What Is a Write-Up at Work & How To Respond

What Is a Write-Up at Work & How To Respond

Understanding the nature of a write-up at work and learning how to respond and potentially dispute it appropriately after being written up can significantly impact your career trajectory. Similarly, as a leader and manager, giving a struggling employee a written warning is a valuable tool to help them improve their job performance drastically. Common types of behavior that may induce a write-up include specific dress code violations, unfinished work, inappropriate comments, lack of customer service or follow-up, poor sales figures, and tardiness.

At MatchBuilt, we’ve counseled many professionals on how to respond after being written up at work. In our findings over the years, employers are trying to get the most out of employees by giving them a verbal warning or writing them up and not simply beginning to let them go. We note this because many people believe that being written up is a manager’s way of saying they don’t want you in the organization anymore. Perceiving a write-up as a means for dismissal is a misconception; it’s far too hard and costly to replace someone than encourage them to succeed.

What is a write-up at work?

A write-up at work is a formal written warning about an area of an employee’s performance that needs immediate improvement.

To grow in any profession, knowing what a work write-up is and how to respond to it without taking it personally can significantly impact your future, regardless of your position. A write-up is part of the disciplinary process at most progressive companies and usually gives you plenty of time to show an adjustment. Further, writing a well-informed response to a write-up is an essential professional development step, but it demands forethought and study.

How should you respond to a write-up at work?

  1. Be calm
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Ask questions
  4. Don’t blame others
  5. Don’t make excuses
  6. Don’t quit
  7. Wait to sign
  8. Respond in writing
  9. Fix the problem
  10. Consider a job change

If you’ve recently been written up via a disciplinary action form and you’re looking for the right way to respond, this post is for you. Similarly, suppose you’re a manager or business owner struggling with an employee’s performance and creating disciplinary notices and want to learn how to write someone up. In that case, you’ll find some great tips here. This article will define a work write-up, explain its significance, and advise on how to proceed after obtaining one.

What Is a Write-Up at Work?

A write-up at work is a formal warning about an employee’s performance used by employers and business owners to penalize or note a workplace transgression. Organizations utilize employee write-up forms to stay on top of significant deviations from company rules, procedures, and standards. Upon signing a written warning, it’s typically company policy to add it to the employee file for future reference.

If your organization begins utilizing personnel write-up forms for formal write-ups, it should settle on a particular template and develop policies and procedures to govern its use. Employee write-up forms should only be used in specified instances to improve employee behavior, not in a vengeful manner. It should also fully state the logic behind the write-up and provide the employee with clear ideas on enhancing their behavior or performance, goals they must attain, and repercussions for falling short.

If additional disciplinary action is necessary when problematic behavior continues, a final written warning may be used, followed by immediate termination.

Why Is a Write-Up at Work Important?

Employee write-up forms are helpful because they help human resource professionals keep track of patterns of poor behavior, and they help give insight into the less-than-positive character traits of the company’s employees.

Protection Against Lawsuits

The primary purpose of documenting disciplinary actions is safeguarding yourself and your business against wrongful termination litigation. Write-ups can help to lessen or prevent such lawsuits from unhappy former employees, and as a result, they may endanger your business’s financial resources and reputation.

A write-up at work is a written document demonstrating that the organization has taken numerous steps to assist the specific employee in changing their incorrect behavior. Employers provide write-ups following multiple verbal warnings. They include a list of practical measures to assist the employee in resolving their concerns, demonstrating that the employer has taken all conceivable precautions to avoid firing.

Reduction of Terminations

Since write-ups give practical measures to help employees know what an organization expects of them, they help reduce the number of terminations. Employees may use the laid-up suggestions to improve their performance or conduct, making the workplace more conducive.

Indicators of the Severity of Misconduct

Some workers may not take verbal warnings as seriously as intended, so many employers use a write-up to ensure their message is clear. The written document highlighting the behaviors that need improvement is difficult to brush off, especially when accompanied by a conversation and signature.

how to respond to a write up at work

How to Respond To a Write-Up at Work

Branigan Robertson, an employment lawyer in California, gives the following recommendations to help employees respond well to write-ups.

