What Is Peer Pressure?

Who hasn’t experienced peer pressure? It begins when you’re a student and feel the pressure to get good grades.

But it doesn’t stop there. Peer pressure follows you to the workplace where you often change your behavior or habits to fit in.

Peer pressure, or peer influence, takes several forms. Different types of peer pressure can have a considerable impact on individual behavior during our growing years.

We are most vulnerable to various types of peer pressure during our teen years when we begin to shape an identity for ourselves. The urge to be influenced by others can result from either positive peer pressure or negative peer pressure but the pressure to conform is genuine.

The Positive And Negative Effects Of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure has both positive and negative influences. The positive effects of peer pressure are the types of peer pressure that ensure our stability, discipline and motivation to stay competitive.

For instance, if a peer group believes in working hard and doing well in life, an individual will experience the positive effects of peer pressure. If teammates in a sports group force each other to focus on staying healthy, it is another example of positive peer pressure.

However, peer pressure can take various negative forms. Negative peer pressure is when we find ourselves engaging in behavior that goes against our beliefs and values, simply because we desire acceptance by a group.

Drinking just to fit in with a new group of colleagues is an example of the negative effects of peer pressure.

Classic Types Of Peer Pressure

  • Active Peer Pressure

Active peer pressure is when an individual or a group vigorously persuades you to engage in a specific behavior. Usually, the pressure to go along with group action is immense. It could result in positive peer pressure or negative peer pressure.

Let’s consider the example of Sanjay, a high achiever and popular among his peers. However, he led a sedentary lifestyle with little to no exercise. As a result, he began to suffer from many health issues, including chronic back and neck aches.

Sanjay’s workplace friends began to exert positive peer pressure on him to improve his lifestyle and nagged him to join a yoga class. The stress of having to make drastic changes to his lifestyle could very quickly have made Sanjay give in to the negative effects of peer pressure. He could have isolated himself from his peer group.

But Sanjay shook off his lethargy, took their advice and within three months was well settled into a health regime. He turned peer pressure into a great example of the positive effects of peer pressure.

  • Passive Peer Pressure

With passive peer pressure, an individual is exposed to one or more peers’ actions and behavior and is left to choose whether they want to follow along.

Take fashion choices such as tattoos and body piercings as an example of passive peer pressure. Whether these are positive effects of peer pressure or negative effects of peer pressure becomes a matter of perspective.

Many workplaces frown upon such choices. But if you are part of the art and entertainment industry, those choices may work in your favor.

Take, for instance, Puja. She hails from a family that struggled to ensure she received a good education, helping her join a corporate banking career. Many of her workmates supported high street fashion accessories while she grappled with family loans and other commitments.

These types of peer pressure can quickly turn into negative peer pressure. It calls for a great deal of mental maturity to withstand the negative effects of peer pressure and make wise long-term decisions.

Puja turned it into an example of positive peer pressure by getting acquainted with top brands, studying their business models and becoming an expert in the fashion accessories business. She did eventually enjoy high-end fashion accessories herself but at a time of her choosing.

  • Cultural Peer Pressure

You could be a small-town youngster finding yourself at an elite international school or someone who grew up with strict codes now working in a more liberal establishment. Organizational culture and peer pressure are linked.

In these types of peer pressure, the informal groups of individuals will determine the cultural thrust of the organization by their values and codes. For example, all organizations have official working hours. However, a company’s culture may be driven by peer pressure, resulting in employees working late into the night.

If there is positive peer pressure to act in a certain way, it coming from a leader who will force people down the line to conform to that peer pressure. Sometimes successful companies can collapse under the weight of negative peer pressure borne out of the wrong organizational culture. Thus, it is essential to ensure the corporate culture is driven by positive peer pressure that nurtures a productive working environment.


The types of peer pressure are not an easy subject to understand and deal with. However, it is critical to learn ways to work around peer pressure. Harappa Education offers a high-impact online course called Managing Teamwork where you l learn to calibrate your work to your team’s goals and expectations. Teamwork has become much more complicated today. Teams are increasingly global, virtual and project-driven. Taking a systematic approach to understanding teamwork can make all the difference to your success as a leader.

Explore topics such as Peer Pressure & How to Deal With Peer Pressure from our Harappa Diaries section and learn ways to work around with peer pressure.

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