Skip links
Successful women bullied at work

Close to 90% of women say they are bullied when successful at work

86.8% of women have at work experienced what researchers call Tall Poppy Syndrome – being attacked, resented, disliked, criticized or cut down because of their achievements and success, an international survey comprising 103 countries shows. “The Tallest Poppy reveals that 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.” 

“Our data tells an eye-opening story about how Tall Poppy Syndrome negatively impacts ambitious, high-performing women, and what this means for organizations,” says Dr Rumeet Billan, CEO of Canadian Women of Influence+ and author of the study.  

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. 

  • 77% had their achievements downplayed
  • 72.4% were left out of meetings and discussions or were ignored
  • 70.7% said they were undermined because of their achievement(s) 
  • 68.3%  had their achievement(s) dismissed
  • 66.1 said others took credit for their work

“Additional ways people experience the syndrome include: belittling, being silenced, disparaging comments, and microaggressions”, the report says.

Read Also:  Mental health and lack of flexibility top concerns for women at work
  • 85.6% indicated that their stress had increased because of Tall Poppy Syndrome
  • 73.8% indicated it had a negative impact on their mental health
  • 66.2% 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.”

The report says this phenomenon has a direct impact on productivity and, if not dealt with, can damage an organization’s culture. According to the study, top talent will burnout, check out, and ultimately leave.

“Organizations often talk about the ‘war for top talent,’ when instead, there should be a focus on retaining top talent,” says Billan. 

“As a result of Tall Poppy Syndrome, high-performers are minimizing their skills and accomplishments, 60.5% of those who responded to our survey believe they will be penalized if they are perceived as ambitious at work.”

  • 67.8% looked for a new role/job and 50% left their previous role/job
  • 75% agreed that experiencing Tall Poppy Syndrome at work impacted their productivity
  • 77.5% said their experience with Tall Poppy Syndrome created a culture of distrust

As actions, the report says:

  • Raise awareness  
  • Hold people accountable
  • Set a standard of transparency
  • Adopt zero tolerance  
  • Invest in training for all employees and celebrate wins
Read Also:  Just 14 countries have laws giving women the same rights as men


Moonshot News is an independent European news website for all IT, Media and Advertising professionals, powered by women and with a focus on driving the narrative for diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the industry.

Our mission is to provide top and unbiased information for all professionals and to make sure that women get their fair share of voice in the news and in the spotlight!

We produce original content, news articles, a curated calendar of industry events and a database of women IT, Media and Advertising associations.

    Do you want an experienced opinion on a job issue?
    Moonshot Manager is here to answer!

      Moonshot community sharing thoughts and ideas, in a anonymous, safe environment.