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Report: Confidence in leadership soars with effective communication about Israel-Hamas war

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Dive Brief:

  • Despite the reluctance of many executives to weigh in with their workers about the Israel-Hamas war, the results can be positive when they do: Organizations that effectively communicate about the conflict — with both a company statement and manager outreach — see employee confidence in senior leadership and overall engagement increase 4 to 6 times, according to research by The Harris Poll for the communications consulting firm The Grossman Group.
  • Showing a sense of concern, empathy and authenticity are the most important components of effective communication, senior communicators report. Additionally, it’s not enough for company leaders to solely issue a statement; managers must follow up with their direct reports, according to the more than 2,100 U.S. employees surveyed. Those who reported meeting with their manager said the manager did a good job of explaining the company position, provided additional opportunities for dialogue and followed up with recurring updates. Four in 10 said their managers made them feel more engaged and aligned with company culture.
  • “By not communicating at all, leaders are sending a message as well,” David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, said in a release. “Listening and showing that you care is not political. Companies that communicated effectively prioritized employee well-being, which led to significantly higher trust in leadership, confidence and engagement, critical elements for overall business success.”

Dive Insight:

The findings seem to align with the results of a recent ResumeBuilder.com survey, which indicated that many workers want companies to issue a statement on the Israel-Hamas war. Although workers are divided over how their companies should respond, of the 16% of companies that issued a statement, more than 80% of workers were either somewhat or very satisfied with the action, per the survey.

If organizational leaders find this a challenge, they are not alone. While internal communication is key to employee engagement and helping employees understand an organization’s vision and purpose, employers recognize their efforts often fall short, according to a February report from Gallagher.

In this situation — where leaders must decide whether to communicate about an external crisis like the Israel-Hamas war — the better screen is through an “understanding of the likelihood that employees are affected beyond company operations,” Grossman recommended in a release.

The firm found that more than half of employees said the war had affected them, even though half of that group had no friends, colleagues or other direct ties to the region. “That’s almost ten times what you might expect from the population numbers and five to six times what you might expect from those who said they were directly impacted,” Grossman noted. Not touching base through manager outreach is a “missed opportunity to communicate with employees at an exceedingly difficult time for them and the world,” he pointed out.

That managers play a critical role in the process is no surprise. Managers can affect employees’ mental health even more than doctors or therapists, a 2022 poll by UKG’s Workplace Institute found.

Effective managers check in with their direct reports’ emotional state and offer constructive feedback, experts have said. But these skills aren’t always natural to those in management positions, and researchers have repeatedly emphasized the importance of training.

Given the divisiveness over the war and rising concerns about workplace harassment and discrimination, employers need to know how to respond, an attorney recently cautioned. Front-line managers should not make disciplinary decisions alone, but employers can use the moment as an opportunity to revisit anti-harassment policies to ensure the topic is adequately addressed, he said.

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