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#12 Tall Poppy Syndrome ft. Samia Elyahklifi and Oana Pasalau-Cioaba

Disclaimer: This transcription is generated using Natural Language Processing technology, and it's important to note that there may be errors present.

Tusem: Have you ever heard the following from your friends, or family, or colleagues even? You are too ambitious. You did great, but I think you're just lucky. Or maybe they say, you won because there was no competition, so... That's normal. Or they say, you climbed too fast. Think about the others. Don't fly. Congrats, you have been tall poppied.

Tucson, what are you talking about exactly, you say, maybe? Well, a study conducted in 2023 gives us really concerning numbers. Of the 4, 710 participants across 103 countries, 86. 8% Felt their achievements at work were undermined by colleagues or superiors. More than 81 percent said they had experienced hostility, were ostracized, or penalized at work because of their success at their job.

I'm talking about the tall poppy syndrome. A silent phenomenon impacting men and women daily. To shed light on this, I have the pleasure of having two guests for this episode, Oana and Samia. Let me give you some background information about them. Samia Al Yakhlifi, she has an impressive background. She carved a unique path from biomedical science to a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.

With a master's degree in her hands, she spent 18 years excelling in roles that involved everything from managing clinical trials to strategizing and leading expert teams. She found her passion in connecting dots and people. What sets Samia apart is her passion for people, leadership, and innovation.

After finding her passion in 2022, she took a bold step, launching her training and coaching company. She empowers organizations and individuals to thrive in a fast changing world. Then I have my second guest, Uana Pachalo Cioaba on the ThinkWorks podcast. Like Samia, she had also a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.

She says, after a son, two awakenings and a career switch, she was able to found her own coaching company. Oana coaching. Now she's a successful freelancer and a dedicated mom who knows firsthand the intricate balance between personal aspirations and parenthood. Oana's journey is a testament to the real and often conflicting feelings that freelancing moms encounter.

She describes it as the feeling like two people in one, the loving, attentive parent, and the rational, driven individual with dreams and ambitions. Together, they found between us. Where they collaborate and aspire to create a more inclusive and healthy workplace. Oana and Samia are here today to share their valuable insight on the silent phenomenon called the Fall Poppy Syndrome.

As two coaching professionals, Oana and Samia, I think, are well equipped to explore the psychological interests, personal experiences, and effective strategies for overcoming this phenomenon.

 To kick things off, get everyone on the same page, the tall poppy syndrome, I said it was a silent phenomenon, but Is it really silent? What is exactly

Samia: tall poppy syndrome? Yeah. So the, the tall poppy syndrome and nowadays we call it a phenomenon because it's really a phenomenon. It's as much as the name would think like someone is carrying a condition, a disease, it's not at all.

Naming it tall poppy syndrome makes it also tough for people. to come out and share their own stories. So we decided to call it really a tall, the tall puppy phenomenon. And it's really, A societal cultural problem we're dealing with. It's definitely silence and definitely here in our own region in Europe, Belgium, also more specifically in other regions, uh, it's more outspoken, uh, but here it's living.

And that's why we also wanted to do our own research to try to understand whether it's really there and it's living in our society. But definitely silent because no one speaks about it, one, but two, a lot of people just don't know about it. They go through the motions of things and some of them become unstoppable and others are being cut down with, uh, all the consequences.

Yeah, definitely a phenomenon that needs to be more outspoken and silent here. And can

Tusem: you maybe describe a picture of how the tall poppy situation takes place?

Oana: Yeah, so I think the first thing that we can, we can bring here is what exactly is being cut down. So we find ourselves in situations in the workspace or in our private lives where we are using our uniqueness a bit more than the others.

Or we, we use it in different ways that the others are expecting. And for that, we are being resented. We are being criticized. We are being, you mentioned ostracized. We are being ignored, silenced, just for the sake of other people feeling. safe, other people feeling not threatened. So when we say cut, we are being stopped.

Our voices are being stopped from, yeah, from expression.

Samia: , it's even as we can take it even a step further, you're being stopped from growing. And that's why we talk about a tall poppy. Um, so a tall poppy is beautifully. Growing and we see it in certain moments of the year. Uh, and there is the tendency to cut a puppy in your garden, certainly when it's growing taller.

Well, same is happening in private environments. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, even teachers. But also in the workplace, people are being cut because they're growing taller. So basically what is happening is as much as our society is. wanting to see growth, right? Every business is speaking of growth, but yet this is happening and is going against that movement we want to see as a

Tusem: society.

Okay. So you said it's the tall poppy syndrome takes place in many levels of the society, on family level, on friendship levels, corporate lives, workplaces.

How was your experience with Totale Poppy

Oana: Syndrome? So yeah, Samia introduced me to it and we were discussing and it attracted me from the very beginning because we mentioned the term silent a lot.

Yes. And because of the process that we are both going at the same time, the self awareness process, I realized, okay, this is something that we can't just keep silenced anymore. We need to raise awareness on it. But for me Samia came with the idea and like. presented tall poppy syndrome to me. I was very much in, Oh, I've never experienced tall poppy.

