The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has posed a unique challenge for many managers and corporate leaders. After years of making efforts to be more sensitive and thoughtful with respect to equity and inclusion issues, many have felt unmoored by this conflict, especially since staff themselves may have very differing emotions and experiences. Do you make a statement or not? If so, what does one say? And more than anything, how do you support your team?

Below, let’s do three things. First, let’s review some research showing what responses to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict worked best. Second, let’s consider what to do now with the conflict entering its fourth month. And third, let’s ponder how we might prepare to respond for the next time the news turns bad and impacts your staff.

Responses to the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict – The Good News

American research published on how workplaces responsed to the conflict was very revealing and hopeful. The research not only showed what worked best, it showed that pursuing this strategy actually improved employee connection to the organization. The best approach was when the company i) issued an internal statement; and ii) followed that up with managers reaching out to their team members. These efforts really paid off with employees at these firms reporting: 

  • Higher confidence in company leadership (59%)
  • Feeling better aligned with the company culture (54%)
  • Increased overall engagement (45%)

However, if only one of these efforts occurred, results were not as strong. At organizations with just manager outreach (no internal statement), positive results were halved as shown here:

  • Higher confidence in company leadership (32%)
  • Better aligned with the company culture (32%)
  • Increased overall engagement (37%)

Similarly, for employees who only received an internal company statement (no manager follow up), the results were even lower:

  • Higher confidence in company leadership (30%)
  • Better aligned with company culture (29%)
  • Overall engagement increased (23%)

The graph says it all:



Responses to the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict – The Not-So-Good News

Unfortunately, very few organizations pursued the best strategy above. In fact, the survey suggests most took neither of the two steps indicated. Only one in five employees said their employer shared an official internal statement. Only one in six said their manager reached out to them personally. 

This was despite the fact that half (51%) of those surveyed said the conflict affected them, a number much greater than you would expect based on demographics. In short, the conflict was felt by many more than just those with ties to the area.

When religion or politics (or both) rear their head, many of us feel uncomfortable and there can be a natural tendency to put our head down and hope it goes away. But we should challenge that instinct. Our people need to hear from us.

Incidentally, those internal statements were not political. Rather, they acknolwedged the event and its potential negative impact on staff. We need not get into politics to show we care.

Israel and Palestine Conflict

Security wall between Israel and Palestine. Photo credit:


We’re Entering Month Four of the Conflict: What to Do Now? 

You may be weary of thinking about the conflict but some on your team may also be weary while also feeling like support is dwindling. Continue to reach out and see how people are doing. Employees will let you know if they are fine, but demonstrating an open door and a willingness to listen matters. If there are particular days when big events or horrible things occur, consider checking in. Remind your team leaders to continue to do the same and to let staff know about any supports available, from counseling to employee resource groups. 


What To Do Going Forward?

The events of October 7 were shocking and many of us felt uncertain how to respond. But we can learn lessons to be ready for next time. Some key steps:

  • Establish guidelines for issuing both external and internal statements. Do you want to do external statements or just internal? Consider what events might warrant such statements and what the statement should address. Communicate this to staff in advance so your actions are seen as consistent and not varying according to the nature of the event or the people affected. Have a diverse team craft the guidelines.
  • Ensure there is a plan to make sure that any such statements are supported by leadership at all levels. Outreach should reinforce the message of such statements.
  • Collect information about policies and resources to support staff (e.g. Employee Resource Groups, counseling, personal days, opportunities to work from home to support their families, etc.). 
  • Develop safety plans if staff or their loved ones may be personally affected. There have been school shootings and other acts of vandalism here in Canada since October 7.
  • Clearly state that the work environment must be inclusive for all. Do this proactively when such events occur rather than wait for some incident to happen within the work environment. Speaking proactively is not only preventative, it sets an important tone for everyone.
  • Develop an evaluation process to determine if your actions are creating the positive response you want and a feedback loop to gather responses and suggestions.  

We are all learning together. This tragedy has posed unique challenges. By examining research and feedback from staff, we can learn how to better support our team in the future.

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