A write-up in the workplace is a formal document informing an employee that their behavior or attitude does not align with company policy. This document may be a precursor to terminating that employee. It’s important to note that write-ups don’t typically pop up out of the blue. When an employee demonstrates a consistent pattern of misconduct, unchecked by verbal warnings, the employer may resort to a write-up. Write-ups represent a form of progressive discipline. Receiving a write-up doesn’t inherently lead to termination. But a write-up is usually one of a series of steps an employer will take before dismissing a worker. If you ever receive a write-up, it’s critical to respond immediately and appropriately.
Why Are Write-Ups Important?
It’s crucial to understand why write-ups bear such significance. In the United States, most workers are “employed at will,” which means employers and employees are not legally bound to one another. Therefore, an employee can resign when he wants to, and an employer can terminate an employee as he sees fit.
However, replacing an employee is costly when you factor in recruitment, onboarding, and training expenses. Many employers would rather help their employees correct their behavior so that all parties can maintain their business relationship. In addition, employees who feel their bosses fired them without due cause can sue their employers for discrimination or unjust termination. Therefore, the importance of a formal write-up is twofold.
- It allows employees to correct their behavior and remain with the company.
- It provides the employer with written evidence that they tried to help the employee and have a legitimate cause for potentially terminating that worker. This documented trail protects employers from lawsuits.
Either way, all parties involved should take write-ups seriously.
Reasons for a Write-Up
While some offenses require on-the-spot termination, the most common write-up cases are as follows:
- Poor work attendance and tardiness
- Harassment of fellow employees or customers
- Customer complaints regarding rendered services
- Noncompliance with safety procedures, company policies, or dress-code
- Workplace violence
- Substance abuse
- Direct insubordination
- Missing deadlines and goals
- Sub-par work
How to Respond to a Write-Up
Employers expect employees to acknowledge write-ups via a signature and to modify their future behavior. If a worker refuses to respond appropriately to a notice their boss knows they have received, he may cite their noncompliance as grounds for termination.
Here’s how to respond instead:
Receiving a write-up might feel stressful and humiliating and trigger an array of messy emotions. But it’s essential to harness your emotions in these cases—especially any defensiveness or anger. Keep calm and collected. Remain respectful. Not only is such behavior professional, but it also speaks volumes about your character. Your manager will watch to see if you will accept responsibility for and correct your behavior.
Meet with Your Manager
If your boss doesn’t schedule a meeting with you first, take the initiative to ask for an appointment with your manager. Listen to their perspective and what the stipulations are for moving forward. Try to gain a clearer understanding of why you received the write-up. It is wise to behave with humility. Apologize to your manager. Even if you feel that the write-up is unfair, you can still apologize for the confusion.
Take Notes and Ask Questions
The write-up will include notes about specific modifications you need to make, but ask if you require improvement in any other areas. Finally, ask clarifying questions about the write-up. Be sure to take notes to help you remember the conversation later.
Make an Effort to Change
If you want to remain with the company, take the required steps to change and improve. After a while, follow up with your manager to ensure you have progressed as desired.
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