The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest and most complex conflicts in the world, with a history that spans over a century and a present that affects millions of lives. The conflict has political, economic, social, psychological, and emotional implications. The ongoing violence, trauma, and suffering can profoundly impact the mental health and well-being of people involved in or affected by the conflict, both directly and indirectly. In this article, we aim to explore the emotional toll of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis on employees, especially those with personal or cultural ties to the region, and to guide employers and leaders in supporting their staff through these challenging times.
Understanding the Emotional Toll
The Israeli-Palestinian crisis can take a substantial emotional toll on employees. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey, more than 50% of Palestinians and 40% of Israelis reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the conflict. Moreover, the conflict can also affect people who are not directly involved but have personal or cultural connections to the region, such as immigrants, refugees, diaspora communities, or religious groups. These people may experience sadness, anger, guilt, fear, or helplessness as they witness the suffering of their loved ones or their ancestral homeland.
To support your employees, it’s essential to recognise the impact of the conflict on them. Encourage open dialogue and normalise discussions about mental health in the workplace. Create a culture of trust and respect where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or discrimination. Provide resources and information on mental health services and available support groups for your employees. Acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and resilience of your staff and their communities.
Leadership’s Role in Providing Emotional Support
Leaders can significantly contribute to their employees’ well-being by showing empathy and emotionally intelligent leadership. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Emotionally intelligent leadership is using emotions effectively to achieve positive outcomes. To provide emotional support, leaders should ask their employees questions such as:
a. How do you feel about the situation?
b. Is there anything specific that’s been weighing on your mind?
c. What can I do to support you during this time?
d. Would you like to talk about it?
These questions can help you express your genuine interest and concern for your employees and identify their needs and preferences for support. Some employees prefer to talk about their emotions, while others prefer to focus on their work or other activities. Some employees may appreciate your guidance and advice, while others may just need your listening ear or shoulder to lean on. Some employees may want to join a support group or seek professional help, while others prefer to cope independently or with their family and friends. You can tailor your support to your employees’ needs and wishes by asking these questions.
Addressing Negative Fallout
HR, team leaders, and managers should identify and address any negative consequences arising from the conflict. These may include increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, reduced motivation, impaired performance, increased turnover, decreased morale, increased stress, or conflicts among staff. Encouraging open dialogue is crucial. It’s essential to show understanding and respect for different viewpoints and acknowledge that employees may have strong feelings about the subject. Avoid taking sides or imposing your opinions on others. Instead, foster a culture of dialogue and collaboration where employees can express their views constructively and respectfully. Provide constructive feedback and recognition for your employees’ efforts and achievements. Implement policies and practices that promote work-life balance and flexibility for your staff.
The Art of Active Listening
Active listening skills are vital in providing emotional support during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These skills allow leaders and managers to understand their employees’ concerns and needs better, ultimately fostering a culture of support and empathy.
Now that you’ve asked the question, the conversation’s biggest and most difficult part begins. Listening! We can all be guilty of not listening for what we want to hear but actively listening to learn how to support somebody. Furthermore, I feel that all my emotional intelligence courses and workshops are important. But if I had to rank or pick one, the active listening skills would be on the shortlist.
Listening skills are the ability to listen to someone and understand what they are saying actively. Active listening involves paying attention to the speaker, asking questions, and providing feedback to show that you understand what they are saying. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, listening skills are important for leaders and managers who want to provide emotional support to their staff. By actively listening to your employees, you can better understand their concerns and needs. This can help you provide more effective support and show that you care about their well-being. Active listening can also help reduce stigma around mental health by normalising discussions about mental health and reducing the fear of seeking help. Here are some tips for active listening:
- Pay attention to the speaker.
- Ask questions to clarify what they are saying.
- Provide feedback to show that you understand what they are saying.
- Avoid interrupting or judging the speaker.
- Show empathy and understanding.
Using these tips, you can create a safe space for your employees to share their thoughts and feelings about the conflict.
In times of crisis, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of leadership in providing emotional support cannot be overstated. By breaking the silence, normalising discussions about mental health, and actively listening to your employees, you can create a safe and supportive environment for your staff. This will improve their well-being and strengthen your organisation as a whole. We urge you to take action today and show your employees that you care about them and their emotional needs. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.
We are here to help you and your team cope with the challenges and opportunities of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
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WHO (2022). Mental health in emergencies: Israel and Palestine.
Cohen, A., & Lahad, M. (2022). The impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on diaspora communities: A psychosocial perspective. Journal of Community Psychology, 50(1), 25-40.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Realising the power of emotional intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
SHRM (2023). How to manage employees during times of political unrest.
Mental Health Foundation (2023). How to support mental health at work.