The Tall Poppy

Being different. In some countries it’s undesirable. I use to work for an Australian company and we’d hear mention of Tall Poppy Syndrome. Australia has changed greatly over the last decade but Tall Poppy use to be part of the culture. I had to ask when I first heard it too. The term originated with Aristotle, that’s how old it is. The idea is that a uniform field of poppies is ideal and the ones that are taller than the rest should be pulled. The official term is actually intended to be pejorative.

I feel like this Tall Poppy sometimes- at least I hope I am. Is that odd?

So how is it relevant in this day and age?

I see this in corporate contexts. I’m a passionate person – passionate about my industry and my work ethic. I thrive on making educated leaps, being a first mover, and persistence. I believe that if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough. (You just don’t want to fail too badly). And because of this, I stick out. In an environment that favors diplomacy and subtlety, you don’t do well being celebratory, insistent, disappointed, or proud. Some would say that until you reach a certain level you’re best to just tone it down. (It’s the opposite in the start-up environment. The more personally invested you are, the better.)

I’ve worked with my share of battle-worn colleagues who have been put in one box on the org chart and then moved to another branch and the next year, back again. And with the economic downturn these are the lucky ones to have survived numerous waves of lay offs. It can’t be blamed on the culture of tan cubicles and layers of management, though I would like to because cubicles are no fun. The reason is – large companies are like ships and they must keep their eye on the horizon. Their direction is long distance and long term.

My field of Internet Marketing is constantly reinventing itself and it excites me to no end! So being housed inside of a 40k person company has been such a juxtaposition of large and nimble. Working in the corporate environment has made me a better professional and employee. I don’t want to lose the Tall Poppy in me, that entrepreneur. I’m not going to change the way corporations work but I’ve come to understand the perspective. Corporations are built for slow, steady progression. But even though we invest ourselves in our work, sometimes at our own personal expense, corporations manage in thousands not by individuals. The loyalty and passion you invest has to be rewarding to you, the employee.

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