The Tallest Poppy
Women are being cut down in the workplace every day - from downplaying achievement to being undermined, to being straight up left out or ignored. I haven’t met a woman today, that hasn’t somewhere felt or experienced this.
And THIS has a name. Tall Poppy Syndrome.
I covered Tall Poppy Syndrome early on in the podcast - so if you are interested, check out episode EPISODE 27 I’m bringing it back up today because there was an international research project led by Women of Influence+ that I just had to share with you.
If you have never heard of TPS - it occurs when a person's success causes them to be attacked, resented, or criticized. It cuts them down and devalues their achievements by suggesting they did not deserve the attention. It is when you are attacked, resented, disliked, and cut down all because of your success. The more successful you are, the more likely your success will be under attack. The more likely you will face aggression - not just from people in positions of seniority, but also from your peers.
I know I have experienced this head-on. It has shown up in my life by having both men, AND women say “OH, she just got that job because she knew the person” (Which if you read between the lines is saying “I’m not qualified and I didn’t deserve the job - nevermind my years of experience, education, and proven track record.)
What about you?
Do people encourage your achievements, or express concern because you work too hard?
It might not be in-your-face attacks - they insinuate things, and they may give you feedback like “quiet down a bit - you are making others uncomfortable” or “your ambition is a bit overkill, dial it back a bit.”
I’ve seen it PLENTY in women cutting down other women that aren’t like them - I’ve seen working moms say “oh - she’s just a stay-at-home mom” as if that job doesn’t have merit. I’ve seen stay-at-home moms say “well, she’s always at work” about women who work - WHY ARE WE CUTTING DOWN WOMEN FOR living their own lives?
If you haven’t experienced it directly - I know you have seen it. In the research project led by Women's Influence+, 86.8% of respondents from 103 countries say they have experienced this at work - holy shit ya’ll. 86.8%!
The way it shows up is broad and far-reaching - The top ways that THIS study found TPS showing up was in
Downplaying achievement - by 77%
Being left out or ignored - ya know, being forgotten on that meeting invite? 72.4%
Almost 71% said they were being undermined
68.3% experienced the dismissal of achievement
And 66.1% said others took credit for work they had done.
Wow. That all sounds REALLY harsh. But it happens. Again, 86.8% said it happened to them!
This study revealed that MEN were the ones doing the cutting down - that they were more likely to undermine women due to their success, but I didn’t know that I truly agreed with that. At least, it hasn’t matched MY experience.
So I dove into the white paper - areas, where men ranked MUCH HIGHER, were Senior Leadership, C Level Execs, Board Members or Board Directors, and CEOs -
Ya’ll. WE KNOW THOSE FIELDS ARE DOMINATED BY MEN. WE KNOW WOMEN ARE UNDERREPRESENTED. COME ON NOW!!!!!
The study showed that the top drivers for WHY TPS exists, and why we are cutting down women as they drive for success are jealousy and envy, sexism and gender stereotypes, and the lack of confidence and insecurity. I believe this 100%. Jealousy and envy are REAL joy stealers ya’ll. So instead of looking at others with jealousy, look at them with admiration. Instead of that “they have it all - and I can’t” feeling, to a feeling of “Wow - look what can be done. If she can do it, so can I!”
And ya’ll this cutting of the tall poppies- the amazing and growth-minded women - this is a major problem - these snide comments, and back-handed comments that come our way - is just another way to say “don’t shine your light so brightly.”
No one seems to have a problem when a man boasts of his achievements.
We must support each other. We must raise each other up. We cannot be afraid to shout our achievements from the rooftop - and Ladies- WE MUST SHOUT EACH other TOO!
A woman I like to think of as a friend, Caroline Miller, The Goals and Grit Guru, came up with the word “Ampliship” And it is all about amplifying women, in front of others. Not just to them - but to the world. We must band together and get loud about all the amazing and magnificent things we are doing.
TPS impacts organizations too - it impacts productivity, and creates a culture of distrust- which yeah - taking credit for another's work or dimming their light - is a no brainer - it is driving women to look for new jobs and new roles, with a whopping 50% actually saying SEE YA and leaving for a new opportunity.
It's not ok to cut others down. There is MORE than enough room for all of us at the table. So let’s sprinkle some fertilizer - you know, motivation, support, love, guidance, and advocacy, on our fellow poppies - and let's GROW BABY GROW!