Storytelling can be encouraged in the workplace through formal practices and cultural choices. When organisations set up situations that encourage employees to share stories about themselves, storytelling becomes part of the culture. Storytelling can be both woven into the rhythm of daily work and formally encouraged at particular junctures.
It's important to encourage storytelling, but not force it, so that employees feel comfortable sharing on their own terms.
Storytelling can be simple. For example, a question such as "Tell us about a mentor who has been important in your life," can be asked. Everyone gets 2-3 minutes to share, and everyone can pass if they don't feel comfortable sharing.
Short questions that elicit short stories help employees reveal defining moments that have helped shape them and become better known to their colleagues.
Stories about co-workers reveal just as much about the person telling the story; what they find important in others, what touches them, and what they value in their work relationships.
Practical ways to help employees tell stories include:
- An apportioned time within a team meeting to answer a personal question.
- A welcoming meeting for newcomers with a short story prompt.
- A farewell dinner for employees with shared stories about their time.
- A gratitude program that workers share with colleagues.
- A quick morning standup meeting where each person shares something good or new about their life.
- Organically developed storytelling programs created by employees, depending on the needs and culture of the organization.
- The inclusion of the arts and other creative activities.
In an atmosphere where people feel safe enough to be themselves, it seems that rituals such as these emerge spontaneously, because we all have a longing, deep inside, to be heard and seen in all of our humanity, the funny and the quirky as much as the serious and the responsible, and to create human connection from all these places.