When a Writeup is Needed

“I usually just have talks with my employees about any problems. When is it necessary to write them up instead?”

Your HR Survival Tip

When you have problems with employees, you need to do something to correct their behavior or actions. A conversation is the first step and, if you’re lucky, it’s the only step needed. Problem fixed! However, that’s not always the case.

If the problem continues, you now have to decide what you’ll do next. Having another conversation seems to be popular but may not be effective if you’re just repeating what you said in the first conversation. If the employee didn’t get it then, why would you think they would act differently upon hearing it a second time? However, you can help lock in the information by asking the employee to write a summary of the problem and the agreed upon solution. If they didn’t really understand, they won’t be able to write a summary or will need to ask questions. Either way, it helps get the message delivered.

CA Human ResourcesWe are not a fan of progressive discipline policies because you’re legally forced to follow the steps, regardless of the problem. Discretionary discipline policies allow you to choose the appropriate disciplinary action to fit the issue. They have similarities though. The first step is inevitability the conversation informing the employee of a problem.

Writeups aren’t legally required… but they are very highly desirable and recommended for two reasons. One is to lower the company’s legal risk if the problem should eventually lead to a termination. The other reason may keep you from having to go there. A writeup provides a second way to get your words absorbed by the employee. People learn and understand by different methods. Some are good listeners (so they should understand what you’re saying), others are visual (where a writeup actually is easier for them to comprehend), and then there are those who actually learn by by doing (so you demonstrate or watch while they do the work). These are just examples so you get the idea.

If you have a problem that isn’t being corrected with the first conversation, then it’s your job as the supervisor to figure out other ways to help the employee understand. So you’ve tried the conversation, tried having the employee summarize the conversations, and still have a problem. Now is the time to put it more officially on paper. Include the problem, why it’s a problem, your desired solution, and a doable deadline. You’ll also want to have the employee sign and date this writeup.

It’s strange, but employees generally take something in writing much more seriously than when it’s verbal. This writeup is your effort to make them understand YOU are serious about correcting this problem. If you are feeling this may be your final attempt, end the writeup with “Failure to correct this issue may lead to further disciplinary action, including termination.” If a termination does result, you’ll find it much easier (and safer) to do when the employee has been warned of the possibility.

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