1. Be Calm

After receiving a write-up from your manager, you need to remain composed as you discuss it as much as you might believe the written warning is ridiculous. Try not to cry or raise your voice. Instead, be as calm as possible.

2. Listen Carefully

Don’t react immediately. Instead, listen to all your manager has to say; if any part is unclear, ask your boss to repeat it. To ensure that you got everything correct, you can repeat the feedback, only be sure to do so calmly, without any trace of sarcasm—request for either a day or two before you respond to the PIP.

3. Ask Questions

If the accusations seem vague, ask for examples and take good notes since you might need to remember many points after the meeting. If you don’t have a writing pad, you can put it down immediately after the meeting.

4. Don’t Blame Others

Don’t try to up your defense by saying, “Others do it; why haven’t you given them a write-up?” It’s legally wrong if others do the same thing and don’t receive legal warnings. However, it may be inappropriate to make this remark immediately. The best way to address this matter is by highlighting the issue when submitting your written response.

5. Don’t Make Excuses

You will have a lengthy opportunity to defend your actions but not during this meeting. Wait until the time when you’ll be submitting your response to share your excuses.

6. Don’t Offer to Quit

Do not threaten to quit your job, as it may negatively impact your career and prospects, nor should you ask for severance. Such actions only prove to your employer that you cannot deal with negative criticism hence unfit for employment.

Ask for Time to Respond.

If your manager asks for your immediate response, request a day or two before giving one. The duration will help you think and reflect on the situation and provide sober feedback.

7. Wait to Sign

If the manager gives you documents to sign, wait until you understand the content fully before authorizing. If you do not agree with the document’s contents, you can sign it and note against your signature that you don’t agree with its content.

8. Respond in Writing

A written response is crucial in any official communication as it gives leverage in case of wrongful termination. When giving your feedback, consider the following:

  • Stick to facts and not feelings
  • Specify what is true and untrue in the write-up
  • Attach proof whenever possible
  • List your witnesses – sometimes, your co-workers may not be helpful since they want to protect their jobs.
  • Give a concise response (two to five paragraphs)
  • Be polite and professional in your response
  • Affirm your loyalty to the company
  • Document the circumstances under which you received the warning letter
  • Confirm whether you violated the company policies by reviewing its stipulations
  • If you feel targeted for any reason, put it down in your response
  • It is also wise to own up to your mistakes if any

Refrain from talking to your colleagues about the write-up, as it will not help your situation.

9. Fix the Problem

Learn to do what the write-up tells you to do. If it points out that you need to clean up after your shift, do so. Follow up with your boss to find out your progress. In most cases, employers will appreciate immediate changes, so if you get a positive response, that’s great. If not, it probably means that the company is reconsidering your job placement. You, therefore, need to take the necessary measures.

10. Consider a Job Change

If you do not feel like you can win back your employer’s confidence, or if the write-up is a good reminder that you don’t love what you do, then you may want to consider applying for new jobs.

If you want to make a job change, you may want to review articles throughout this site as you move forward.

We have great articles on how to improve your LinkedIn profile for recruiters, build a great resume, and answer common interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?“, “What is your greatest achievement” “Tell me about yourself,” “What are you passionate about?“, “What areas need improvement?” and “Why should we hire you?”.

how to dispute a write up at work

How to Dispute a Write-Up at Work Examples

Here are some ways in which you can respond and dispute a performance improvement plan (PIP) depending on the circumstances:

Write-up Response Example 1

While I appreciate your time and effort in researching and writing this report, I respectfully disagree with some of your conclusions. I want to provide a reply, both orally and in writing, to explain the matter from my perspective and clear up any confusion. If given a chance, I’d like to present my story.

Write-up Response Example 2

I missed the deadline by two days since three influential individuals on my team suffered from the flu the whole week prior, as described in the email I sent you before missing the timeline. I sought to remedy the situation by contacting the company, offering a discount, and staying late for three nights to ensure completion.

How to Write Someone Up at Work

The following steps will help you to write a valuable write-up at work:

Be Objective

Before creating a report, it’s essential to assess the situation objectively. Stress or anger might compromise your judgment, prompting you to make mistakes. It’s best to remain calm until you can rationally address the matter.

You’ve probably previously provided verbal correction and criticism in various ways. You may have reached the point where you’re ready to tell your employees how badly they’ve erred. Don’t give in to temptation.

Maintaining composure during any disciplinary action taken against an employee is crucial, mainly when you must document it in writing. A formal review will remain in the employee’s personnel file, and you shouldn’t anticipate anyone else having access to it. When discussing an employee’s performance in the event of a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, you should be professional and avoid getting personal.

As with other forms of progressive discipline, an official employee write-up helps correct the offending employee’s behavior in a measured manner, as opposed to serving as a written tirade against the individual. You shouldn’t include something if it’s irrelevant or can be perceived as venting. If you must write up an employee, take a moment to collect your thoughts and approach the situation with a clear head.

Have Clear Documentation

Managers should feel at ease documenting any contacts with employees, as this information is crucial for assessing employee performance. A solid paper trail can safeguard you by doing the following:

  • Give you documentation in an employment dispute, even in at-will states.
  • Justifying personnel-related choices, like who gets a raise and who doesn’t, who gets a promotion, and why.
  • Offering a detailed chronology of infractions and disciplinary actions taken against staff members.
  • When you’re ready (and have calmed down), begin the employee write-up by documenting the cause of the poor performance:
  • Ensure to address the letter to the staff and include a summary of their performance thus far.
  • Explain the time and date context of your instances.
  • Be true to the facts above all else. Maintain objectivity and stick to the dates and times of events.

Be objective and fair in your employee evaluations; don’t make anyone read them and think you have a grudge against them. Avoid saying anything like, “Billy is a slacker and lazy.” Write “Billy has been tardy to work three times,” specifying which shifts and times are in question.

Look For Applicable Business Policies to Bolster Your Argument

Have you ever heard an employee allege they were terminated because their supervisor disliked them? Even if an employee alleges bias or draws conclusions regarding why they received a poor performance review, a manager should strive to look impartial and objective.

It’s not that workers cannot meet a fictitious standard. The issue is that they aren’t adhering to the standards they established when the company hired them. After highlighting the employee’s performance difficulties, you should clarify your reasoning and connect the employee’s behavior to the company’s policies and expectations for their job.

For example, when an employee is habitually tardy, you must remind them of your company’s stringent attendance policy, which specifies that they may be tardy only twice before suffering sanctions.

As part of progressive discipline, a written document outlines why an employee’s reported behavior is inappropriate and any measures the company will take to ensure the employee meets the standards. If you’ve one, provide the employee handbook or attendance policy agreed upon at the time of hiring.

how to write someone up at work

Include Relevant Witness Statements

Include a statement from the employee’s other supervisor or shift manager if they were involved in bringing the performance issue to your attention, if the problem affects other employees, or if your employee works closely with them. These comments may be helpful in the event of a lawsuit in the future, so don’t minimize their significance.

Consequently, witness statements must comply with the same criteria as credible evidence:

  • Base all witness testimony on their objective observations, not their convictions.
  • Other witnesses’ statements about the employee’s conduct that led to the reprimand should bolster the case.
  • In their testimony, witnesses should elaborate on other supervisors’ initiatives or disciplinary procedures to remedy the issue.

It’s customary to record witness statements in a separate section of the write-up so that they stay confidential.

Plan for Advancement and Success

After outlining where and why the employee’s performance is deficient, you should outline concrete strategies for improvement. Simply pointing out the employees’ errors is ineffective.

According to Harvard Business Review, most employees would receive constructive criticism from their bosses rather than praise. Moreover, 72 percent of workers feel that offering positive feedback will improve performance.

