension of progressive discipline to help the employee improve their performance.
Sample Letter of Reprimand
You can use this sample as a model to write a letter that requires a formal, official, documented employee reprimand. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.
Sample Letter of Reprimand for a Manager
This employee reprimand is issued to a manager. It is a serious, ethical breach for a manager to overlook employee confidentiality. Managers are held to a higher standard than this manager exhibited.
A letter of reprimand to a manager is a rare event. Employers would usually remove a manager who violates performance standards from his or her management role before disciplinary action was necessary.
1. Letter of Reprimand (Text Version)
Re: Letter of Reprimand
This is an official written reprimand for your failure to perform the functions of your position appropriately to safeguard the confidential knowledge you have acquired about the employees who report to you. Revealing information, that was shared with you in confidence by an employee, to other employees, is a violation of the confidentiality rights of the employee.
It is also a breach of your expected and entrusted managerial role. In fact, even if the employee had not specified that the information that they shared with you was confidential, discussing employee business with another employee, under any circumstances, is a failure on your part to perform your expected management role. The severity of your actions justifies the disciplinary action that could lead to employment termination.
You have received verbal counseling for an earlier offense in which you revealed confidential information entrusted to you by an employee. With this letter of reprimand, I am reminding you of the critical importance of safeguarding confidential information that your role requires.
I am also reminding you of the critical importance that your exercise of dependable good judgment as an employee entrusted with management responsibilities requires. Because of your position, further diligence in carrying out your responsibilities will be required for the future.
Another breach of our confidence in your ability to carry out any of your expected managerial roles will result in additional disciplinary action up to and including the possibility of employment termination.
A copy of this reprimand will be placed in your official personnel file.
Acknowledgment of Receipt:
I acknowledge receipt of this written reprimand. My acknowledgment does not necessarily signify my agreement with its content. I understand that a copy of this reprimand will be placed in my official personnel file and that I have the right to prepare a written response that will be attached to the original letter of reprimand.
Employees who persist in behavior that makes them fail at their jobs eventually need to formally hear about the problems. By the time a supervisor reaches the point of needing to write a formal letter of reprimand, he or she has likely invested several hours of coaching and counseling in helping the employee improve his or her performance.
Creating the paper trail that may lead to dismissal is prudent for the employer. It also keeps the employee from being surprised when his or her employment is ended. It's always best to clearly state the problems, the potential outcomes, and the needed performance improvement in writing.
2. Letter of Reprimand (Text Version)
Re: Letter of Reprimand
This letter is a formal reprimand for the performance you have exhibited on the job. Your work, despite encouragement and regular coaching and suggestions from your supervisor, is not improving.
We have also provided you with on-the-job training from three of our most experienced employees, but you have demonstrated that you don't learn the job. Your performance was rated unsatisfactory by each of the assigned employee trainers/mentors.
Your output remains 30% below the output of your average coworkers. So, your speed, consistency, and dependability are a problem when we are trying to fill customer orders. We can't count on you to do your part.
You have approximately two weeks, although if we don't see early progress, you will not get the full two weeks, to demonstrate that you can learn and perform this job. If you don't demonstrate immediate progress, we will terminate your employment.
We will place a copy of this formal, written reprimand in your personnel file in Human Resources.
Please take this advice seriously as our preference is always to see employees succeed.
Acknowledgment of Receipt:
I acknowledge that I have received this written reprimand. My acknowledgment does not mean that I agree with its contents. I understand that you will place a copy of this reprimand in my official personnel file. I also acknowledge that I have the right to prepare a written response that you will attach to the original letter of reprimand.
More Sample Letters of Reprimand
Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.