Bursting Through is the storytelling movement for the queer/straight relationship. It is also a for-profit business founded by a queer man who had a very successful 27-year corporate career. That queer man, me, had firsthand experience of well-intentioned (but overtasked) HR and diversity teams trying to create emotionally safe work environments for everybody. I know HR knows that an emotionally safe work environment creates a more productive and profitable company, and I know it’s time the rest of the company got on board.
Today’s company cultures, driven by millennial leadership, require diversity, equity and inclusion to be taken very seriously and treated as integral parts of those cultures. Why? Because companies must be forces for good to be relevant in business today – and that good must start within the business itself to be real, to be lived and to create emotionally safe environments for the entire workforce. DEI is no longer a box to be checked off. I believe that only companies that truly embrace DEI will succeed and create a road map for future success. Our times demand that DEI is authentic!
My community, like many others, needs to be heard, valued and respected to feel safe at work:
How do we achieve true emotional safety for an entire company workforce? Well, first it has to be a company value, not a box to be checked off. Then the question becomes how do you put that value into action?
My deep belief and lived experience is that the best way is through the path of least resistance. As a species, humans are storytellers. We love to share our stories and we remember stories. When we are heard, we are more likely to listen to others. Stories are our power!
Storytelling is not only important to connect us and develop stronger teams but it is also a key component of any business. When I was an executive, a big part of my job was developing and presenting ideas. I presented often. Essentially a presentation is storytelling to get approval for an idea and a budget.
Storytelling brings people with you on your journey. They become invested and want to be a part of the adventure and help get you to your desired outcome. Most of us want to help others and want to see others succeed, and it’s even better when their success can be our success as well.
The most recognizable example of the power of storytelling in business is TED Talks. The talks show us the importance of communication. It is also important how we communicate, and communication is not the same in all aspects of the professional structure. We are multidimensional, and our communication needs to be as well.
TED Talks teach us because “TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.” In other words, TED Talks believe in diversity and storytelling.
Psychology Today has this to say in “The Psychological Power of Storytelling":
Businesses today have more complexities to manage than ever before. Many of those complexities are completely out of your control, like tariffs, supply chain shortages and pandemics, but there are things that are in your power to control.
You can control your workplace culture. You can ensure you provide a physically and emotionally safe workplace for all employees. You have the power to control how your company treats the people within and influence how they treat one another. You can lead on this topic or you can follow – but you cannot ignore it, or you won’t have a company left to run. DEI is a reality of a successful business. The path of least resistance to authentic DEI is storytelling.
Story sharing + understanding & empathy = emotionally safe workplaces.
***Disclosure: Author of this blog post, Steve Petersen serves on Pride Tree's Board of Directors while simultaneously serving as the Founder of Bursting Through. In addition to his service with Pride Tree and Bursting Through, he is also a volunteer victim advocate at the LGBTQ+ Center of Southern Nevada and a frequent contributor to Las Vegas PRIDE magazine.