The Power Of Peer Group Pressure

By | August 11, 2009

Peer group pressure is often cited as being an important, even critical, component of building a high performance team environment. We thought we would dig a little deeper as to what peer group pressure is and how to create the right conditions for it to flourish.

Common standards, consistently applied, are vital. Teams have to know where they stand, what expectations are being made of them (both individually and collectively) and what the consequences are for different levels of output. Next, there needs to be as much focus on the right behaviours and activities as there is on performance. How people fulfil their role is as important as what they achieve.

The team must have a clear, higher purpose, something more than simply doing the numbers, or beating target. Peer group pressure comes from wanting to excel at something, to create something special, to be rated by people whom you respect as doing something impressive. Or put in sporting context, ‘we don’t just want to win trophies, but to be remembered as a legendary team.’

An open culture of meaningful feedback, constructive criticism and effective conflict management needs to be upheld. You cannot have peer group pressure without peer group review. The amazingly consistent quality of Pixar films (Toy Story through Finding Nemo to Wall-E and now Up) is driven by extensive peer feedback created in daily reviews of each others work. This focuses on the need for trust and respect for people and their work, another critical component of the peer pressure mix.

Peer pressure cuts both ways. It holds people to account, miles from the office or team colleagues, peer pressure helps maintain the standard of output, you are doing it not only for yourself but also for the team. But also it looks to offer support. When a team member is struggling, everyone piles in to help, ‘we stand or fall together’.

There are significant benefits from Peer Group Pressure:

  • higher morale
  • performance standards are more challenging
  • faster induction and resulting speed to competence
  • increased peer-to-peer coaching
  • steeper learning curves
  • more collegiate atmosphere
  • more challenging conversations
  • increased creativity and innovation

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