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Peer Pressure At Office

Boss Bashing

Tips for Handling Peer Pressure At Office


Probably right from the day we are born we are a mix of positive and negative emotions that later gets fine tuned with time. As a child, we can express our rage and annoyance easily that we later learn to envelop with grace as we proceed further in life. Yet, certain undiscovered toxic behavior patterns can give you a tough time throughout adulthood. One such classic example is changing jobs or moving to another city for a better opportunity under peer pressure.


Who are your peers?


People of the same age, status or ability as us are our peers. They could be our classmates, friends, acquaintances, colleagues at work, or relatives. They play a large role in our social and emotional development and make us want to be like them.


What is peer pressure?


Most of us grow up with parents comparing our performance at school or our social habits with our peers. This makes us believe that it’s natural to compare ourselves with our peers, and to emulate the way they speak, dress and behave.


The pressure to do so is called peer pressure. People feel the effects of peer pressure when they are growing up and when they start working.


Peer pressure is healthy when it motivates us to do better and improve ourselves.  However, if it gives rise to feelings of inadequacy or defeat, or if we start feeling anxious that our friends are able to easily accomplish things that we are struggling with, then the same examples of peer pressure can be harmful to our well-being. One of the significant effects of peer pressure is on our ability to form and maintain significant relationships.



Peer pressure at the workplace


Workplaces are often closed networks adhering to a unique set of codes, norms and values. In an environment that thrives on kinship, ambition, growth and job security, the pressure to conform can be immense and you may be expected to change your behaviour or actions to match those around you.


Is workplace peer pressure good or bad?


Peer pressure at the workplace is a double-edged sword. The positive effects are the pressures that bring about stability, adherence to work ethics and the need to stay competitive.


However, between the push and pull of influencing forces, peer pressure can also take on a negative hue. These are the forces that typically pollute the informal dynamics of any organisation. Strong leaders ensure that peer pressure is carefully managed to maintain a positive and productive work environment.




Peer pressure doesn't always make people act.


The conventional wisdom is that people are more likely to do something if they hear that their friends or co-workers are doing it. But that's not always so, according to a recent study. A manufacturing company eager for more employees to sign up for one of its retirement plans contacted several researchers, including James Choi, professor of finance at the Yale School of Management, for assistance. The researchers decided to employ a peer-pressure based strategy to attempt to boost enrolment in the company's retirement savings plans.


When social pressure is made public, it's more powerful.


The power of peer pressure varies depending on the incentives. Researchers from Harvard, Yale, the Federal Trade Commission, and the University of California, San Diego found that when trying to get people to enrol in a blackout prevention program, using sign-up sheets posted in public places was actually slightly more effective than offering cash incentives.


"When people know it's a cooperative effort, they feel peer pressure to take part," David Rand, one of the paper's co-authors said in a press release when the study was released. "They think, 'If I don't do this, I'm going to look like a jerk.' But if it's not observable, then there's no problem with not participating."


How to handle peer pressure at work?


Every individual has experienced peer pressure at some point in their lives, often beginning in early childhood. While we like to think we have outgrown the playground, adults still regularly succumb to peer pressure.


It is the responsibility of strong leaders to ensure that the peer pressure within their organisation is carefully managed to maintain a positive and productive work environment.


The primary concern when it comes to peer pressure is the tendency for even the most ethical individuals to avoid saying ‘no’, participating in behaviours they would not have otherwise to avoid damaging their social station. However, this same desire to avoid discomfort can encourage employees to maintain and model appropriate behaviours.


      If managers can build a strong sense of teamwork within their group with a focus on productivity, a positive organisational culture will quickly take over the office.


      Peer pressure can become a managerial asset when teams are assembled.


      Allowing team members to determine their own hierarchies will often prevent negative feelings, but peer pressure may quickly set in.


      It is important that managers step in if it appears that peer pressure from one or more individuals appears to be making others uncomfortable or to prevent peer pressure from sending a project down a path likely to lead to a negative outcome.


      When managers set clear common goals for team members, peer pressure can naturally help to keep the project on track.


      When peer pressure takes on a negative form, there will always be a risk that bullying behaviours will begin.


      Managers should quickly intervene if it appears that an individual has become ostracised by the majority of the group to determine whether peer pressure is involved, particularly if the behaviours started after the outcast individual disagreed with a popular opinion.


Effective leaders must ride a fine line between the desire to foster a culture of support and engagement within the organisation while avoiding coming across as encouraging staff to conform to peer pressure. While one of the hallmarks of a successful team is the ability to reach a compromise and to work together for the greater good of the organisation, employees must feel free to disagree with the actions of the group and to pose their own opinions without negative consequences.


An effective leader must be able to recognise when an individual is at risk for yielding to the forces of peer pressure and to successfully intervene, which often involves both addressing those engaging in pressuring tactics and providing coping mechanisms for the at risk employee.


These interventions are particularly important in the event of peer pressure leading employees to engage in acts that negatively impact the organisation.


These easily influenced employees should be taught that they can say ‘no’ to their peers and consult their managers on the situation without fear of repercussions, and all employees be reminded of the goals and values of the organisation.


The power of peer can be seen at its best use when the organisational culture has successfully taken root in the hearts of employees, encouraging staff members to support each other, work productively, and to strive toward common goals.


When all parties embrace a positive culture and feel supported in their right to say ‘no’ and to voice their opinions, managers will be able to utilise positive peer pressure to promote teamwork, productivity, and employee engagement.