The impact of war on the workplace

Some employees may feel anxious, unproductive as minds are turned away from work to the conflict in Iraq
||Last Updated: 07/09/2003


he war in Iraq may be thousands of kilometres away, and although Canadian troops aren’t directly involved in the conflict, the impact on the workforce is nonetheless being felt at home.

With this in mind, FGI, a Toronto-based EAP consulting firm, has prepared advice for employers and managers to help staff through what can be a difficult time. (

For information on helping children and adolescents deal with war, the impact on expatriates, the fear of flying and supporting a multicultural workforce, click on the “Related Articles” link below.


Guidelines for managers

Many people are feeling uncertain, anxious and worried about how events are unfolding in Iraq. Hardly a day goes by when most people are not involved in conversations, exposed to media coverage or have some reminders of the military conflict.

Managers will find some employees are more affected than others. Some may become less focused, less productive and less effective in their overall performance. People’s reactions to unsettling events will also depend on individual connection to past family associations with war and terrorism.

How to spot signs an employee may be anxious

Most people don’t openly communicate their fears and anxieties. The only observable signs may be behaviours such as:


•fear of flying and airports;

•anxiety in the presence of unknown persons of Middle East descent;

•difficulty concentrating, attending to tasks;

•uncharacteristic decline or change in performance;

•unusual irritation and agitation; and

•preoccupation with the news, current world situation and terrorism.

How managers can help

•Acknowledge employees’ concerns in a respectful, empathic and non-intrusive manner.

•Remind employees they each have a very unique and resourceful way of coping with traumatic events and to continue to draw on their natural resilience.

•Urge employees to reach out to people they trust.

•Inform staff these feelings may vary from day to day and may be different than the feelings and thoughts of those around them.

•Prompt employees to focus their attention on the things in their life that are important and the things in life over which they have influence.

•Acknowledge the impact of world events and that employees may have varying needs.

•Demonstrate that you are as concerned about your employees as you are about work objectives.

•Address performance-based concerns in a timely, clear manner while conveying understanding of possible anxiety.

•Be visible and manage employee anxiety and fear by walking around, listening, asking questions and being seen as delivering solutions.

•Communicate frequently. Should there be a crisis directly affecting your organization, conduct regular and daily communication. This should occur at the same time each day and contain practical and accurate information for employees.

•Revisit your corporate crisis or disaster plan to ensure all key roles and responsibilities relating to the effective management of employees during a crisis are clearly understood and communicated. Be sure that safety and security plans, emergency communication plans and employee assistance programs reach all employees wherever they are located.

Source: FGI

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