Blog › Peer Pressure – The Good and the Bad

Peer Pressure – The Good and the Bad

peerpressure

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

True story: A woman was asked ‘What is the best thing about being 104 years old?’ She replied: ‘No peer-pressure.’

Outliving one’s peers is a unique strategy for eliminating peer pressure. Unfortunately, it only works for one person in each circle of acquaintance! The reality is that peer pressure is an ever present reality in both our professional and personal lives.

In business, it is sometimes explicit and, kept in its proper perspective, constructive. For example, companies sometimes motivate sales personnel through contests promising special rewards to those producing the best results. Provided these employees conduct themselves ethically with an eye to meeting customers needs, these types of competitions can produce win-win outcomes for the company and its employees.

In the investment management business, peer pressure is a constant motivator as investors compare one firm’s performance with its peers. Of course, as per my recent blog post , relative performance does not pay the bills!

In our personal lives, peer pressure can also be explicit. For example, in school and university, I was strongly motivated by the desire to achieve top marks. As an aside, my business experience suggests that academic performance is not always a good indicator of employee performance!

Peer pressure, when kept in its proper perspective, can be constructive.

While the previous two examples are arguably the bright side of peer pressure, there is a dark side. This dimension relates not to performance per se but to the motivation behind performance. For some in the business world, boasting about performance makes them feel superior. In fact, for many, their identity is so thoroughly intertwined with performance that their self esteem is a function of how they do relative to their peers. Up today, down tomorrow! Peer pressure motivated by the preservation of identity is not healthy.

For followers of Jesus, our identity is not in what we do. Rather, by virtue of adoption, our identity is children of God. According to the Bible,

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16 NLT)

As a result of this new identity, we are liberated from the dark side of peer pressure into a newfound desire to put God’s opinion ahead of that of others.

As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.” When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
(2 Corinthians 10:17-18 NLT)

How about you? Are you feeling secure in your absolute identity or insecure in your relative identity?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.