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Avoid merger meltdown

The easiest time to change is when we are in crisis mode. It is human nature to resist change unless a decisive moment forces our hand.


May 20, 2014
By Mark Borkowski

The easiest time to change is when we are in crisis mode. It is human nature to resist change unless a decisive moment forces our hand. During a merger, transition can be overwhelming for employees and problematic for companies to manage.

Leadership expert and internationally acclaimed business consultant, Susan Steinbrecher, puts it this way: “During a merger or an acquisition, there is usually a disproportionate amount of time and money spent on the financial due diligence and, sadly, very limited resources are allocated to the ‘people due diligence.’ But numbers don’t make a merger work, people do.” Steinbrecher adds that “people capital” can make a merger thrive – or take a dive – and maintains that there are three steps to effectively navigate through the storm.

Step One: Clash of the Cultures
“Most companies think they can easily assimilate two completely different company cultures into one. This can be a recipe for disaster,” says Steinbrecher. When you take the time to explore the similarities and the distinctions of both company cultures, you can conceive a more effective communication strategy. Share the best practices of both companies – not just the acquiring firm – and leave the corporate ego at the door.

Step Two: Communicate!
“Bottom line: managers need to communicate more, show more empathy, have open forum conversations, allow employees to vent and, yes, even show their emotions at times,” maintains Steinbrecher. This generates a healthier forum rather than an environment filled with disgruntled employees who may not be at their best under duress. They may even take it upon themselves to attempt to sabotage the business.

Address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, head-on. The more you engage employees, the more you will disarm them, giving you the opportunity to engage their minds. Summon up the courage to answer the difficult questions – even if you don’t have definitive answers. This will engender the utmost respect for you, the leader.

If you don’t have answers don’t change the subject; simply say: “I don’t have that answer for you today but my commitment to you is that as soon as I have it, I will get back to you. Here is what I can tell you…” Explain what is happening and why. This is particularly important in any new decision that affects employees. Communicate in more personal settings of smaller groups or round tables. This will impart a sense of encouragement and support.

Step Three: The Four Energy Quadrants
Steinbrecher says the four “quadrants” of energy that must be addressed are: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

  1. If you observe a physical deficit you will notice fatigue. Pay close attention to proper diet, sleep and exercise.
  2. An emotional deficit pertains to negative thoughts, which can be tackled through proper communication (see above).
  3. A spiritual deficit shows up as lack of motivation and sense of purpose. By offering reassurance and encouragement, you uphold their resolve and enthusiasm.
  4. When there is a mental energy deficit, employees become distracted. So, involve them in decisions whenever possible, and make sure that your expectations are clear. “Try meditation,” says Steinbrecher. “It is the best remedy