How to write a great letter of reprimand with samples and tips

How to write a great letter of reprimand with samples and tips

A letter of reprimand is a formal document, a form of workplace communication that sums up a form of disciplinary action.

Employees receive these memos when they exhibit unfavorable workplace habits or activities. If you manage a team or a department, you will almost certainly need to compose this letter at some point.

How to write a letter of reprimand

  1. Address your concern informally
  2. Keep the goal of your letter specific 
  3. Cite the company’s policies
  4. Recognize your employee’s good characteristics
  5. Specify any adjustments that are required
  6. Describe the next steps
  7. End on a positive note
  8. Put your signature on the letter
  9. What to avoid in a reprimand letter?
  10. Tips for making your delivery more effective
  11. How to write a response to the letter of reprimand?
  12. What is a verbal reprimand?
  13. What should a verbal warning letter include?
  14. How long is the verbal warning usually in effect?
  15. Conclusion

What is the purpose of a reprimand letter?

Letters of reprimand are used as disciplinary actions by employers, team leaders, and superior managers.

A letter of reprimand, often known as a warning letter, successfully communicates to an employee that they need to alter some aspect of their work behavior, i.e., anything from employee performance to their teamwork ethic, insubordination, and similar.

The main goal of a written reprimand letter is to suggest corrective action and prevent (further) undesirable conduct.

It also records a person’s attempt at doing so. When someone acts unfavorably, the reprimand is observed as a warning letter or a first penalty.

Here are some common reasons for writing this type of letter:

  1. Being late: If someone in your department routinely arrives late, you may want to consider issuing a formal warning.
  2. Being absent: Taking too much time from work might result in missed assignments and unsatisfactory results. It could also have a detrimental impact on the employee’s department or team, suggesting urgent employee performance improvement is critical.
  3. Inappropriate behavior: An individual’s behavior affects the workplace’s entire culture and climate. If someone in your business misbehaves, it might impact others. In this circumstance, writing a reprimand letter can assist in setting forth progressive discipline, which will, in the long run, help avoid similar occurrences from happening again.
  4. Misuse of equipment: If an employee isn’t sure how to properly utilize corporate equipment despite repeatedly receiving training, a written employee reprimand is sent as an official warning.
  5. Failure to follow a protocol: Each job has its own set of standards. A written warning emphasizes the significance of adhering to job-specific regulations.
  6. Avoiding company meetings: Meetings are vital for employees to receive critical information about your firm and they should not be missed. If an employee consistently misses meetings but gets defensive or starts rebuttals when confronted, you need to take action.

A formal letter is sent to the HR department to inform them of this employee going against the company code. Human resources then decide on the following actions.

Typically, but not necessarily, a reprimand letter with the employee’s name and other data enters the employee personnel file.

How to write a reprimand letter

Warning letters/reprimand letters are essential for communicating concerns and prompting rapid changes among your team members. You can transmit your message more effectively by writing your letter directly.

Here are a few strategies to make sure your intentions are clear:

01. Address your concern informally

Before you start composing a letter of reprimand, you must first think about the goal and importance of such an action.

A friendly discussion or informal email should occur before any formal meeting unless an employee’s actions are very serious.

In talking to your employee, take into account their record if there have been similar situations in the past suggesting persistent inappropriate behavior or a persistent performance issue.

In most cases, it is appropriate to delay the issuance of a warning letter until after there has been a second incident as well — this shows respect for them and also communicates power by delaying disciplinary action.

Even if you’re dealing with this issue informally, it’s still a good idea to keep a record of your interactions.

The documentation leaves behind a paper trail and aids in objectivity — both things that are essential when it comes to taking further action.

02. Keep the goal of your letter specific

As a manager, you want your team to succeed. As such, any feedback or direction you give should be clear and uncomplicated for the individual receiving it.

Therefore the first lines of your correspondence should be direct and professional, with them stating why the letter is being sent.

Here are some ways that will help make sure that intention is clear:

  • Indicate that the letter you are sending is a reprimand letter
  • Include dates of any informal warnings or talks you’ve had with the employee
  • Give the date of the unfavorable event that took place

03. Cite the company’s policies

After describing the person’s behavior, cite the applicable company policy.

