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Why Mergers and Acquisitions Fail

Bruce Mazzare MDSBy Bruce Mazzare

According to an article by Pearson Education Ltd. Copyright © 2015, one of the 20 main reasons for mergers and acquisitions to fail is poor communication.

This is what they recommend:

“Has a communication plan been prepared? What is going to be said to the various groups? How, by whom, and when? Clear, rapid and consistent communication is essential. At the time of an acquisition stress levels are high; messages are misinterpreted; rumors spread. Key messages need to be repeated over and over. Golden rules are no hype and no empty promises.”

I’m going to take that one step further with a true life example: I knew two people who worked for a company in the throes of a merger. They were almost polar opposites of each other. Bill was a gregarious salesman who never met a stranger. He was impulsive, loved change and was always ready for the next big adventure. Sara, on the other hand, was pretty shy, didn’t like change and was slower to verbalize. She was a thinker who needed time to process information.

When the company announced the eminent merger to their 65 employees, it was done quickly and without much information.

When I talked to Bill, he was pumped and anxious to meet and greet his new team members. Sara on the other hand, not so much. She was a bit fearful and needed much more information and time to think it through. I advised her to meet with her supervisor and acquire all the pertinent information she needed to make her feel comfortable. She took my advice but received conflicting messages which only made it worse. Of course, the office rumor mill wasn’t helping either.  After a week of being stonewalled by her managers, she decided the merger didn’t work for her and she quit. It was really a shame because she was a talented lady with a bright future – a definite asset to her company.

How could this have been prevented?

The company should have realized that some like Bill, were fine with change, but others needed definitive communication and time to process the information. Individuals in the workplace respond differently to situations, so if the company had taken the time to understood Sara’s need-to-know and time-to-process style, they would not have lost Sara, or the others who left for similar reasons.

But how can a company know?

For CEOs and managers, the best way to know how to plan a communication strategy for an event such as a merger is through individual behavior style assessments. The assessments tell the company how a person responds to workplace situations, how they communicate and how best to communicate with them, how they handle stress, time and priorities. This type of information would have been used to formulate a plan of communication well in advance of the failed merger. Unfortunately, at the time, there are so many details to take care of, the employees’ needs are usually not on the radar. Pity, because loosing valuable assets is expensive and retraining is time-consuming. It’s a lose/lose all the way around.

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