Should you quit if you got written up at work?

Updated on August 2, 2023
Should you quit if you got written up at work

If you got written up at work, you may feel uneasy about your future in the company and that’s understandable.

You might be overwhelmed with guilt and your confidence in your abilities as a professional might have suffered.

There is no need to quit your job if you got written up. Write-ups are an important form of communication between employers and employees. Their purpose is not to make you leave your job but to give you a chance to get back in line with company protocols and policies or to improve your performance.

A write-up is simply a mechanism through which you are formally informed that you should change or improve a certain aspect of your work in order to remain in the company or organization that you work for.

So don't be discouraged if got written up at work. Instead, think about how you can improve and do your best to change for the better.

What is a write-up at work?

What is a write-up at work

A write-up at work is a formal written warning, which is designed to communicate to the employee that they need to change a certain aspect of their conduct at work.

A write-up informs the worker that issues with their work behavior should be addressed.

Be it the quality of their performance, their compliance with company internal protocols, or simply their level of commitment to the organization’s mission and values.

Both verbal and written disciplinary actions are commonly implemented at the workplace, where a write-up is the next level of the progressive disciplinary process.

You’d be generally written up at work after at least one or two verbal warnings be it regarding the quality of your work, your compliance with company internal protocols, or simply your level of commitment to the organization’s mission and values.

Taking no notice of your superior’s advice to change or to improve your work and/or behavior at work will lead to receiving a formal document, which describes the issue in detail or a specific incident that you’ve been involved in.

In addition, the write-up will stipulate a detailed course of action you should take, in order to resolve the problem. It will certainly point out any areas of your conduct or performance that need improving, as well.

What are the most common reasons for being written up?

Employers should have a valid reason for issuing a write-up. After all, the written warning not only serves as a disciplinary notice to the worker but can also be presented as evidence in a potential wrongful termination lawsuit.

Some of the most common reasons for being written up at work include:

  • Poor performance – your work needs to meet certain standards
  • Attendance issues – you can take only so many days off or sick leaves
  • Tardiness – continuously being late for work cannot be tolerated
  • Disobedience – refusing to complete tasks that are part of your job responsibilities is a form of insubordination
  • Use of substances – you should not work under the influence of substances
  • Violence – physical violence at work amounts to gross misconduct
  • Verbal abuse - rude behavior at the workplace or verbal violence will result in an official written warning
  • Harassment – any form of harassment at work is intolerable
  • Customer complaints – an employee should not represent the company in a bad light
  • Disrespect of safety policies – carelessness or conscious ignorance of work safety protocols
  • Misuse of company property – you should take good care of any company equipment and use it in the appropriate manner
  • Non-compliance with internal procedures and protocols

Again, note that the worker would be usually written up after several incidents and a verbal warning, first.

For example, if you were caught, say, vaping in the office, which could be in breach of company policy for smoking at work, then your manager might simply ask you to not do that anymore.

But if you were caught a few more times, then your boss might have to write you up to show that they are being serious.

(Ultimately, if you decide to resign, take a look at our complete guide on how to quit your job professionally in order to minimize the impact on your boss and coworkers.)

What happens when you get written up at work?

What happens when you get written up at work

What does it mean to get written up at work and what happens afterward? Well, there are two options, really.

Example 1:

You can admit to your misdemeanor, error of poor judgment, or substandard job performance, accept the written warning and sign up.

Then, you’ll be expected to clean up your act and improve your work behavior if you wish to stay and work for the same company.

Example 2:

You can deny any wrongdoing of yours to the employer, review it, and then, try to rebut the evidence of the accusation in written form.

In both scenarios, quitting your job because you got written up, should be really your last resort, unless you think that it is actually better to leave voluntarily than get fired.

What to do when you get written up at work

As unpleasant as it is, being written up at work is something that can happen to anyone, deservedly or undeservedly alike. And it is important to know how to handle the situation.

So, if you got a write-up at work, consider the following advice:

1. Try to stay calm and collected

Feeling upset or overwhelmed by an array of emotions if written up at work is only natural but keep your cool and try not to go on the defensive.

Be professional and don’t show your feelings to your boss, so you don’t aggravate the situation further.

2. Make notes at the meeting with your employer

Under stress, people tend to forget important information. Therefore, note down any key details, related to the reasons behind getting a write-up.

You can contemplate the situation afterward and use the notes to make a plan on how to improve your conduct at work. Or they can help you refute your employer’s reasoning for issuing the disciplinary written warning.

