I once worked for a small family-owned restaurant. The pay was minimal, the conditions weren’t all that glamours, and the hours were less than ideal. But I loved the place because it had a story. The founder, an Italian immigrant, had a dream to bring recipes from the old-country into the brave new world of America. His son eventually took over the joint now he was grooming his son to run it.

Most of the employees attached to the establishment were family, either as bookkeepers, cooks, or servers. And with the family there seemed to be drama every day. Marriage issues were worked out next to the prep station (knives readiliy avaialbe, but never used thank goodness!) Children did their homework at one of the tables near the rear of the restaurant. Family photos adorned the walls. Although I was an outsider, I was invited into that narrative. People also asked me about the family, about the story, and I was excited that I had a small footnote in its long legacy.


Storytelling is part of our ethos as humans. And it’s a vital element of a healthy workplace. Going back to prehistoric times, storytelling about the big hunt was relayed in dramatic fashion around campfires and wide-eyed adolescents. And we see that transported to today. I have a taxi stand near my office and I love seeing the drivers congregate and discussing with broad sweeps of their arms and animated voices. The water cooler, the conference room, and the break area all are havens for those who have a story to tell.


As humans, we naturally struggle with intricate philosophy, esoteric theology, and intrinsic details. We don’t always get the stuff beyond the surface because of the mental exertion required. But story can make the detailed simple. A tale can make the meticulous easy. That’s why Aesop was able to teach children deep truths. That’s why Jesus spoke of eternity in simple parables.


Carina Wytiaz writing for O.C. Tanner encourages employers to use storytelling to recognize their employees.

“Every company has a story, every team has a narrative, and every company could do better at incorporating storytelling into recognizing their employees,” she writes. “Whether your company has an epic story, a storied history, or has a vision of the future, the way you recognize your employees’ efforts and contributions should be tied to the stories you tell.”

Deep down, we all want our short time on this planet to mean something. And when we spend 30-40-50 hours at a workplace, we want it to be for good, for a purpose. Have a man move bricks for hours on end, he’ll quickly lose interest and will probably find another job in no short order. But show him a drawing of the architectural gem that those bricks will build and he’ll have a new purpose.

As Wytiaz writes, “stories make everything epic.”

by David Rupert


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