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Verbiage Dos & Don'ts in DA Write-Ups

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Effective Disciplinary Action Policies and Procedures

  • Format: Self-paced
  • Course Duration: 1 hr 1 min
  • SHRM Professional Development Credits: 1.0
  • HRCI General Recertification Credits: 1.0
  • Certificate of Completion (after passing quiz)

Having to discipline, or worse, end an employment relationship is always difficult. Many employers think that just because they are in an “at will” state that they can fire anybody at any time. This is not the case. 

It is absolutely critical you, the HR Professional, and your team understand how to approach these oftentimes tough situations. There are right and wrong ways to handle them. As an HR Professional, you will be involved in and even lead disciplinary procedures. The learning objective is to help Human Resources Pros like yourself partner with managers to handle two of the toughest workplace activities, disciplinary actions and terminations.

You are in the perfect position to ensure employees are treated with respect and your management team operates in both a compassionate and compliant manner. The more you know, the less stress and anxiety you’ll have to overcome. Plus, you’ll be better enabled to train your managers.


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Title: Verbiage Dos & Don'ts in DA Write-Ups
Module: Document, Document, Document
Duration: 1:54

Disciplinary Actions need to be objective and fact based. They should not reflect emotion. So in short, stick to the facts and do not include opinions.

Along those lines, phrases and words to avoid would be: I believe, I think, I feel like, it appears, it seems likely.

For example, do not say: “Scott acts crazy”. Instead state: “Scott displays undesirable behavior.” It’s important to add specific information like, “On 9/18 in a team meeting, Scott raised his voice and rolled his eyes at his co-workers’ ideas”. In this example, crazy is subjective, while examples of undesirable behavior can actually be clearly outlined.

Also avoid using words that are embellished or overly inflammatory like: always and never.“Scott never arrives to work on time and is always late.”Instead state: “Scott is supposed to start his shift at 9 am. Scott arrived after 9am on:” (and then list the exact dates and arrival times).

Then I would sum those up and use a total # of times he was late in the past 3 months. In this case you are being fact based, with no emotion. You could then state what your company policy states about absenteeism and tardiness.

Of course, we never use language that alludes to any of the following such as

Race, Color, Religion, Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity), National origin, Disability, Age (40 or older), and genetic information (including family medical history).

Your words should criticize the behavior, not the person. You should also be able to provide concrete examples of every inappropriate action that you are including in the write-up.


Instructor: Liz LaForte

Liz has been an HR professional for more years than she cares to share! In that time she has seen it all, she has hired them all, let some of them go, stayed on top of the ever changing cultural and regulatory landscape. She has had every difficult conversation a Hollywood writer’s room could cook...

Liz's Full Bio

SHRM Recertification

HR Jetpack® is an official SHRM Education Partner recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP.

HRCI Recertification

HR Jetpack® is recognized by HRCI as an approved provider to offer credit hours towards aPHR™, PHR®, PHRca®, SPHR®, GPHR®, PHRi™ and SPHRi™ recertification.

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The information provided on this site, and in all courses should be used as a guide. Always consult an attorney when making employment law decisions.

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