I, yeah, I've never felt silence. I never felt, I don't know, ostracized and then suddenly one evening, I mean, and I need to say that I was irony and I pick my phone and I told Samia, I have goosebumps now as well. So Samia, I remember. I was, I am a tall poppy. This happened to me. And this is when we, yeah, we understood there are so many levels.

There are so many, um, sides to tall poppy. And for me it was, yeah, the difference was a bit different. The experience was a bit different, but also an important facet of tall poppy, uh, syndrome.

Tusem: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that by the way, because I think sharing. These kind of experiences, it helps also people resonate with, Oh my God, this happened to me too.

. It makes it easier for us people and put a label on it because at the moment we put a label on it, we starting to understand it. I know in therapy, they mostly ask, okay, what do you feel right now? To put their name on it. I feel anger. I feel sadness. And yeah, the moment you put a label on it, You are able to understand.

That's maybe the first step

Samia: we can take. Yeah. And I'm happy to share my own experience with the moment where I saw the name, tall poppy syndrome. Wait, what? And going through the survey was actually helping me to understand where I was with this. And as soon as I had finished, I just felt a sense of relief.

There was a name, we named it, right? And that was the start of. my process to deal with what was happening to me, but it also helped me to go back to my past and to understand actually a lot of the experiences that I had as a child that actually I never stood still with. And only now. Made sense to me and made me understand why I did certain things, why I took certain steps, why I became a fighter in my life.

So yeah, it was definitely the naming of the condition or the phenomenon, let's say, that has helped with taking it to the next step and really unlocking growth because we're both in a business where we help people to grow and we want to see organizations grow. But that means you need to understand what, what is blocking growth, right?

And there we, we identified for both of us, something meaningful that was blocking us in our past, but also we're seeing blocking, it's blocking many others, right? Around us.

Oana: And now, if I may add, it's also that factor that made, made us unstoppable. At that point, we have not seen it like that. You mentioned Samia, like the fight.

Fight to grow. And for me, it was the same fight to, to keep my identity and be different. I don't care what the others are around me telling me. I don't care if they put me aside, they ignore me. I'm still going to be myself. We had no idea at that point, but this is it. This is our unstoppable story. And,

Samia: and it helps you also to understand that as much as tall poppy syndrome, sometimes we're being told by people who are introduced to the topic firstly, like, Hey, you need to be cautious that we're not creating more victims here, more Calimeros.

And actually it's the opposite. And we both experienced it, but we see it with the stories we get from people as well in the I'm unstoppable campaign is it's actually the opposite. Once you're. If you're aware of what, what is happening to you, you're aware of the mechanisms you have or you can still build in, that's where true growth starts.

So it's definitely not making you a Calimero, actually Cali hero. Nice. That's nice.

Tusem: Okay. that's maybe the positive side of the tall poppy syndrome, we can maybe put it in that way. But to have like a better understanding of the tall poppy syndrome, I want to understand the effect on the person, the tall poppy itself.

What are the effects actually of the tall poppy syndrome in a negative way this time?

Samia: Hmm. What we see from the research, uh, that was performed by Dr. Rameed, but also our own research is that when we look at the negative, uh, effect is that it has a huge impact on our mental health.

Why? Probably because we don't know what's happening to us and so you're very alone. A lot of these people feel very alone with what's happening to them. Also, when you understand the mechanisms, some ways of cutting is very obvious. It's the bullying, but most of it is very passive, microaggression, exclusive behaviors, cutting behaviors that you start doubting yourself in the moment.

Like this must be in my head. This must be not happening. And so that makes it huge in terms of impact on your mental wellbeing, right? And nowadays organizations are having so many programs to increase mental health because finally since the pandemic, the mental health starts becoming rightfully part of the agendas, but we don't dig deep enough.

And here actually you see that the tall poppy syndrome is causing a huge impact on mental health. Mm hmm. Now, that is on the individual level, right? We didn't even speak about what impact that has, of course, on the organizations. Yeah.

Oana: And here, maybe we can already tackle the two important factors, productivity.

And we spoke about innovation because you don't have that, you don't feel safe. You don't feel enabled to, to grow and to, to show your true nature. You are not, yeah, you are not prone to be more productive. You're not prone to bring your novelty and help companies, your organization

Tusem: innovate. Like you're not able to live up to your potential because

Samia: you're not safe.

Exactly. And organizations today are very aware that psychological safety is important to, to be innovative, right. To be inclusive as an organization. But yet are not always aware of these. subtle aspects in the team dynamics where team members or leaders are cutting each other or cutting their reports in a very subtle way.

So when you feel not invited to speak because you have been silenced in a direct way or in a very indirect way, why would you care to speak up? You would just stay at the side. And so that is having a huge impact because you. You don't carry your authentic thought to the table. You'll just be part of the team and you go with the flow.

Well, that's a massive killer for productivity, but also for innovation in the workspace. So in a

Tusem: workspace, maybe you wanna, is this maybe something for leaders? Maybe they. have to observe more, uh, enabled to detect the tall poppy syndrome because, okay, organizations, they do their best to be inclusive. And you said Samia, they put a lot of effort on mental health, but yeah, the tall poppy syndrome is a silent phenomenon.

