Tall Poppy Syndrome. Are You Feeding This?

For everyone who identifies as a woman, including trans women and those who resonate with femme gender identity, Tall Poppy Syndrome is likely very familiar. Did you know this experience had this name?

This article indicates that a global study “has found almost 90 per cent of women surveyed have experienced ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in the workplace. Tall poppy syndrome describes when people are attacked, resented or ‘cut down’ because of their success and achievements.”

The study found that:

  • 77 percent of respondents had their achievements downplayed
  • 72 percent were left out of meetings and discussions or were ignored
  • 70 percent were undermined
  • 68 percent had their achievements dismissed
  • 66 percent said others took credit for their work

    Aggressors existed across all levels relative to the respondents and were mainly males but also other women.

Intersecting and additional “otherness” makes it worse

And we know that additional layers of “other” only further exacerbate these issues.

Scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw of Columbia Law School originally coined the term “intersectionality” which means:

“that individuals have individual identities that intersect in ways that impact how they are viewed, understood, and treated. Black women are both black and women, but because they are black women, they endure specific forms of discrimination that black men, or white women, might not…intersectionality isn’t ‘an effort to create the world in an inverted image of what it is now.’ Rather, she said, the point of intersectionality is to make room ‘for more advocacy and remedial practices’ to create a more egalitarian system.”

Jane Coaston, Vox, May 29, 2019: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination

Where does all of this leave us?

The uncomfortable fact is that we as humans internalize these systemic biases; we grow up in society and in systems, and naturally internalize all of these biases and stigmas, regardless of the topic (race, health, mental health, gender, etc.).

Regardless of our own identities, leaders have a particular responsibility to use whatever power they have within their own spheres of influence to question their own unconscious beliefs and how they may be applying them to their workplaces without realizing it.

Let’s keep growing as people and questioning our own internal beliefs to make all workplaces truly equitable, welcoming and meaningfully progressive!

Read more about anti-oppressive leadership here.

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