In business psychology literature, group pressure is often presented as a risk factor, but it can be used also for the benefit of the company. The classic experiment to demonstrate group pressure is the conformity experiment by Solomon Asch. The experiment leader presented three lines to the participants, each with a different length. Then the students saw a second card with just one line. Their task was to tell, which of the first three lines had the same length as the one from the second card. A basic task, as the differences had been quite obvious. But only the last student is really a participant. The other ones had been involved in the experiment and consciously gave a wrong answer. Interesting in Asch’s experiment, in most of the cases, the independent last participant repeated the earlier wrong answers.[1] This behavior could be interpreted in several ways. Sometimes the participant gave consciously the wrong answer, as he or she was afraid to discuss this with the group and defend the own point of view. In other cases the independent participant observed the earlier answers from the group and started to doubt his or her own perception. Now the participant gave the same answer as the other participants, but with the idea that this was really the correct one.

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This effect can be used to create a positive group pressure. Communication, training and workshops are not only to be used to inform and train employees, but also are an ideal channel to communicate a positive corporate message. If a certain number of employees are reached and convinced, so that they really live a stand up-culture, these employees commit a positive peer pressure to the still not convinced ones. Of course the tone from the top is most relevant, but the group pressure works from all levels, also lower level employees can influence higher ones. This is an argument to limit Compliance workshops and events not only to potential high risk groups, but extend the invitation to all employees.

For this a positive and open corporate culture is mandatory to limited potential Compliance risks, not only that we create a “stand-up” culture, but all employees are included. The atmosphere starts not only with the tone from the top, but employees from all levels can be a positive example. Employees with less strong values and attitudes get influenced by them. This for their operational tasks and hopefully the perceived positive environment will change the employee’s mindset and foster his or her values.

Sources

[1] Asch, Solomon (1951): “Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments”

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