And so you have to observe. Um, really well in order to detect it. So the leaders maybe have to have more responsibility or maybe more an effect on detecting. What do you think?

Oana: Yeah, I think we, we make it very clear that, and we are speaking to leaders, but that's not, but we are not stopping here. The responsibility sits with everyone because we are not only seeing that relationship, uh, leader, team member, cutter.

Toll poppy, the, yeah, the, the relationship, the, um, synergy, uh, between, I don't want to say members, but how would you put that roles within the toll poppy mechanism? It's not that easy. As Samia mentioned, it's subtle. Sometimes you do it unconsciously. Sometimes, um, it happens, um, unintentionally, but yeah, I think leaders do have an important role in, in knowing their teams, observing the dynamics and being very vigilant.

Right. Being vigilant and being very much aware of the, the tonus of the team and how is this happening? Yeah. Very much. Yeah. As Samia mentioned, there are a lot of programs supporting the leaders to, to get more mindful, to be, yeah. Uh, to have, and I think you are speaking much more widely about this, about, uh, leadership strategies and how they, they, I mean, leaders can learn more about their teams and how they, They enable their team members to be at their very best, but yeah, I think coming from that coaching space that we are now holding quite dear to us, uh, coaching plays a huge place in, into the entire dynamic.

Leaders being comfortable of spotting signs of tall poppies syndrome, um, enabling growth in their teams and creating that safe space for tall poppies to, to grow.

Samia: I definitely believe that leaders have a very important role to play in this. And at the same time, of course, everyone as a team mate, you have a role as well, but as a leader, people.

Uh, are following you, right? And people are looking at you. You're accountable for the team dynamics, so you play a huge role. So again, we put a lot of , pressure on leaders, right? And we've seen that really that evolution since the pandemic, even more and more, there's a lot of pressure on the team leader, the business leader, and really what I would say to organizations here is equip your leaders.

Leave them alone and expect them to deal with this, right? Equip them. Make sure that they see, they learn. This is something you can learn. Actually, we're talking about emotional intelligence here and luckily EQ can be learned. It's a very flexible muscle. So equip your leaders to see, to notice what's happening in the room.

Read the room when you're in the room, but read the room when you're outside the room and then take boldly actions, right? Don't leave it. what it is. So there is definitely a huge role to play for leaders.

Oana: Yeah. And I think within the team itself, the responsibility comes with speaking up. So if you are seeing any, any behaviors that are indicating tall poppy syndrome.

And these are called observers, right? Observers. Yeah. We talked about observers and the, the relationship between the three, because you brought this up, the three roles. So we have the cutter, the person who cuts, we have the tall poppy, and we have the observer. Those relate, the relationship can be interchangeable.

You can be now it will probably, but at, at your end, you can also cut someone, not, not intentionally, but you can, you can still do that. A cutter might cut someone because at their end they have also been cut by somebody else. So it's, yeah, it's quite sensitive I would say. And um, but yeah, something that is, is very, very important.

Speak up. Um, And don't, don't just, um, enable tall poppy syndrome to continue.

Samia: Yeah. You, you just mentioned the tall poppy triangle we developed, right? So where we highlight the different roles and it's actually important to really see the visual of the triangle. It's based off the toxic triangle where you have the bullier, the savior and the victim.

So it's almost the same, but translated to the tall poppy phenomenon. I was

Tusem: just thinking about that at school. It's exactly the same thing. So the tall poppy syndrome is the adult version of bullying, maybe. Can we

Samia: say that? Yeah, absolutely. We can elaborate on this. And so, yeah, just what I wanted to, to add is, yeah, be, let's be very clear on this triangle in terms of the relationships we care and there is no person who is being finger pointed because we're constantly.

Walking the, the, the triangle ourselves, right? Today I'm being cut, but tomorrow I'm cutting my daughter, for instance. And the day after I'm deciding, well, I don't have enough energy. I'm not going to do anything about someone I see being cut in the workplace. So we're doing this constantly. We're changing roles constantly and we do it.

All of us.

Tusem: Oh my God. All of us. We're doing it. That sounds horrifying. To be honest. I've had a talk with you one about this, like being in unintentionally a cutter. Are you still a cutter then? And you said

Oana: you're still cutting. Yes. Cutting is cutting, right? Yes. And I think since, and I'm talking really about my personal experiences now, since I'm much more aware about.

The signs, how someone can cut, um, I'm more sensitive as well. I'm more sensitive when I'm getting input from the others, especially my family, and especially as a mom, uh, because it's very easy to go into that place. Oh, I'm not doing a great job as a mom, but I'm also sensitive to, um, what I'm doing myself to others, and it's very easy either again, unintentionally, either you're stressed, either you're too tired, either you're not very much paying attention and you're just by.