This not only clarifies your expectations for them but also provides an understanding of how your company deals with this issue on a more severe level.

For example, if your company has a strict policy against racial intolerance and your employee has been making racial slurs around, they need to get a warning to stop this behavior.

04. Recognize your employee’s good characteristics

Try to set the person’s mind at ease after discussing policy or protocols by expressing something pleasant about their work performance.

It seems as though you have a good grasp of what is going on, and should be able to handle this with no problem!

05. Specify any adjustments that are required

As you get closer to the end of your letter, make a list of the changes you’d like to see from them. This reaffirms your concern and clarifies expectations.

When people know exactly what they need to do, they perform better.

Suppose your employee has an excellent work ethic but isn’t too social at the workplace and/or avoids communicating with others.

You may set a goal for them to get more interactive with others and explain why that’s important for our entire company — when he or she understands that having a pleasant social environment results in better working together and thus delivering better results — it’s likely he or she will step out of their comfort zone in order to become more sociable!

06. Describe the next steps

Remember that you need to have a clear idea of what should happen next. You can describe the ramifications of future incidents or specify a deadline by which you expect to see proof from the other party.

This is a very important section because it transforms your letter from being just an opinionated warning, but rather one with professional objectives delivered in time and with facts as evidence.

07. End on a positive note

The final paragraphs of your letter should be positive and emphasize the importance of coming to an agreement on a company-related issue.

Your tone should convey trust in their capacity to resolve your case.

A positive message is more encouraging, and it’s more likely to seem collaborative, than if you ended your letter with a negative consequence.

08. Put your signature on the letter

To conclude and finalize a letter of reprimand, you need to date the letter and sign your name. This will show that it is important to you personally as the sender.

Getting someone to sign a letter of reprimand might be challenging at times.

If your organization wants an employee signature, signing the letter yourself may persuade the individual you manage to reciprocate. The easiest way? An eSignature!

Besides providing well-crafted, multi-purpose templates, PandaDoc offers seamless electronic signature software that will help improve your doc the speed and security of your doc signing.

What to avoid in a reprimand letter?

  1. Emotional or editorial comments, harsh language, and a list of the person’s shortcomings.
  2. Making “legal conclusions” about harassment, discrimination, or retaliation could be seen as an admission of liability on the company’s part.
  3. Making interactions with the employee too litigious — your objective should be to maintain and grow the working relationship.
  4. Including supporting documentation is frequently seen as excessive.

Although the context of the reprimand letter can vary — here’s a sample letter of reprimand you can use:

[Senders Name]

[Address line]

[State, ZIP Code]

[Letter Date]

[Recipients Name]

[Address line]

[State, ZIP Code]

[Subject: Letter of Reprimand]

This is an official written reprimand for your failure to perform the functions of your position appropriately, which has led to a violation of confidentiality rights. Revealing information that was shared with you in confidence by one employee, to other employees (reveals this same knowledge about them) is not appropriate behavior.

Even if the employee had not specified that this information was confidential, discussing it with another employee is a failure on your part to perform your expected management role. The severity of this action warrants disciplinary action which could lead to you being terminated from employment.

You were previously reprimanded for revealing confidential information to an employee, and you will now be receiving a written letter of reprimand as a reminder. In this letter, I am reminding you of the importance of safeguarding any confidential information that your role requires.

As an employee that has been entrusted with management responsibilities, you are expected to exercise your dependable good judgment. The future of this business relies on the diligence you demonstrate in carrying out your duties.

If we find out you violate our confidence in your ability to carry out any of your expected managerial roles, there will be additional disciplinary action up to and including the possibility of terminating your employment.

A copy of this reprimand will be placed into your official personnel file.

Sincerely,

[Name]

[Title]*

[Enclosures: number]*

cc: [Name of copy recipient]*

*Listing your title, enclosures and adding someone in the cc: of the email is optional.

