Merge's Blog

Use peer pressure as a positive force in change management

Two weeks ago, I gave you change management strategy #12: Use your early adopters to build momentum.  This series has received a lot of positive feedback so I have decided to continue it for the next few weeks, so here today is change management tip #13: Use peer pressure to your advantage.

Use peer pressure to your advantage

When I talked previously about using your early adopters to build momentum, I explained what early adopters are: people who are not only on board the change bus, but already moving the bus forward.  These early adopters can often serve another useful purpose in change management – they can also unintentionally create peer pressure, a fact that you can use to the benefit of your change management initiative.

The reality is, whether you like it or not, messages from co-workers and peers are perceived differently by your employees than messages from you, their supervisor or manager.  You may be the nicest and most communicative person in the world, but because of your job title, because there is a reporting relationship between you and your employees, anything you say is received with a filter.  Good or bad, the message is always distorted by this filter called “you’re the boss”.   It’s actually much like what parents of teenagers experience.  If you’re a parent of a teenager, then you know that both your teen’s friend and you could say the same thing to your child, yet your teen will place far more weight on what they hear from their friends than from you.  Frustrating, yet true!

The co-worker versus the boss!

A similar phenomenon occurs in the workplace.  Often, messages received from co-workers carry much greater weight than messages received from you.  That may be irritating, but it’s true!  So why not use it to your advantage?  Peer pressure is much MORE persuasive than anything you might say or do.   So let your early adopters get out there amongst your team.  Let them actively work portions of the change initiative.  Ask them to communicate directly with other team members to determine how to change the specific processes involved.  Let them, unintentionally, create the peer pressure that will allow you to move your change initiative forward.

Well, what do you think?  Is using peer pressure to your advantage manipulative, or simply good leadership?  You know what I think, but I’d love to hear your perspective.

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