Question from a reader in Australia
The ”Tall Poppy Syndrome” seems pervasive here. Are there specific tricks to combatting this phenomenon for managers?
Note: Tall Poppy Syndrome is a term often used in British Commonwealth countries to describe employees who do exceptional work but who are resented or criticized because their achievements elevate them above peers.
I actually get quite a few emails from around the world about this very subject, and it’s very frustrating for those wanting to excel. Fear of rising above the pack keeps many employees from giving their best ideas and efforts.
Our research shows that such employees in not only Australia but many other countries are starved for recognition and have more to give, but are often are surrounded by co-workers who bring them down, and sometimes managers who are threatened by their success.
We have seen managers overcome this crippling environment, but it does take strong leadership. Harken back to some of our basics of recognition: Frequent, specific, timely and sincere. If small public recognition moments are frequent, then employees know their turn is coming and become accustomed to others being lauded for their accomplishments too. If the recognition is specific and sincere—tied to clear core values that are genuinely important to the organization—then other employees know why the recognition is happening and that the recognized co-worker is not the “teacher’s pet.”
Finally, timely recognition shows everyone what matters most around here, for example, a manager might gather people and say, “Let me tell you about something great that just happened yesterday. As you know one of our core values is Safety, and I saw Pete tying off the ladder for another employee who had forgotten. It’s simple thing, but it shows he cares about his co-workers and their well-being. Let me ask you, what matters most around here? That’s right, safety.”
Don’t forget to root for the tall poppies around you, and Think Orange!