Tips for making your delivery more effective

Handling reprimand letters or verbal reprimands is already stressful as it is, so here are a few tips to help ease the process:

  1. Take action quickly but gently.
  2. Don’t just talk; listen as well.
  3. Allow yourself enough time to answer.
  4. Make an appointment for a follow-up.
  5. Take care of the situation in private.
  6. Concentrate on actions or behaviors rather than attitudes.
  7. Be specific and avoid dilution of your message.
  8. Hold everyone to the same level of accountability.
  9. Take notes on the conversation/document it.
  10. Consider offering help.

How to write a response to the letter of reprimand?

If you’ve received a letter of reprimand and you would like to respond to your manager, there are a few guidelines to follow.

Here’s an outline of addressing a letter of reprimand properly:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of the letter.
  2. Objection to the incident in a non-defensive tone, and explain your side.
  3. Mention that you have reviewed the company’s documents.
  4. Suggest having a meeting to discuss the issue further.

Here’s a sample response letter of reprimand you can use to put together your own:

[Senders Name]

[Address line]

[State, ZIP Code]

[Letter Date]

[Recipients Name]

[Address line]

[State, ZIP Code]

[Subject: Summarizes the intention of the letter]

Dear [Name/Surname],

I’m disappointed that this situation has spiralled out of control, and I apologize for the inconvenience. However, I take exception to the claim that I violated the company’s policy.

I reviewed the report and compared it to the documentation pertaining to our company’s business practices.

I’m aware of the rules, and I’ve always acted appropriately as I’m fully aware that the company will not tolerate a single infringement.

I humbly request a meeting with our human resources department to discuss this subject in more detail. I would appreciate you taking part in the meeting, too.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]*

[Enclosures: number]*

cc: [Name of copy recipient]*

*Listing your title, enclosures and adding someone in the cc: of the email is optional.

What is a verbal reprimand?

An oral/verbal reprimand is a verbal warning given to an employee by their supervisor or manager as a means of correcting anything wrong in the event of inappropriate conduct or behavior.

There are two types of verbal warnings: Informal and formal verbal warnings.

Informal verbal reprimand

Typically nothing more than a quiet conversation between an employee and their line manager, informal verbal reprimands are conducted in an attempt to promptly and peacefully handle a minor issue of misconduct with an employee.

A verbal reprimand can refer to poor performance, too, or any other issue without resorting to formal disciplinary processes.

Formal verbal reprimand

Suppose an employer finds that formal actions are necessary, such as additional disciplinary action and a hearing.

In that case, they are in their right to issue a formal verbal reprimand as an acceptable manner of retributive punishment in response to any findings.

A verbal warning at work is typically provided due to a minor infringement in either situation.

What should a verbal warning letter include?

Any verbal warning template letter includes the following:

  1. The outcome of the disciplinary proceeding, i.e., the degree to which any wrongdoing or poor performance has been established.
  2. The employer has decided to take disciplinary action in response, such as issuing a formal verbal warning in this case.
  3. This signifies for the employee in terms of the anticipated repercussions of continued misconduct or failure to improve performance, such as receiving a first or final written warning.
  4. What behavioral adjustments or performance gains must be completed within a specific timeframe.

How long is the verbal warning usually in effect?

The employee’s right to appeal, including the ability to be joined by a coworker, trade union representative, or trade union official at any appeal hearing.

The severity and duration of verbal warnings can differ depending on specific requirements in the employer’s disciplinary procedures.

Although the ACAS Code of Practice provides no detailed guidance on how long a verbal warning should stay current, any sort of warning, oral or otherwise, should not last for an unreasonable amount of time.

Conclusion

Reprimanding employees will never be comfortable. However, when handled appropriately, it can be beneficial for everyone.

Before writing your official letter of reprimand, talk to your employee informally to address the issue and see if things can be resolved that way.

If that doesn’t work, write a letter focusing on the issue and how it disagrees with its policies. However, make sure you emphasize all that’s good about what your employee does, too, because you want this relationship bettered not to be terminated.

Be specific about your expectations and the deadlines you expect from the employee. And, of course, make it on a positive note!

Use PandaDoc Letter of reprimand templates to handle this process easier. The more automated challenging (and difficult) situations get, the easier it is on everyone.

With PandaDoc templates, you’ll see the difference in your business immediately!

Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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