15 manager email templates to help you prepare for important conversations

Written by: Michael Scheiner | Illustrated by: Officevibe team
Published on March 4, 2021 |  Reading time: 15m

As you know, it’s crucial to get to know each individual on your team and understand their specific challenges and aspirations. At the base of this is having a constant flow of important conversations, some of which require extra planning and personal consideration.

But you have a demanding schedule, and crafting your message for a tough talk or a performance conversation can take time. We’re here to help!

In this article, you’ll find 15 manager email templates for how to approach important conversations with team members. They are presented as email templates, but really, you should see them as broad preparation guides for any type of interaction.

Sometimes email is best, but not always. That’s why with each template, we give some preliminary notes to guide you on language, clarity and tone.

Before we begin

These guides are here to help you save time when questioning how to write an email to team members. This means more time and energy can be spent less on day-to-day planning, and more on the big-picture work of being a great team leader.

Just remember, these templates are guides to start and respond to conversations. Use them faithfully only when the situation permits. However, most of the time, it’s important to tweak them based on the individual or the context.

Before preparing to send an email or talk to an employee, ask yourself:

  • Is this employee more communicative by email, text or in 1-on-1 conversation?
  • Should this conversation come at the beginning of the day/week, so as to motivate them right away? Or at the end of the day/week, so as to give them time to reflect?
  • Does this employee respond well to directness? Or is a bit of small-talk a good way to warm them up?
  • Does the subject line use language that is fear inducing?
  • Most importantly: Remember why you hired this employee, and what about them and their work do you find amazing? Keep that front and center in your mind when preparing for a talk!

15 Manager email templates to help prepare for important conversations when:

1. An employee continuously shows up to work tired

Constant work fatigue or burnout might be caused by outside-work factors, and you don’t want to appear too nosey. However, a tired employee is not performing at optimal capacity, which as a manager it’s your job to fix.

Choose your words wisely to get at the right level of personal interest. And as we’ll see, a common refrain will be to express how your door is always open.

Hey _______,

I noticed that you seemed a little tired the last few days, is everything okay?

I don’t mean to get too personal, but if there is anything going on outside of work that you need time to deal with, just let me know. Your wellbeing is the priority. Just know that if you ever need to chat about anything, I’m here for you.

Thanks!

2. An employee continuously shows up to work late

When you need to write an email to employees to come on time, it’s because it affects the work, but more importantly, it’s upsetting to coworkers. You don’t want to single anyone out by using language that pits the employee against the team.

Again, express that you’re open to hearing out their reasons and eager to help. Avoid reproachful words like “unacceptable” and “unfair.”

Hey _______,

I noticed that you’ve been getting into work late the last few days. I think that might make things difficult for your coworkers who depend on you. Is everything alright?

If there’s anything on your mind, or anything I can help with, let me know!

Thanks.

3. An employee misses too many deadlines

Missed deadlines are not something that the employee will be unaware of, so don’t beat around the bush.

If you need to email an employee to improve their performance, ask if there’s a good reason, and be clear you’re open to listening to them out without judgment. But if it’s just a general slacking off, let them know that, as a manager, you have a responsibility to fix the situation, and you will.

Hey _______,

How’s it going?

I want to discuss your missed deadlines. If there’s anything that’s been preventing you from focusing and you want to discuss it, I’m all ears and happy to help out any way I can.

Even if it’s just a matter of your work motivation levels, we really need to solve this problem somehow together.

Let me know what your thoughts are,

Thanks!

💡 Tip: Remember, the first step to making sure your employees are on the ball when it comes to deadlines is to clearly set and communicate expectations before a task or project. Otherwise, as a manager, you are just as responsible if your employee fails to meet these unclear standards.

4. An employee takes too much time off

You want to encourage a good work-life balance but need to be on guard for employees who may be taking advantage. Still, you never know the reasons behind the absenteeism.

Your tone should be cautious before jumping to conclusions. Use language that expresses giving them the benefit of the doubt. You won’t demand all the details, but if it’s a work issue, you must express the importance of them being open with you.

Hey _______,

How’s everything going?

You know we encourage work-life balance and are happy to let you take time off. However, from what I’ve noticed, you’ve been taking quite a bit of time off.

