Managing the fall out – supporting staff during the Ukrainian war

2022 has begun with the ending of the global pandemic and now the very challenging and ever unfolding conflict in Ukraine. While wellbeing and mental health have been key factors for all organisations in the last number of years, these events require many businesses and leaders to once again pivot to meet these new challenges.

It is a testament to our living and working in a truly global economy and a globally integrated workforce that the weight of this crisis is far reaching. Companies working outside of Russia have had to examine how they work with Russian companies and clients, as well as staff and colleagues impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.

While it has brought home how connected we are today, it is also highlighting how many people can be affected by an event that is happening in another part of the world. As consumers for example, many of us are being affected in a very direct way with seeing the prices at the petrol pumps increasing daily. Businesses may see many of their staff are also directly affected in their day-to-day interactions with other teams and other colleagues personally connected with this conflict.

Business Decisions

Once the position of the Business has been determined with regard the level of impact of this crisis, the Human Resources department and all managers need to respond to this decision quickly. Appropriate communications and policies need to be put in place, alongside the challenging task of both reassuring staff about ongoing business requirements during this conflict, while also putting in place sanctions that will certainly affect business as usual and in some cases dramatically affect certain teams.

On the Ground

Added to this is the more complex world of human relationships. It is here, above all else, that care needs to be taken. While many of us may be very close to and familiar with a number of our colleagues, in a large organisation there are many more that we do not know very well and do not know very much about and therefore we won’t know their family of origin, their place of birth, their ancestry, and indeed their identification choices – let alone those of their partners and wider families.

Global teams mean global influences and while the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, it is very important for managers and staff to be provided with support that adequately reflects the dilemma that many teams and a wider variety of staff now find themselves in, when being asked not to work with Russian businesses and Russian teams.

Effectively one day business as usual has become no business at all with a certain region. This will create many questions, a fair bit of discomfort and quite a few difficult conversations.

Deeper still, it is difficult to know who of the staff identify with being Russian, or identify with friends and relatives in Ukraine, or who identify with other counties that are also touched by a history of conflict?  What of the other colleagues and teammates who now find themselves caught up in this turmoil? How best as a business can you respond to them?

Effective Support

The reality is there is no quick solution. While the fall out of the invasion of Ukraine sinks in and the future of the war is uncertain, it is time to think about what to put in place for staff to help them navigate this new territory. While many companies have access to Employee Assistance Programmes, it is worthwhile to consider implementing a programme of specific training and a set of dialogues relating to this conflict. Proactively helping to both normalise many of the emotions and reactions that staff and leaders will be feeling, while also providing effective support around how to have the necessary conversations and how to be mindful of people’s individual experience of this crisis.

The importance of this support is to create insights for staff. To help them keep in mind not just the natural reaction to ‘what’ is happening, but a more intricate understanding of the ‘who’ is being affected, in a wider sense, which is not always obvious.

A little can go a long way, and proactive support in this area can curb a lot of distress. Avoiding the hurt that be experienced when we neglect to consider what is being said about the conflict in the context of the audience.

The role of the leader once again is key here, like it was during the challenges of Covid, and the need to be able to provide the key messaging to help staff navigate these turbulent times once again.

If you and your staff would like some supportive training, email