Adult Peer Groups

by Denver Dad

The impact of peer group on kids has been occasionally mentioned here, but what about the impact of adult peer groups? The No Stupid Questions podcast (an off-shoot of Freakanomics) discussed this idea recently, and it seems like a good topic for this group. Here’s a link to the podcast, there’s no transcript unfortunately.

How Much Do Your Friends Affect Your Future? (NSQ Ep. 31)

The other half of the podcast is a discussion of satisfaction levels from various jobs, and that’s also pretty interesting. The survey they talk about is from 2007 so maybe a little dated, but here are the most and least satisfying jobs.

Most satisfying:
Clergy
Physical Therapists
Firefighters
Education Administrators
Painter, Sculptors, Related
Teachers
Authors
Psychologists
Special Education Teachers
Operating Engineers
Office Supervisors
Security & Financial Services Salespersons

Least satisfying
Roofers
Waiters/Servers
Laborers, Except Construction
Bartenders
Hand Packers and Packagers
Freight, Stock, & Material Handlers
Apparel Clothing Salespersons
Cashiers
Food Preparers, Misc.
Expediters
Butchers & Meat Cutters
Furniture/Home Furnishing Salespersons

Click to access 070417.jobs.pdf

31 thoughts on “Adult Peer Groups

  1. Sort of on topic for those looking for something to watch:

    Per the movie, how successful you are compared to who you consider your peers has an impact on ones satisfaction.

  2. Clergy

    I know so many clergy who are frustrated and fed up and looking for alternative careers.

    Painter, Sculptors, Related

    Assuming they earn a living at it.

    Special Education Teachers

    In 2020, the extended network of special ed teachers that I know absolutely hate their jobs. There’s a reason that there’s a huge shortage of them.

  3. I wish I had the transcript to skim. I’ll have to listen to the podcast at a later date.

    I have a firefighter in my peer group. I will say that the mindset of a firefighter is significantly different then most other people – he loves the fire calls, but hates the the obese lift assist calls. Being able to run into a burning building, or using the jaws of life is apparently the best part of the job. Interestingly enough, at parties with his firefighter buddies, I do not enjoy myself. They are generally not my peer group.

  4. how successful you are compared to who you consider your peers depends on your definition of success.

  5. how successful you are compared to who you consider your peers depends on your definition of success.

    Of course. Dancing for a major company (or not) getting tenure (or not) going pro (or not.)

  6. To SM’s point, what measures of success affect how successful you consider yourselves compared to peers? I haven’t given it much thought, but off the top of my head I am cognizant of thinking we were more “successful” than some peers after a party where there were people my age who were really putting away the alcohol. Even college-age me couldn’t have kept up, and I had no responsibility back then. I came home that night feeling like I had married well. I also feel like we’ve given our kids a stable life and decent orientation into the adult world relative to some peers. I’ve never really viewed financial rewards like toys/homes as a measure of success, so those things don’t really come into play when I think about how we are doing, maybe because a few of my friends who had dads with high status jobs when I was growing up had really screwed up families. I don’t feel like i benchmark against others much, but if I do the measure is more likely to be on family.

  7. I listened to part of the podcast a couple of weeks ago. I think our children, at least through high school, tend to have a single peer group that is centered around friends from school. As adults (and I see this with DD#1 as well), I find I have several distinct peer groups including: professional peers/network (inside and outside my current employer); volunteer peers in the organizations I join, personal peers/friends, and family members (they definitely influence decisions you make).

    I think you further divide peers into those that have a positive influence or those that you try to avoid emulating. I think we tend to gravitate to those that have a positive influence, which typically means we have some common values or goals or see them as role models. Becky made some related points – If being able to drink more than everyone else is your goal, the question becomes why is that a good thing or how does it benefit you or make you more successful? At other times having peers who challenge us to spread our wings and try new things can be priceless. Who your influential peers are at certain times in life can definitely send you down one path vs. another.

    I had a job where my boss said to be careful how you define success. His rule of thumb was three parts, (1) if you make everyone happy, you likely did not do “enough”, (2) if you make one side happy, but not the other, you are showing favoritism, (3) if neither side is completely happy, you like struck a good balance. He opined that no matter what decision you make, you are balancing the needs/desires of at least two sides. I think about this often when making big decisions.

  8. Peer group? Yep. If I lived in a neighborhood where everyone threw their money around in highly visible ways, and worked at a firm where the major partners made multiple millions of dollars and drove Lamborghinis, I’d probably feel less successful. As is, I live in a place where we’re all sort of Lake-Wobegone-ish “above average,” where everyone has everything they need and enough of what they want, and where people have deep family roots and strong neighborhood connections.* It’s nice to watch everyone’s kids grow and develop and set off in life without any kind of envy or “gee wish that were my kid,” and to care about what happens to them, and see them all hanging out again when they come home and compare notes and such. And the best part is our COL here is low enough that I can work part-time and spend a lot more time at home with my family than I could at a more “successful” type of job.

