While peer pressure may have carried a negative connotation when you were in junior high school, in the workplace it can actually motivate people to perform at peak levels. When colleagues know their performance and contributions affect someone else in the company, they're more likely to feel a need to step up efforts so they don't let co-workers down.
In a team environment, everyone is expected to pitch in and pull their own weight. Poor performers who are encouraged or even pressured by colleagues are more likely to step up or risk falling behind and feeling the disapproval of the group. Team members are often called on to give progress reports and updates and demonstrate what they're doing to support the group effort. The pressure of the situation can encourage would-be slackers to get their work done on time to avoid embarrassment in group settings.
In many work environments, the work product of one person is dependent on the work product of another. For example, at a magazine publisher, layout can't begin until articles are written and edited. In this scenario, a writer who misses deadline negatively affects her editor and her graphic artist. When positions are connected in this way, peer pressure can encourage seamless meeting of deadlines. If one person in the chain founders, it has a negative impact on many others. This fear can keep people motivated and in line.
In a company that promotes peer reviews, co-worker assessment can serve as a motivator for staffers to perform at optimal levels. For example, if colleagues have the opportunity to rate one another on teamwork, collaboration and group efforts, employees know their evaluation is tied to the perception of their co-workers. Workers who are irresponsible, don't perform at adequate levels and have a negative effect on the team are far more likely to be judged harshly than those who are respectful and take a dedicated approach to teamwork.
Group competitions can spur peer pressure-motivated action from staffers. For example, if sales teams in an organization are challenged to meet a certain sales objective to qualify for a bonus, success is dependent on the individual contributions of each salesperson. If staffers feel one member of the group is not trying hard enough, they're likely to push her to improve her earnings to support the team. The pressure of having a shared bonus riding on performance can sometimes motivate staffers to higher levels of production.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.