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Be a Tall Poppy!

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Tall Poppy’s Syndrome - Have you ever heard of it?

I certainly had NOT! And honestly, I can’t remember where I heard it, but I jotted it down in my notes app on my phone, and I had to go back to it to research.

#Tall #Poppy #Syndrome (TPS for short) occurs when a person's #success causes them to be attacked, resented, or criticized. It cuts them down and devalues their achievement by suggesting that they did not deserve the attention, which can discourage them from striving for future achievements that might attract attention to themselves.

It sounds like “Oh, Sharon just had some good luck” and looks like someone pointing out minor errors or exclusion from a particular group.

It has been shown to affect mostly #women, and a 2018 report that investigated TPS in Canadian workplaces found that 9 out of 10 of those surveyed (again - mostly women) felt that their achievements were undermined in the workplace.

It is a behavior that both men and women are equally likely to engage in, both as colleagues and as people leaders. And even half of those that participated reported that even their FRIENDS had cut them down at some point or another. What is also interesting, is that only 1 in 10 acknowledged that they had done it to others.

TPS can cause and exacerbate a general loss of #confidence, #substance #abuse, #insomnia, #anxiety, and #depression, and can manifest physically in the form of headaches, or digestion problems. And the WORST symptom of them all… it has been reported that people hold back their TRUE potential to avoid being cut down by others! Like.. not applying for a promotion, not getting out there and hustling, or not speaking up about an amazing idea or opportunity for fear of being cut down!

This leads me to believe that people are either A- unaware that they are even doing this, and the impact their words have on others, or B- a bit ashamed of themselves.

Tall Poppy Syndrome is not a term that is used in the US - it's most frequently used in Australia, but in the US we may refer to it as “Cutting someone down.” In Japan, a similar common expression is “the nail that sticks up gets hammered.”

TPS gets its name from a story about King Tarquin the Proud - an ancient Roman tyrant. Apparently, his son Sextus was infiltrating the leadership in a neighboring city and asked his father what he should do next. Tarquin did not speak, but instead, turned, and walked into his garden, and cut off the heads of the tallest poppies with his sword. Sextus took that to mean that he should destroy the leading aristocrats of the city - which he did. Rome, then easily overtook that city.

TPS refers to the expectation that poppies (the beautiful flower) should grow together. And if one grows too tall, it should be cut down to size. It has also grown to mean that you might cut someone down who thinks and acts differently from most people, or someone who may be eccentric. It is interesting because, in America, TPS does not have the same prominence. It seems that individualism is highly valued, whereas, in Australia, nearly 70% of that surveyed said that they believed Australians regard ambition as a negative trait. Many believe that this stifles innovation and creativity - which - I 100% believe! There is a 10- minute you-tube video that I will link below that was created by the makers of the muppets in Feb of 2022 that tries to send a different message about TPS.

While the culture in America may value individualism more, and embrace #diversity, those who do suffer from TPS are typically those in #marginalized groups- you guessed it! #Women, #People of #Color, and especially WOMEN who are also PEOPLE OF COLOR. It's typically prevalent in work cultures that do not celebrate or recognize the success of others, but that are centered on a cutthroat culture.

So what causes TPS?

Feels like envy, low-self esteem, resentment, and fear are all root causes of TPS.

Envy tends to be directed towards people we compare ourselves with - regardless of whether or not we are actually in competition with them! It's an emotion we often try to hide because it's connected to feelings of shame (I am not enough - I am not doing enough - I will never be enough.)

So what can you do about it?

You are rocking and rolling and doing all the things - focused on growth and gains - and WHAM - you get whacked down by someone who is cutting you down and belittling your success and hard work - UGH the WORST! I have four KEY things to share with you to fight off TPS -

First, bring it inward. Focus on your own personal reasons for doing your best. Check in with yourself - do YOU feel proud? Do YOU feel GOOD about what you are doing? Give yourself that pep talk that you would give a trusted friend! Sometimes, you do have to be the one to encourage yourself. Try to not allow the voices of others to creep into your thoughts if they are not productive thoughts!

GET UP WITH YOUR HYPE GUY GAL OR BINARY PAL- Get them on speed dial, and help them validate what boss you are! (We all need that someone who can hype us up, and set us straight so we can do amazing things)

One story I want to share with you is from when I did a 360 feedback with my peers- I had some wonderfully positive feedback, but then I also had the feedback that basically said “Sometimes Erica is too much. She would be good to tone it down a bit.” Ummmm, excuse me? And I’ll be honest- when I saw that, I automatically shut out all the other amazing feedback I received, and started thinking “ok - I need to tone it down if I am going to be successful with this role…” I felt super self-conscious and just ICKY. Then I talked with my mom who said “What the hell???” And she helped me realize that THAT feedback was all BS. Who I am and all my “extra” IS enough - and it IS why I have the role I have - and WHY I have been successful to date. My rising success as a young c-level leader has EVERYTHING to do with my EXTRAness - and other people don’t need to cut me down for that.


This takes a level of confidence, and it can take some practice, but set your damn boundaries. You can let other people know who are cutting you down, that it's not OK. I personally love to turn it around and invite them to talk with me so I can show them some of my tips and tricks and I ask how I can help them. But sometimes, you just have to realize you aren’t going to change a person - or how they respond to you - so set your limits Try to avoid interactions with these Tall Poppy Choppers as much as you can. Do not let them dim your light.

Let me ask you this question - do you feel like sometimes, OTHER WOMEN are your worst enemy? The scarcity mindset is one that can plague women, and other minorities, because we don’t see a lot of ourselves at the top or in these successful positions - it makes some people feel as if there is only room for ONE person - which leads to that mean girl mentality.


Ever heard the saying “Kill them with kindness?” When you compliment those around you for their successes, it makes it harder for them to make negative comments about you. It helps someone who may be struggling to feel valued, and hopefully, they will realize your value too!

News flash ya’ll -

One person's gain does not mean that others have LESS. We live in a world of abundance. There is PLENTY of room for ALL OF US at the top.

As women, we must do better. We must BE better.

And when you get there - when you are that tall poppy - make sure you are doing what you can to provide sunlight to others - so we can all grow tall.

Turn around, reach back, and lift others.

Be a tall poppy!

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