If you dread giving your employees feedback, you’re not alone. In “Why We Hate Giving Feedback – and How to Make it Easier,” organizational coach Erika Andersen says that almost without exception giving people corrective feedback is something most managers find difficult. For some, giving tough feedback actually is harder than letting an employee go – a tough thing to do but once it’s done, it’s over.

Anderson attributes the difficulty in giving feedback to worrying about the other person’s reaction. Rather than risk someone getting angry or upset, it’s easier to dismiss the behavior or convince yourself things will change. The fact is that giving constructive feedback is in the best interest of your employees and your small business. Your goal is to deliver the feedback in a way that reduces someone’s defensiveness and is clear about how you want the other person to change.

Consider the following when you are giving feedback:

Focus on strengths versus weaknesses: Since the goal is to help your employees improve, focus on their areas of strength. Then discuss how they can leverage their strengths to improve their performance in areas where there are problems. Maybe an employee has excellent customer service skills but trouble communicating with direct reports. Discuss how to apply those good communication skills to internal as well as external communications.

Avoid opinions: Try to keep the discussion based on factual observations and analysis versus your opinion of the situation. Opinions tend to put people on the defensive. It’s better to tell someone that all final documents need to be 100 percent error free than saying that they don’t care about doing a quality job.  Also be specific about the areas that need improving.

Close with a compliment: You will inspire your employees to do better if you end the feedback with a compliment. You could point out how clients appreciate their responsiveness to requests, and suggest that they try to be more proactive in giving advice to build even stronger client relationships.

Provide a timeline for change:  Set a timeline for employees to improve performance and be clear about the consequences for failure to do so.

Encourage feedback: When the conversation is over, provide time for employees to respond. They may need time to digest your input, so encourage them to take to think about the conversation and respond when they feel ready. Don’t assume because you’ve imparted your message that the issue is resolved. You make progress when you foster an open communication with your team; response to your feedback is a key part of that.

Follow up: As time progresses and you see the change you’ve required, let your employee know.

If you want your team to improve, be open and honest with them. When you do, whatever the feedback, you are telling someone you care that they do their best.

What have you found to be effective in giving employee feedback?