Peer Pressure Can Hamper Doers


One of the failings of the psychotherapy model is that it has always pointed out the harm that parents (authority figures) do. What is seldom dealt with is the impact that siblings (coworkers) can have on another sibling’s (coworker’s) self-image. The consequences of negative peer pressure can neutralize an organization’s effort and bring any well-intentioned growth opportunity to a rapid halt.

Leaders and followers have separate, yet equally important, roles to play in during the transition period when their work unit is learning to do old things in new ways.

Follower Role

#1 Encourage coworkers to seek assistance and to ask for clarification when they are confused or concerned about doing the right thing. Being able to checkout rumors with coworkers prevent the spread of false or misleading information.

#2 Openly stating your position on issues that are critical to the learning state, especially if the general view is off target, out of date, or simply incorrect. Speaking out to challenge generalizations or to correct misstatements gives others the courage to contribute their views as well. Followers need to know where others stand in order to continue on course with a sense of confidence.

#3 Avoid making indirect references to others as the source when passing information to your coworkers. Use your personal power whenever you address issues in an open forum. Saying what you know or believe by using “I” statements can shape attitudes of other people.

#4 Personally challenge people who whine and complain to be more specific about their concerns. Above all, do not repeat these objections and opinions to anyone else until your coworkers agree that the complaints are valid.

Leader Role

#1 Use your positional authority to realign followers, so that a positive attitude is maintained within each work unit. It only takes a couple of negatively disposed people with big mouths to dampen the spirits of the entire team. If the naysayers cannot be convinced of the merits of the new way of doing things then they should be moved to a unit where their negative attitude will not slow down the learning process.

#2 Learn to separate the training problems from the discipline issues before you apply either one. There is a difference between saying ‘something’s gone wrong here, who’s responsible?’ and saying, ‘X has been the result of last week’s work, how did we get to X?’ The difference is in personalizing the mistakes and looking for actual root causes of the deviation without assigning blame. It is important to find out if the mistake was made because the follower is resistive to change or because he or she was trying something new and just did not do it right. The former may be cause for discipline, while the latter is better handled by additional training.

#3 Encourage followers to publicly express their complaints and criticisms of what is not working in addition to their suggestions for how the problem might be fixed. Resist the temptation to adjudicate past inequities or injustices. The transition state is about learning and preparing to do something different. After you discover what you did not know and have learned how to do it right, you are ready to enter the state where you are confident that you can fix what is not working and do a better job in the future. Stopping to adjudicate past issues while in the learning state usually ends up being a waste of time and energy. The reason being that when you reach the end result, which is just ahead, you will discover that many of the old issues have disappeared or are no longer relevant.

#4 Focus on who is doing the right thing, the right way for the right reason. Status reports should be redesigned to reflect minimal positive gains. Publicly recognize any signs of improvement. Do not let even the slightest upward movement slip by unnoticed. Your followers will be watching to see if you are aware of and pleased by their progress.



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