Tall Poppy Syndrome : Do You Resent “Successful” People…?

Vikram Karve
6 min readSep 17





Nowadays — we see plenty of “bashing” on the Social Media — especially of “the rich and famous”, celebrities, politicians, and successful people.

We also see Social Media “bashing” of Top Brass and Veterans by fellow Veterans.

Some of this social media bashing may be due to the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.



Musings by Veteran Vikram Karve


Are You a Victim of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”…?


In the inimitable war novel Catch-22 — there is a character called “Major Major Major Major”

(For brevity — let’s call him “Major Major”)

“Major Major” is a simple amiable officer who is liked by everyone — officers and enlisted men.

One day — the Squadron Commander Major Duluth is killed in action — and — “Major Major” is appointed the Squadron Commander.

Suddenly — everything changes for “Major Major”.

The very same people who earlier loved “Major Major” — now — their attitude towards “Major Major” changes drastically — and — everyone starts resenting his success

Many of his fellow officers have feelings of envy and animosity towards “Major Major” once he is promoted to Squadron Commander.

The most acrimonious and spiteful of them is Captain Black — who believes that he himself was the logical choice to replace Major Duluth as Squadron Commander — and — grave injustice has been done by appointing “Major Major” as Squadron Commander.

Captain Black makes every effort to discredit and disparage “Major Major”

Captain Black uses various stratagems to sabotage and humiliate “Major Major” — and — cut him down to size.

This is an example of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

Thanks to his “success” — “Major Major” is a victim of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” — which results in hostility towards successful people.




The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is a culture where “successful” people are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because of their success.


Successful People are called “Tall Poppies”.

And — cutting them down to size is called “Tall Poppying”.


In an organization — the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” can cause in destructive feelings in the colleagues of the successful person — which can lead to resentment, hostility — and “envy attacks” on the “successful” person.

In the Defence Services — some “passed over” (superseded) officers feel a sense of resentment towards those successful officers who have been promoted — and sometimes — this resentment can metamorphose into “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.


(hostility towards successful persons)


The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is visible in personal relationships too — in families, friend-circles and in society — where we often see a tendency to resent and disparage successful people due to envy.

Yes — you observe the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” everywhere — at work, in society and in personal relationships — at the macro and micro levels.


In a nutshell:


The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is hostility towards successful people — and manifestations of that resentment.


Let us see how this term originated.




There are many mythical stories about the origins of the term “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

In one such apocryphal story — a young son of a King conquers a new land.

The young son asks the King for advice on how to deal with the newly conquered kingdom.

The King — who is strolling in the garden in a grove of poppies — draws his sword — and — with his sword — the King strikes off the heads of the tallest poppies in the grove.

The King’s son gets the message — and he methodically proceeds to kill all the prominent men (the “tallest poppies”) in the newly conquered land.

Once the influential men are eliminated — the son is able to easily govern the conquered land.

The term “Tall Poppy Syndrome” may have been probably derived from this apocryphal story.

Another fable hints that the underlying premise of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is that the tallest plants be cut down to the same size of all the others (cutting down to size)


So — in today’s world:


“Tall Poppying” successful persons means — trying to “cut them down to size”.


Don’t we see examples of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” all around us…?

I saw plenty of instances of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” in the Defence Services — where career prospects are limited due to the pyramidal hierarchy structure — and — it is very difficult to get promoted to high rank — which results in a large number of deserving officers getting “superseded” or “passed over” for promotion.

Many “superseded” officers feel a sense of resentment and envy towards their successful course-mates and erstwhile juniors — and they try to “Tall Poppy” them.

You will see plenty of examples of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” everywhere — in politics, in the corporate sector, in society, in families and personal life too.


The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” manifests at the societal level too.

One example is the cultural resentment against “migrants” who are more “successful” than the original inhabitants of a country.

Information Technology has been a catalyst in proliferation of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

Nowadays — the Social Media has become a ubiquitous medium for “Tall Poppying”

People can easily express their resentment against “successful” persons on the Social Media — by Trolling and “Bashing” them on the Social Media in a malicious manner.

And — such vicious online “Tall Poppying” (Trolling and “Bashing”) of an individual on the Social Media can go “viral” very fast — and have a devastating effect on the victim of “Tall Poppying”.


What is the root cause of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”…?


Is the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” a manifestation of the “Crab Mentality” …?

If I cannot have something — neither can you have it…!!!


Or — is it an offshoot of “The Dog in the Manger” Syndrome …?

People frequently begrudge something to others — that they themselves cannot enjoy.

Even if it does them no good — they won’t let others have it.

This mentality is like the mythical dog in fable — the Dog in the Manger — who did not eat the grain — but — who nevertheless prevented the horse from eating the grain either…


Or — is it just basic human nature…?


Well — I really don’t know — but — I have been on both sides of the fence as far as the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” syndrome is concerned.


Dear Reader:

Have you experienced the“Tall Poppy Syndrome”…?

Did you experience it — as a “victim” — or — indulge in it — as a “perpetrator”…?

Do you feel a sense of resentment against successful people…?

If you are a successful person — do you feel others are hostile towards you…?

Have you observed the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”– at work, in society and in your personal life…?

Do tell us about it.



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Link to my source blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2018/03/are-you-victim-of-tall-poppy-syndrome.html and in my writing blog at url: https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/success-tall-poppy-syndrome/

Repost of My Article Written By me in 04 Feb 2017 and Posted on My Various Blogs.

Links to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/02/tall-poppy-syndrome.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/immigration-tall-poppy-syndrome/ and https://www.quora.com/profile/Vikram-Karve/Writing-by-VIKRAM-KARVE/Human-Behavior-Psychology-%E2%80%93-Tall-Poppy-Syndrome and https://karve.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/tall-poppy-syndrome-cutting-successful-people-down-to-size/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/success-tall-poppy-syndrome/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/02/17/tall-poppy-syndrome/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/tall-poppy-syndrome-and-social-media-bashing/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/09/20/do-you-resent-successful-people/ etc

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger