Small-Town Jealousy or Genuine Concern?

~3 min read
Field of red flowers
Photo by Javier Cañada on Unsplash

Sometimes radical career change and entrepreneurship draw concerns and negative feedback from others. Are those comments really concern, or are they “tall poppy syndrome” in disguise?

Either way, Business Sisters offers tips for handling the feedback.

Another great conversation point with Marie-Andrée Ouimet during our Facebook live event was when she discussed the feelings of judgment many small-town women business owners seem to feel.

Marie-Andrée described how, when she left teaching, many of her friends and co-workers seemed happy for her. However, a few also pulled her aside and questioned whether it was “wise” to walk away from a guaranteed job, pension, and benefits. As an intelligent and well-educated woman, Marie-Andrée had obviously considered these issues prior to her decision.

I’ve heard other business owners admit to feeling “watched” at times, as if others were secretly hoping they would fail. Some women recall that when they downsized their businesses, community rumours concluded they simply “couldn’t hack it.”

How do we flip this kind of thinking? There will always be naysayers. So, how do we bolster each other’s confidence to face the rumours?

Tall Poppy Syndrome

When individuals stand out (be it through skills, ambitions, or success), they may find themselves doubted, undermined, or somehow “cut down” by people around them. Is this what’s happening in the stories I hear? Does this happen more often to women business owners?

Dr. Rumeet Billan studied how Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) has affected Canadian women. She also produced some excellent resources. TPS, when left unchecked, can damage psychological health, work performance, a company’s productivity, and the company’s ability to retain workers. The effects can be far-reaching.

Some feedback we face, from the subtle to the not-so subtle, can come from jealousy. However, in its milder forms, it can also come from well-meaning, but risk-averse people—those who value the safe route, the long-term position, the union job. Some might not believe in standing out or drawing attention to oneself – two actions often needed to promote a business. It could be traditional or small-town values at play, or it could be a bit of jealousy.

Honestly, what’s important is how you handle it.

Four Ways to Handle the Feedback

  1. Perception – You can choose how you see and use feedback from others. It’s up to you: your business, your decisions.
  2. Empathy – Understand that their comments may not be entirely about you. Some people may be speaking to their own fears or vulnerabilities. Some may wish they had something better to say. We can’t control what others think or say, but we can choose to see the best in people.
  3. Protection – Know that not everyone will be a receptive audience for your ideas. Maybe your business isn’t a good conversation starter in certain company. Talk about other things.
  4. Connection – Find a group of supportive people who can relate to your goals and business interests. Talk to other business owners. Read their comments and stories. I hope Business Sisters can help you make those connections!

What Do You Think?

Let’s hope that with this pandemic people will realize they need to encourage more small business owners and not tear them down.

In the meantime, let’s have real conversations so we can help each other! Please share your experiences and tips below.

Thanks for dropping in and reading.

Doreen Ashton Wagner
Doreen Ashton Wagner
Founder | Fondatrice

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