Genuine corrective feedback identifies the issue and provides recommendations for its resolution. When your employee receives their written evaluation, prepare them for the subsequent stages. Not only should the outcome be included, but also the required corrective action.

The most significant way to convey bad news is in person (and with proof of receipt)

After completing the written reprimand, schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the contents. Consider calling a witness to attest that the meeting occurred and that you told the employee of their performance difficulties. After that, you can begin speaking:

  • Communicate your disappointment and lead your staff through concrete examples of substandard work. You can refer to the documents you keep if an employee contests your assertions or requests additional proof.
  • Always refer back to the rules established by your company. All employees received a copy of the company’s policies upon hire, which they should read and sign.
  • Describe the actions you should take after reading the article and the desired outcome.
  • Obtain a signature at the end of the document to demonstrate that the employee has read it.

The employee may react negatively to the news, and they could opt not to sign the document. If this is a problem, the Society for Human Resource Management proposes offering an area for employees to add their remarks and signatures in response to the write-up or allowing employees to submit a written rebuttal that you can then attach to their disciplinary write-up.

Duplicate the Write-up

After the employee has signed the document, you should give them a copy and keep the original. You should include a copy of the letter in the employee’s personnel file as evidence that they received the evaluation.

The longer you observe each team member’s behavior, the more likely you’ll recognize patterns and determine whether to escalate sanctions. To demonstrate the effectiveness of a written warning, you may also monitor their growth and response to improvement initiatives.

A support structure will be in place to safeguard you in case of a discrimination or wrongful termination suit. You may demonstrate to the employee that you informed them and handled the procedure correctly by giving them all the required documentation.

Like a letter, an employee write-up form is a valuable tool for disciplining employees and helping them improve job performance. Business owners, managers, and supervisors use write-up forms to describe and record workplace violations. The forms allow employees to know exactly what the violation was and agree to how it is described.

Employee Write-up Form Example

Feel free to use this Google Doc sample employee write-up form and edit it to fit your needs.

employee write up form example sample

Best Write-Up at Work Examples

Here’s an example of a Write-up. Even so, companies may use varying templates, but their components remain the same.

Name: Mitchell Tewi

Position: Retail Associate

Manager: Winnie Lieta

Reason for the write-up: Unfinished shift duties

Date of occurrence: 31st October 2022 (closing shift)

Management’s Statement: I am issuing a formal written reprimand for incomplete closure duties after issuing verbal warnings for two such incidences on 9th September and 16th September 2022. On 31st October 2022, Tewi failed to do the following tasks that are customary during every closing shift:

  • withdrawing money from the register, tallying it, securing it in a safe
  • cleaning the counters
  • disconnecting the neon signs

According to the business policy manual, all employees acknowledge that failing to fulfill tasks may lead to disciplinary action.

Witness Statement: Shenan Newton, who worked the opening shift on 1st November 2022, observed the incomplete duties and called me to confirm the issue.

Additional Evidence: The security footage from the store shows that Tewi did not perform her allocated chores on the required dates.

Employee Statement: Tewi accepts that she neglected to finish all closing responsibilities.

Disciplinary action: Tewi is on a 60-day probation, during which she must close alongside an assistant manager and submit a signed checklist attesting to completing all obligations.

Improvement Plan: Tewi may resume solo closing shifts after her 60-day probation period if she continues to use a checklist and submits it to me each week.

Manager’s signature: Winnie Lieta

Signature of an employee: Mitchell Tewi

Date: 4th November 2022

Write Up at Work FAQs

It can be a daunting experience to receive a write-up, but it is an opportunity for growth and development in your career. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that usually arise on a write-up at work:

What does a write-up at work mean?

Getting "written up" at work means that a document has been added to your personnel file that the HR department of your firm maintains. A write-up at work occurs when your actions have caused unwanted outcomes. Perhaps you must catch up to productivity expectations or continue to work outside established work policies.

A verbal caution or conversation can sometimes serve as the defining moment for what constitutes a written document. Do not disregard this warning, or you'll receive a PIP. If you continue to make the same errors, you'll face disciplinary action, including unpaid time off. Your job could be at risk.

