What Is The Tall Poppy Syndrome?

There is a current issue in Australia that is commonly known as Tall Poppy Syndrome. It has been a part of their culture and significantly affected their economy. 

However, the more you dive into learning about Tall Poppy Syndrome, you may realize that it is more familiar than now.

Maybe you know someone who has it, or perhaps you have it. In case you realize that you have it, then Suchitra Mouly of the University of Auckland may help you with her study.

Tall Poppy Syndrome

A Brief History

Britain initially used Australia as a settlement for prisoners, so most of the Australian’s heritage are prisoners in the area. 

These criminals are violent and furious; that’s why the British separated them from the majority. They don’t like successful people.

The notable success of many people ignited the bitterness and jealousy of these prisoners. Australia’s modern culture started with the same behavior towards successful people to ruin their success as well.

Now, Australians refer to successful people as tall poppies. They also use the expression “cutting down the tall poppy” to mock or depreciate their success.

These terms are from the stories of Aboriginal Australians. 

The people behind Australia’s economic development condemn the use of the term “tall popping.” Since it is a depreciative term, they believe that it can ruin people’s success and the economy. 

It is like a school scenario wherein the students who don’t do good in class taunt the students who did well. 

Related Reading: Similar to the Poppy, it’s Crabs in a Bucket

The Study On Tall Poppy Syndrome

Suchitra Mouly conducted a study about the tall poppy syndrome. A successful professor applied for an increase in her promotion system at the university. 

When people realized that her application for a double increment is possible, some of her colleagues were envious. They manipulated the application process for the promotion to reject her.

In short, the peers tall poppyed the professor, so she left the university and transferred to a different one. 

Therefore, Mouly wanted to find out the process behind the actions of these peers. Also, she wanted to know why the university was not able to respond to it. 

We can use the professor’s experience in our environment so the people in the same environment won’t be affected by their colleagues’ jealousy and bitterness. 

During the study, Mouldy found that the essential factor in the scenario meant management. 

Similar to the example we used above about students in school, the peers turned the professor’s success into something they can judge. 

They made themselves believe that their judgments are valid and commonly agreed by others.

It is due to the benefits gained from the work performance praises that became the basis for identifying an individual—also, an unsureness in the evaluation.

Related Reading: How To Get Stuff Done

False Ideas

From the study of Mouly, the professor’s colleagues misrepresented and bent the “facts,” causing the directed criticisms to her. Some of these ironically false facts were:  

  • She was snobbish to her peers and acted superior.
  • She was selfish and unkind to peers.

Wrong Conclusions

Because of these false ideas, other people came up with wrong conclusions that criticize the professor:

  • The professor’s achievement isn’t that good and mighty. 
  • The professor only achieved success with a great expense. 

Factors That Affects The Conclusion

The administration in charge of the application could have acted on the mistake. However, they chose not to respond at all. They accepted the wrong assumptions about the professor and let her leave. 

Their decision backfired. Mouly found out these factors that caused them to impede:

  • The administration did not verify the information handed to them.
  • The evaluation process was firm and didn’t let people step out of it. 
  • The criteria for the evaluation were not specific that enabled people to put nasty stuff.
  • Administration mutually agreed on the criticisms thrown at the professor.
  • They believed their evaluation procedure was fair and didn’t accept judgments.
  • The administration didn’t research further on the false information. 

Related Reading: How To Start Something New


Comments between employees are common in the work environment, but we don’t know where the line separates it from envy. Envy may cause someone to have pent-up anger and a desire to ruin other people. 

This trait is dangerous and targets qualities that make a person successful. It turns hope into an opportunity wasted. 

Supervisors need to address the issue of employees that have underlying envy. They can help make these employees recognize the adverse effects of this feeling and guide them to turn it into something positive. 

Successful people do not only benefit from themselves but also bring advantages in the entire workplace. With proper guidance and understanding, these employees can handle envy better and turn it into gratefulness. 

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Brooks Conkle

Brooks is an entrepreneur, father, husband, & follower of the golden rule. He has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur after graduating with a Finance degree from Auburn University. Addicted to starting new business projects, he believes in creating multiple income streams and a life of flexibility. Business should work around your life, not the other way around. He creates content on his website, sharing his projects to help other hustlers in marketing, personal finance, and online business.