Since the war broke out between Israel and Palestine in early October, it’s been the subject of hot debate and discussion. It’s only natural that as humans, we have our own opinions about the matter and we want to discuss our views with people we know. Discussing world conflict at the workplace is, however, a tricky one to navigate, the founder of @WORKSPACES, Jenny Folley, cautioned.
Jenny Folley is the founder and CEO of @WORKSPACES, a highly respected and successful world-leading flexible office brand that boasts premium sites across Australia and overseas. Office hubs include private and serviced offices as well as coworking spaces.
“This is a deeply sensitive and emotional subject that’s finding its way into workplace discussions. We cannot help but feel for those caught up in the crisis. But how do we hold such discussions while at the same time maintaining the harmony and respect amongst our workplace peers?” Folley probed.
Folley provides important tips for workplaces on how to manage the conversation.
Reach out to workers impacted
“The first thing I would recommend is to reach out to any worker who might be affected or impacted by the war. Australia is such a multicultural society that when a crisis such as this occurs, it’s highly probable that someone you know or work with, could be impacted. They might have family and friends there. Just offering some moral support goes a long way to alleviating distress,” Folley said.
“It is very important for workplaces to learn about the historical background of the region and what caused the conflict and how it’s led to the current crisis. This will help you to contribute meaningfully to any difficult conversations that you might have to have,” Folley added.
Make an official statement
“Whether your business is small or large, the management of each company should lead the way by issuing a statement or message to all members of the organisation. Having an official line should avoid some debate amongst employees who have a difference of opinion,” Folley said.
“When formulating the official statement, employers should first focus on the safety of all workers. The statement should show empathy and ideally focus on the health and well-being of those impacted across all countries affected. If you decide to take a stance in support of either Israel or Palestine, then it must be done with the full awareness that there will likely be disagreement and concern.
“This could also have more far-reaching consequences as a business, employer and brand in the market space, so it is important to ensure the organisation treads carefully when navigating this difficult situation.”
Provide training to managers
“It is important to ensure that your workplace provides and encourages an open-door policy for workers to discuss any feelings, thoughts or concerns in a manner that’s safe and non-judgmental,” Folley added.
“Some of the management staff may need to undertake special training to be able to handle these conversations that require open communication and active listening, while also maintaining confidentiality.
“Managers need to be appropriately trained to support staff, manage workplace issues and tensions and respond to concerns.”
Establish a support service for staff
“Some staff directly or indirectly impacted may need to access support. Ensure your employee assistance program is appropriately resourced and skilled to provide the level of assistance needed,” Folley said.
“If there is not a program of this nature in place, consider appointing a service provider to offer this support to workers.”
Taking a stance on unity
“Those in leadership roles at the workplace need to step up at times like this. No matter what each person’s stance on the situation, it’s important to focus on respect for others. It may be difficult to stay calm when emotions are stirred, but urge teammates to remember to talk and act with compassion,” Folley urged.
“As adults, we should be able to look past our differences. We can agree to disagree because this is an emotionally charged subject. Despite differences of opinion, we can choose to show understanding, compassion and respect. We can choose to avoid stereotypes and harmful dialogue.”
Respectful, non-judgmental conversations
“It would be impossible to avoid the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the workplace, so both employers and employees should be actively aware and prepared of how to hold these discussions and conversations while we’re at our professions,” Folley said.
“Having respectful and non-judgmental conversations is not just about what you say. Much of it has to be about listening to what the other person has to say, without interrupting and making assumptions.
“In times like this, we need to remember to act with compassion because at the end of the day, we are all members of the human race and we need to find a way to come together to work for peace.”