Reprimand Letter Tips

Larry Barkdull
Award-Winning, Nationally Recognized Writer

No employer relishes disciplining an employee, but when a reprimand is in order, he/she should proceed in a professional manner. If this becomes your responsibility, first check your company's policies and practices to see if there is an accepted format for a letter of reprimand. You should also check to see if your company recommends any additional corrective actions.

In most cases, you should first talk with the employee and then document your conversation, including the details of the problem. Use specific language so there is no room for misunderstanding. Define the issue in broad enough terms so that your explanation will cover any future problems. Have the employee sign the documentation to prove that the issue was discussed. The verbal warning then becomes part of the employee's record to help justify future action if necessary.

In many cases, however, an actual letter is appropriate. Here are a few situations that call for a letter of reprimand and tips to help you write one.

If an employee's performance is not acceptable and does not improve after an initial face-to-face discussion, a warning letter of reprimand is the next step to resolving the problem. Use specific language so there is no room for misunderstanding. Clearly state what behavior must be improved and set a date when you will reexamine the employee's performance to determine if that improvement has been reached. This warning letter of reprimand then becomes part of the employee's record to help justify future action if necessary.

Breach of policy
This letter of reprimand needs to be brief and to the point. Do not make negative generalizations about the employee or his/her character, and avoid insulting language. The implied seriousness of the violation will generally be sufficient to get the employee's attention and change his/her behavior.

Poor attendance or tardiness
Although the behavior is disturbing, maintain a calm and courteous tone in your letter of reprimand, but also be direct and concise. Stick to the facts of the situation, and avoid negative comments that refer to the employee's character.

Poor performance
Begin this letter of reprimand with courteous language, and then proceed directly to the issue. Focus on the incident or practice in question. Offer constructive criticism, but do not make negative generalizations about the character of the person receiving the reprimand.

Note: Other than the employer/employee relationship, you may find yourself in other situations in which you may need to write a warning letter to individuals under your authority. Below are a few examples.

Warn a customer about credit suspension or penalization
When you use a letter of reprimand to warn a customer about suspending his/her credit or penalizing his/her account, use courteous language. Let the customer know that you would rather not take any action, but you will if it becomes necessary. Be concise and specific.

Warn a distributor under your supervision
When a letter of reprimand of this type becomes necessary, it is important that you express your concerns in concise, specific, and courteous language. Explain what your expectations are and how the distributor is not meeting them. Avoid condescending comments or negative language that the distributor may find personally insulting.

Writing a letter to reprimand tenants
As with other letters of reprimand, be direct and concise, but also be courteous. Stick to the facts of the matter without commenting negatively on the tenant's character.