Dear Claudia,

My company is merging with a competitor, and after attending some transition meetings I'm really concerned about the culture clash that is happening between the two companies. The business leaders may be in favor of this deal, but the rest of the employees are not at all convinced. I recruited most of our employees in the last five years, and many are already starting the process of posting resumes and looking for new jobs. What can I do to stem the tide?

Bracing for Impact

Dear Bracing,

I'll give you the disclaimer right up front: I'm not an HR Generalist so no tactical HR advice here (others in our community are perhaps well equipped for that, and I welcome their comments and suggestions). I am, however, a business pragmatist, and the heart of this question is the human element in a time of radical business change.

Tips for dealing with the emotional side of a merger or acquisition are pretty abundant; and if you think about it, change of this magnitude is a lot like grieving a death. Elizabeth Kubler Ross identified the five stages of grieving as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. No doubt there are many of those emotions running high at your company right now.

I think that Arnold Bennett said something that fits quite well here: “There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”

The culture that you've known and loved is going away, and a new and yet-to-be-defined culture is coming to life.
I believe that your role as recruiter is first to understand what the business will gain from the merger so you can articulate it to others; next, to talk about gaps in the change management around you with your manager or other leaders you trust (perhaps you see something they don't because you are closer to the grassroots of the business?); and finally, to support the new direction of the business with words and behaviors that match. If you can't get behind the shift, it's time for you to move on as well.

One last thought: it's important to recognize your sphere of influence and control in this situation. You may have recruited these folks, but you are no more responsible for their decisions today than you were when they accepted the job offer. They decide their own course, not you - and some will undoubtedly move on. That's the truth, whether you like it or not.

I wish you the best, my friend. Check in and let us know how everything works out.


In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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Bracing for impact.
During most M&A that take place there are at least 20-30% of the employees that are in favor 20-30 % that are not in favor and the balance that have no opinion or are just clueless.

Take whatever side fits best for you and assume that others will do what's best for them. If you feel positive about the transition talk it up positively throughout the organization. If you feel negative keep it to yourself when talking to a subordinate and only mention it to superiors if you have specific legitimate concerns. The No Whining Allowed principle should apply.

Also remember that in most M&A transactions there are bound to be positions that are eliminated in HR, Accounting, Finance, Sales etc due to redundancy/duplication and expect there to be some restructuring of about 10-30% of the workforce on both sides of the equation. Preparing an updated resume is certainly prudent planning especially until you are positive of what side of that redundancy formula you end up on.

Good luck,

Jeff Weidner

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