Tall poppy syndrome has always concerned me, I just never knew there was a term for it when I used to see it in school, at work, and in volunteer roles. Tall Poppies are individuals who stand out, offer great ideas, shine brightly, and want to contribute, however, the effort of standing out, they sometimes get knocked down. This happens enough times – either because of the culture or no one being there to stop it – and tall poppies cower for safety versus shine with the greatness.
You may be thinking, this makes no sense! Why wouldn’t we want everyone to contribute their best!
Or you may be thinking this sounds familiar. “Is she talking about my workplace?” or perhaps, “Has she met my colleagues?”
Prior to starting my own business, I worked most of my career in healthcare where I saw many Tall Poppies knocked down a peg or two. My husband’s a teacher, and he’s experienced this in his career too. These are a collectivist culture where there is an unspoken norm that, as a whole, it is better to go along with the crowd than it is to stand out. In fact, sometimes people are even hesitant to move into management roles because it is such a juxtaposition to how they have been working for so many years that it feels like the risk isn’t worth it.
What is the cost? Great people become disengaged. Good people leave. Toxic behaviours set in and remain unchecked. Continuous improvement flatlines. Productivity reduces. Customers (of whatever shape or form that is in your industry) are not served as well.
How can you shine brightly without being shunned, bullied, or pushed aside and made to feel small because you’re standing tall in your greatness? And how can you innovate, make things better in your workplace, and really find your own version of satisfaction by being able to share your great ideas and demonstrate how much you love your career and your work?
Here are three key things to help fuel your determination:
1.Recognize Your Own Greatness
Whether people want to see it or are able to recognize it all around you, that is important, however, nothing’s more important than you being able to recognize your own greatness. And sometimes that means finding places outside of work where you’re able to shine greatly. What I’ve seen over the years when individuals have suppressed their greatness, is they disengage, not just at work, but in their personal life. They may stop doing things they love, and stop taking care of themselves or even believing that they deserve it. So self-recognition and doing things that add joy to your life is essential.
2. Recognize Other People
If you don’t want to stand out from the rest, it doesn’t have to be public recognition. What we find in collectivist cultures is one-on-one private recognition that people appreciate more. So thank somebody, offer to help, acknowledge something specific that they’ve done and that you appreciate. Acknowledging or recognizing people not only makes them feel good, but it also makes you feel good and allows you to shine and stand out without feeling there is a hidden agenda. When someone hasn’t had their opinions, ideas, talents, and passions valued for quite some time, but you do, it builds loyalty, nurtures their greatness, and increases their engagement; everyone needs to feel what they do and who they are matters.
3. Gossip More
Wait a minute, isn’t gossip bad? Yes, if it is negative, but resource gossip is good. Resource gossip is talking positively about someone when they’re not there. The more you do it, the more you can acknowledge other people and how they stand out and shine to others. Tall Poppy Syndrome doesn’t work when a few people see and honour someone’s greatness; it requires someone to be isolated and on their own. When you and others speak positively about someone, you stand taller with him or her. In other words, you’re able to acknowledge people as standing out and doing a great job without them putting the spotlight on him or herself, embarrassing them if they’re humble (some people find it difficult to receive a compliment particularly if others are present), or making it seem like it is for some personal gain.
I hope you found these strategies to be helpful. Stand out in your greatness and in the group that you work in. Discover the incredible value of collaboration and teamwork and embrace the benefits of that collectivist culture without the downsides of Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Want to stop Tall Poppy Syndrome? Talk about it. Share this post. Make it transparent.