A sense of belonging and attachment to a group of co-workers is a better motivator for some employees than money, according to a new study by University of Iowa researchers.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found that self-managing teams demonstrate boosted performance when they are highly cohesive. Environment’s pressure is a strong motivating drive, and employees’ eagerness to please people who mean something to them is often a stronger motivating force than financial rewards.

Members of self-managed teams allotted pay raises for other members of their team. In each of the teams, teammates were allowed varying degrees of input into how much their teammates should be compensated for their work, and the researchers studied those compensation decisions.

In high functioning teams the group took over most of the management function themselves. They worked with each other, they encouraged and supported each other, and they coordinated with outside teams. They collectively performed the role of a good manager. Researchers say it makes sense that the team would make sound compensation decisions because they’re the ones who work with their team members, after all, and are in the best position to observe their performance.

The study confirms what prior research has found: that pleasing other people is a powerful motivating factor. “Peer pressure is a strong motivating force, and workers’ willingness to please people who mean something to them is often a stronger motivating force than financial rewards,” said George Stewart, one of the study’s authors and a professor of management and organizations.

Stewart said the study confirms prior research, which found that pleasing other people is a powerful motivating factor. “We all have a social need to be accepted, to identify with a group and be a part of it,” he said. “So much so that peer pressure from team members is more effective than money in prompting strong performances from workers.”

However, this works only when team members get along. The study found that if co-workers do not care for each other appealing to team spirit as a motivating factor won’t work because there is no team spirit to appeal to.

The bottom line is that teams perform better when there is social pressure from peers to perform well than when peers wave a carrot and stick. The study, “Peer-Based Control in Self-Managing Teams,” was published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.