How are employers responding to the Israel-Hamas conflict?

'If your employees don't feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, they're not going to be productive'

How are employers responding to the Israel-Hamas conflict?

Employers are putting their focus on supporting employees amid growing pressure from the workforce to take a stand in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, according to reports.

Megan Reitz from the University of Oxford recently told Deutsche Welle that employers know that they can't stay silent on the ongoing turmoil.

"But companies do not want to risk offending or alienating either side. Many are focusing on supporting their employees," Reitz told the news outlet.

She said organisations have decided that the best way to approach the issue is to "remind employees of corporate non-discrimination and nonviolence policies."

Employers are also reiterating that employee assistance programmes are available for those that find it difficult to process the conflict, according to Reitz, as quoted by DW.

Her remarks came as employers face growing pressure of taking a position in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Employees in Google staged a protest in April to call out the tech giant's recent deal with the Israel government, which resulted in firings and a case filed with the US National Labour Relations Board.

The fact that the protest was a sit-in, which appears to have disrupted other workers, gives Google a strong legal case, Sam Schwartz-Fenwick, a labor and employment lawyer at Seyfarth Shaw law firm in Chicago, told DW.

"If you're challenging a business decision by your employer that doesn't touch on the terms and conditions of your employment, that is not protected by law.”

Handling politics at work

Politics have always been a touchy subject in the workplace amid concerns that it could cause divisions. A portion of employees are now saying that they want their chief executive officers to remain neutral on socio-political matters.

"This is becoming part of everyday life in the American workforce right now, where employers are having to grapple with these questions constantly," said Schwartz-Fenwick in the DW article.

Jordan Zaslav, chief operating officer of Axios HQ, previously underscored how important it is for executives to have a plan for how, when, and which political issues they are willing to discuss at work. Set expectations with employees, and follow through on them with clarity and consistency.

Handling political conversations thoughtfully and carefully "is so important... not just because if you mishandle it, it can become a PR crisis that takes over the C-suite's week or month and damages the brand, but also because it really connects to productivity.".

"If your employees don't feel like they can be themselves at work and bring their whole selves to work, they're not going to be productive."

According to Zaslav, it is important that organisations know what their brand is, and how it's reinforced across the organisation.

"Where employees get upset is not because you do or don't address something — it's because you are not consistent with the tone that you've sent with them," he said.

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