It's not only behavior, it's not something concrete, it's just words that are... Words that you're sharing and they can be so hurtful and they can block people from their path to

Samia: grow. Yeah. And, and we're talking about moms and, and I definitely want to take an opportunity here to talk about this because as moms, we want to.

give care, right? We, we want to nurture, this is how we have been made, right? And we only want the best thing for children and our families. But because of that nature that we have, that means like we very often speak or behave out of our reptile brain, our reptile brain here at right under our ears, right?

Is that part of our brains that speaks out of fear? And there is nothing wrong with having that, uh, muscle being very much trained because we have been, uh, blessed with that part of our brains to, to help us to survive, right? To take care and to protect our children. However, when we go in overdrive, that means we're speaking much more out of care versus growth.

And that means you can easily, for instance, in the morning, you allow your daughter to take the bike to go to school, but you'll tell her, be careful. You speak with the best intention, but you're cutting your daughter because you're telling her like, be very cautious and you're not allowing her to enjoy that drive and to unleash her full potential.

And that's just one small example, but that's what we do every day as moms. So it's not only during our time at the workplace, but also at home, there is a lot that we can do to help our children grow.

Tusem: Yeah, so now I'm thinking the example you just gave makes me now like wonder. How many actions we had that can be considered as cutting without realizing this kind of scares me off.

Can you give us maybe more sentences or more situations? I think that's interesting that people can relate.

Samia: Yeah. And Oana alluded to the body language. There is a, we can definitely cut with the body language as well besides the words. So the way how I, I look at you, the way how I, um, position my arms.

If, if I. close my arms and I'm, I'm frowning my eyes and you're talking maybe something about a topic you're actually not so confident to speak about, I'm not inviting you to speak because I'm actually already showing you that I'm reluctant and so with body language or in a meeting, we're all together, we're a team and someone decides to just sit there like this and rolling eyes, rolling eyes, how often do we Passive aggressive.

Yeah. But there's

Oana: also the doing nothing. Doing nothing is as harmful as doing something. So you're in a situation, let's say we are with three people now, and one of us is cutting the other, but the third person is not saying anything. You're enabling that behavior. You're enabling the cutting. And this happens much too often, uh, I feel.

Tusem: It's also an easier.

Samia: coping.

Oana: Yes. Like, okay, I'm not, I'm not going to interfere. I'm not taking sides, but actually you're taking sides. You

Samia: are. Yeah. There are also some other examples in terms of words then like telling people, Oh, that's not adding value because we're such a value based society nowadays, which is great, right?

We want to create value. But one needs to be very cautious with using those words because when people are being told, for instance, you're not getting the promotion because you have been spending a lot of time on these and these activities and they're not so much value adding to the strategy or whatsoever.

Well, it's, it shows the person that whatever the person has been doing is just not. Okay. It's not worth it. Mm hmm. Well, maybe it's not in line with the value strategy of the organization, but it doesn't mean that it's not value adding. It could be value adding in another context. And that is a comment that is being presented very often in the corporate world.

Like, oh, well, that's not value adding. It's easily said, right? Because it helps us to stay within the, in the corporate context, but it's having a huge impact on people because they just stop with their. creative ideas. And very often these organizations hire people who come in with something different, unique, the unicorns or the camels we spoke about, right?

Every organization, they're fighting for them, right? But then they're hiring them and they're not able to keep them. They're cutting them short because the culture is not accepting that the person comes in with those crazy. Creative ideas, right? And as much as they have been all prepared, still, there was that unconscious part of all of us.

And that's really what we're trying to do here as well is let's get to the root of things and we're not blaming anyone. It just. Part of who we are as human beings, let's get naked. Let's go to that unconsciousness that is paralyzing us, right? Let's go there and get naked together and find out, right? How are we blocking each other?

And how can we go against the stream and help each other to grow?

Oana: And self awareness plays a huge and humongous role in the process. And we were just talking before coming here upstairs, like, yeah, if I would have heard about Toll Poppy Syndrome, like 10 years ago, 10, 12 years ago, I don't know what I would have done with it because my level of self awareness was not there.

I was not mature enough, not to say that there are a lot of Gen Zs and a lot of people who get that level of. Self awareness quite rapidly in their lives, but for me it wasn't and I would, I said yes to crazy requirements. I said, I, I let behaviors just. Past unspoken, just because I, I had my goal and, um, I wanted to, I wanted to grow.

And for me, the mechanism was just ignore, ignore what you're hearing, ignore what, where you are and just follow your path. And I think in terms of mechanisms and yeah, what enables your, you to perceive signals of tall poppy self awareness is very important.

Samia: Yeah, I would like to add to that is exactly the same for me.

My whole life actually, I had cutting moments, small ones, but also bigger ones. And it's only once I started my self awareness journey intentionally in 22 where I started seeing the patterns in my life. So the different. big cutting moments, we're not talking about the daily ones, but the bigger ones that I start realizing, wow, and that this has happened to me.

And I also had proud moments like, wow, and that's the way how I dealt with it. Now that I know, how can I continue to leverage this for my continued growth? How can I use this for my children and to help others? I

Oana: think there's this as mothers, there is this unwritten responsibility that we have for the next generations to come.

