Feedback done wrong is worse than saying nothing.

Delivering feedback is tough if you’re not used to doing it, Angie Morgan, former Marine Corps captain and author, writes in Entrepreneur magazine. Doing it right takes courage and a healthy dose of tact.

And it’s irresponsible to just let feedback fly without considering the impact. Here are the five keys she offers to giving constructive criticism.

  1. Focus on the other person. Frame the message in a way that inspires, rather than alienates. Your focus needs to be on how you can help your colleague.
  2. Talk to them in private. Be smart about picking the time and place. You never want to take the risk of embarrassing someone.
  3. Ask if they’re open to feedback. Even if you’re a manager, it’s a helpful, non-threatening way to start a dialogue.
  4. Focus on what you have noticed. Talk about what you’ve observed and what impact it’s had on you.
  5. Offer ideas for how they can improve. There’s nothing more annoying than raising an issue without suggesting ways to address it. Be a problem-solver, not just a problem-spotter.

In a perfect world, everyone knows where they stand. And holding someone accountable is not about you and that person, personally. It’s about that person’s performance, relative to the expected standard. For more on giving feedback that helps grow your workforce, read the whole account.