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'It's having an impact on productivity': What is tall poppy syndrome and how to know if it's at your organization


A new study shows that over 85 per cent of women have experienced hostility because of their achievements.

The Tallest Poppy 2023 Whitepaper indicates there are many ways this can happen, with 77 per cent saying their achievement was downplayed, 72 per cent said they were left out or ignored, and 70 per cent said they were undermined at work.

All of it mounts up to tall poppy syndrome, the CEO and owner of Women of Influence told CTV News.

“Tall poppy syndrome occurs when you are attacked, resented ostracized or disliked because of your achievements or success. So let's say as an example, you receive a promotion or you get a new job. You're going to be attacked because of that success,” Rumeet Billan said.

Billan said the syndrome can lead to negative outcomes for organizations and individuals.

“We know that it's having an impact on productivity, where 75 per cent of respondents agreed to that. We also know that half of those who are experiencing tall poppy syndrome are leaving their organizations,” she said. “Organizations want to pay attention to that because that is your top talent that's leaving.”

She also said that it impacts the mental health of those who are targeted.


Billan said survey respondents indicated ways that organizations can weed out tall poppy syndrome.

“They were very loud and clear in terms of what organizations can do with the first one being building awareness. Name it, recognize it, acknowledge it, call it what it is,” she said.

“We had many respondents share that they didn't even know that what they were experiencing has a name and once they were able to label it, they actually felt less alone.”

She said that building awareness was one of the first steps organizations can take to overcome the pattern.

“The second piece is accountability. Hold people accountable for their actions. Respondents also shared that they need transparency around hiring processes around promotions, around salaries, and it's also about creating zero tolerance, not accepting this behaviour, regardless of anyone's position, title or role within that organization.”

While the survey focused on women’s experience at work, Billan said tall poppy syndrome was not just a women’s issue.

“Tall poppy syndrome happens to everyone regardless of how you identify.” Top Stories

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