Terrorist attack on Israel
I was going to write something else for this post but then horrible happened. Unfortunately horrible occurs. Sometimes horrible is personal, impacting only an individual. Sometimes horrible impacts a community.
Israel was attacked by terrorists in a massive, coordinated assault. They killed over a thousand innocent civilians in a combined assault on homes and public gatherings. Individuals were executed on social media and over 200 hostages were taken, including children. The citizens of Israel are mourning, searching for the lost and dealing with this terrorist attack.
But those impacted are not just those who dodged bullets in Israel.
Many people have relatives and friends who live in Israel or visit Israel on a regular basis. People outside of Israel are feeling the strain and stress of the terrorist attack. They are worried about loved ones. Trying to find out if they are alive or if they hand been kidnapped.
Our friends, neighbors and coworkers are among those impacted.
They are thinking of family members and friends. But they are also concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism globally. This was an attack against an entire religion. This attack was meant to strike at the heart of the Jewish religion and create fear in anyone who is Jewish regardless of where on the globe they reside.
The resulting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have caused the FBI to work with national and local Jewish and Islamic groups to protect houses of worship across the US. There are threats against local Synagogues and Mosques. People are nervous about going to pray.
In addition there are the innocent residents of Gaza caught in the middle. There is a distinction to be made between Hamas and Gaza. Hamas committed a terrorist act and as a consequence the residents of Gaza are caught in the middle.
This is a traumatic event on a number of levels.
As an ally how should you respond? It is a question that I am often asked when events like this occur. I thought I would share what I have done now and in the past.
My first act was to understand. To learn a little about what happened. Watch news reports and social media. Social media is tricky. There is so much misinformation out there when these events occur. I try to look at more reputable and vetted news feeds. I also google terms to make sure I understand what things are so I have a basic knowledge. This event in particular has generated so much disinformation as a number of anti-Semtitic organization have created large disinformation campaigns, such as the false narrative around Israel attacking a hospital. It is to such a large extent that the European Union has begun to step in with warnings to various social media sites about vetting information.
However, the thing I really look for are the social media feeds from friends. I want to see how they are feeling. Many people will put their initial feelings on Facebook or other social media and I try to get a sense of how friends are feeling.
I then reach out to friends. I just drop folks emails and ask a simple question: “How are you doing?” Nothing more. Simple. Email is nice because the recipient can respond in their own time. It doesn’t force the conversation. It just opens up the conversation if they want to. If there is no response I don’t follow-up. No need to push it. They don’t have to respond if they don’t want to.
When someone does respond I listen. I don’t talk. I don’t debate. I don’t offer my view on world events. I listen. Generally towards the end of the conversation I ask how I can help. That simple. I would ask that for a personal tragedy so I figure it makes sense to ask now.
But how do you handle things as a manager at the office? Managers of teams need to be trained to handle these events as they happen with more frequency than we expect:
Sikh Temple Shooting in Wisconsin
Tree of Life synagogue
Pulse night club
Atlanta spa shooting
Now we can add the terrorist attack on Israel and the resulting devastation to Palestinians in Gaza.
But I have never seen any training on this unfortunately. So I thought I would share what I have done in the past in the hope it might help act as guidance in some small way.
As a manager I recognize these incidents impact people’s mental health. People are understandably shaken. Particularly those in the targeted demographic.
And this impacts the workplace.
And yet often companies do nothing in response.
Life is expected to continue as normal. Deadlines are deadlines right?
But as a manager … as a person… I know trauma impacts work.
What I have done in the past is to first ask up the management chain if there is a company response to make sure I understand the official line. Generally there is none but I ask anyway. Often I try and recommend some form of response: an email, reaching out to the appropriate Employee Resource Group, something. I realize I can not actually move that needle but it is worth the try to at least give some form of awareness.
My next steps are to reach out to my management team and get their gauge on the team and perhaps some individuals. I advise them to be aware of people’s reactions and that if deadlines need to move to work with people to do so. I also make sure I am aware of any changes so I can also work with other departments or clients to manage the situation.
I always find the general corporate reaction to this odd. Universally I get push back on moving deadlines for these events. However when I have had to change things for a sudden flu outbreak impacting the department the reaction is that it is OK and good job handling the situation. In my view this is the same thing. To put it into management speak: a sudden event has occurred which impacts productivity and you are adjusting accordingly where needed.
The next place I turn to are the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). These groups are valuable sources of information and advice at these times. Odds are they have already mobilized by the time I am talking to them. They have surveyed their members and checked in on people. They have given me a valuable insight into the community and its mental health. Even sometimes helping me to identify individuals in particular distress. Years ago, after one such global incident I learned that one person on my team had family in the area of the incident and had spent time hunting them down to find out they were safe. I would never had known otherwise.
I also get advice on how I should react. Should I send an email, swing by a desk, have a team meeting, etc… All the incidents are different and the communities and people impacted deal with things in their own way. I want to be respectful of that. So I listen intently on what the group might want.
Then I make sure they know they have my support for whatever they need.
If there isn’t an ERG I will try to reach out to some folks that are influential in those communities at work. Because even if there isn’t an ERG there is a community that is impacted.
Note what I am doing and what I am not doing. I am listening, gathering information and taking the lead from those impacted.
I have not yet reached out to individuals.
I want to respect an individual’s space to process things. I also want to make sure I am informed so if I am asked to help I can help and in a correct, respectful way.
But I also want to make sure people know they can ask for help. So I will reach out to some individuals I know well and see how they are doing. I will let ERG leads know they can come to me or if they think it would be good for me to talk to someone, I open up my calendar.
As time passes I may stop by a few desks or grab a coffee with someone and see how they are doing.
This is how I handle these events. It may not work for everyone in every situation but I hope it helps give some guidance.
For those that are impacted but this horrible attack, please know I am thinking of you and your families at this time.
As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All the best,