Peer Pressure at Work: What It Is and How To Manage It

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Peer pressure does happen in the workplace. If you have to deal with it, then there are strategies you can use to manage it better.


By definition, peer pressure at work is when one feels compelled to follow group norms or have their behaviour and actions be influenced so as to fit in and be agreeable with either one particular person or a group of people at work.

Unfortunately, peer-pressure doesn’t stop at school. It follows us into the workplace. It may be that a co-worker wants you to go out for drinks after work but you don’t really want to, it 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.

Most people work are in teams. Some may work independently, but for those who have to work with others, the potential for peer pressure to occur in the workplace is high.


Peer pressure in itself isn't a bad thing. Sometimes, peer pressure can actually help make us become better people. If our peers are wise, positive and strong, their influence may assist with our professional development and growth as a person.

It is only natural to want to be popular and accepted by your peers at work. Influence from your peers should not be viewed 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.

Peer pressure is bad when the influence from peers is based on their own selfish views and wants. Peer pressure is also a bad thing when the pressure itself is actually going to cause in some way or another harm to ourselves and others. If you feel at any point that unless you give in to their pressure and influence, you will be cast out by your peers and treated differently. That's wrong and where peer pressure is really a bad thing.

Giving in to peer pressure is basically you saying that you cannot make decisions for yourself and if people in the workplace make you feel bad for using your mental reasoning and rights, then that's wrong and unfair. Every person has the right to make their own judgement. Peers may help guide us as to what decisions we make, but at the end of the day, it's really up to us.


You can manage peer pressure at work by being upfront with your peers as to how you feel about the pressure they are placing on you and to not be afraid to stand up and say no. Be determined to let other people know at work that you are capable of making your own decisions. Also, ask them that. Am I not capable of making my own decisions?

It's also important to not flare up the flames at work. Once you have made your commitment to not giving in, be respectful and kind. Show appreciation for their views and acknowledge them, but make it clear that you cannot follow or agree with certain things they believe in.

For example. your peers may pressure you to follow a certain sporting team or come with them to Friday night drinks. Be upfront and frank with them as to what you decide to do. Avoid umming and arring. Make it clear from the start.

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.

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? The 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.

Matthew Coppola, Client Centric Executive Employment Solutions