Western nations pride themselves on allowing their citizens freedom to choose for themselves their paths and destinies. However, psychological and sociological pressures often trump government-granted freedoms, especially in certain situations.
Sociology is the examination of the social lives of humans, groups, and societies, often defined as the study of social interactions. It is a relatively new academic discipline that evolved in the early 19th century throughout Europe and America. It deals with the social rules and processes that bind and separate people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, and institutions.
In fact, sociology is concerned with our behavior as social beings; as a result the sociological field of interest ranges from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the examination of global social processes. In a broad sense, sociology manifests the scientific examination of social groups, the entities through which humans move throughout their lives. There exists a current trend in sociology to make it a more applied discipline for people who want to work in an applied setting like non-profits.
The established conclusions of sociological research aid educators, lawmakers, administrators, and other professionals and academics interested in resolving social problems and formulating public policy. Most sociologists work in one or more specialties, such as social organization, social stratification, and social mobility; racial and ethnic relations; education; family; social psychology; urban, rural, political, and comparative sociology; sex roles and relations; demography; gerontology; criminology; and sociological practice.
The concept of pressure within sociology signifies the forces individuals and groups feel upon them to conform to particular modes or patters of behavior. For instance, free as we are, hardly anyone in America has the ability to sport mutton chop sideburns or plaid bellbottom pantaloons -- these are appearance features that were the norm 30 years ago, but would raise eyebrows today. As a result, through sociological pressures, humans in America avoid these fashion moves in a response to conformity forces.
Herbert Kelman identified three subtypes of conformity:
* compliance - conforming only publicly, but keeping one's own views in private
* identification - conforming while a group member, publicly and privately, but not after leaving the group
* internalization - comforming publicly and privately, during and after group membership
Sociologists believe that compliance is conformity that is usually a result of a direct order, while internalization is conformity that comes from one's total and utter belief in his act.
Another distinction can be made between
* informational conformity (or informational social influence) - occurs when one turns to the members of his group to obtain information on an ambiguous siuation (e.g. solving a difficult math problem, deciding where to go to escape a fire)
* normative conformity (or normative social influence)- occurs when one conforms to be liked or accepted by the members of the group.
Colleagues in a Workplace
Office dynamics are so complex these days, especially with the advent of controlling factors such as age, racial or sexual harassment or discrimination suits, and complicated work relationship issues such as conflicts about flirting or leadership or even office or cubicle location.
In any organization -- public or private or corporate --, the most valuable resource is the workforce. Enabling and empowering employees with a superior workplace is of paramount importance to the competitiveness and profitability of an organization. Yet, a plethora of issues -- political, social, technological and economic -- are complicating the equation. By implementing solid workplace strategies, organizations will be able to provide the infrastructure for enabling global, 24x7 work processes and remote collaboration "anytime, anyplace."
Here, the pressure confronting employees is lack of formal processes or discipline. Employees today are freer to do their work in their manner more than ever. In other words, the pressures employees face are not day-to-day miniscule deadlines or laborious tasks -- rather, they face bottom line pressures. The advantages are obvious: no longer are small short-sighted goals getting in the way of the larger objects. However, often when an employee does not meet his long-term objective, there is very little opportunity to mitigate -- work is much more a strict liability situation.
As a result, there are immense social pressures to succeed, and therefore competition among the various employees in a workplace. Although employees and colleagues may be friends, they have a bottom line responsibility to succeed more than their friends or colleagues -- the epitome of a zero-sum game.
Also, today, employees are more mobile than ever before, mandating a malleable working environment to meet myriad work styles. According to Aperture's research, "Telecommuting and hotelling are becoming more commonplace, adding complexity to workplace dynamics and cost management. The real estate and IT organizations are searching for new approaches to better deploy space by tying it more specifically to the nature of work and how it is performed.
"Employee self-service, originally delivered by Human Resources with online access to benefit programs, is now becoming an expectation in the workplace. Employees prefer these systems and are requesting more self-service applications that extend beyond Human Resources, pressuring organizations to deploy new technologies to satisfy the requirement." (Aperture, 2005)
This means also that there are fewer safety nets with regard to pressure in the workplace. Human Resources is more focused on benefits management than it is on employee happiness and development. As a result, a lot of the pressures of the workplace are deflected right back onto the employees themselves.
As a result, a new emphasis has been placed on business resiliency. Organizations need to proactively distribute their workforce and mandate the ability to accurately track both employees and workplace resources in the event of a disruption. Employees have to -- as a result -- learn to interact with these new workplace scenarios, which may involve new collaborative tools and technologies to be deployed.
This of course results in new pressures, pressures that have not surfaced in workplace environments before the 21st century.
Finally, all these factors are intensified by the economic climate and pressure for cost avoidance -- and in most organizations, the workplace is the second largest cost.
The macro-effects of these trends result in a more complex workplace and more stringent requirements on management. The workplace currently has much greater exposure within organizations -- adding increased risk if managed poorly, yet much greater leverage if managed efficiently.
According to Aperture's research, "Workplace executives and managers are faced with this increased complexity while under constant pressure for improved customer service and, in many cases, operating with less staff and budget. Combined with the threat of outsourcing, the operating environment of today's workplace management requires new workplace strategies to achieve operational efficiency.
"Workplace management should be viewed as a service organization and treat employees like valued customers. Delivering a superior workplace requires a new level of precision in running operations, reporting and analyzing key performance metrics. As a result, workplace executives and managers are turning to technology to help deliver the required level of operational excellence." (Aperture, 2005)
Technology in turn removes the mitigation of pressures from processes from humans in Human Resources to the employees themselves, which, as discussed above, is both positive and negative in its impact.
Friends at a Social Setting
Friends in a social setting face completely different types of pressures to conform or obey. Although ideally each friend should have the strength and individuality to maintain his or her own personality and motivations and directions, the truth of the matter remains that cliques will develop and some friends will take leadership roles to the chagrin of others.
The result is what is commonly known as peer pressure. Peer pressure comprises a set of group dynamics whereby a particular group of people in which one feels comfortable may override the sexual personal habits, individual moral inhibitions or idiosyncratic desires to impose a group norm of attitudes and/or behaviors.
Popular usage associates the term peer pressure particularly with young people or teenagers. The concept can provide an easy, superficial explanation of what occurs when people "go off the rails" or "get in with a bad crowd."
Peer pressure, as a conformity of attitude is also found in professional circles, as discussed in length above. Here there is some rationality, as careers are at stake, even if it is a perverted one. For example behavioral finance research has shown that financial analysts are prone to give similar recommendations, biased towards buying more than selling, as they feel too risky to criticize others, or to displease the listed corporations. As the saying goes, "better be wrong with the others than to be right alone."
In psychology, conformity is the magnitude to which members of a group will modify their individual behaviors, views and attitudes to fit the views of the group. The group can influence members via unconscious processes or via overt social pressure on individuals.
In situations of friends, then, the pressure of conformity forces individual friends to change their behavior to fit the views of the friends'…