Nearly 90% of women worldwide are penalized and undermined because of work achievements: study

(Courtesy: Instagram/WOIGlobal)


Women who are successful are being bullied and belittled, challenged on their successes, and made to feel as though it’s not their place to take up so much space, according to a new study. 

Women of Influence+ (WOI+) released findings from The Tallest Poppy 2023 study on Wednesday. The first international research project of its kind, The Tallest Poppy looks into the consequences of Tall Poppy Syndrome and the impact it has on women in the workplace worldwide. 


Tall Poppy Syndrome occurs when people are attacked, resented, disliked, criticized, or cut down because of their achievements and/or success, according to Women of Influence+. 

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents experienced Tall Poppy Syndrome at work. The study heard from thousands of working women from all demographics and professions in 103 countries. 


The study found that men in leadership positions were more likely to penalize or undermine women due to their success. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to cut down peers or colleagues.

The act of cutting someone down because of their achievements or success manifests in the workplace in a number of different ways, according to the study. Results showed:

  • 77 per cent of respondents had their achievements downplayed
  • 72 per cent of respondents were left out of meetings and discussions or were ignored
  • 71 per cent said they were undermined because of their achievement
  • 68 per cent had their achievement dismissed
  • 66 per cent said others took credit for their work

Additional ways people experience Tall Poppy Syndrome include belittling, being silenced, disparaging comments, and microaggressions.

“When reading through stories about personal experiences from respondents, we noted a recurring theme: those who had, or are, experiencing Tall Poppy Syndrome did not know these phenomena had a name,” CEO of WOI+ and author of the study, Dr. Rumeet Billan said in a release. “Not only does our data reveal the negative effects of being cut down because of one’s achievements, it helps us understand how the cutting is being done, who is most likely to do the cutting, and most importantly, legitimizes the experiences of women who, in many cases, have experienced this throughout their careers.”


Experiencing Tall Poppy Syndrome is detrimental to a woman’s self-confidence and well-being, according to WOI+. Of the respondents surveyed, nearly 90 per cent indicated that their stress had increased because of Tall Poppy Syndrome. 

Seventy-four per cent indicated it had a negative impact on their mental health and 66 per cent cited lower self-confidence.

Other effects include feelings of isolation and burnout, and the lack of desire to share or celebrate one’s success or accomplishments.

As a result, almost 70 per cent of respondents looked for a new role or job and 50 per cent left their previous role or job. 

Seventy-five per cent agreed that experiencing Tall Poppy Syndrome at work impacted their productivity, and nearly 80 per cent said their experience with Tall Poppy Syndrome created a culture of distrust. 


WOI+ says a range of actions can be taken to combat Tall Poppy Syndrome including raising awareness, holding people accountable, setting a standard of transparency and investing in training for all employees as well as celebrating wins. 

An online survey was sent out to contacts in Women of Influence+’s database and was also shared on social media from Jan. 9, 2023 to Feb. 10, 2023. A total of 4,710 respondents took part in the survey across 103 countries and most of those who received the survey identify as women, according to the study.



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