How to Write Letters of Incompetence in a Professional Way

by Natalie Smith; Updated September 26, 2017
Some employees aren't capable of living up to expectations.

Not every employee lives up to expectations. When this happens, you must write a disciplinary letter or formally terminate the person in writing. Some employees may fall so far short of your expectations that you become angry, but you still must write a disciplinary letter in a professional tone because the letter is a company record and your manner reflects upon the company. Do not compound the employee's lack of professionalism by acting in an unprofessional way yourself.

Step 1

Type the date. Skip a line, and type the employee's name and her home address on separate lines. Skip an additional line and type "Dear Mr./Ms. (Last name)" followed by a colon. Even if you are on a first name basis with the employee, you must make an extra effort to be professional in a situation where the employee requires discipline. Using the last name also helps you to create distance, which is helpful when the news is negative.

Step 2

Begin the letter by explaining to the employee that his performance at work has not lived up to expectations, and then detail the problems with his performance in a professional and unemotional manner. If applicable, list the dates and times of major incidents such as lateness or accidents. Refer to any specific rules that the employee has violated.

Step 3

Explain what will happen next. If you are disciplining the employee, explain that this is her first warning and that subsequent offenses will merit further warnings with more severe consequences, such as suspension or firing. If you are terminating the employee, provide the effective date for the termination and any further information she will need, such as when you expect her to vacate her office.

Step 4

Provide contact information in case he has any questions, and outline an appeal process if you have one. Thank the employee for his cooperation, and if appropriate, tell him you wish him well in the future.

Step 5

Close the letter by typing "Sincerely," and skip three line spaces. Type your name. Print the letter on company letterhead and sign your name above your typed name.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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