The Israel-Hamas conflict in 2023 is a geopolitical crisis that permeates personal lives, impacting individuals, organisations, and businesses. This dynamic requires leaders to manage the operational challenges and their workforce’s emotional well-being. Compassion as a business leader is not simply about kind gestures; it’s about creating a supportive environment where employees feel seen, valued, and cared for. This article provides employers with a nuanced framework for navigating these challenges and is especially useful for business leaders who may be based outside of the troubled region and want to gain some insight into their employees’ situation in Israel. However, the same guidance is still helpful for all leaders who have employees touched by this crisis.
Understanding the Emotional Spectrum
The human experience during a conflict is incredibly varied. Employees might grapple with feelings ranging from insecurity about their immediate surroundings to deep-rooted emotional distress.
Some may have family or friends directly affected, adding an extra layer of personal connection and worry to the situation. Others might feel strongly about the conflict from a political, religious, or social standpoint. Therefore, understanding that your employees will be affected differently is the first step in crafting an appropriate response.
The Importance of Compassionate Leadership
In times of crisis, your leadership style is vital. Balancing the business’s practical needs with your team’s emotional well-being is critical.
Cultivate an Inclusive Atmosphere: A compassionate leader should foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives and experiences.
Humanity Above All: Before making significant decisions impacting the team, put yourself in their shoes. This ensures that the team’s well-being is considered alongside other business imperatives.
Open Lines of Communication: With emotions running high, the power of transparent, timely, and sincere communication cannot be overstated.
Be Adaptable: Crisis situations evolve rapidly. Be prepared to adapt your leadership strategies as the situation changes.
Effective Communication Strategies
Communication isn’t just about what you say but how you say it. In emotionally charged times, your words carry weight, and the channels you choose for communication are just as significant. Email, for instance, can be effective for detailed updates, while team meetings are more suitable for two-way conversations and emotional check-ins.
Clarity: Clearly articulate the resources available to employees.
Relevance: Your messages should be relevant and contextual to your organisation’s role and capabilities during the crisis.
Timeliness: Timely updates can alleviate unnecessary stress or speculation.
Check in with Yourself Regularly
Before extending emotional support to your team, keeping tabs on your well-being is crucial. The psychological principle of “put your own oxygen mask first before assisting others” applies here. Self-care isn’t a luxury but a necessity for effective leadership.
Take a Daily Emotional Inventory: Allocate a few minutes daily to assess your emotional state. This mindful pause enables you to understand your feelings and emotions better, which can guide your interactions and decision-making throughout the day.
Self-assessment: Take a moment each day to assess your emotional state.
Resource Alignment: Make sure you know your support system, whether it’s friends, family or professional counselling services.
Prioritising Digital Detox: Step away from your devices, endorse well-being activities, and respect your personal time after work hours.
Consistency in Simple Daily Practices:
Carve out time for physical activity, meals, or a friendly phone call during your day. Schedule these moments on your calendar, mute your notifications, and set reminders to make them non-negotiables.
Safe Space for Dialogue
Open dialogue can go a long way in mitigating stress and fostering a supportive atmosphere.
Inclusivity Matters: Use this moment to reiterate that discrimination or harassment has no place in our work environment. We’re committed to creating a safe space for everyone.
Heartfelt Dialogues: Champion the art of active listening and meaningful discussions. By doing so, we’re not just ticking a box but genuinely enriching our work culture.
Your empathy in these challenging moments is invaluable. Offer team members affected by the crisis room to digest the ongoing situation, participate in genuine dialogues, and be curious about all viewpoints. It is important to avoid drawing broad conclusions or making sweeping remarks about the conflict.
Recognising Signs of Distress and Maintaining Boundaries
Not everyone will openly express their concerns or stress. Employers and managers need to be proactive in identifying signs of emotional distress. Yet, it’s crucial to maintain boundaries and refer employees to appropriate professional help when needed.
Providing Flexible Work Arrangements
In times of crisis, a rigid 9-to-5 work schedule may not be ideal for many. Offering flexible work arrangements can provide your employees with the space they need to navigate their personal challenges.
Reserve Duty in Israel
Amid the challenges brought on by the events of October 2023, the call-up of Israeli employees for reserve duty in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) adds another layer of complexity for business leaders. While legal obligations are clear—positions for these employees must remain open, and they are entitled to reserve benefits—this is also an opportunity to demonstrate compassionate leadership.
Showing solidarity with reservists improves morale and solidarity within your team, serving as a beacon of empathetic and people-first leadership.
Offering a flexible work environment for the rest of the team can help mitigate the impact of sudden manpower shortages while demonstrating an understanding of the unusual stressors your employees may face.
Conclusion: Setting the Standard for Compassionate Leadership Amidst Crisis
Like any other major crisis, the Israel-Hamas conflict has a wide-reaching impact that extends into the workplace. Employers can be an invaluable source of support, offering emotional and professional support through compassionate leadership, clear communication, and flexibility. By taking these steps, you’re not just guiding your team through difficult times but setting a new bar for empathetic, people-first leadership.
Anyone in crisis can find immediate support here:
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