Tallest Poppy Syndrome is real at work and in business: how to deal with it


So you’ve finally accomplished a longstanding goal. You want to share your success with the world but soon find out the world doesn’t feel the same way. You could be feeling Tallest Poppy Syndrome.

Do you consider yourself successful in any area of ​​your life? If the answer was yes, then probably, at some point, you have already noticed looks, comments and negative criticisms from other people. You’ve probably already felt that people aren’t happy with your success and want to keep you from achieving something more. Rest assured that it is not directly related to you. This is Tallest Poppy Syndrome.

How to know a Tall Poppy Syndrome

Have you noticed that others may not be as proud of you as you are with yourself? Looks like a classic case of Tallest Poppy Syndrome  “…a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers”.

As the saying goes, a nail that sticks out gets hammered. And the truth is that when we stand out in any area of our lives, we become a target to be hit. Tallest Poppy Syndrome describes the social phenomenon in which successful people are criticized , attacked, ridiculed, and even hated just for standing out from their peers (Feather, 1989).

Interestingly, it is different across the world. In Australia, it is a common occurrence because it is thought that any individual achievement is also a collective achievement (you can’t take all the glory yourself), whereas in America, it is just the opposite. Any individual achievement is just that, the achievement of the individual.

For a woman, it can be particularly difficult in the working world, because there are not as many women in positions of power as there are men. This creates an environment of competition. Tallest Poppy Syndrome  has long been one of the reasons women don’t share their successes as loudly as men. But is it also preventing women from speaking up in the workplace?

Things to do when situation gets worse

Annemarie Cross writes in ‘Victim of the Tallest Poppy Syndrome? What to do when things get nasty’ that after surveying people about whether they had experience of TPS, she had a resounding response.

“One woman found herself without a job after she had exposed several things to upper management that needed to be brought to their attention. Apparently her supervisor didn’t appreciate her new rise to fame and quickly saw to it that she was removed. A few years later she opened her own business and was frequently told by people in her community that she’d never achieve the goals she set for herself”.

This is an example of a woman who is serious about success. Although TPS resulted in her losing a job, it led her to starting her own successful business. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even for the Tallest Poppies.

Why is it called Tallest Poppy Syndrome?

It is due to the work “History” by Herodotus (484-425 BC) and also to the story of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (535-496 BC), last king of ancient Rome , in which the king had a decision to make about the leaders of an enemy city that had been captured; this follow-up, cut all higher poppies in his garden and thus the enemy leaders were sentenced to death by decapitation (Tallest Poppy Syndrome). It is easy to realize that who stands out most at risk since they are more exposed, while those who are within the average or is less does not generate any kind of threat or discomfort.

How to deal with Tallest Poppy Syndrome

Focus on your goal and continue your growth path. At the same time, in today’s market, which is competitive and with reduced opportunities, the best of each one of us is required, that we are able to evolve. Although there social phenomena like this, society continues to reward and appreciate who stands out for positive. So there are two options – the Tallest Poppy, whose goal is nothing more than to achieve excellence can focus on its goal and continue its growth path. Or become one more among so many, for fear of standing out and being rejected, eventually assume a lower paper renouncing their talents and capabilities.

So if you choose to grow, stand out regardless of what others will say, if you have the courage to be a tall Poppy, the following tips are for you to deal with Tallest Poppy Syndrome:

1. Stop going out with artificial plants (who don’t grow).

We are influenced by the opinions, comments and behavior of people around us, if these people are toxic, the soil for you to grow will not be fertile.
Try to surround people who share the same vision of growth. Surround yourself with people who share the same vision of growth. ​

2. Don’t take Tallest Poppy Syndrome as a personal slight

Now that you know about this syndrome, don’t take the comments as a personal attack…, consider whether the criticisms are really constructive and heedful or are they just empty. Choose to ignore any negativity.

3. Focus on your growth

For a sustainable and exponential transformation, education, mentoring and coaching is your best ally. Through a coaching process, you will be able to enhance your skills and achieve results in different areas. A development process, such as coaching, acts as water and fertilizer for the poppies – accelerate their growth.


So, if you were born to shine and want to be the size of your dreams, if you want to grow you have to be prepared to deal with some obstacles, but it is also these obstacles that give you the certainty that you are on the right path. Finally, remember that no one hates the weak, no one envies the ugly.

So whatever you do and whatever anyone says, work hard and know your success is well earned — is not a privilege. You deserve your success, and you can choose to ignore the haters that activate Tallest Poppy Syndrome.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.