Employee Reprimands Help Employees Improve Performance

Why Would an Employee Receive a Reprimand Letter?

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An employee reprimand is an official notice to an employee, either verbal or written, that his or her performance is failing to meet expectations in some aspect of his or her job. The employee reprimand is provided following the failure of informal supervisory coaching to help the employee improve the required performance.

When an employee reprimand is offered verbally, it is usually the first step in progressive disciplinary action.

Typically, if the employee fails to improve in the points stated in the reprimand, the second step is a written verbal reprimand. This escalates the progressive disciplinary action to a new level of worry for the employee.

As the disciplinary action progresses - but doesn't have to in all cases - the employee will find that the next steps involve increasing numbers of unpaid days of suspension from work. With an employee who finds himself the recipient of increasing levels of disciplinary action, the employer hopes to see immediate progress. It doesn't always happen.

Consequently, at each stage, the employer needs to state or write that the current action can lead to additional disciplinary action up to and including potential termination.

This covers the employer if at any point in the disciplinary process it is decided that the employee can't or won't improve their performance. Once this is determined, there is no point to continuing the progressive discipline.

It is time-consuming and troublesome for the manager who needs an employee who can get the job accomplished. It is painful and unempowering for an employee who, for whatever reason, can't or won't get the job done. Just let the employee go and end everyone's pain.

Purpose of the Employee Reprimand

The purpose of a reprimand is to get an employee's attention.

It puts him or her on notice that failing to improve their job performance will result in more disciplinary actions that may lead up to and include termination from their job.

The majority of employees who receive a verbal reprimand never require the employer to  escalate the disciplinary action process. They decide to fix the problem or negotiate with their manager to move to a different job or job search and quit after finding a new opportunity.

But, for the odd employee who continues to fail, the employee reprimand, in addition to employee performance improvement, also provides the documentation necessary for an organization to eventually fire an employee. If an employee's performance fails to improve during a series of disciplinary action steps, the employer has legally documented the steps taken to help an employee improve and retain employment.

The employer has demonstrated the steps taken to help the employee improve performance. The employer has also demonstrated that he or she did take necessary action to help an employee improve and that subsequent disciplinary action was not arbitrary.

While steps in disciplinary action, that include an employee reprimand, or a series of reprimands, differ from company to company, and even within a company, depending on the nature of the non-performance, the reprimand is a negative event.

The steps in disciplinary action are documented in the employee handbook and they carry a negative connotation. 

An employee has failed to perform at a level that the employer determines requires disciplinary action. Thus, an employee reprimand is issued. In keeping with the policy outlined in the employee handbook, an employee reprimand may be the first, the last, or the only step required before employment termination, depending on the severity of the non-performance or the precipitating event.

Here's more information about how to write a letter of reprimand.

Sample Letters of Reprimand

Also Known As reprimand letter, disciplinary action, progressive discipline, reprimand, employee discipline form

Please Note: Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice on this website, but she is not an attorney.

The content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the articles cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel. The information on this site is provided for guidance only.