6 Strategies to Lead a Team Through a Merger and Acquisition

Integration is a critical element to successfully navigating mergers and acquisitions


Kayla Ambrose , Fri 15 December 2023
Mergers and acquisitions present opportunities for companies to streamline their operations, develop economies of scale, create synergies, and establish various other growth opportunities. Despite all these beneficial changes a company may experience, mergers and acquisitions can be a stressor for employees as there are many uncertainties. 

Undergoing mergers and acquisitions can create structural and cultural changes for organizations, leaving employees unsure of what to anticipate. Organizational changes and redundancies within the workforces of both companies can lead employees to have serious concerns about their job security. 

Even minor changes that result from mergers and acquisitions such as cultural shifts, slight process adjustments, or changes in communication channels can enhance the anxious environment and threaten psychological safety. Recognizing the emotions arising from these changes is essential for a smooth transition and continued team success. 

Here are some ways to create a more people-focused approach to navigating a team through a merger or acquisition: 

  1. Develop a Communication Plan
When conveying the news of a merger or acquisition it is important to consider how to best articulate the intentions of the decision. Communicating the overarching vision, company beliefs, and future of the company that led to the decision can help employees better understand the motivations for undergoing such changes. Presenting an optimistic vision for the company will encourage employees to support the new direction of the company. 

Lack of communication or poor communication can lead to the spreading of misinformation and decreased employee engagement. To prevent issues from arising with employees drawing inaccurate conclusions about future steps, ensure that there is constant communication as the process evolves. Immediately when information is allowed to be shared with direct reports, communicate the information to demonstrate that all employees are valued and informed. 

2. Ensure Transparency
Simply communicating updates to the team isn’t sufficient during uncertain times. Honest and frequent updates are most suitable for ensuring all members of the team understand how the changes will personally impact them. 

When permissible, communicate as much detail as possible about the deal's implications. Although it may feel obligatory to reassure team members that everything will work out and they won’t be negatively affected, it is important to communicate the truth. If there is a risk that the team will be impacted by layoffs or structural changes, communicate that uncertainty and work with them to develop action plans. If the team does experience negative changes as a result of the deal, it is best to avoid a complete blindside. 

3. Positive culture 
Continuing to celebrate team successes can help to improve team morale and motivation. Amidst these big changes going on within the organization, recognizing the achievements of individuals or the team as a whole can help empower the team and reinforce a positive future outlook for the team. 

Connecting these celebrations to the core values of the merged company. Aligning the celebrations to organizational values reinforces their importance within the organization. Drawing these parallels will ultimately help reassure the team that their efforts are valued and key attributes of the entire organization. 

4. Involve and Empower Team
During times of uncertainty, it is crucial to allow direct reports to be involved wherever possible. Opportunities to share concerns, feedback, or other insights will allow employees to feel heard. Providing such opportunities will allow for a smoother transition to the new organization since adjustments can be made to best support the team. 

Team involvement develops a sense of ownership. During times of uncertainty, employees may begin to search for outside opportunities. Allowing employees to make an impact on the organization through their input and inclusion in the decision-making process, will increase their sense of commitment to the firm. 

5. Provide Resources
As a manager, providing ample resources for team members to navigate these changes is a necessary step. Mentorship initiatives, training programs, or external professional development opportunities can help employees prepare for potential future steps. 

Directing team members to consult with human resources or other applicable internal resources can serve as a good reminder of the readily available options they can contact. Continuing to identify various resources that can support team members will help ensure that they feel more in control of their future and can make more informed decisions. 

6. Lead by Example 
Increased stress is inevitable when transitioning through a merger or acquisition, however, employees look to their manager as an example of how to handle these unpredictable times. Remaining composed and adaptable will encourage the team to exemplify these characteristics as well, and embody the vision of the organization. 

Exemplifying other characteristics such as prioritization of work-life balance is another key way to guide a team to stay on track. During periods of change, ensuring all team members take care of their well-being and not overworking themselves can help to prevent additional stress. When direct reports see their manager balancing their personal life and their work obligations, they will feel more comfortable making balance one of their priorities which will ultimately lead to a more sustainable work environment. 

As a manager, it is important to continue to advocate for the team and take steps to support their best interests. During these periods of uncertainty, managers serve as a guide for their team to help them understand what is going on around them. 

Determining the best method to navigate these organizational changes can be incredibly difficult. Utilizing horizontal peer mentor groups can be a powerful tool to gain insight into how others in similar situations manage their teams. Within these groups, peers can share strategies they found to be successful and advice specific to the situation at hand. 

Remember that managing a team through large organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions is specifically difficult for managers as they must balance personal stress resulting from the changing environment along with team concerns. Strategies on how to best lead a team depend on the team dynamics and the changes the organization is experiencing. Keep in mind that big changes are stressful and personal mental health should be prioritized. A sound-minded manager will be most suitable for leading a successful team through mergers and acquisitions. 



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