How to support employees and colleagues during the current conflict

You are likely to have Jewish and/or Muslim colleagues, who will have friends and relatives in Israel and Palestine, and who will be experiencing strong emotions about the current conflict in the Middle East. How can you best support them at this difficult time?

The most important thing to remember – whether for this conflict or any others – is that it’s better to say something than to ignore the situation. Don’t worry about getting it wrong; showing people you care and that you’re there is what matters.

  • Acknowledge the war. You could perhaps mention it in your weekly newsletter or in your next meeting. You don’t have to offer any opinions – and you probably shouldn’t – but just say you’re aware that it’s happening and that it could be impacting on colleagues. Remind them that you’re there if anyone wants to talk.
  • Write specific colleagues who you know have friends or family in the region or who belong to the affected ethnic groups an email or a text message that says something like, “I just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you at what might be a challenging time for you. You don’t need to reply, but I’m here if you need anything.”
  • Similarly, you can say something along those lines in a face-to-face conversation, but be careful not to pressure them into talking about it, if they’re not up to it. Avoid any nosy questions, as it isn’t your business to know if someone has relatives in the region. Make no assumptions about political views.
  • If people come to you to say they are struggling, consider whether you can reduce their workload or give them a personal day or two off.
  • Ensure you know what your workplace’s mental health policies are like and if there are any helplines or healthcare professionals that your colleagues can contact if necessary.
  • Consider whether your workplace can make a charitable donation to an organisation that is actively working towards peace in the Middle East. It can help people to know that a small, proactive step is being taken.
  • Try not to get into political discussions, especially in the workplace. You don’t want to sow any discord among colleagues. Make work a friendly, safe space. Set up guidelines for conversation, if you feel that would be helpful.
  • Take care of yourself too. Even if you’re not Jewish or Muslim and even if you don’t fully understand the situation, it can still be painful to keep up with the news. It’s okay, and often necessary, to take a break from reading or watching the latest updates.
  • If you are asked to facilitate a conversation on the topic and you don’t feel able to, it’s okay to say no.
  • Remind everyone that a little kindness goes a long way; the world is hard, and your workplace doesn’t need to make it any harder.

Life goes on, even amidst such depressing conflicts. People need to keep working, and sometimes even find it helpful to keep their heads busy. At the same time, though, we’re humans with feelings, so show awareness of what’s going on, and how it might be affecting people.


The Team at PILAA

Handling Death

Written by B.J. Woodstein, PhD


We all know the famous idiom that tells us there are only two certain things in life – death and taxes – but even though taxes are very obviously related to our jobs, in that we owe the government some portion of everything we earn, we seldom think of how death is relevant. Recently, I was listening to an episode of a podcast as I walked my dog and it dawned on me just how important it was to talk more about death and the workplace. By this, I don’t mean workplace accidents, which are of course an unfortunate occurrence, but rather how we actually handle and discuss death and its influence on our lives, and thereby on our working selves.

When I was employed by a university, we’d occasionally be sent an email that was along the lines of the following: “Hi everyone, just to let you know that Jane’s mother has passed away, so Jane will be off work for the next week. Is there anyone who could teach Jane’s classes and/or mark Jane’s students’ essays? Thanks!” In other words, we were briefly given the news about a colleague’s personal loss and then told how the loss might affect us, which is to say by requiring us to work a little bit harder for the period that our colleague would be away from the workplace. There was seldom any real compassion, unless the deceased person was familiar to us (i.e. “You’ll all remember Nicholas’s dad from the holiday parties Nicholas used to throw. Jim’s anecdotes were the stuff of legend and he will definitely be missed.”). And there was never any deeper discussion about the death and what it truly meant, beyond the need for someone to fill in for Jane or Nicholas or whoever was going through the grieving period. 

In response to those emails, I’d usually send a brief message to the affected person saying, “I’m sorry for your loss. Thinking of you at this difficult time.” I never got a reply and I never expected one; in fact, I often added, “No need to reply to this message”, because I didn’t want someone grieving to feel there was yet another thing they had to do at a point when they probably didn’t have much energy at all. I didn’t think there was anything more to add to the conversation, in that we handled the situation both factually and with distance.

But now, I have started to realise that we do in fact need more of a conversation around death; while there are many directions this conversation can and should go in, in terms of the workplace, I think that the two key topics are what we say (or not) and what we do when it comes to death. 


To read the full article, you must be a PILAA Member.