Table of contents
  1. When Is an Employee Write-up Necessary?
  2. Why Are Employee Write-ups Important?
  3. What to Include in an Employee Write-up
  4. Tips for Writing Employee Write-ups
  5. Conclusion

Employee write-ups are written reports that document specific instances of poor or problematic employee behavior.

Write-ups usually come after a pattern of poor behavior and one or more verbal warnings. Employee write-ups are sent by a manager to an employee to make them aware that there is a problem and to document the issue as part of an employee’s file.

Employee write-ups typically include a plan for how an employee can improve their behavior. They also outline additional disciplinary steps that will be taken if the employee does not improve.

When Is an Employee Write-up Necessary?

Employee write-ups are formal documents that go into employees’ permanent files.

Employee write-ups are usually issued for behavioral issues such as showing up late to work or failing to meet productivity standards. A write-up is usually warranted only after an employee has been made aware of the issue via a verbal warning and fails to change their behavior accordingly. 

Employee write-ups may also be issued without prior warning in response to serious issues such as unsafe behavior or workplace harassment. These serious issues may also be grounds for immediate disciplinary action, including termination.

Here are some examples of behaviors or incidents that may warrant an employee write-up.

  • Insubordination: If an employee is disrespectful towards supervisors or colleagues, that may be grounds for a write-up.
  • Policy violations: If an employee repeatedly violates company policy, such as the company dress code, they may receive an employee write-up.
  • Insufficient productivity: If an employee is not meeting productivity standards due to taking excessively long breaks or conducting personal activities while at work, this may warrant a write-up.
  • Poor attendance: If an employee is consistently late for work or misses work without notifying a supervisor, they may receive an employee write-up.

In all of these cases, it makes sense for a supervisor to communicate the issue with the employee before issuing a write-up. An employee may have various reasons behind their behavior; issues at home may be causing them to be late for work, or they may not fully understand the company policy that they are violating. Clear communication early on may be enough to resolve behavioral issues without the need for a more formal write-up.

Why Are Employee Write-ups Important?

Employee write-ups play an important role in the disciplinary process. They put an employee on notice that their behavior is unacceptable and the issue must be taken seriously. They also offer clear steps for improvement and lay out disciplinary actions that will be taken if the employee does not improve, making expectations clear.

Ideally, employee write-ups can reduce the need to fire employees. Some employees may not realize the seriousness of their misbehavior until they receive a write-up but then may work hard to correct their behavior. Others may benefit from the action plan laid out in a write-up and improve their behavior as a result.

In the event that an employee doesn’t improve and faces discipline or termination, an employee write-up can serve as an important piece of evidence that your company tried to correct the employee’s behavior first. This documentation can be extremely important in the event that your company is sued for wrongful termination.

What to Include in an Employee Write-up

An employee write-up serves as a record of an incident or behavior. It is a formal document that should be clear enough that HR representatives who were not present for the incident can understand it. 

Here are the key elements an employee write-up should include.

  • The employee’s name and ID number
  • The employee’s job title
  • A specific description of the problematic behavior
  • A description of the company policy that was violated
  • Reference to earlier write-ups, if applicable
  • Details of any disciplinary action taken
  • Specific changes the employee needs to make to improve
  • Consequences for further violations

The employee write-up should be signed by the employee’s supervisor and sent to the employee as soon as possible. It should also be signed by the employee to indicate that they have read and understood it. If the employee refuses to sign the write-up, indicate this on the document.

Tips for Writing Employee Write-ups

Employee write-ups can be valuable tools for improving employee performance and documenting issues for future reference. To make employee write-ups as effective as possible, here are a few tips.

Be specific.

Be as specific as possible when writing an employee write-up. That includes giving examples and evidence to document the problematic behavior. For example, if an employee is receiving a write-up because of attendance issues, document the specific dates that they were late to work and the times at which they showed up.

If the write-up is prompted by a specific incident, note who was present and where and when it happened. It may also be useful to include statements from other employees when documenting a pattern of behavior.

Cite company policy.

Be clear about what company policies an employee has violated. It’s a good idea to quote policies from the employee handbook in the write-up.

Lay out a plan.

Part of what makes employee write-ups valuable is that they lay out a plan for how an employee can improve. A write-up should clearly detail the steps that an employee needs to take in order to rectify their behavior. It could include specific milestones, such as showing up to work on time each day for the next week. It could also set a meeting in the near future between an employee and their supervisor to assess whether their behavior has improved.

Be objective.

It’s easy to let emotions into an employee write-up, especially when an incident is fresh. However, sticking to the facts of what happened makes the write-up much more useful in the future. Supervisors and HR managers can better understand what happened and pick out patterns of behavior if an employee receives multiple write-ups.


Employee write-ups are formal reports designed to document employee misbehavior and lay out corrective steps that the employee needs to take. Employee write-ups should be as specific as possible and cite the company policies that an employee violated. Write-ups can reduce terminations by giving employees a chance to improve their behavior, and, in the worst case, they can provide evidence that a company tried to correct an employee’s behavior before terminating them.