M&A Transition: How to Resolve Conflict

Conflict between the new owner and the acquired company’s employees after the announcement of the M&A deal is an occasional and unfortunate disease that can pop up rather quickly.

Initially, you meet with politeness and deference. However, because the employees are likely in shock and may not have yet digested the consequences of the sale, this politeness and deference may be more the result of the survival instinct than sincerity.

The clock is ticking. If you don’t communicate fully and accurately with your new employees, those good manners may disappear quickly as skepticism and perhaps hostility creep into your new employees’ relations with you.

Don’t be afraid of letting people know there’s a new sheriff in town. The sooner you start to institute changes and new rules, and the more resolute you are in applying those changes, the sooner the company will adjust.

Inertia (the flow of how the employees are used to working) can be difficult to change, and your odds of breaking that cycle improve if you offer a better way for employees to do their jobs. Assuming your changes are actually improvements, the employees will quickly forget the old ways after they get used to the changes.

This immersion method can be painful, but you need to be determined and committed. If you waver, people will go back to the old way of doing their jobs.

Part of remembering that you’re in charge means stepping up and letting people go if they refuse to go along with the new standards. Although no one likes to fire people, you can’t be afraid to pull the trigger if a situation with an employee is untenable.

Move forward. Don’t allow the employees to get wrapped up in past battles that may have flared during the sales process. Your mantra should be, “That’s over; the past is history. I’m here to work.”

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