A brilliant employee should – in theory – be an inspiration to colleagues.
But rather than raising their game, workmates put in a worse performance when in the presence of a high-flier, experts say.
They have called this phenomenon the Tiger Woods Effect after analysing the performances of golfers from 1999 to 2010 while Woods was far and away the world number one.
When he was at the peak of his powers, other top players shot worse scores in tournaments in which he participated than they did in similar events if he was absent, as if his presence inhibited them.
And because of this, Woods earned around £4million more from these contests than he would have done if his rivals had played their normal game, economists found.
The remarkable effect on golfers could apply just as much in a workplace, according to the researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University.
In particular, the Tiger factor could affect offices where one worker keeps winning ‘employee of the month’ or regular bonuses for making the most sales.
Instead of trying to compete, other staff – like Tiger’s opponents – simply stop trying as hard because they don’t think they are going to win.
The report, published in the Journal of Political Economy, said: "His superstar status hobbles the competition."
Northwestern economist Jennifer Brown said the same could apply in certain, competitive, office environments.
Her study added: "For example, a company may reward its top monthly salesperson with some extra money or a prize - the idea being that competition increases everybody"s effort.
"But what if one salesperson seems to win every month? The others might slack off, knowing they have little chance to take the prize."(Read by Nelly Min. Nelly Min is a journalist at the China Daily Website.