Sometimes, a little external pressure from those around us can actually help us focus better and reach our goals. In a new Harvard Business Review piece, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders explains that “positive peer pressure” can add a healthy boost that helps us drive our tasks to completion.

Positive peer pressure helps keep you accountable. Harnessing its power might look like you telling a colleague about your time frame on a project, or collaborating more closely with a co-worker to help keep you on track. Saunders explains that accountability alone can act as a driving force. “There’s a sense that you’re letting someone down or not sticking to your word if you don’t follow through,” she writes. But positive peer pressure isn’t only about asking your colleague to give you a nudge if you’re slipping up, Elia Gourgouris, Ph.D., an executive coach and author of 7 Paths to Lasting Happiness, tells Thrive. “You’re essentially enlisting an accountability partner at work… Part of being an accountability partner is being honest, supportive, and collaborative.”

Rather than adding anxiety to your plate, embracing positive peer pressure at work can actually drive you forward and boost your productivity. Here’s how to get started.

Start with small bonding experiences

Positive peer pressure can only work when you have an existing feeling of trust with your colleagues. After all, research shows that forming meaningful work relationships can increase productivity and boost happiness. When it comes to fostering those bonds, Saunders suggests starting small. “Simply sit in the same room as someone who is working on a separate task,” she recommends. The communication and proximity hold you accountable, and it also creates a “mini working environment” where you can bond together. Most importantly, remember that your relationships with your co-workers can set the tone for the rest of your team, Gourgouris adds. A partnership like this not only bonds two co-workers, but can serve as a role model for the entire team to function similarly.

Consider how much positive peer pressure you need

Asking everyone on your team to hold you accountable can feel overwhelming, and too much peer pressure, even the positive kind, can quickly backfire. That’s why Saunders suggests thinking carefully about who you feel comfortable confiding in, and how many people would give you the push to be your most efficient without adding to your stress. “Some people like to tell their goals to one person — a team member, boss, friend, or coach — and then report back to that individual,” she writes. “Others may decide to do a more public declaration.” She emphasizes the fact that enlisting positive peer pressure is meant to motivate you, so it’s important to choose someone who encourages you. 

See each of your colleagues as a coach 

Most individuals probably don’t see their teammates as coaches, but Gourgouris says that reframing positive peer pressure can help you see that there is so much to learn from those around you, even if they’re on or below your level. Think of your colleagues as people who can begin to know you better and understand your needs, desires, and goals, he suggests. “They can then give you the proper tools to be successful.” Gourgouris also adds that the partnership aspect is equally important, so remember that you’re a coach to others as well — and that you could be strong in an area where a colleague of yours is lacking. “This becomes a two-way street,” he adds. “We can need our own help, but also serve as an accountability partner.”

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  • Rebecca Muller Feintuch

    Senior Editor and Community Manager


    Rebecca Muller Feintuch is the Senior Editor and Community Manager at Thrive. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism. Rebecca is passionate about storytelling, creating meaningful connections, and prioritizing mental health and self-care. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. For her undergraduate thesis, she researched the relationship between women and fitness media consumerism.