How to Write Up an Employee: Addressing Employee Performance

BY Kathy Crosett
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Being an effective manager is not easy, especially if you’re dealing with employee performance issues. Chances are, you know that one or more of your team members has performance issues. You’ve noticed they never get their work done on time. Or they frequently arrive late for meetings. Other performance issues center on meetings. These employees might criticize another team member’s suggestions so frequently that their behavior borders on bullying. How do the best managers go about addressing an issue? And do they know how to write up an employee? Here are a few tips on how to identify and deal with employees who don’t pull their weight.

Addressing Employee Performance Issues


Before you confront the team member in your effort to address employee performance issues, take the time to review your expectations in a one-​on-​one meeting. This type of meeting can be angst-​filled for you and your team member, so you’ll need to prepare in advance. One way to ensure that you’re communicating effectively is to review the results of the psychometric assessments the team member has taken. If this employee needs specific explanations on when projects should be completed, consider whether you have been communicating that information properly. Telling an employee to finish a project or report as soon as possible isn’t sufficient. Start your conversation about missed deadlines by explaining that, going forward, you’ll list specific completion dates to avoid confusion.

Mismatch Between Job Duties and Motivation 

With the right coaching and management skills, poor performance can sometimes be improved. Other times, your best efforts will fail to move the needle. 

If your underperformer is a relatively recent hire, you may be dealing with a mismatch between job duties and motivation. A closer look at the employee’s psychometric assessment scores may reveal the problem. If you rushed to hire an employee who’s not motivated to serve as a customer support agent and would rather be a new business hunter, you’ll need to take action. The best outcome in this situation and in this job market might be to transfer the team member to another position. If a transfer isn’t possible, you’ll need to take steps to ease them out of the organization.

Personal Issues

You should ask about personal problems that may be affecting the team member’s work. This aspect is especially important if you’re working with an employee who’s consistently been a high performer until recently. If a personal problem surfaces during your discussions, talk with them about how to proceed. The solution may require them to take a short leave and for you to shift responsibilities temporarily to another employee. Take the time to have this conversation and establish a timetable for checking in regularly on how they are doing and when or if they anticipate returning to their previous performance levels.

How To Write Up an Employee

If you’ve made your expectations clear in a face-​to-​face conversation and the employee’s performance doesn’t improve, it’s time to escalate. Specifically, you need to know how to write up an employee because the next step in this process usually involves preparing for termination. Because this document could be important in future disputes between your company and the employee, you should be specific when addressing the issue. For example, experts on legalzoom​.com suggest stating details such as:

  • Employee has failed to complete key work on required dates – and list the dates.
  • Employee was told on a previous date, listed in the letter, to improve timeliness of project deliveries
  • The next instance of late delivery will result in immediate termination

If your company has an appeals process, describe the next steps in the letter. After meeting in person or via video with the employee, and reviewing the contents of the letter, ask for their signature. In some cases, they’ll refuse to sign and may become emotional. That’s your cue to have a senior level employee to sign that they witnessed the process and the refusal to sign.

The question of how to deal with employees who don’t pull their own weight keeps many managers focused on the wrong priorities for too long. It’s never easy to admit you made a hiring mistake or start the process of correcting employee performance issues. It will be even harder to write up an employee and meet with them to discuss the problem. But the sooner you remove your emotions from the situation and focus on the health of the organization, the sooner you’ll be able to take logical steps necessary to deal with an employee who isn’t pulling their weight.

Photo by Antoni Shkraba on Pexels.