If there’s anything you’d like to talk about, please let me know. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

Going forward, you’ll need to be more present in the office to be there for your team. That’s how we’ll all achieve our goals together!

Thanks!

5. An employee can’t handle criticism

This convo is likely coming after you’ve had to dish out some unpleasant criticism about poor performance and got a bad feeling about how it was received.

While you can’t walk back your criticism, you should be mindful this time around that your intention is not to reinforce the criticism, but to convey that it was meant constructively.

Hey _______,

It seemed like my comment earlier didn’t land well. I hope there’s no misunderstanding. Everything I said was meant to help you grow and become an even better employee. Sometimes feedback is hard to hear but the intention is always with your best interest at heart, to help you improve.

If there’s ever anything you’d like to talk about, just let me know! I’m here for you.

Thanks!

💡 Tip: A hard talk about poor performance is something you should really be doing in person. Maybe you want to give a head’s up via email that you want to talk, which can give the employee some time to reflect and prepare. But you should also come prepared, not only with your criticism but also potential solutions.

6. An employee has a negative attitude

This might be caused by non-work factors in the office (like personal issues with a colleague), or by circumstances in their private life outside work. Your aim is to let them know their negative attitude might be affecting their work and their colleagues, but not to chastise them. The tone you want here is one of total openness.

Hey _______,

Your attitude recently hasn’t been as positive as we’re all used to. I’m not happy to see any of my team upset, but even more so, negative attitudes affect the whole team.

If there is something work-related, let’s get together and work this out. Otherwise, if it’s a personal matter, let me know if and how I can be a support.

Thanks!

7. An employee needs more training

The goal here is to avoid making the employee feel like they’re not good enough. You want to let them know that you’re there to help them to improve.

The tone is all about encouragement; the language zeroes in on “improvement” and “progress” as opposed to concepts like “falling behind.” And stress that you want to have more 1-on-1s going forward (and you can use Officevibe’s 1-on-1 meeting software to help).

Hey _______,

How’s everything going?

Your progress so far has been great in many areas. Now here are a few skills where I think you’d benefit from focusing on improving.

I suggest we schedule a meeting once a week aimed at helping you develop in this area. I’m sure this way we can get you up to speed.

Thanks!

💡 Tip: New employees, or employees undergoing training for new responsibilities or roles might be in a slightly more vulnerable mindset, and you need to keep this in mind. This is an example where a personal chat will be more encouraging (and less intimidating) than an email.

8. An employee brags a lot or takes too much credit

You don’t want to stifle anyone’s brightness, but occasionally some over-confident behavior distracts or upsets colleagues.

Find the words to show you appreciate their talents and achievements, and that it’s only how they express themselves that may be problematic. What’s more, always remind them of the collective effort.

Hey _______,

It’s been brought to my attention that you may be taking personal credit for the work the whole team is doing.

There’s no doubt you’re talented and I love your ambition, but the truth is that your work speaks for itself. More importantly, remember that we win as a team and pride collaboration and team dynamics over individual success.

I wonder, do you feel that you are not receiving enough recognition from me as your manager, or from your peers?

I am free to speak about this further if you wish to continue the discussion,

Thanks!

9. An employee flirts inappropriately

This is a topic that needs to be nipped in the bud. One problem is, there are cultural differences regarding what’s friendly and what’s flirtatious. Know the culture of the employee you’re dealing with, but be very clear that your shared office culture comes first.

Hey _______,

This is a bit of a sensitive subject, but I wanted to talk with you about something.

Some of your behavior with coworkers is being seen as inappropriate. I know you probably didn’t do this intentionally, but we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

If you’re not sure what it was you did, or why it’s inappropriate, let’s have a chat and clear up that misunderstanding. Sound good?

Thanks!

10. An employee wants to quit

A lot of previous templates deal with problems you spot first. But when an employee surprises you like this, it’s an opportunity for you, as a manager, to learn something. So definitely reach out. Let them know how surprised you were, and how that’s because you possibly weren’t paying enough attention, which you need to own.

Hey _______,

Your news earlier surprised me. I really appreciate you sharing how you’re feeling about work.

I’d be very open to hearing more of your valuable feedback and seeing where we can make changes and improvements to keep you on board. I really value you. You’ve made a big impact on the team and company.

Would you like to book some time to chat tomorrow?

Let me know,

Thanks!

