Why is storytelling important for workplace well being?

Remember the crib sessions in the loo? Or those near the coffee vending machines while continuously looking over the shoulders to ensure nobody else but your best colleague was listening? Traditionally workplaces are about being politically correct… never mind what one’s true feelings must be! 

Grapevine Vs Storytelling 

It’s common knowledge that grouse and gossip travels @ lightning speed through the grapevine! As a leader of your organisation or as the head of a large team, you already know that your image and that of the company you lead gets more than its fair share of endorsements or thumbs down through the grapevine. But how many actually make a tacit yet conscious effort to regulate it?

Many ask me if that is that possible? By its very nature the grapevine is unregulated with a bit of nudge-nudge wink-wink thrown in. If the boss is perceived to be prying, the vine will wilt…

One of the best ways to achieve this is by allowing the bottled-up emotions out into the open. Encourage employees to share their experiences, aspirations and goals and most importantly what they feel about the organisation. No better way than implementing a storytelling and sharing culture – make it official! 

How stories shape perceptions about your organisation

Remember that the content and tenor of the stories in your workplace grapevine is what shapes your organisational culture. What employees share with each other and talk about frequently becomes imprinted in the organisation’s consciousness. This critically impacts new employees and what potential employees hear from their networks. 

Decisions are made whether to work in a particular organisation is shaped more by anecdotes than facts. Its all about a good or a bad gut feeling. Stories that circulate can make that feeling either sprightly or soul crushing. Terribly important factor to address…undoubtedly!  

Stories from those who are new to the organisation are particularly important as they are considered more authentic than those house-trained over a period of time. They end up powerfully framing the expectations that other employees can realistically expect from the organisation 

Top three benefits are evident

  1. Storytelling in the workplace can be a strategy for leaders to help employees understand an organisation’s core values. Leaders at all levels can learn how to use storytelling to educate, inform, motivate and inspire their employees.
  2. Storytelling can help employees accept a new initiative. When HR needs to facilitate acceptance of a new initiative or program, telling a story can help people imagine what the workplace will be like after the change — not something that many people do very easily.
  3. Storytelling can be meaningful in building an open work culture: It can be fun and inspiring too. Sharing is the best way for people to understand and appreciate what the other guy does…especially if its someone who is higher up the pecking order

Five themes to encourage storytelling 

  1. People: Every day at the lunch table or at the cubicle there are several funny moments, conversations and idiosyncrasies that are live feeds for anecdotes. A bit of banter and appreciation by one colleague about the other can make for little stories that undoubtedly help bonding
  2. Passion: These are stories that can be charged with a lot of positivity. Something someone did well despite challenges is a narrative that captures not just an achievement but also underlines messages about the organisation’s work ethos, processes and problems 
  3. Pain: When you ask someone to express and share an issue faced in the workplace that they often dread, it comes out with a degree of maturity and constructiveness. While it brings out a critical point to address, it is immensely better than a cribbing session or a negative grapevine   
  4. Pride: Simple! Great way to showcase great achievements. Inspiring and often a showcase that is seen and heard by the bosses  
  5. Performance: This is where the organisation returns the favor by recognising employees by putting out the story of their journey. Great way to let your employees know you value their contribution  

So, don’t wait for the next offsite or retreat. Just make this a practice in the company’s intranet or as part of the weekly staff meetings. Let one story come out at a time and make it to your Facebook feed with a picture and a gist of it. Surely it will make a difference!  

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Devdarshan Chakrabortyy
Founder at Strongkofee
Founder at Strongkofee Leadership Communications
Dev has spent nearly 27 years in advising corporates on their communication and brand strategies and working with CEOs and business leaders in the area of communication skills development. He has worked with some of India's largest advertising and PR firms such as Ogilvy & Mather, Perfect Relations and Mudra in leadership roles and across various sectors.
A communications strategist and storyteller, Dev also leads the business storytelling and leadership communications coaching practice in Strongkofee. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, New Delhi, he is a speaker and part-time faculty with leading management schools and a mentor for startups in solving their brand and marketing coms challenges.

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