6 Ways to Avoid Cultural Disasters After Corporate Mergers

2 min read
Mar 1, 2015

iStock_000003231796_SmallChange happens all the time. And when it comes to corporate acquisition, there are plenty of hurdles to jump over (or run into). So whether you’re the one calling the shots or the one conceding to someone else’s mandates on company policy, you have to keep culture in mind. Unfortunately, many people think that an acquisition—with regard to company culture, anyway—is a time of "eat or be eaten."

Clear the Air

If employees don’t understand why this merge is happening, then there’s a deep disconnect between that change and the company’s culture. A report by Strategy& brings to light the importance of successful organizational change:

  • 44% of employees don’t understand the change they’re being asked to make

  • Over one-third say they don’t agree with it

Make sure employees know about the change ahead of time rather than waiting to tell them the day before it happens. That way, it leaves room for people to raise any questions or concerns regarding the change—namely, questions regarding the incoming organization as well.

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Poor communication about the acquisition strategy can lead, at the very least, to resentment and in-fighting. It can lead to decreased employee engagement and retention due to failures in understanding and basic communication. It can lead to layoffs. At worst, the problems caused by these rifts can bring your entire process to a screeching halt.

How to Win

Two cultures coming together can either form one of two scenarios. It could be that both organizations have similar core values and mission that the merge happens seamlessly. Or it could be on the opposite where cultures collide and people butt heads. For the latter case, here are our suggestions for blending teams and making progress:

  • Prep them: Prepare the team beforehand by communicating who will be added to their teams and how you see them fitting together.

  • Welcome the dark overlords: Take the time to introduce the new execs—carefully, slowly, and with much respect. People will pick up on how you feel about the new people. A little genuine admiration and enthusiasm on your part can go a long way.

  • Give them a voice: Use internal surveys to anonymously take suggestions about how to smooth out the integration process. Use them also for taking the staff’s temperature. Remember, employee engagement and retention strategies need constant attention.

  • Introduce people individually: Rather than clapping your way through an all-hands meeting and leaving it at that, introduce individuals to individuals. Describe their backgrounds, their strengths, their roles. Show them the utmost respect, and they will respond.

  • Integrate: Send people from your team over to the new teams (and vice versa) to help out on their projects, even if only temporarily. They’ll come back as advocates.

  • Evangelize the vision: Express a few simple vision statements meant to guide the culture as a whole, and then let minor differences stand. The cultures will evolve together over time as long as there’s a simple, unified message they can all rally behind.

Transparent communication is the foundation for organizational culture. And merges can easily be the downfall of any company. So make sure to keep your employees in the loop before, during, and after the merge occurs to avoid cultural clash.



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