11. An employee recently got fired

Here’s one case where we suggest that the initial announcement not come from email. Group meetings are best, whether in person or virtually. Afterwards, it’s a good idea to send a follow up email, to let them know you are open to questions and concerns.

Be proactive in taking responsibility for the decision, but don’t seek pity for having been put in that position. Finally, never disparage the terminated employee.

Hi team,

This morning I unfortunately had to let __ go. I know this is surprising to hear.

This decision was made because performance goals were not being reached. After working together of X amount of time to improve the situation, their performance continued to fall short of expectations.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I’m here to talk and be as transparent as I can.

I will be sharing a plan for how we will fill this gap on the team shortly.

Thank you. Keep up the great work!

💡 Tip: Before preparing how you will communicate this news to your team, you should familiarize yourself with the company’s firing process in case your team has questions. Also, have a plan ready for how the team is going to need to adapt with one person fewer.

12.You want to ask employees for feedback

The first tip of soliciting feedback is: Don’t put people on the spot; they’ll be more likely to say what they think you want to hear.

If you’re not yet implementing a great employee feedback platform like Officevibe, you should check out one of these non-intrusive ways to encourage your team to give feedback freely, regularly and without any pressure.

Hey everyone!

I would like to ask you for some feedback.

I want to understand more about your day-to-day pain points. The goal is to see if I can help solve them as a manager. I’d love it if you took some time to give us feedback on how I can help improve your experience at work.

We’ll be using Officevibe, a feedback platform that ensures that everyone’s feedback is completely anonymous so you can feel free to share whatever is on your mind.

Thanks!

13. You receive negative feedback

Well, this one’s tricky. On one hand, you’ve given them the tools to provide anonymous feedback. On the other hand, you want to address negative feedback at the source. Make it clear you are not upset, and nobody will be reproached. Use the language of volunteerism, like “feel free” or “I’d be happy to hear more,” that avoids being demanding and sounding incensed.

Hi team,

I have received some anonymous feedback from the team about a concern. First off, I appreciate the sincerity. It’s my goal to improve through your honest feedback.

If whoever wrote that wants to come chat, I’d be happy to address any concerns. It’s not mandatory, though. You can all be confident that feedback will remain anonymous if that’s what you choose.

We work hard to make this a great workplace, and we only want to make sure that everyone is happy here.

Thanks!

💡 Tip: If the employee does volunteer to chat about their negative feedback, that’s great. Try as best you can to remove any managerial hierarchy when giving them the floor. First way to do this: Let them pick when, where and how to communicate. Also, be prepared to explain your company policy and procedures if this criticism is not something easily resolved.

14. You want to thank a specific employee

This is one of those manager email templates that should be a joy to compose. But, it’s no less essential. Recognizing achievements in person or email is a big part of what managers should be communicating regularly. Be specific, have examples ready, and use personal expressions to describe your reaction to their great work.

Hey _______,

I just wanted to take a quick minute to tell you what a great job you did with that presentation earlier. I was seriously impressed!

The fact that you used those graphs in your slides to back up what you were saying was a really smart idea.

I’m confident that your contributions are going to play a major role in landing this contract and absolutely delighting the client. This is going to be a big win for everyone.

Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

15. You want to thank the team

Whether in a blast email or a live meeting (virtual or IRL), giving group praise is a humbling experience. But you need to make it genuine. Again, touch base on specific tasks or projects. Link their recent hard work to future opportunities and successes. And don’t be shy about gushing a bit; they are your team.

Hey _______,

I just wanted to take a quick minute to thank all of you for your contribution lately.

You all did an incredible job with the X project. They were so impressed with our presentation and I’m pretty sure they’ll end up becoming a client!

I can’t express how much you all mean to me. I truly enjoy coming to work every day with all of you.

The future looks bright!

Enjoy your weekend :)

Hopefully, you’ll see these manager email templates as broader guides for helping you prepare for certain conversations.

Now, once you’ve broken the ice, it’s important to remember that these emails or chats do not put these issues to bed once and for all. You need to follow up. If you’ve started with the email route, then go for a personal 1-on-1 in the near future.

What’s more, don’t forget to gauge how well-received your messaging is. You can ask your employees directly, but sometimes you’ll get less filtered feedback using an anonymous feedback tool like Officevibe.