New Research Shows Poor CEO Communication on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

More and more, communications professionals are faced with situations that prompt discussion on if, when and how societal issues and current events, at home and abroad, should be addressed by their organizations. PRSA has assembled a resources page to help inform the decision-making process.

University presidents may not be the only ones to come under fire for failing to denounce hate and speak out more clearly against antisemitism. Many corporate CEOs also made a big mistake by not communicating to employees about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to new research from The Grossman Group in partnership with The Harris Poll.

The survey of U.S. employees found that, while 51% of employees reported being affected by the Middle East conflict, only a small number of employees received any communication about it. Just 1-in-5 employees said their employer shared an official internal statement, and only about 1-in-6 employees reported that their manager communicated with them. For many employees, even the communication they did receive missed the mark.

None of us can comprehend why denouncing hate and discrimination in any form was so difficult and why there was such a lack of concern and support for employees impacted by the conflict.

As university presidents have learned, leadership has never been a sideline sport. Especially in times of conflict and when issues arise, employees look to their leaders to step up and show that they care. This is not about taking sides on a political issue. Rather, it is about understanding the importance of employee well-being and responding, which is suffering today in our state of permacrisis. When employees are not OK, business suffers.

What’s further confusing is the fact that organizations have regularly been commenting on issues that arise, and now many have playbooks to decide if, when and how to comment. If there isn’t a moral imperative to communicate, then it’s clearly in the best interest of organizations.

When employee well-being is affected, we know that there’s a great possibility that work will be stopped, slowed or interrupted. Discretionary effort disappears. Today, more than ever, focus is critical to business success: accelerating results, delivering innovation and driving strategy.

The impact of effective communication on business

The research also confirmed what we know in our gut: Effective communication means business. The study also revealed that confidence in leadership, alignment with company culture and overall employee engagement increased significantly when a global statement was followed by manager outreach.

All this points to the need for leaders to rethink remaining silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because that silence communicated something as well — and can be construed by employees as indifference. CEOs have a responsibility to denounce hate and discrimination in any form and create a safe workplace for everyone.

In the past week, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned following criticism of her testimony before Congress, during which she refused to state, unequivocally, that people on campus calling for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s code of conduct. Similar testimony from the presidents of Harvard and MIT is also causing controversy on those campuses.

Among the key findings from the survey of 2,154 U.S. employees, which was conducted over two waves in late October and early November:

Large numbers were impacted. Research revealed that 51% of employees were affected in some way by the events in the Middle East — almost 10 times what you would expect based on the percent of the population Jews, Arabs and Muslims represent. Moreover, over half of that group had no friends, colleagues or other direct ties to the region.
Saying nothing says everything. Employees who said their company did not make a statement nor had manager outreach reported just 10% confidence in company leadership.
The more communication, the better. Confidence in leadership, alignment with company culture and engagement — all critical business drivers — increased four to six times when employers communicated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and managers reached out to employees. This speaks to the benefits to the business when the issue is handled effectively.
Managers generally did well when they communicated directly. When employees reported meeting with their manager, 43% felt strongly that the conversation made them feel more engaged, and 42% felt strongly that their manager was empathetic.

The research also included a quantitative survey of 118 communication leaders to determine key components of best practice communications and a content analysis of 68 internal company statements.

Communicators identified 12 essential components of effective communication and rated concern, empathy and authenticity as the most important. When the actual internal statements were assessed for those top components, about one-third of company statements didn’t include concern and authenticity, two of the top elements.

These findings should cause leaders to rethink their approach to communication on critical societal issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other issues to follow.

Bottom line: There’s a need for significant reflection here on the part of all leaders. We know better now, given our research results, and thus, we must do better as leaders going forward.

David Grossman, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the founder and CEO of The Grossman Group. For additional resources on issues communication, visit The Grossman Group’s Internal Communications Issues Resource Hub.

[Illustration credit: hobbitfoot]

The post New Research Shows Poor CEO Communication on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict first appeared on PRsay.

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