Whenever I'm talking about Doll Poppy, I'm thinking directly of my son. I don't want my son to go through the same experiences as I had. And I'm also, like you mentioned, don't be careful when you're taking the bike. I'm like, be careful when you're climbing down the stairs and directly I'm making that connection.

Hey. He's stronger than that. He knows better than that. He knows already. I told him a million times, so I cut him a million times, so now he knows. But yeah, one, one part of me is really hoping that through everything that we are doing and all the awareness that we are raising around tall poppy, we are helping my son.

We are helping your daughters. If

Tusem: you are breaking a chain actually of generational trauma or maybe you had always experienced of the TPS and now enabling him to grow, you're literally cutting the chain off and then he will continue to learn to his own children one day

Samia: maybe.

Interesting that you use the word generational trauma, um. Um, but I guess you're right, um, because some of these events create traumas. We have the traumas with the little T and the traumas with the big T, but I'm sure we have a lot of them because of the cutting mechanism. Um, Yeah, definitely. What we're trying to do here is cutting that chain and one, helping those who experienced it to heal from it and to find mechanisms to grow and two, for others to, well, I would love to say to prevent this from happening, but we're human beings, so it will continue to happen.

But how can we, by being more conscious of it, help ourselves and each other to unlock growth. Thank you. Thank you.

Oana: Okay. And we also discussed, and it feels like we are feeding each other's thoughts. Yeah, exactly. I had a discussion with the coach last week and it was really around that, like the more we, we get outside of our mind, because this is what happening, right, with tall poppy syndrome and when we feel that behavior, we go directly into our minds like, okay, it's my fault.

Is that it affects our level of confidence for sure. And you're thinking, Oh, what have I done wrong? You're going directly there, but it's more getting outside of our minds and getting more into our hearts. And like, how do I feel? How do I feel about it? And if I'm starting feeling, okay, this is not okay.

Then you might build that confidence, that courage to speak up and say something, even as an observer, even as a cutter, because then you are feeling, and if you are channeling the way you felt. At that moment, when somebody cuts you, you're going to react and not let anybody else cut somebody else in that observer seat.

So yeah, more outside of our thinking and more inside our feeling.


Tusem: moment you realize you're the TP, you're the tall puppy.

Samia: What's the next step? Angle. Yes.

Tusem: Should I just leave the workplace?

Samia: Should I leave my interesting, should

Oana: I leave it?

Samia: The answer is depending on yourself and your own needs. Because what we hear from some tall poppies, they say, yeah, I decided to leave.

And that made me a better tall poppy made me grow as a tall poppy. They also

Tusem: say that , if you run away. You are a court. You should fight it off. So how

Samia: It's a very good comment actually, because that's the struggle a lot of tall poppies deal with. Right? Like, do I find myself another environment or, or do I stay?

You have this flight, fight, freeze reaction, right? Yes. As a person. Yeah. Am I, yeah. Freezing or am I . Taking a flight away. And, but it's really about the narrative. Yeah. Either you look at it from that angle, like, yeah, I just don't want to deal with that. And I'm leaving. And you may still end up with having the feeling like I didn't address something or you very consciously say, this is not my place.

Right. We can't be everyone's cup of tea, right? Nice. We're not made to feel a hundred percent at every place. You need to find your place. So you owe that to yourself, right? Where you're valued, exactly. Where you feel like this is where I can thrive. There is, there may be a place where someone X could thrive and someone Z.

Won't be able to thrive. So that's something you need to owe that, that you owe that to yourself, go and chase and find that right place for you where you belong. Because what we often do is we try to fit in because we feel like, okay, we need to stay there. Why would I leave? And I would be a coward, right?

 And that's where coaching or therapy comes into play. What did I have, what was it that I was addressing and is there any responsibility I was taking in that process and how can I grow from that learning as well? And if you take those steps, then you won't feel a coward because you're taking your future in your own hands.

So I'm not telling people leave wherever you are now, but really try to be very conscious of who you are and your environment. And am I fitting in? Or am I belonging? And if you're fitting in, run, then that's not your place. That's a hard learning. I think we all have. Yeah.

Oana: Yeah. I would add a short nuance here because I was just thinking when you were talking Samia, yeah, if I would have had Samia with me in that space, in that tall puppy syndrome infested space, I wouldn't have left.

I would have a partner who understood me, who enabled me to continue growing, although the environment was not the right one. So maybe I wouldn't have left so soon. So I think when, what we are trying to also, um, see from the survey that we have conducted throughout the summer, okay, if you have a partner, how is this helping you within your organization?

Knowing that tall poppy syndrome is present there, and a lot of. A lot of input that we got is that, yeah, that would be a, of help. So this is why we mentioned speak up quite, quite oftenly, speak up and yeah, get yourself support. Yeah. And

Samia: besides that, organizations need to create the platform for people.

To, to dare to speak up, like say, Hey, this is on our agenda. We want you to speak about this without any negative impact on your growth. And that platform is really necessary because that's where you will have people starting to pop up and say, Hey, this is what I experienced and this is what I experienced.

And people will be, yeah, appearing right. And bonding on the topic and helping each other to grow. Of course. It, some organizations have the feeling like, Oh, wow, would we dare to open that box of Pandora because you don't know what to expect, but you can do this in a very controlled way. And people are asking for this from our research.

