Organizational change is a real challenge on its own. There are processes to be revamped, teams to be reworked, goals to be set and often, hard discussions to be had. Whether it’s a merger, acquisition or corporate restructuring, tension is usually high – and not just for those managing the process!
One of the things that is so often overlooked is that the staff on both sides of the equation are feeling very insecure about their place in the company and the changes that are being undertaken. They’ve got questions, concerns and fears that carry with them into their everyday lives and affect the way they do their jobs. Insecurity breeds some seriously strange behavior. Suddenly, it’s “Survival Mode”.
Fight or Flight
In psychology, whenever trauma or confrontation happens, we see that people quickly choose between “Fight or Flight”. When people are stressed out, the tendency is to run from the problem, fight against it or – in particularly bad cases – freeze up entirely.
Reason goes out the window with logic. Emotions run high. This is what needs to change. As a manager, you need to bring people back into a sense of security and rationality where they can discuss and question things inquisitively instead of in a panic. Otherwise, they won’t share information –and information is power.
Security is Key
One of the reasons over 50% of mergers fail is all this worry and stress. There needs to be boots on the ground to calm people down and reassure them that they’re safe and secure. This is the time to implement programs that promote mindfulness and connection; not at the time the merger happens – but before! Sixty days before the merger, begin the discussion. Bring people to a place they can be centered, understanding and informed of all that is to come.
Treat your staff like human beings – human beings with concerns for their families and livelihood. Be open, transparent, honest, empathetic and above all, personal. This affects them as much as it affects your company.
While some layoffs may be inevitable, it’s important to clarify and define the process for that so that the 75% of the company whose jobs are not at risk will not live in constant fear. For the other 25%, the process needs to move as quickly as possible so that the 5% – 10% who are let go can resolve it for themselves and make plans. Real, sensitive communication has to happen here.
In the end, honour people and respect their intelligence. These times can be uncomfortable, but communication solves problems.