Use Nudges to Influence Reluctant Responders


“I want to tell you a success story.  I became frustrated with an employee in another department.  I had to complete a monthly report which required information from the employee.  Often, the information was late or incomplete—frequently, both.”

“What did you do?”

“I talked with my boss, the employee, and the employee’s boss.  (I also complained to my spouse, in-laws and kids.)  All were supportive and the employee agreed to do better and did—but improvement was short-lived.”

“OK, what did you do next?”

“I heard a lecture on the value of professional nagging.  So I began sending the employee frequent, reminder texts and voice messages. Occasionally, I just dropped by to visit.  I was always pleasant and offered to help.  The employee has become much more responsive, and I think we actually get along better.”

Professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, in their book NUDGE, describe how we can influence others’ behavior by gently reminding them of choices.  Managers at Google use nudges to help their employees eat healthier foods, invest better and improve teamwork.

Nudges are not shoves.  They are not demands.  Nudges high-light choices and may take the form of texts, posters, emails, signs, voice mails, drop-ins, seat-belt dinging and other forms of professional nagging.