People have given a clear signal, like we expect our organizations to do more about this.

Oana: Have that open dialogue that is now simply closed. There's no channel to discuss these things. So it's quite important.

Tusem: Let's shift our focus to between us and their research on TPS. In the past summer, you have conducted research and.

You've collected a lot of data. You interview people from different roles and different industries. These people, these are change makers and they have created mechanisms to be unstoppable, you call. Will you tell us more about your research and the campaign

Samia: also? Yeah, sure. And maybe just to explain also why the research.

First when we partnered on, okay, we want to address tall poppy, the tall poppy syndrome, we came with both together. people. And we came with millions of ideas to address the tall poppy syndrome. But at some point we realized, well, let's take a step back and let's do some research first. Let's try to understand whether the data we have seen in prior research, whether that is true.

Validated by what we will see then here in our own region, Europe and more specifically Belgium. So our research consists of two parts. Um, one piece is the survey, the, the tall puppy, uh, summer survey. And the other part is the I am unstoppable campaign where we interview people to try to understand the mechanisms more.

So what, what about the research? So where are we? So we took an interim snapshots early September because we're, we were very. keen to, to start looking at the data. And that's where we, uh, had a snapshot with, uh, around 212 participants in Europe. We have a couple of people outside of Europe, but mainly, uh, Europeans, people from across industries.

across seniority levels and all genders. So we definitely wanted to reach out to, uh, males as well, uh, because that would have been also, uh, another difference with prior research to investigate what, uh, the impact is of TPS on females and males. Uh, it was also important for us to investigate this across ages.

What we see is that the majority who have responded was between 30 and 50. 50 years. So what we're currently doing is we're having a campaign online on LinkedIn where we're sharing our data in pieces because it's a lot of information and awareness needs to be done slowly, right? So we don't want to shock the world at once or also not provide an overload of information at once.

It needs to be digestible. So every week. We release a piece of our data. And so for instance, we already released that. Yeah. 65 percent of our participants, uh, have responded that they have been cut when we asked. Yeah. When we asked the question in a different way. Like whether they felt left out or being silenced, the answer was 71%.

And I personally believe that it's even an understatement. What we can say is it's definitely in line with the prior research, but when we hear people's, uh, stories, we get a tendency that the, the rate is, is much higher. So more to come about, uh, the rest, uh, of the data. But what we can definitely already tell you is that 70% of the participants are telling us that their organizations are not addressing this sufficiently.

So there is definitely a call to action, which is helping us to understand like, yeah, we need to keep on moving in this space. We need to keep on being loud and continue to, to address this, not alone, but together with

Tusem: others. Yeah. I think it's also very interesting. phenomenon is really known in New Zealand, in Australia, in America.

I'm not sure about

Samia: America. It starts as well. It's more, it's more than, they're talking more about it than here in Europe, but not as much as in Australia

Tusem: for many years. Yeah. And the fact that This is now becoming a thing right now in Belgium. It makes me really happy. So also thank you for that, to contribute to that.

But, uh, tell me also about your campaign besides the

Oana: research you did. So it's not simply enough to have data and it's not simply enough to, to share the data with, with the audience, with, uh, the people who are going through, um, through these situations. And this is where. Yeah, the second part of our, of our research comes in, we want to give voices, we want to give a voice to the data and what better way than have interviews, conduct interviews with tall poppies and get to learn a bit more about their stories.

I mean, we, it's fascinating when we are. Seeing and the connections that we are making from one interview to the other, but also to understand the mechanisms of, yeah, we, we use copying a lot, copying with tall poppy, but it's actually mechanisms of enabling your growth. And yeah, to do that, we are not going only.

To speak to leaders. We talked about the importance that leaders are bringing in, in the, that triangle. Right. But yeah, we are speaking with people from different industries, different seniority levels. Yeah. We have Gen Z coming up soon. So I think it's. It's quite important to, to understand that, yeah, it, it's happening to everyone.

It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who you are, what role you play, you know, in your company. It doesn't matter if you're a mom, you're not a mom, you're a woman, woman, or a man, you still, you're prone to that. And the more we, we expose the fact that. Yeah, it can happen to anyone. The more we give examples, the more we, we enable people to share their stories.

Yeah, that spirit of community and that, that spirit of sharing, speaking up is, is enabled.


Tusem: Shifting gears a little bit on the cultural level. Do you think that culture has an impact on being an observer or a cutter? We said that it's in New Zealand, it's a thing in Australia, . So we can understand it's a cultural thing then, or what's, what's your take on this?

Samia: Well, we learned from, first of all, from the survey, we get the response that culture matters to here. So when we try to understand why is this happening? Number one was. Confidence. Mm hmm. But cultural, culture plays a role as well. And we will be sharing more about the data on our, in our online campaign.

Now, when we interview people, it's interesting to see that people are, are really referring to the culture. For instance, we had Elin De Monk who kicked off the campaign and she said that once there was an American guy who told her, Oh, you're, you're from Belgium. The country that is cutting the tallest flower, right?

