Dismal Communication on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: New Research Shows CEOs Need a “Do-Over”

CHICAGO, Dec. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — 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 may have 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 percent 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.

“As university presidents have learned, leadership has never been a sideline sport. Especially in times of conflict and when issues arise, employees are looking to their leaders to step up and show that they care,” said David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, a prominent Chicago-based leadership consultancy. “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 okay, business suffers.”

The study also revealed that confidence in leadership, alignment with company culture, and overall employee engagement increased significantly when corporate CEOs communicated to their organization about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than staying silent.

Grossman argues forcefully for leaders to rethink remaining silent about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because that silence is communicating something as well – and can be construed by employees as indifference. “Denouncing hate and discrimination in any form and creating a safe workplace for everyone should be a top priority,” Grossman added.

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 causing controversy on those campuses as well.

The Grossman Group/The Harris Poll Research Highlights

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 2023:

  • Large numbers impacted. Research revealed that 51 percent 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.
  • 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 was handled effectively.
  • Managers generally did well when they communicated directly. When employees reported meeting with their manager, 43 percent felt strongly that the conversation made them feel more engaged, and 42 percent 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 the statements didn’t include concern and authenticity, two of the top elements.

Grossman said the 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.

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

For additional resources on issues communication, visit: https://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/internal-communications-issues-resource-hub 

About The Grossman Group
The Grossman Group is an award-winning Chicago-based communications consultancy focusing on organizational consulting, strategic leadership development, and internal communication. A certified diversity supplier, The Grossman Group works closely with Fortune 500 companies and other organizations, including Abbott, Blue Cross Blue Shield, General Mills, Kaiser Permanente, SC Johnson, and Lockheed Martin, among others.

About David Grossman
A leading consultant, speaker, and author, David Grossman ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CSP is one of America’s foremost authorities on communication and leadership inside organizations. He is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based leadership and communications consultancy that focuses on organizational consulting, strategic leadership development, and internal communications for Fortune 500 clients.

A frequent media source, David provides expert commentary and analysis on employee and leadership issues. He’s been featured on “NBC Nightly News,” WSJ.com, Today.com, in the Chicago Tribune, the World Economic Forum, LA Times, and CBS MoneyWatch, among others. David’s latest award-winning book, “Heart First: Lasting Leader Lessons from a Year that Changed Everything” features interviews with 30+ leaders inside a variety of organizations, each of whom share extraordinarily candid insights and unique leadership lessons. His leadercommunicator blog has been ranked the #1 blog on communication by Feedspot seven years in a row.

Press Contact: 
Kayla Ellsworth
The Grossman Group
312.927.4588 |

SOURCE The Grossman Group