    I have long said that in retrospect, one of our best decisions was to live in a neighborhood that was well below our means and “good enough,” instead of chasing the “best” schools or housing or whatever. Part of it is less financial stress; part of it is knowing that I’m better off than most, for whatever “success” feeling that provides. But a big part of it is that it just takes those negative comparisons — envy, jealousy, etc. — right out of the equation, so I don’t even think about comparing myself to anyone on a daily basis. And that frees up my emotional energy to focus on things that make me happier, like family and friends and the parts of my work I really enjoy.

    *Not me, of course, as I’m not particularly social. But I love being in a place where that is highly valued.

  9. (1) if you make everyone happy, you likely did not do “enough”,

    This seems really weird. Did he say why he didn’t think it was possible to do a good job and still make everyone happy?

  10. DD – “Did he say why he didn’t think it was possible to do a good job and still make everyone happy?”

    Yes and I realize it may not apply 100% across-the-board. His point was when developing a solution you will have at least one group who likes everything the way it is and another group that wants them to change something they do or reduce how they benefit to fix the problem.

    If you want to continue reading, this is a simplified version of a school bus issue, but you can see his point of view. A number of years ago, we had several school bus accidents where children were severely injured and/or died. While several issues were at play, the crux was the deaths/injuries could have been reduced if they had been wearing seatbelts. They weren’t because the buses weren’t required to have seatbelts, so they did not.

    Parents now want seatbelts, but they are NOT the ones who have to make a change. The two groups that have to make a change are bus manufacturers and school districts. The bus manufacturers didn’t want seatbelts in the near future because they take orders about 2 years in advance and didn’t want to add the seatbelts to orders already received as it impacted their profit. School districts didn’t want seatbelts because it would reduce bus capacity to the number of seatbelts meaning they would have to buy more buses or run more shorter routes, which extended the transportation window for younger students, and increased the costs associated with fuel consumption and bus driver pay.

    The solution that made everyone happy was to push out the requirement for almost 5 years and do a study on bus safety, which could be used to modify the timeline and/or requirement. This generally pacified the parents because an action to get seatbelts would be in place. The school districts thought the study would show seatbelts had no effect for the major of the trips and the requirement would be dropped. Manufacturers avoided a short-term loss and would just add the cost of seatbelts in the future. This wouldn’t affect student safety for 5 years. He would say this was not enough.

    At the other end, the solution that made everyone unhappy was to require all new bus orders to include seatbelts, bus orders not completed to have seatbelts added at the manufacturers cost, and to retrofit busses with more than 2 years of useful life remaining at the school districts cost within 12 months. Plus allowing districts to recover the retrofit costs through increased taxes. Student safety improved by the beginning of the next school year and everyone had to share the cost, but was unhappy. He would say this is a balanced solution.

  11. RMS – in reply to your comment that painters, sculptors are “satisfied” only if they are able to earn a living- now that I am immersed in this world of artists, I’m amazed at how large a crowd exists of people who are serious artists (produce a ton of work, participate in exhibits regularly, sell a work occasionally, have an online following, maybe teach a workshop here or there) who do NOT earn a living at it. They are being supported by their spouse, their parents, are on disability or have an inheritance or are retired, or something…. I can’t tell what is chicken and what is egg, can we become artists because we are financially able to and would otherwise be trying to earn a living some other way? If so, obviously it’s satisfying to be able to indulge a passion with no economic worries. (I.e. it’s not the peer group per se)

  12. Mafalda, I guess it depends how you’re defining “job”. I personally know a couple of people who scrape by on $8K to $10K per year, because their art doesn’t pay them a whole lot. They find the work itself very fulfilling, but having no insurance, no security, limited food, etc., is not very satisfying.

  13. Austin, interesting example. But I can think of plenty of solutions that make everyone completely happy. For example, my boss decided to contract with a software company to develop a custom EMR system for us. The providers all love it because it’s much simpler to use than the previous system so we spend less time charting. My boss loves it because we can see more patients because of the increased efficiency, and we can have new features added quickly when we need to. When Medicare started allowing billing for telehealth and phone visits, we had that functionality added within a couple of weeks.

  14. “The solution that made everyone happy was to push out the requirement for almost 5 years and do a study on bus safety,”

    If I was a parent, especially one whose kids would be out of the school system in 5 years, this solution wouldn’t have made me happy.

