Combating ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ In The Workplace: Insights and Strategies

Mar 12, 2024 | Article

Guest Post by Janine Trinidad, Senior Trainer, Construction Education at Procore

I recently came across a phenomenon that is widespread yet under-recognized called the Tall Poppy Syndrome. An organization based in Canada with Dr. Rumeet Billan has studied this issue and its impact on the workplace. I am particularly passionate about this topic because of my early career experience in the construction industry spanning back to 2006. Tall Poppy Syndrome occurs when high-performing individuals, often the cream of the crop in your teams and companies, are criticized or resented for their successes. It seems counter-intuitive considering success at work is what we all strive for. So why does it persist, and how can we mitigate its effects in the workplace?

 Understanding The Tall Poppy Syndrome 

In a session that took place at Procore’s 2023 Groundbreak conference held in Chicago, I,  Janine Trinindad, Senior Trainer in Construction Education, along with other industry experts, discussed the subtle implications of this phenomenon and its far-reaching effects. Tall Poppy Syndrome has been found to manifest in different ways—ranging from individuals being excluded from conversations or events, being imitated after proposing an idea, or even being belittled or talked over in meetings.

Impact on Industry Performance 

What is clear from the study is that these actions stem from jealousy, envy, personal insecurities, or implicit biases, causing severe productivity drops, burnout and employee attrition. Unfortunately, it is a reality that won’t vanish overnight, but recognizing it is the first step to tackle it.

Tips to Mitigate The Tall Poppy Syndrome 

Here are some actionable steps and solutions stemming from the TPS study and panel discussion that can help minimize the manifestation of Tall Poppy Syndrome at your company:

  1. Raise awareness: Educate your teams about the existence of this syndrome.  
  2. Hold people accountable: Encourage individuals to take responsibility and safeguard a healthy workplace environment. 
  3. Set a standard of transparency: Ensure every decision-making process is transparent; this will help identify and remedy any potential bias. 
  4. Adopt zero tolerance: Be swift in handling any instances of Tall Poppy Syndrome and any other symptoms of a toxic work environment.
  5. Invest in training for all employees: Provide continuous training to help employees identify and address issues related to the syndrome including work-life balance, inclusive facilitation and leadership training, and even personal development training related to your industry. 
  6. Encourage Sponsorship Over Mentorships: Sponsorships in the workplace can provide more hands-on, practical experience for employees. Unlike mere mentorships, sponsorship requires the sponsor to have ‘skin in the game,’ benefiting all parties involved. Sponsorships also provide opportunities to women instead of overlooking women in place of a man or due to a lack of self-advocacy.  To learn more about sponsorship, consider training and events by Ambition Theory.

Addressing Tall Poppy Syndrome requires an ongoing effort from all involved parties and buy-in from company leaders. This is not a women’s issue, but a phenomenon that affects everyone regardless of gender, rank, and experience. As the study shows, it also affects the business’s bottom line.  As we continue to foster a culture of inclusivity and respect at large, let’s also ensure that our work cultures celebrate the successes of women and improve our workplace wellbeing one step at a time.

Janine Trinindad is a Construction Educational professional for Procore Technologies with over 23 years of facilitation experience and over a decade of construction management experience. She is also a certified transformational coach with a focus on women-centered and trauma-informed methods.  Janine pursued and developed her work in performance and wellness when she herself experienced burnout and stress while managing construction projects.  She is passionate about transforming the construction industry to be a healthier, more successful and welcoming place to work and sees technology as an ally in doing so. Connect with Janine.

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