“What do I do about the situation in Gaza and Israel? My staff want me to comment on it, but I don’t really feel prepared or like it’s my place to do so.” -Jay
It’s pretty scary what’s going on, right? And it’s very complicated. It makes sense that your staff would be asking you, the leader of your organization, to show them that you can handle this, that everything is going to be ok. Because that’s really what they want. Sometimes this looks like affirming a particular political position. Sometimes this looks like adding action and support to something from your org to another. No matter what, your job as a leader is to provide stability in a time when people feel scared and overwhelmed.
I’m going to share with you a way to think about this that one of my clients refers to as “linkage and leverage.” Prior to this alliterative saying, I’d ask folks “Are we connected to the issue? Can we change it?”, but I like linkage and leverage better.
Basically, does your organization have some connection to the issue at hand? Does your mission somehow encompass the situation or serve the people affected by the situation? If, for example, you’re a home organization company, you don’t have a lot of linkage to the situation. If you’re a home organization company serving refugees in new or temporary housing, you have some linkage to the situation in Israel and Gaza.
If you don’t have linkage, leave the space open for those who do to give their perspective and commentary on it. The world does not need your take on this unless you have specific expertise on it.
The second piece, the leverage piece, is asking “Do we have a way to change the issue?” So this can be anything from internal policies or practices, donating money to an organization, or political action.
This is key because we don’t just want people to comment on something, we want to know what they’re going to do to impact it. If you’re a home organization company that serves refugees, you can give your piece on it and include something like “we’ll be reaching out to offer free services to anyone who comes to our area affected by the war.” Or, “You can donate to one of these organizations to support people affected. We already sent in our $1000 donation.”
With this criteria, you can not only make sure you’re picking the places you show up more judiciously, but you are also ensuring the voices who actually have expertise on the issue have the space to be heard without being crowded out with “thoughts and prayers” messages.
“How do I best support my staff who are affected by the situation in Palestine? I have staff who have families in Israel and Gaza.” – David
In the last question, I mentioned that your job is to be stable in times of overwhelm and conflict. So, even if your organization isn’t directly connected to the conflict, you still have to provide an empathetic space to hear their concerns and let them tell you about what is upsetting them.
There are several things you can do based on the values and practices within your organization. First, think about your staff. What do they need to feel heard, seen, and loved in this time? People want to know that they are heard by someone with power, and that if they need help, they can get it. This can look like everything from sending out an all-staff email reminding folks of the relevant values and goals of the organization, to listing specific resources already available, to starting ad hoc groups for people who want to connect more with people in the org who are affected. I’ll share the language that came from a recent e-mail from the CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM that I thought was a good example of a broader email.
The ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine is a tragedy. The conditions in the Middle East have always been complex. These recent terrorist attacks remind us of the fragility of life and the importance of coming together in times of division. In the face of such violence, it is paramount that we stand united.
As a global organization focused on creating better workplaces for a better world, our hearts go out to our members and the citizens of Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding region.
This conflict continues to reverberate through communities and workplaces around the world, and I call upon all business leaders, especially our global Human Resources professionals, to lead with civility, compassion, and empathy.
I loved this message because it reaffirms the organization’s values and doesn’t try to have foreign policy expertise. It reiterates what this organization is about and reminds people of the values they agree to when they are part of this org.
In a company-wide message, you can also remind folks of the resources they have at work. Do they need time during the day to connect with loved ones? Do they need to work different hours to accommodate time zone changes? Do they need to take time off to help family or friends, or honor volunteer commitments that support those affected? Making space for all of that is huge and allows people to take care of the acute crisis at hand.
With your managers, remind them that they can and should allow space in their days to listen to the concerns of their staff. Have them keep track of any themes they hear to see if there is something actionable the company can do, including altering policies or structure.
Finally, remember that empathy and grief are normal and if you have a staff that is feeling severely impacted by the situation in Israel and Palestine, it simply shows that you have people who care about each other and the world, and that’s really special and worth celebrating.