Is there an employee in your organization who is dragging everyone down? There may be several. These are the employees who appear to be busy but don’t consistently produce good results. (Forget about great.) They have ready-made excuses for why they fall short, and they thrive in environments where expectations are vague.

When even one employee is glaringly unproductive, others notice. Even if they try not to care, they will begin to wonder why the expectations are so different. Over time, morale drops.

How do you clear out the dead wood in your organization?

Define expectations and give feedback. If you don’t have clear goals, roles and best practices, there can be no easy way to define a lack of productivity. Regular, formal and informal feedback to employees on what’s working and what is not will help them to maintain motivation and make adjustments as needed.

Figure out if the wood is really dead. There can be many reasons for under-performing. Some people look like failures because of a single, fixable flaw. With a strong desire to learn and change, these employees can mitigate the effects of their weakness and succeed in their jobs. Other employees may have had insufficient training. Consider fit and whether the person would be a good performer in another role. Seek the truth before you cull the dead wood.

Pinpoint who has the problem. Sometimes the problem is a lack of appropriate hiring, supervision, coaching or delegation. The results will be poor, but not because the performer isn’t giving it her all.

Act deliberately. Don’t adopt a wait-and-see approach. This may seem easier in the short term, but your organization’s culture will be negatively impacted. If you worry about losing an employee, remember that you will be more successful with fewer people aligned to the right standards than having more people orienting to mediocre or poor benchmarks.

Holding people accountable to high standards works for organizations and their employees. People thrive in environments where they are recognized and rewarded for hard work and results. In organizations with high standards and accountability, the choice for a dead-weight employee is clear. Change or leave.