    If those ‘accidents’ had established that seatbelts would’ve mitigated the death/injury, then it seems the bus manufacturers’ and school districts’ liabilities would’ve increased if they hadn’t added seat belts, so avoiding adding seatbelts might not have saved them money, especially if there was a subsequent crash involving injury or death that wouldn’t have happened with seatbelts.

  15. Mafalda,

    IIRC there was an article in the New York Times Magazine a while back about what you’re describing. Long story short arts scene participants rely on various sources of funding -parents, inheritances, etc. But it is never talked about. So impressionable kids think this kind of bohemian life is possible. And it’s really not.

    Now that you mention it, I seem to recall L and NoB mentioning that a lot of wealthy folks prefer that their kids participate in the bohemian arts scene on $100k a year vs. being an engineer married to an accountant with an extra $100k in disposable income.

  16. I also don’t get that.

    Maybe it’s his version of the software development concept of: good, fast, cheap – pick two?

  17. I agree with Austin that I don’t think of having one “peer” group in the same way as my son would. There are my professional peers throughout my network – and those are the ones that I find myself competing with and influencing my goals the most. I think that’s because it’s easiest to compare and also because that is where fairness and unfairness hit personally and also where I know enough to be envious of someone’s talents. (e.g., Why did that dolt get promoted?)

    And then there are other groups – neighbors, friends, college classmates, other parents at school, etc. I don’t find myself getting too worked up about any of them in comparison to myself – good or bad – most of the time. Family has other emotions/baggage attached that doesn’t have to do with comparison.

    I will say that my IRL social circles are not generally as well-off or successful career-wise as the average Totebag regular. So around here, I feel much poorer, dumber, and less accomplished than I do among my friends, neighbors and co-workers.

  18. “So around here, I feel much poorer, dumber, and less accomplished than I do among my friends, neighbors and co-workers.”

    Haha! Me too.

    Although the worst for me is reading the “alumni notes” in the monthly magazines that I get from my big-name college and my big-name law school. I am such an underachiever compared to many of my classmates. I’m very happy with my life overall, and with the trade-offs I’ve made to have this particular lifestyle, but for a few minutes after I read those alumni notes I always feel like a total loser. I should just start putting those magazines in the trash without reading them.

  19. I agree on multiple peer groups in adulthood. I live in a modest home and am better off than my immediate neighbors, but not in obvious ways. My college peer group is far wealthier and more accomplished and thinner. But I only interact with them in reunion years, which is often enough to keep me in my proper tranche. In my collecting hobby, I am a respected niche collector and mascot, but not a “whale”. So I feel pretty good despite the lack of extra zeroes on my net worth. In bridge I have two peer groups – the local folks, where it is like my neighborhood, and the international “sponsor” group who hire pros, where my standing is similar to that in collecting.

  20. “Maybe it’s his version of the software development concept of: good, fast, cheap – pick two?”

    IOW, making everybody happy isn’t possible, so if you thing everybody is happy, you’ve missed something?

  21. “I think our children, at least through high school, tend to have a single peer group that is centered around friends from school. “

    My kids, but especially DD, have had multiple peer groups centered around friends from school.

  22. “the worst for me is reading the “alumni notes” in the monthly magazines that I get from my big-name college and my big-name law school… for a few minutes after I read those alumni notes I always feel like a total loser.”

    Isn’t that the point of those notes (at least some of them), to give people an opportunity to one-up each other and make others feel bad about themselves?

  23. “Although the worst for me is reading the “alumni notes” in the monthly magazines that I get from my big-name college and my big-name law school. I am such an underachiever compared to many of my classmates.”

    Yeah, I throw away the alumni magazine unopened.

  24. “Isn’t that the point of those notes (at least some of them), to give people an opportunity to one-up each other and make others feel bad about themselves?”

    Not at all, Finn. People are really nice (at least at my alma maters) and want to share news–new babies, new jobs, new travels.

  25. “People are really nice (at least at my alma maters) and want to share news–new babies, new jobs, new travels.”

    That’s like my kids’ K-12 school magazine. Nearly all the posts are about things like marriages, kids, and alums getting together with other alums.

    OTOH, the notes in my college alma maters’ magazines are mostly about professional achievements.

  26. IOW, making everybody happy isn’t possible, so if you thing everybody is happy, you’ve missed something?

    Or you’re bullshitting. You’ve convinced “them” that good fast and cheap is possible.

  27. The comment struck me because I read something about negotiating where the author said you have to approach it from the standpoint of “win-win or no deal.” He said people are too often set on completing a deal even if it leaves one of both sides unhappy. So the idea that it’s not a good solution if everyone is happy with it makes no sense to me.

  28. “win-win or no deal.”

    Perhaps you read it in something Stephen Covey, the 7 Habits guy, wrote.

    Anyone else here take one of the 7 Habits classes, or read the book?

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