When you write up an employee, you undertake one of the most difficult but crucial tasks of management. Write up employees fairly, carefully and constructively and you will have a well-run department with performance improvement. Write up an employee vengefully, with exaggeration or for purely punitive reasons and you may end up with a suit on your hands. Work with your human resources department to ensure you use the corporate process for employee performance improvement.
Check corporate policies on writing up an employee. Many organizations have set policies or forms for writing up an employee and expect these to be followed. If you do not know whether such a policy exists, check with your own supervisor or with a long-term employee. Do not break confidence by sharing who the write up will concern.
Label the write up a Performance Improvement Plan. The performance improvement plan (PIP) label puts the employee write-up in the right mode and function. Its goal is to improve performance and provide a constructive plan to do so, not to verbally berate or embarrass the employee.
Begin by chronologically listing objectively observed performance issues. These should read as factually as possible with as little opinionated statements as possible. Remember, these become legally liable documents. Stick to the facts and let the rest stay in your own mind.
Connect the performances issues with the actual job description. Your employee should have a job description with concrete objectives. Note how the observed performance issues negatively impacted the accomplishment of objectives listed on the job description. Be as clear, succinct and direct as possible.
Write out concrete steps of a plan for improvement. When you write up an employee it has to function positively toward the future, not negatively toward the past. Specify the concrete actions you want the employee to take. Be clear about the process, with whom the PIP will be shared and the consequences for continued performance issues. Reread your document several times, reading it out loud and making necessary adjustments. End with positive statements about the employee's accomplishments and your desire to see the employee continue to contribute in this way.
Have a private meeting with the employee. Without indicating to other employees that the person is in trouble or under discipline, have a private meeting. Use a location where office mates cannot overlook or overhear. Keep your tone calm and avoid emotional responses. Be sure the employee understands what you have written and have the employee initial the document indicating that the employee understands the information.
Make it clear that this meeting is not about defending past actions but improving future performance. If the employee refuses to initial or sign the document, note that and sign it yourself. Give one copy to the employee and keep one for yourself.