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psychological safety

Using nudges to create psychological safety at work

About this video
This 5-minute video shares how to use the power of nudges to create psychological safety at work – something of critical importance as it enables people to feel they can bring their whole selves and feel valued. It is also where difficult conversations can take place without fear of judgement.
If you find this video useful and want more ideas on how to build psychological safety at work, complete the form (right) to access ways that’ll help you to do just that.

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About the speaker: Meg Paterson

Meg is Client Solutions Director at Rubica.

She loves working with organisations to evolve their structures, mindsets and ways of working, to enable achievement of their strategic goals. Her experience in practical innovation, systems thinking, and behavioural science allows her to think holistically as she works with her clients to co-create solutions that are engaging and impactful at an individual, team and organisational level.

Learn more about Meg


All too often, we witness organisations espousing an ambition in like “we want to be more innovative”…“more customer centric”…“more solutions focused”…“more adaptable”. And these are really noble ventures. But so often their ambition is followed up with, “we’ve tried to achieve it, but we’ve got stuck”…“our people just aren’t getting it’” or…“we’re reverting to old ways of doing things”.

Ultimately, getting people to work, think, behave in a different way is quite tough. And for a lot of organisations, they resort to mechanisms that just won’t change behaviour or mindset because they don’t consider the human element of the change.

Each organisation is different, but it’s important to create interventions that look at:

  • How are we steering and guiding daily activity through measures and governance?
  • How are we unlocking issues through repeatable processes and practical tools?
  • How are we enabling people to operate in a different way that stimulates and supports new ways of working?
  • And how are we influencing the way people turn up and approach their work?

In this video series, we look at one type of intervention that looks at how we influence the way that people turn up and approach their work. Offering leaders ideas on how to help overcome that by using the concept of nudges.

Nudges are one way to encourage in mindset and behaviour. And when combined with other techniques like rituals, visible leadership actions, and other ecosystem levers that we use at Rubica, they can have a really significant positive impact.

So you’re probably thinking what are nudges and how do they work? So our brains are incredibly efficient and great at automating responses to known situations. And this autopilot response is referred to as the default mode network or DMN. And most of the time, this is our best friend, but it can make it really hard to snap out of and when we’re seeking to learn a new way of doing things. And this is why getting people to behave in a new way can be so difficult.

So by focusing on the small repeatable actions, which we refer to as a ‘nudge’, that help us disrupt our auto pilot to make it easier to master new skills and form new habits.

This video is about how you can use the power of nudges to create a safe space at work.

Safe spaces at work are of critical importance for an organisation to flourish, and they enable people to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work and feel valued.

It also helps us have difficult conversations without fear of judgement. This is all important start if you want to have a healthy organisational culture.

So how does this play out in reality?
Well, let’s take an example of a medium sized retail company who wanted to enable a test and learn mindset, which would lead to greater innovation. Having a safe space was critical to achieving this.

So in one of their leadership conferences, two of the companies exec stood up in front of their top two hundred leaders. They then proceeded to share their biggest work mistake that year, and most importantly, what they learned from it.
They then asked all of their leaders to turn to the person next to them and do the same. This was a really clear signal to everyone in the room that we’re all human. We all slip up, and when we do, it’s important to acknowledge it rather than gloss over it. Extract the learnings and share it for others to learn from too.

This is a powerful example of a senior leadership team signaling that they want the organisation to feel like a safe space to test and learn. This of course needs to be reinforced on a regular basis to create sustainable change,
but it can be a great way to signal a clear step change.

What do you think would happen if you did this in your organisation?

Creating a space can feel like a big and daunting task, but you can get started right now with your immediate team using the power of nudges. So here is one nudge or small action that you can try this week to start your journey.
It may seem simple, but have a quick think. When you ask your team: ‘how are you?’, how often does it result in an automatic? “Fine. Thank you.”

One of my previous leaders used to joke that it often took them asking three times before they got the real answer. So they decided to change up the question. So try asking:

  • “What are you excited about this week?”
  • Or: “What has been a highlight for you this week?”
  • Or perhaps: “What are you least excited about this week?”

Then, put a reminder in your diary for a week’s time to reflect on what did you think would happen? What happened? And what will you do differently as a result?

The reason that we suggest you ask your team these questions is because they provoke a more meaningful conversation, strengthens our relationships and creates a greater sense of comfort. It also helps us make less assumptions because we know what’s happening with the people in our team.

If you found this nudge useful, click the button at the end of this video to receive a series of nudges to help you and other leaders create a safe space at work.

Also, if you’ve got any feedback on what we’ve shared in this video or would like us to focus on a particular nudge theme in future videos, please let us know by adding your thoughts in the comments or by emailing us at hello@rubica.co.uk.