3. Share your point of view on the matter

If you have something to say to your employer, whether in apology, acceptance, or denial, do so respectfully and in a professional fashion.

Again, don’t let emotions take over, and definitely don’t start badmouthing your coworkers. Speak for yourself only, instead of trying to compare other employees’ work behavior to yours, for instance.

4. Clarify further how to remedy the situation

Actively seek advice from your boss on what you can do to rectify the issue.

Ask about the exact steps you need to take to improve your job performance, work habits, or a particular aspect of your behavior at the workplace.

5. Disagree with the write-up if need be

If you feel that the formal disciplinary action against you is outright or partially uncalled for, don’t be afraid to express your opinion, again in the most discreet manner.

More importantly, follow your company's disciplinary procedures and file a formal written rebuttal that details the evidence of why you believe your boss was wrong to issue a write-up.

6. Consider looking for another job

Whether you strongly believe that a termination is in view after being written up or you’ve had enough of your job at the company, regardless of the written warning, it might be a good idea to start searching for a new job – after all, there is a difference between quitting on your own and being fired.

How to respond to a write-up at work

If you’ve never been written up at work, you may wonder how to respond to a written warning. Can you ignore it? Is there a formal way of acknowledging a write-up?

After all, you’ve probably received a couple of verbal warnings beforehand and did nothing about them, right?

Do you have to sign a write-up at work?

You are expected to sign your write-up at work, as part of the disciplinary procedures of the organization you work for.

Your employer has followed those by the book and you will need to formally acknowledge that you’ve been written up (i.e. warned) with your signature.

Can I refuse to sign a write-up?

No one can force you to sign a write-up or anything else for that matter. However, repercussions will follow, as your employer will consider your actions as non-compliance with the company's internal procedures.

Your superior can call a witness to sign so that there’s proof of you being formally warned in written form.

Can you get fired for not signing a write-up?

You can get fired for not signing a write-up. Not acknowledging with your signature that you’ve received a written warning at work is a form of insubordination that can result in termination.

Note that signing the write-up doesn’t mean that you cannot write a rebuttal later on if you disagree with your employer’s actions.

How to dispute a write-up at work

How to dispute a write-up at work

Here’s what you should do if you disagree with your written warning at work and want to dispute it.

  1. Accept the write-up and review it thoroughly.
  2. Speak up and explain to your boss that you disagree with the presented facts in the document.
  3. Sign the formal written warning with a note that your signature doesn’t mean that you consent to your employer’s disciplinary action.
  4. Notify your superior that you’ll be sending them a written rebuttal after gathering all the evidence in support of your disagreement with the write-up.

How many write-ups before the termination

Just 1 write-up can be enough before termination. There is a misconception that an employee is entitled to several warnings before getting fired. That’s not really the case, especially in at-will employment situations.

It all comes down to the specific company’s termination policy and the severity of the wrongdoing.

More often than not, you can get fired after one write-up, as you’ve most likely received one or two verbal warnings prior to the written one.

How long does a write-up last

Once issued, a write-up will most probably stay on the company records until you part with the organization.

Former employees’ files may be kept for one year after their termination but again, every company can have different policies, with regard to the record-keeping of any HR data and documents.

To be on the positive side, a write-up is not the end of the world, especially if you take action and improve your performance or remedy the issue you got warned about.

Believe it or not, a write-up can act as a kick in the butt and result eventually in a promotion (which will also go in your HR file).

Do write-ups affect future jobs?

A written warning you got at work cannot affect your future job-hunting efforts. It's rather uncommon for your employer to reveal to a potential recruiter that you’ve been written up.

Moreover, prospective employers cannot access such information, as there isn’t any database for workers’ disciplinary actions that can be referred to.

The same goes for being fired, as it would not generally go on your record. Rarely, an employer would spill the beans to a fellow company owner and disclose the reasons for your termination.

My advice on how to handle being written up at work

How come you got written up by your boss? You need to be honest with yourself. Was it indeed your fault? If that is the case, then you need to think about your priorities in life and what this job means to you.

Personally, I wouldn't blame you if you have quiet quit your job and you don't care about it anymore.

However, if you care about keeping your job, you still have the chance to turn things around. If you have the chance, then apologize to your boss and coworkers for your mistakes and tell them that you will do whatever you can to improve.

And in case your work performance is the use, then why don't you check our comprehensive guide on how to be more productive at work?

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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