You’re outstanding at your job, providing excellent outcomes, simplifying procedures, and generally exceeding expectations. And it appears like your employer is pleased with you as well, showering praise on your work and admiring your efficiency on a frequent basis.
If this sounds familiar, you have reason to rejoice. After all, who doesn’t like doing something well and having their talent recognised? Being a great employee is also a terrific way to make relationships, influence people, and advance quickly up the professional ladder. Isn’t that right?
Perhaps not always. In the office, you may discover that your coworkers and peers aren’t quite on the same page as your employer. In truth, high achievers might suffer from a variety of negative consequences as a result of their success.
Tall Poppy Syndrome
If you’ve noticed that the kitchen falls quiet when you enter to make a coffee, that coworkers take your ideas apart and sneer at them in meetings, or that you’re feeling a general sense of animosity, you may be suffering from Tall Poppy Syndrome.
This occurs when people are hated or reduced as a result of their achievements and success at work. And this is not a new phenomenon; its roots may be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman civilization.
Tall poppy syndrome emerged as a coded response to people who had raised their heads above the parapet, achieved too much authority, and now needed to be brought down as a result. Tall Poppies, a 1984 novel by Susan Mitchell, popularised the word for the modern day.
Mitchell discovered that there is a strong urge to reduce high achievers to size, and one explanation for this might be because rising above the pack is regarded antisocial and countercultural in communities founded on egalitarian ideas.
New international research from Women of Influence+ has found that in 2023, the problem persists, and it is particularly problematic for women.
The survey discovered that 87% of female respondents had been the tallest poppies at work, and that successful women are ridiculed and belittled, questioned on their achievements, and made to feel as though it’s not their place to take up so much space.
Wielding the blade
So who is wielding the blade? Recent research from the Workplace Bullying Institute found that bullying is on the increase overall, with 30% of workers reporting bullying compared to 19% in 2017.
While the Institute discovered that women bully other women more than males, the Women of Influence research revealed otherwise, implying that while women were thought to be more prone to cut down other women due to their accomplishments and goals, the evidence reveals a different picture.
In fact, it was discovered that males in positions of leadership were more prone to censure or undermine women owing to their success, whereas women’s attitude manifested itself in undermining their peers or coworkers.
The consequences of this cannot be overstated. According to the Institute, high-performers are underestimating their abilities and accomplishments as a result of Tall Poppy Syndrome.
More than three-quarters of respondents claimed their accomplishments were minimised, more than 70% said they were undermined as a result of their accomplishments, and two-thirds said others grabbed credit for their efforts.
Stress on the rise
As a result, 86% said that their stress levels had grown, with three quarters reporting that this had a negative impact on their mental health and two-thirds reporting poorer self-confidence.
Looking for a new job has become a necessity for over 70% of poll respondents as a result of colleagues’ views, with half admitting they had left their previous job as a result of this conduct.
Unsurprisingly, 78% claimed their Tall Poppy Syndrome encounters fostered a culture of distrust at work.
When ambitious individuals find themselves in an atmosphere where excelling is punished, their productivity suffers, according to the Institute, and they have one foot out the door, which has a detrimental impact not just on the person, but also on the company.