And we recently, we spoke with a school principal and she said, well, I wonder sometimes if I would have been born in another country, let's say, just The Netherlands nearby, what would I have become? So it speaks a lot

Oana: about this consciousness.

Samia: It means like people are aware that the culture we have, the culture we carry of modesty here in Belgium may be playing a role here as well.

Tusem: The fact that people tend to be more humble, uh, with their ambitions, they don't want to show it because they are afraid to being cut. So they just, they compensate with like being average.

Oana: Yes. And yeah, it's that again, that idea of fitting in, adapting to a new environment.

And I can channel here the fact that I'm, I'm an immigrant. I arrived here 17 years ago and the path was already laid down before I even started. Right. It's kind of taking everything that you, yeah, you hold. Important in your life. You're I'm, I'm Romanian. I came from Romania. I have my values. I arrived here and suddenly those values that were so important and highlighted to me were no longer the values that were expected from me.

So yeah, directly there's a struggle, there's a fight, there's a fight. And at that moment, you're. Yeah, you're, you're really at crossroads. What do you

Samia: do? Yeah. It reminds me of my own story because I'm an immigrant's daughter and I've been, I'm born here, but at the same time also felt that cultural aspect, right?

So deeply is you're being educated in a Western school, but at home you, you're educated with other values and you so much try to. to fit in somewhere, right? And so you go to school and you try to, to fit in. So you try to, and I'm going to express it in Dutch, do normaal. So we, we have been hearing that so often here and I still hear it in school places as well, like do normaal, but is normaal, right?

So, and you feel like, okay, as soon as you come in with something different, you try to, to achieve more, to do more. well, you're not normal anymore. So, okay, let's, let's be normal so I can fit in. So I can feel good about myself. Right. So I fit in. Yeah. It's, it's seemingly very important for a human being to fit in, but actually we're confusing that feeling with that sense of belonging.

We're hard. Hardwired to belong. We all want to belong, but we're confusing it with fitting in. That's a powerful way of saying it. And by the way, I'm actually stealing here, Renee Brown's, uh, which was so inspirational.

Tusem: Now we're talking here about experiences. My experience with TPS, I realized this, actually the moment I realized this, it was during your keynote at ClosedCity and you talked about the ways of cutting and my experience was

I was for some years in Istanbul.

I have a background in Islamic studies. And then, uh, when I came to here, I'm going to be open about it. , then there was this youth organization and we had an environment where we could interact with youth. that was such a nice and comfortable place for me. We were able to create a whole team of 15 girls of my same age, but then there were other Like teenagers.

So there were like two groups, the teenagers and let's say the coordinators, that these were also young people. So we were able to create something from zero. We had a whole organization now for the youth and we're like operating so well. We had an organization unit. We had the service unit, we had the IT unit.

So we were really like a company, a startup. But then they, we, we started hearing some like other. Like, you are too ambitious. You have to get slower. We cannot keep up with this. They started cutting us down because we were too ambitious. We were too talented, we were too structured. So all these 11 girls, we left the youth organization.

And when I attended your keynotes, that was the moment where I realized, Oh my God. I, we, these 11 girls, we were all puppies and we were. We have been cut off and we realized we were not valued and respected enough. maybe , the best thing is leaving. We had a lot of observers. Everyone saw that they were all silent.

 They didn't react. That's maybe the easiest way of coping with it. thank you again for giving me this awareness and seeing also the true value in myself and indeed not trying to fit in, but. Like seeking a sense of belonging somewhere else, maybe inside yourself. So yeah, that was my story.

Samia: Beautiful. Thank

Oana: you so much. It's quite important. I'm having like a brief moment here. This is the first time that we're here because so far it's been like, okay, we are in the doll puppy environment, but I've never heard a story where. The entire, practically the entire group, we were 11 girls.

So you made, you were, you were all forming a super tall poppy that was, you know, triggering attention. Too much attention. You were ahead of your head, of your talent and your success. And that represented like, uh, um, kind of like a threat. Like, hey, wait, the others are, are not able to follow. So it's, it's really the first time that I'm hearing it's a community of puppies and the environment, practically the environment around you was self sufficient, was the right one.

You were enabling each other's

Tusem: growth. The group we, I'm talking about 11 girls, there are some girls that are just being silent when they're caught. Most of the time, these girls were really scared of speaking up about it. And when we have like these kinds of meetings , with the leaders of this organization, we were really like verbally open and we're like, you did this.

I think you're not enough. I'm the thing is in our culture, you have to show respect to your elders, but when it comes to, uh, responsibility in your, like towards the whole community. Age is not really a parameter anymore, but that was a really like a taboo in, in that environment where we started like being really open, like this is not okay.

You are too slow. I'm sorry. You cannot keep up. We cannot do anything about it. We are here with 11 girls and we have a great structure. And then when the girls, the silent girls, they saw us, , they felt empowered because we speak up about it. And that's how they left. But normally if we were silent, they probably will just stay there.


