What to Do if You Disagree With an Employee Write-Up

by Mason Tilford-Mabry

At some point in your career, you may be summoned to a meeting with your boss to discuss performance problems, absenteeism, or a behavioral issue and you could be presented with a written warning. After discussing the document, your boss will pass the document and a pen to you, asking you to sign the warning. Before refusing to sign a warning, consider your options.

Don't Overreact

You may be surprised by the write-up -- and you might feel that it is untrue or unfair. Before reacting, take a moment to read the document and its contents, paying close attention to the area where you will sign. An employee rarely signs a warning to indicate agreement with the warning; signing the warning indicates the document was received.

Sign or Not

It might seem wrong to sign a warning that seems unfair or untrue. Although signing the document does not mean that you agree, you might believe refusing to sign it is good way to show your disagreement with it. Not true, writes attorney Aaron Morris of Morris & Stone in Santa Ana, California. On the firm’s website, Morris writes that refusing to sign a warning could result in additional action being taken against you – including terminating your employment for insubordination.


According to Morris, you might sign the warning and write "signed under protest" beneath your signature. Your company may use a comments section on the warning to allow you to respond to the warning you just received. You may also want to write an account that includes your version of events. To avoid making the situation unproductive or adversarial, be objective and avoid placing blame. Be polite, professional and avoid objectionable language.


Receiving a written warning can be a shock -- no one enjoys being told his performance is unacceptable. After the shock wears off, take some time to consider the warning’s feedback objectively. If there are areas in which you need improvement, make those changes. While a written warning can remain in your employee file for some time, the effect of it diminishes if you proactively address the issue that prompted the warning, allowing you to develop as an employee. If you still disagree with the write-up and feel there is no incentive to change your behavior, it may be time to consider another job.

About the Author

Mason Tilford-Mabry has extensive experience writing human resources and training materials, both as a corporate manager and as a small business owner. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in English: technical communication from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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