Controlling yourself from peer pressure by work colleagues – how you can cope!


What is Peer pressure?

Peer pressure is when group of peers start exerting influence to persuade us to change our attitudes, values, or behaviour so that we meet their desired group norms. Unfortunately peer-pressure doesn’t stop at school. It follows us right through to the workplace.

Various instances of peer pressure can occur at work. For example it may be that a co-worker wants you to go out for drinks after work but you don’t really want to, may be continuous junk mails circulating around the office that try and capture your attention or could be from a co-worker asking you to cover their shift for them. These are just a few examples of peer-pressure occurring in the workplace.

Is it natural to feel this way?

It is only natural to want to be popular and accepted by your peers at work. Influence from your peers shouldn’t be viewed as necessarily a problem. Take the illustration of a butcher sharpening a knife. The butcher turns a blunt knife into a sharp knife ready to cut. If your work peers have mature, professional and respectful attitudes in the workplace, they can actually help sharpen your knowledge, skills and abilities in the workplace.

However not all workplaces offer positive and up building influences from work peers. Many of your colleagues in your working life, both blue collar and white collar, will lack in professionalism, honesty and respect. They may have views and opinions that are unreliable and even false. So if you do become under the control of your peers, whether it be to cover someone’s shift or gossip about another co-worker, it may be little more than the blind leading the blind. You would just be as much of a fool as they are.

I am starting to feel upset and negative, what do I do?

Have you started forming a negative attitude toward a co-worker or management? Have you noticed any changes in your attitude, behaviour or actions at work in order to fit in? It is true to say that no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do, just like the saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Ultimately it is your decision.

You may think it’s easy to not be intimidated by what your colleagues will think of you, but when you are faced with peer pressure it’s another story. For example, what would you do in the following circumstances?

One of your co-workers asks for your opinion on another co-worker who keeps coming to work half-an-hour late. You know that they are gossiping and don’t know the full story, but they’re waiting to hear what you think.

You receive junk mail circulating around the office that has been forwarded by a colleague. Everybody else is replying to the email, and you feel obligated to make a comment.

They aren’t easy situations to deal with are they? Most of the time, peer pressure won’t be direct from your colleagues, but may actually be indirect like from the last example. You don’t have to reply to the email circulating around the office, but because everybody is doing it, you may feel obligated to do the same. So how can you build up the strength to stand up to peer pressure from your colleagues?

Giving in to peer-pressure at work is the same as allowing others to do the thinking for you. The moment you step back to think about the actions that you’re going to make because of peer influences, is the moment that you will have the courage to stand up to them. Using your own thinking ability and knowledge and not relying on your co-workers foolish reasoning’s is the best way to overcome what it is you are feeling pressured to do.

It doesn’t matter where you work, be it in an office or on the factory floor, you may be disliked or scorned at because you are using your thinking abilities. Remember, you are the one with the greatest strength than your co-workers who give in to their foolish passions. Take for example the co-workers who ridicule management and their decisions. Are they heading into a successful direction in their career? Of course not! Their attitude won’t just stop them from progressing in the business, but every other workplace they work at. So is that where you want your career to end up at? I doubt it.

How do I cope with peer pressure?

Peer pressure will follow you everywhere, regardless of where you work. You can’t avoid this at work because you need to work alongside your colleagues to fulfil your job responsibilities. So what do you do? First thing is you need to keep your cool. If a colleague or supervisor says anything to you that makes you feel pressured or anxious at work, you need to keep your cool and be upfront with them.

We will look at two scenarios – indirect and direct peer pressure. An example of direct pressure would be if you accidentally arrived 10 minutes late to a meeting and a co-worker says to you “just wake up did you?” this then makes you feel under pressure because you arrived late and you’re not meeting your job commitments. You should be upfront with anyone that puts pressure on you at work, but in a mature and responsible manner. In this example, your reply should be “what are you trying to imply bob?” this will put the co-worker on the spot and have to justify why they are putting pressure on you.

Or in our previous example earlier, if a co-worker were to ask you to cover their shift, your first reply should be “No, I am not going to cover your shift” and if they ask you why you won’t, put them on the spot by replying “why should I have to cover your shift, am I not entitled to making my own decisions about what I do and don’t?” this then allows you to be assertive and let the other person know that you make decisions on your own, and not be guided by someone else.

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Author: Matthew Coppola - Career Coach, Employment Specialist and Professional CV Writer

Holding a graduate degree in Commerce, majoring in Economics at Curtin University, as well as a post graduate certificate in Career Education and Development at RMIT University, Matthew brings with him many years of experience working in the fields of business development, marketing, soft-skills training and employment services industry. He has gained significant exposure in working with employers in sourcing staff as well as assisting jobseekers in promoting and marketing themselves to employers and securing sustainable employment outcomes. He is currently working in Disability Employment Services where he assists clients with mental health disabilities in finding and keeping satisfying and gainful employment and helping them overcome and work around barriers to employment. He has helped many job seekers secure employment by training and coaching them in the art of being interviewed and giving the interviewer a positive and lasting impression. He knows how to sell and market a job seeker to an employer and he imparts this knowledge to his clients in helping them sell and market themselves in an interview. Matthew regularly writes new articles on a variety of employment related topics and posts these to his personal website blog matthewcoppola.com

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