Oana: Continue to stay there. shy. So one of the people we interviewed, Lynn Vermeers, and the interview came out today on LinkedIn. She mentioned of a very interesting concept, the concept of a tall poppy and the concept of a shy poppy. So those. Those poppies that have it within themselves, they have that capacity of growing, but sometimes it's difficult to, to use their voice.

And when you mentioned about those, those colleagues that were, you know, kind of acting like an observer and I, I don't know, maybe, maybe they are taking a shy poppy is taking the role of an observer in some situations. I don't know. Yeah. But it's a good term, I think for them. But it's like, like the, the responsibility of a tall puppy does not only resides with I need to prepare myself or I need to use all the mechanisms to grow, but I'm also, I'm also giving, taking that responsibility of inspiring all the other puppies, puppies around me.

So that is, that comes with a huge responsibility. Yeah, exactly. Right.

Samia: We all play a role here and the role of a role model. Is not to be underestimated and certainly with a topic like this one that is very sensitive and then you have the shipe. Poppies or the, the more introverted people, right? Let's say that the way needs to be paved, right?

So you need the ones who, who would dare to be vocal for other topics to, to help others, right? And, and, and really be vocal. That, that's the first step. Basically, we need to talk about this. So that's why we were very thankful to you to some as well, that we get this space to, to talk about this because I'm sure there are many listeners that will be having an aha moment.

Thank you. Indeed, these kinds

Tusem: of topics are indeed in my close environments, even in my friend groups, we don't really speak up about it because it's a dark place in ourselves. And it's, we don't even want to think about it. Let's stand talking about it. So I think we did a, we did a good job on sharing our experiences and.


Oana: Yes. And is this part of. Uh, solutions is this triggering solutions? I mean, the first we're hijacking your,

Samia: no,

Oana: because you're, you're bringing a very good, a very good point. Like speaking up. Raising awareness, that's the first step, recognizing, hey, there is something there. We can't just close our eyes.

We've, oh, we've heard about tall poppy. I know I'm a tall poppy. I've seen others, other tall poppies being cut. I'm not going to do anything about it because then it becomes. intentional. One big part of, you know, creating or enabling solutions is speak up, raise awareness, recognize the signs, learn more, be more curious about it.

, I would like

Samia: to add a piece about awareness and, and stolen a quote from someone who participated to the early 23 research. He says, you know better, you do better.

And it's very much telling to the impact the awareness process has. And I personally believe like the awareness process is 50 percent of the solution, right? As soon as you know, because I truly believe that most of us are doing this unintentionally. We don't want to harm each other, but we still do it, right?

Because we're human beings. So, and as soon as we know, we will do it again, but next time we will rethink, right? What we have done and, and try to course correct. So that's. Okay. Thanks. Personally, it's the biggest solution or the first big part, right? And then of course, we need to continue to work with the tall puppies because some of them have found their mechanisms, but others have felt the impact on their mental health.

We know from research that a lot of these people went on burnout leave. A huge amount of people decided to leave as well, which is very much. telling. So these people need support, right? With finding their coping mechanisms, but also dealing with the trauma they have been dealing with, right? And besides working on the tall puppies, it's also working on the environment.

And that's where I really invite every organization that has a DNI ambition, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a wellbeing agenda to integrate the tall puppy phenomenon. into one of these agendas or ambitions. Equip your leaders, develop programs, mobilize your people, create platforms for people to speak up and inviting people, professionals to help you with this.

 There are millions of solutions, but if we want to start, let's start with at least those that we have mentioned. And those are the most obvious ones. I

Oana: would include coaching. We need to speak about that. Coaching as a mechanism or as a, as a channel. To, to get to that self awareness and also being, being self aware as an individual will trigger you to be a bit more self aware about your environment, about everything that happens around you, how you, you talk to people, how you interact with people.

So this is, this is a great enabler. And we are, I mean, we are coaches ourselves, but we, we can't stress enough on the importance of, of using professionals. I really

Tusem: like that because we say like the tall puppy is most of the time talented and they have to cut the downside to, to grow together this, , togetherness.

Some of us can maybe think like the tall puppy syndrome is based on individualism, but when you say it in this way, growing together. So having the awareness, you said also the environment awareness, the tall poppy syndrome is actually not really based on the individual because you can also observe and you can speak up.

So this actually is exactly the opposite of being. individualistic because while you take care of yourself, you also take care about the others. So for those who think that tall poppy syndrome is based on the person itself, talented person should grow and should be ambitious. Okay. That's true. But at the same time, it's also taking care of others.

And I think we gave a strong message, actually, how we can mitigate this, even maybe not fix it, but you said 50 percent is having the awareness, realizing that this is a problem. And remember, being a tall puppy is something to be proud of and not something to fear. We can keep empowering each other. to rise and flourish , without holding anyone back by the shadow of jealousy of negativity.

If we are not living up to our full potential, we will be never happy. And now that you, , I feel like I'm giving a message. , now that you have gleaned valuable insight from this episode and have the tools to identify these dynamics, I trust you, you will grow even taller than before.

And may you also gain an heightened awareness of the roles of both observers and cutters in this phenomenon. Thank you for listening. Salama.

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