We often hear from small business leaders that dealing with an underperforming employee is one of the biggest challenges they face. No one likes to be perceived as the “bad guy,” delivering negative feedback to your employees. It isn’t fun and if you struggle with confrontation it can be very difficult. But as a leader, it is important to understand what you can do to help these underperforming employees succeed. It is far too expensive to replace an underperforming employee every time they creep up in your organization and a lot of turnover can damage employee morale. Getting comfortable with proving constructive feedback to employees, even when the feedback is negative is vital to your success as a leader and as an organization. Here are four tips from an article in Forbes that help make the process of providing negative feedback a little easier.

Put yourself in the employee’s shoes. If you were in the employee’s position, wouldn’t you want to know if you were doing something wrong? And even more, wouldn’t you want to know what step you can take to become better? Treat the employee how you would hope be treated if you were in their position.

Make giving feedback a habit. Set up regular weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one sessions with the employees that report directly to you to provide them with both positive and negative feedback on their performance. One thing that can make this process easier is to balance any areas for improvement with what employees are doing well.

Be prepared. When you are providing employees with any sort of negative feedback, come prepared. Have clear examples of the inappropriate behavior or performance as well as possible steps for improvement.

Be aware your emotional reaction. Put the situation into perspective and avoid feeling guilty for providing employees with constructive criticism. Avoiding the situation is much worse than addressing it head on. Employees are expected to perform certain tasks as a part of their job. Holding employees accountable is not being cruel.

Being skilled at giving employees both positive and negative feedback will make you a better leader. Feedback is also one important piece of creating a culture of open communication with productive, engaged employees.

Want to learn more? Check out our webinar on providing performance feedback.