Sample Employee Disciplinary Memo

Discipline in the workplace

It's important to document employee discipline in writing. Using a sample employee disciplinary memo to write your own memo can help you find the words to say what must be said in a professional and clear manner. However, when using a disciplinary memo template, be sure your finished document is in compliance with your company's policies and follows a standard business memo format.

Sample Employee Disciplinary Memo

If you need to write a disciplinary memo, consider using the sample document below as a guide. Of course, it will need to be edited to meet your needs based on the specific situation with which you are dealing, but it does provide a good starting point. Click the image to open the printable PDF template in a separate window and save it to your hard drive. Fill in pertinent information to save your changes, and you'll have the first draft for your memo. If you have any issues working with the document, see this guide for Adobe printables.

Disciplinary Memo
Click to download a sample disciplinary memo.

Disciplinary Memo Purposes

A disciplinary memo serves more than one purpose. First, it documents a warning regarding poor performance or unacceptable behavior on the part of a specific employee. Second, it documents the employer's attempts to rectify the problem and all the steps taken. Third, it documents consequences and/or discipline to be taken as a result of the behavior. The disciplinary memo can also include an inference to future consequences, such as loss of their job if the problem is not rectified.

Writing Tips

Finding the right words for an employee disciplinary memo can be difficult, especially if you are one who likes to avoid confrontation. To help you get started, make a list of the problem behavior(s) or aspects of the employee's job performance that must be addressed. This list can help keep the memo focused and offers ideas to define clearly the infraction, as well as your company's response. Ensure that you maintain a professional tone throughout the memo, and that the focus is on the specific problems and associated consequences.

You may want to have your legal counsel help write the document, or at least review the content before you give the memo to the employee who is being disciplined. This can help ensure that there is no unfortunate language in the memo that could lead to avoidable problems if the situation leads to termination of employment in the future.

Sample Disciplinary/Counseling Form

In some situations, you may find it beneficial to use a disciplinary/counseling report instead of, or in addition to, a disciplinary memo. This is a fill-in form that provides a structured way to document specific problem behaviors and detail what actions need to be taken to correct the issues. Using this type of form provides a consistent framework to use when communicating with employees about all kinds of disciplinary issues, including both performance-related and behavioral problems. It is often used during initial conversations about disciplinary problems and is followed up with a memo when the problem continues or exacerbates to the point where further action is necessary.

Disciplinary/Counseling Form Template

If you would like to have a standard form that can be used to document disciplinary and/or counseling conversations with employees, the template provided below is a great starting point. As with the memo, click the image to download editable PDF document. Save it and customize it for your purposes, using it a as a fill-in form any time you need documentation for a conversation with an employee regarding discipline or counseling.

Disciplinary counseling form
Click to download a disciplinary/counseling form.

Sample Performance Improvement Plan

If your company procedures involve implementing a formal improvement plan if initial counseling doesn't resolve the situation, you may also need a standard performance improvement plan (PIP). If so, use this performance improvement plan template as a starting point for creating a standard PIP form to use in such situations.

Writing Considerations for Disciplinary Forms

Even though there is less writing involved with a form than a memo, you must still fill in specific details about the problem behavior and actions that must be taken. As with a memo, you need to communicate clearly the problems and expected outcomes in a professional, objective manner.

In situations where supervisors are filling out these documents, it is wise to have them reviewed by the company's HR professional before communicating with employees. It may also be advisable to have the final version of your form reviewed by legal counsel, especially when significant infractions or problems are involved. In some situations, it can also be a good idea to have your employment law attorney review the completed forms in advance of sharing them with employees as well.

Deliver Disciplinary Notices by Hand

In the case of formal communication related to employee discipline, it is best to deliver the documentation by hand directly to the recipient. This will prevent the employee from saying they never received it and provides an opportunity to discuss the situation at the time the memo or form is delivered. It is wise to have the employee sign an acknowledgment that they received the disciplinary notice. This acknowledgment should be placed in the employee's personnel file.

Value of Documentation

It is important to document each step within the disciplinary process. Details can become distorted or forgotten when reprimands are only made verbally. Get it down in writing and keep the documents on file for future reference. If an employee is eventually fired because they do not heed the warning and do not improve performance or change their negative behavior, well-written documentation reflects a genuine attempt by the employer to help the employee improve, and it spells out the consequences if they don't.

If a fired worker decides to hire a lawyer and claim they were discriminated against in some way, disciplinary documentation provides hard evidence that the employee was given ample warnings and chances to change, and that they knew the possible consequences if their performance did not improve. In cases that do end up in court, documentation clarifies what procedures were taken, how many times the employee was warned, and the fact that they knew they were at risk of losing their job if the problem was not resolved with a change in their actions.

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Sample Employee Disciplinary Memo