Some companies call it a "Performance Improvement Plan" (PIP) to lessen the awful tone. They probably don't mean to scare you, but they're trying to give you a heads-up that your work could improve. A PIP write-up allows you to improve or reconsider whether you fit in your current position.

What should your employee write-up at work include?

A write-up at work includes the following:
- Basic information: This part contains the employee's name, ID number, job position, supervisor's name, and date of issuance.
- Incident description: Give an unbiased depiction of the employee's conduct, citing the dates and times of prior warnings and incidents. The worker's handbook can help you remain objective.
- Improvement plan: It gives the employee actionable steps to achieve the expected performance.
- Signature section: Both the employer and employee sign to acknowledge that they have received the write-up and equally understand the implication of going against it.

How long does a write-up last at work?

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), corrective action documents like PIPs can be permanent on an employee's file. However, some organizations argue that they should disband such records after six to twelve months if it doesn't result in an employment action. Generally, when employees maintain acceptable behaviors for a year or more, most employers no longer use previous disciplinary actions for future employment decisions.

What happens when you get a write-up at work?

Your supervisor will discuss the write-up's content with you and give you the steps you can take to change. You may have to sign it to acknowledge its receipt. However, you don't have to agree with it if there are some false sentiments in it. As you sign, you can note that you have received the document but do not entirely agree with its contents. You can thus request time to give a response while also clarifying your points of contention.

What is a final write-up at work?

A final write-up is the last written warning an employee receives before termination. The employer may issue this document if the employee repeats or commits more wrongdoing. This letter may also be handy if the worker's performance does not improve within a specified period, in which case the employer may terminate the one's employment.

How do I dispute a write-up at work?

If your employer gives you a PIP and you disagree, state your disagreement immediately. Remain calm, objective, and direct.


I differ from your interpretation of what transpired and want to provide an oral and written response. This assessment is not a realistic depiction of the issue, and I would appreciate the opportunity to present my version of events point-by-point.

You may be able to resolve the issue with your supervisor immediately and avoid the report from being formally filed, or he may instruct you to submit your response in writing.

Further, speaking up promptly will alert your manager that you dispute his statements.

What happens if you don't sign a write-up at work?

You can refuse to sign a write-up at work for various reasons, but it may still narrow down to insubordination, which can register negatively with your employer. The supervisor will note your refusal on the document. Even if the write-up doesn't have your signature, it's still legally binding and serves as evidence for disciplinary measures.

Sending a copy of the PIP via email can also help ensure that you have no excuse for denying receiving a formal written warning. It leaves a digital footprint that the company can use to prove that it delivered the information to them.

Can a company terminate an employee without a write-up?

As an at-will employee (one who is neither bound by a specific employment contract nor a collective bargaining agreement), you are subject to termination for any reason, whether good or poor. And no, you don't have to be given a written warning or explanation for your dismissal. The only exception is that discrimination is never a valid ground for termination. If you get fired for breaching a stringent law, you may have legal recourse in several states.

what does a write up at work mean

How to Write and Respond to a Write-Up at Work Summary

Disciplining employees is one of the most unpleasant aspects of running a business and managing people. Nonetheless, it is essential for maintaining good quality and output. As an employee with a long career ahead of you, understanding the nature of a write-up and learning how to respond appropriately after being written up can significantly impact your career trajectory. Similarly, as a leader and manager, giving a struggling employee a written warning is a valuable tool to help them improve their job performance drastically.

Keep in mind that employers are trying to get the most out of employees when giving them a verbal warning or writing them up and not simply beginning the process of letting them go. We note this because many people believe that being written up is a manager’s way of saying they don’t want you in the organization anymore. Perceiving a write-up as a means for dismissal is a misconception; it’s far too hard and costly to replace someone than encourage them to succeed.

Respond to a write-up by staying calm, listening carefully, asking good questions, not blaming others, not making excuses, not quitting on the spot, waiting to sign, responding in writing, fixing the problem, and, if all fails, considering a job change.

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