Even if you’ve perfected your resume and cover letter, they can’t protect you in the event of unfortunate incidents on the job. If you feel you’ve been unfairly penalized or even terminated for a workplace event, you need to know how to write an appeal letter to plead your case.
An appeal letter can be your second chance in the event of circumstances that shifted poorly in your favor. Maybe you received a write-up for something you didn’t do, or a disagreement with a coworker escalated and led to an unfair judgment for your involvement. No matter the case, without an appeal letter, you have no choice but to take the black mark on your file—or even end up looking for another job. Before you break out the job applications, take a look at our tips for writing an effective appeal letter.
How To Write an Appeal Letter
Your appeal letter has the chance to speak for you in cases where you might not be able to speak for yourself. The purpose of an appeal letter is to ask those in a position of authority to reconsider your case and make a new decision in the light of any new facts you may present. With that in mind, here are a few pointers for how to write an appeal letter.
1. Be concise
If you’re already in poor favor on the job, you don’t want to use any good will left by taking up unnecessary time. Once a grievance case reaches a decision, the majority of employers don’t have time to spend reviewing the details again unless you present a compelling reason why they should. Keep your appeal letter short and to the point, presenting only the relevant details that make a convincing argument for why you deserve reconsideration.
2. Don’t embellish
It can be tempting to try to build an emotional narrative when writing your appeal letter, but hyperbole and excessive embellishments can make readers doubt how trustworthy the details you present might be. When thinking of how to write your appeal letter, focus less on emotion and more on being as straightforward as possible.
3. Present clear facts with evidence
If you have details that change the context of the situation, present the facts clearly and in sequential order. Describe the situation in simple, undeniable terms that leave no room for ambiguity. If you have evidence such as screenshots or emails, include the evidence as part of your appeal letter. While you want to be persuasive, your best asset is the truth. Anything that can prove why you deserve a second chance can have a significant effect on the success of your appeal letter.
4. Remain professional
Don’t give in to the temptation to slander your opposition or the company in your appeal. Avoid mudslinging and vendettas. It’s never a good look, and you want to avoid appearing biased or irrational. In an attempt to drag another person down with you, you only sink deeper. Keep your tone calm, polite, and professional, and always speak to those you address with respect.
5. Take responsibility for your mistakes
It’s entirely possible that your situation was the result of an error on your part rather than a misjudgment on the part of your employers or coworkers. That doesn’t mean it’s the end for you. You can still redeem yourself. One trait that makes a great team member is the ability to acknowledge mistakes and take responsibility for them. While you shouldn’t self-flagellate to excess in your letter, be honest and open about understanding what went wrong, and how you can correct the effects of your prior errors while preventing them in the future.
6. Don’t get too wild with your format
When working out how to write an appeal letter, it may be tempting to do something attention-getting or format your letter in all caps just to convey how urgent the situation is. Avoid this temptation and stick to a standard business format, similar to the format of a cover letter. Use proper sentence structure, begin your sentences with capital letters, avoid the caps lock button, and stay away from exclamation points.
Remember that your presentation is as important as the content of your letter in appearing professional. You want to convince your employers that taking a risk on a second chance is a good idea, and the best way to do that is to show the professionalism that made them hire you in the first place.
7. Target your letter appropriately
Writing an appeal letter won’t help if you target it inappropriately. Especially avoid posting it to everyone in the company. It’s tempting to try to rally support, but spreading the issue only puts your coworkers and management in an uncomfortable position. Such an infraction forces senior management to treat the behavior as a punishable offense, and significantly reduces the chance of reconsideration and reinstatement.
Instead, selectively choose the most appropriate recipients for your appeal letter, whether it’s your direct line manager, someone in HR, or a higher-level executive. Respect the chain of command and include only those relevant to the situation.
8. Be patient
Considering an appeal takes time. Don’t fret or send too many follow-ups if it takes longer than you’d like to gain a second hearing.
9. If you can’t win, try to recover the loss
It’s possible that even with a well-written appeal letter, you won’t gain the outcome you seek. That doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into a positive. Use the opportunity to solidify relationships and clear the air with management so that you can end on a positive note. In the future, this can come back to help you if you ever have to use those managers as references.
10. Don’t take the decision personally
Sometimes company policy leaves management’s hands tied, and no amount of sympathy with your case will lead to reinstatement. Remember that the decision is likely not personal, and maintain your professionalism no matter the result.
If you’ve never written an appeal letter before, this sample gives a great example of how to present your case.
I would like to ask the HR department to reconsider the disciplinary action taken against me regarding the incident in the break room two weeks ago. While I understand HR’s policy regarding foul language directed toward coworkers and aggression in the workplace, I would like to once more present that I did not violate company policy in this instance.
On the date in question, I only entered the break room once at 10:02 a.m., as you can see in the attached clip from the office security tapes. I was alone at the time and did not speak to any other coworkers. On my way to exit the break room, the door opened unexpectedly when my team member, Mr. Mark Anderson, attempted to enter the room as I was exiting. The door struck my foot and caused me to cry out in pain.
If you review the clip, you will see that my cry was nonverbal and did not constitute foul language. I also did not behave aggressively toward Mr. Anderson, though I understand that in the heat of the moment, my startled response led to a misunderstanding. I left the break room without speaking to Mr. Anderson to seek medical attention using a company-provided first-aid kit. The attached photographs also show the bruising on the toes of my right foot caused by the pressure of the door and the force applied when it opened.
I would welcome the opportunity to speak with both you and Mr. Anderson so that we might clear the air and settle any unwarranted hostilities. It was certainly not my intent to make Mr. Anderson feel threatened, and I would hope that we might continue a good working relationship in the future. I would also like to request, on consideration, restoration of my access rights to the senior-level SharePoint portal and removal of the demerit from my company record.
I hope you will reconsider my case, and I greatly appreciate your time.