While the days when executives like Don Draper enjoyed morning cocktails in their corner offices may be mostly in the past, the modern corporate world isn’t without toxic traits. Today’s high-level workers still face company culture peer pressure that can be difficult to oppose.
Is it about the need to act successful or a product of what they had to do to reach this level? The reasons may vary, but the outcome is the same: Many corporate executives find themselves living a lifestyle that’s unhealthy and damaging to themselves and others.
In this piece, we’ll discuss the concept of executive peer pressure and how it affects people in a corporate environment. We’ll also provide tips on how to deal with peer pressure and live a healthier, happier lifestyle — in and out of the office.
How Corporate Culture Can Be Pervasive and Unhealthy
The upper echelon of business can be a high-stress, cutthroat environment. It takes a lot of hard work to get there, so cementing leadership status and power is often a priority among high-ranking executives. This can result in intense pressure to act in a certain way — one that can negatively impact an individual and those around them.
Here are a few examples of how peer pressure at work can cause problems:
Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use
Drinking, smoking cigars and taking part in illicit substance use have been associated with company culture peer pressure for a long time. Powerful executives are often expected to drink alcohol on business trips and at client dinners and sometimes use other substances with their associates at social outings.
Anyone who doesn’t take part in these bonding experiences may be judged and excluded.
The Me Too movement brought to light a culture of sexual harassment and abuse perpetrated by men in power against their female subordinates.
Talking about sexual escapades, engaging in illegal activities and using women as status symbols are common byproducts of corporate peer pressure. This can cause these executives to develop unhealthy attitudes about relationships and sex. It also signals to an entire gender of potential leaders that this level of success is inherently hostile and unattainable for them.
Unhealthy Work-Life Balance
To maintain their status or satisfy their superiors, those on the corporate ladder often work long hours or avoid taking days off. This behavior isn’t outwardly toxic like the others mentioned previously, but it can force someone engaged in this lifestyle to put their job above their health.
The Pressure To Participate
Why do executives feel the pressure to participate in these activities and behaviors? Here are a couple of possible explanations.
First is the pressure to “walk the walk.” Corporate executives act a certain way to project themselves as powerful and competent. Outside their day-to-day responsibilities, they often feel a sense of pressure to maintain that persona. They may take part in heavy substance abuse, womanizing behavior and other activities that exhibit power outside the boardroom. When these are common behaviors, not taking part can make a person stand out.
Second is the idea that not taking part will be held against a person. If you say no to your boss when they ask you to get drinks on a work trip, for example, you might be labeled as “not a team player” and excluded from promotions and other career opportunities.
Tips for Handling Peer Pressure
Here are a few tips on how to deal with peer pressure in the workplace:
1. Establish Your Values Before Confronting Peer Pressure
For many people, corporate peer pressure starts early in their careers. In toxic work environments, when members of the in-group — the executives — are considering inviting new members, they’ll test the waters by pressuring them to take part in the culture.
If you’re looking to move up in your company, ask yourself whether you’re willing to stand up against toxic, destructive behavior and where you’ll draw the line when necessary. Being prepared can help you stay true to the values you set before it happens.
2. Set Boundaries and Be Direct
Taking the “just say no” approach is often easier said than done. That’s why most people try to soften the way they decline an offer to do something they’re not comfortable with. While it may seem easy to say “not this time” when asked to do shots with your colleagues or go to a strip club after work, this doesn’t fully communicate to those asking that you’re not comfortable with these activities.
Next time, when asked, be more direct. Saying “I’ve had enough to drink” or “I’m not comfortable going there” can show people where you draw the line. If you’re worried that not participating will lead to exclusion from career opportunities, it may be time to consider finding a workplace where you won’t be put in these uncomfortable situations.
Breaking Out of a Negative Culture
If you’re a leader in your company and you’re struggling to go against peer pressure, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Be a Good Role Model
Because taking part in a toxic culture is typically what people see as their pathway to gaining power in the corporate environment, company culture peer pressure tends to be a vicious cycle.
This is just another reason why it’s so important to push back when you’re uncomfortable going along with the pressure. You’re not just protecting your own health and well-being; you’re also showing people who look up to you that they don’t have to take part either.
2. It’s Not Worth Staying in a Toxic Culture
It can be difficult to separate your career from your daily life. That’s what many people struggle with — working long hours and putting their career ahead of their personal health. Remember that a healthy lifestyle involves a balance between work activities and other fulfilling aspects of life.
No matter how much you get paid or how important your job makes you feel, if it’s affecting your health, take a step back and ask yourself: Is it really worth it?
This Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Be Successful
It may be easy to read the above lessons and think they’re saying you have to choose between health and success. While there may be times when these concepts run counter to each other, you can still be successful and push back against harmful company culture peer pressure.
The key is working hard while making sure you don’t get swept up in the toxic aspects of achieving success. However, if you feel you’re picking up unhealthy habits, talk to a professional before things get out of control.
At FHE Health, we understand how important it is to make sure your work doesn’t compromise your health. If you or a loved one needs help, contact us today by calling (844) 299-0618.