Work life | The risk of overperforming

Work life | The risk of overperforming
Work life | The risk of overperforming

High-performing, experienced, determined and fulfilled, Virginie Louault felt on top of her game when without warning her position as vice-president in a large firm was eliminated. She replayed the scenario many times: she suffered from tall poppy syndrome.

Published at 1:50 a.m.

Updated at 7:00 a.m.

Recognized by research and scientific literature, tall poppy syndrome refers to the plant whose very tall flower overshadows others around it – and whose head is cut off to make it “fit into the ranks” .

“We can draw a parallel in the workplace: when you shine too much, they intimidate you and minimize your results,” says Virginie Louault. This has a huge impact on self-esteem. And that’s why it’s said to be the cousin of the much better known imposter syndrome, which refers to self-confidence. »

The 50-year-old Montrealer, holder of an MBA and mother of two teenage daughters, has just written and self-published a book on the subject, As tall as a tall poppyrecently available on Amazon.

It was by responding to a vast survey conducted at the beginning of 2023 by Women of Influence+ among 4,700 women in 103 countries that Mme Louault realizes that she has experienced the repercussions of tall poppy syndrome.


When she was told that she was losing her job last November, she went from shock to sadness to anger. “I took a few months to take care of myself,” she confides. I refuse to place myself in a victim position, I prefer to be in the action. That’s why I wrote this book. »

In two months, she wrote her manuscript in which she recounts her journey, her observations and her lines of thought. Based on studies and research on tall poppy syndrome, she dissects why it hurts women so much… and why we need to talk about it.

“There are few works that exist on the subject,” she says. I couldn’t find anything done here, in French. There is still a taboo around this syndrome, because it is linked to performance and it can be subtle: we demean you, we denigrate you, we criticize your results, we do not invite you to a meeting, we ‘take ownership of your successes…’

Glass cliff

The fact that senior management is mainly occupied by men⁠1or the “boys club” effect, partly explains the tall poppy syndrome, believes Mme Louault: she speaks not of the “glass ceiling”, but of the “glass cliff”.

“When a position or a project presents great difficulty, when it is practically doomed to failure and no one wants to go there, the woman who wants to access a position and climb the hierarchy will go,” she says. . However, its chances of success are slim. »

Nearly 90% of women surveyed in the Women of Influence+ study say they have experienced one or more repercussions related to tall poppy syndrome, such as being attacked, irritated, hated or criticized.

The study also reveals that 77% have had their achievements minimized and 72% have been excluded from meetings or discussions.

Denigration and microaggressions

The tall poppy syndrome also occurs in other ways, described by the women surveyed: they name the fact of being reduced to silence, of being denigrated, of receiving derogatory comments, regarding their ambition, for example, and of being victims of microaggressions in their workplace.

Author Virginie Louault hopes her book will help “identify, thwart and overcome” tall poppy syndrome. “I want to raise awareness to prevent,” she emphasizes. I would like the posture of human resources to change… Yes, this syndrome exists! Policies must be changed to put people back at the heart of the company. »

1. According to a recent report from McKinsey, less than 30% of senior management positions are held by women in the country.



PREV New formula for Buffalo Grill which wants to develop into a franchise – 07/16/2024 at 5:55 p.m.
NEXT New Audi A5 (2024): electric will have to wait