In some countries when someone or something is successful it is celebrated. The people rejoice in their success and speak of it at every opportunity they can, which contributes to their further success. The United States of America have many successful companies and they can be attributed to the work of large groups of people assisting them to become successful.
In Australia if you are successful, on some occasions, not all, your success is not necessarily celebrated; in fact it is torn down. The person speaking about your success will finish the conversation with, “Yes, she was promoted, but what did she do get it?” An assumption that a person’s promotion come about by methods that were not necessarily good work, but “bottom kissing”. Small companies, who become large companies when spoken of, will have the tag line, “But you know they got their money from their parents?” It would seem that, some of us, not everyone, like to pull down the successful person rather than celebrate their success.
In the workplace, it is common to see co-workers cut the person who has been promoted out of groups or social events that they were previously invited to. A form of punish for their success. Some will even go to the extent of telling people not to buy the brand of the company they work for perhaps indicating a less than favourable method of getting their product or service to market.
I had a client who had bought a business 5 years ago. The business was 5 years old when they purchased it and there were two staff members who had worked for the company from its inception 10 years ago. These two people ruled the roost. They made their own decisions and treated the owners with complete disrespect. As far as they were concerned, the new owners (despite now 5 years experience) were not capable of running the business without their input and would sabotage anything that was decided on without their approval. It was devastating. This couple had a dream of owning a company and now 5 years down the track; their dream had turned into a nightmare!!
We were able to assist them and those people are no longer in the business, but it should not have come to this. These people just didn’t want to see them successful. They thought it should be them. Even though they didn’t buy the business in the first place and take the risk. The removal of these two people did not affect the bottom line at all, in fact it improved it and the business and the owners say it is a much happier place to work for everyone. These people could have shared its success, but instead they chose to tear it apart. It mystifies me, but it happens.
We have a number of success stories in Australia and often when we read about them in media forums, someone is criticising them for something they have achieved. “What did they do to get there?” “Most likely financed by family money.” How often do we read articles about sporting legends and innuendo of some form of cheating? Sometimes I admit this could be the case, but not all the time and we as a country need to be more accepting of our family, friends, colleague and coworkers success. We need to celebrate with them not try to tear them down.
Probably not a pretty picture I have painted, but I would not talk about a problem without giving some suggested solutions.
Solution 1, don’t become a tall poppy. No, not a suitable solution for you? I am pleased to hear that.
Solution 2, ensure that if you are promoted, or have business success, share this progress with your family, friends, colleagues and co-workers. Show them the journey. If you are in a small business ensure that you have regular meetings with your team to show what you are doing personally to ensure your business growth, allow them to see what you have done, what you have achieved. Get them to work with you on the projects when you can, so that you are sharing your journey.
Successful authors have pages and pages of acknowledgements to the people who assist them to write the book. They do not propose that the book was written without assistance. They most often thank their family for allowing them to become a recluse for a sufficient period of time to write the book. Be like an author. Thank as you go and thanks when you get to the end. If you include people in your progress, it is easier for them to see how you got to where you are. The old leadership story is that you need to be able to have people work WITH you, not FOR you.
I had a manager many years ago and he would always ask me to work on projects with him. Due to the type of industry I was in and the time, I knew I would not be promoted to the position that he would be promoted to, despite my being with the company for a couple of years longer than he was. I had every reason to be the slayer of tall poppies, but because he included me in all of his projects and always ensured that I was acknowledged for my accomplishments I, whilst obviously disappointed at his promotion, was happy for his success. As it worked out, when the company merged, they let go of all middle management, him included, I was kept on. He even found the irony amusing.
And solution 3, ensure you are not the wielder of the sword that slays tall poppies. Be mindful when you are speaking about someone’s success. Do not include comments, when passing on stories of success with reasons for their success that might indicate they were not worthy. Best if you feel this way, not to pass on the information at all. Do not speak of someone’s personal success or business success with stories of past failures. We will often hear about now millionaires who lost everything before they got to where they are now. It is like; it is okay that they are successful now. They have done the hard yards. We will almost only allow someone to be a tall poppy without our recriminations if they have been to the bottom of the barrel first!!
Think about what you are going to say before you speak of someone’s success. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.