When the announcement of a merger or an acquisition is made the señor management tend to focus on the financial side of the business: the market share, the synergies, the opportunities, the profit growth. In reality what employees are mostly interested about are the “what about me” (WAM) issues.
What are they? In this phase the focus is not on why the company is entering a deal but what the deal means for me in terms of personal circumstances. What employees are really interested in is:
– Will I still have a job?
– Is this deal going to have an impact on my salary/benefits?
– Will I have to relocate?
– Who is going to be my boss?
– How is it working here going to be like going forward?
These are the most common “what about me” questions that senior managers have to take into consideration when announcing a merger or an acquisition.
It is well documented that after the announcement of the deal there is a dip in productivity, performance and morale as the employees are mostly focused on the “what about me” issues. The characteristic of a merger and acquisitions is that this phenomenon is staggered.
In fact the senior management is the first to go through this process – when the decision to go ahead with a deal is taken it is strictly confidential and only the executives and other few individuals will be aware of it.
By the time the announcement is made the senior management would have “come to terms” with the WAM issues and received answers. On the other hand, the middle management will still be grappling with some uncertainty whilst the rest of the workforce will be in total shock.
When I speak with clients I often hear their frustration as they believe the employees are dragging their feet. Well, what I remind them is how they felt when they were made aware the decision to enter a deal was made and how they reacted.
In addition to this I mention that in some cases they have some control on the situation due to their role in the organisation. On the contrary, middle managers and mostly employees are dealing with the WAM situation only now.
When devising the communication the senior and middle management:
1) need to have the pulse on the situation the majority of the organisation is in: just because they have a clear(er) picture of the WAM situation, it does not mean the rest of the workforce is in their position.
2) be mindful of the fact that resistance to change is not a negative effect of a change initiative and that it can be proactively managed
3) take into consideration that a never ending integration process that lasts +3 years can have a detrimental impact on the workforce’s productivity, performance and morale. It does not mean that the integration has to be rushed, but that it has to be timely. This requires their full engagement, also during the integration phase.
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