Deadwood - employees who consistently under-perform - are throttling British organisations as almost half of employees complain that they have to work with someone who is failing to do their fair share of the work.
Three quarters of UK bosses and almost eight out of 10 of their staff believe that this deadwood is a real concern to their organisation, according to a new survey for Investors in People (IIP).
And with almost half of employees and four out of ten bosses complaining that they are working with colleagues who do not pull their weight, the problem is a widespread one.
But this legion of the lazy find more places to hide in larger organisations. Deadwood is seen as a problem in more than eight out of 10 organisations employing more than 1000 people compared to only six out of ten companies employing fewer than 50.
But despite bosses acknowledging the issue, they also seem to be reluctant to tackle it. Four out of 10 employees complained that their employer had not taken any steps to boost motivation or root out the deadwood.
The IIP survey comes only a week after HR consultancy Rialto estimated that almost a quarter of British workers – some six million in all – are stagnating in their jobs and blocking the career ladder of the younger "bucks" trying to make headway in their organisation.
Organisations with stagnation problems find it difficult to retain young, highly motivated employees and to remain competitive in the marketplace, Rialto found.
The IIP research paints a similar picture, highlighting the dangers lurking for employers that stick their head in the sand and fail to address the issue with employees.
Employees cited working longer hours and feeling undervalued amongst the most damaging effects of working with unproductive colleagues, problems that could in turn lead to the decision to start looking for a new job.
"It's clear from the findings that UK managers are aware that deadwood is a problem that can damage their organisation - but are failing to do anything about it," said Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of IIP.
"However, left unchecked staff who don't pull their weight can breed resentment amongst colleagues and cripple an organisation's productivity. It's vital that managers are equipped with the skills and confidence to tackle the issue before it becomes a problem," she added.
Employers and employees agreed that the top most obvious signs of people not pulling their weight are prioritising personal life over work, refusing extra responsibility and passing off colleagues work as their own.
And there was not much evidence of sympathy when it came to identifying the root cause of the problem. Both employers and employees think that the main people fail to pull their weight is sheer laziness.
IIP, however, insisted that some loving care rather than brutal pruning could work wonders. Their suggested deadwood revitalisation regime includes creating clearer goals and objectives to ensure that people feel valued; providing your staff with a personal career development plan and appropriate training where needed and putting in place a review structure to give staff the ongoing feedback that they need to develop.
Managers also need to lead by example. If they are not motivated and giving their all, they can hardly expect their teams to do likewise.
"Prevention is always better than cure," Ruth Spellman said. "Employers need to establish a clear approach that develops and motivates their staff to achieve their potential - and to deal with those who don't. It's key to the success and future growth of any organisation."