When companies merge, the acquiring company gains an enormous edge in talent. Though any merger causes anxiety around the issue of redundancy, employees actually benefit from the process: Employees of the acquired company are offered new opportunities that could never be possible at their former company. Those of the acquiring company, meanwhile, have the chance to benefit from new products, processes, talents, accounts, and a plethora of other benefits that are part of the reason the target company was acquired.
Convincing employees at both organizations that the merger helps everyone is key. When the newly-acquired employees come on board, it’s important to make them feel at home. They should never feel like strangers in a strange land, but accomplishing this requires setting the expectations of both sets of employees before the new employees start.
Clarify and communicate the Important Changes
Change is part of any merger process. The purpose is to build a stronger organization by merging two companies that complement each other. For the employees gained from the merger to thrive in their new environment, they must understand the important changes they need to make in order for the merger to succeed.
Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the MIT School of Business, explains, in a Harvard Business Review article, that before a merger is even completed, both sides need to ask themselves, how will each side need to adjust to the other?
For example, will the acquired team need to collaborate across the enterprise? Employees from smaller firms may be unaccustomed to the chain of command and bureaucratic structures of larger organizations. Must the new employees embrace certain corporate practices and protocols? Are these drastically different? If new employees must adapt to substantial changes in workflow, expectations, and management style, before merging, management should ask itself if that much change is realistic. Is the merger a good fit?
If it is, new employees need to adapt. Helping them thrive involves first making them understand the operational, organizational, and cultural values they must embrace. Convincing them to accept these changes is a matter of showing how these changes are opportunities, rather than compromises.
When the new employees feel they have been handed a golden opportunity, they tend to have a positive attitude toward the merger. Though they must adapt to the new company’s environment, it’s also important for the new company to adapt to them in return. After all, the purpose of the merger was to benefit from the acquired company’s abilities, and the acquiring company can learn valuable things from its newly acquired pool of talent.
Workplaces need to be a nucleus of productivity, cooperation, and inclusiveness. When a workplace culture has become toxic from the unpleasant behaviors of its employees, these three workplace aspects will decline dramatically. If you’ve noticed that your workplace culture is becoming toxic, here is an effective guide on how to replace that culture with a healthier one.
- Identify Problem Behaviors
The first step to changing the toxic culture in a workplace is figuring out which behaviors are contributing to the toxic atmosphere. As a member of upper management, you may not spend a lot of time in the same work areas as your employees; this causes you to miss out on spotting potentially toxic behaviors that could be poisoning the working environment on a daily basis.
The best way to identify these behaviors is to consult with your employees. This can occur as either an employee meeting where you invite your employees to voice their issues using anonymous information or it can be done privately with one-on-one talks.
- Clearly Define The Changes
Once toxic behaviors have been identified, it’s time to begin implementing sweeping changes to the culture in the workplace. It’s not going to be enough to say “stop doing this” or “start doing this.” The changes you need to make should be detailed in their description so that people will understand what exactly they need to stop doing and how to successfully begin the positive changes.
- Be Swift In Action
The longer that toxic behaviors are left to disintegrate a workplace culture, the more difficult it will be to change them. When new employees are hired and enter the workplace, the current employees will immediately begin to teach the new employees these toxic habits to continue the cycle. It is best to nip toxic workplace behaviors in the bud immediately before the ideas and habits can saturate the workplace entirely.
- Demonstrate A “No Tolerance” Policy
Some employees may be hesitant about embracing the new changes. Regardless of how valuable they are to the company, you must not be afraid to make an example out of them. If there are employees openly defying the changes, terminate their employment immediately. This will show the other employees that the company is serious about improving workplace culture and that the toxic behavior will no longer be tolerated.
A leader’s purpose is to bring out the best qualities in each employee, but it doesn’t normally work that way when outdated strategies come into play. Traditionally, people with boisterous personality traits are put into leadership positions because their superiors often mistake aggressiveness for assertiveness. They expect results in the form of increased profits, decreased expenses, and steady growth. Leaders often try to obtain these goals by implementing strict guidelines and by doling out discipline when their subordinates fail.
Leaders who become obsessed with control and the bottom line often treat their personnel like lackeys who simply exist as a means to advance their own agendas. This can create fear in the people they are supposed to guide and might actually lead to missing goals altogether. Fear stifles creativity—the desire to experiment and the willingness to learn.
Under these conditions, people lose their innovative abilities, which are necessary to solve problems. A humble leader recognizes this outdated style as counterproductive and strives to help people feel motivated, invigorated and determined so that they can bring a positive attitude to work. Also known as servant leadership, this management style can help employees grow and exceed their own expectations.
The terms servant and humility seem to imply weakness and low self-esteem. However, in this context they mean that a humble leader understands there’s much to be gained by encouraging others to test their own concepts and to employ their individual thinking skills. In addition to humility, servant-leader characteristics include courage and the ability to understand that others in less powerful positions still have expertise that can benefit the team.
Humble leaders create an atmosphere that inspires followers to reach their best potential. Instead of telling others how to do their jobs, they ask their employees how they can help leaders achieve goals. They encourage new approaches and respect innovative ideas by fashioning low-risk spaces where employees don’t feel stifled; this allows workers to expand their mental boundaries and to become more interactive.
At first, employees might not understand how to react to servant leadership. Since they’re used to the intimidation of anyone with more corporate power, it will take time to overcome the fear of disciplinary action. However, the positive results that are gained under humble leadership will speak for themselves.
About Scott Avila
When Scott Avila began his career, the restructuring industry didn’t exist. Today, however, Scott has more than 25 years of experience helping to set struggling companies on a path to success. He’s worked in a wide range of roles at distressed companies across a variety of industries. He believes true change doesn’t always start with an answer, but instead, with a question: Investors, leaders, and companies need to ask themselves what issues they face as well as what they’re doing–or not doing–in order to turn their goals into realities.
Scott Avila is the Co-Founder of Paladin Management Services, where he specializes in restructuring companies in the middle market and helping them to increase profits, grow, and build cohesive team cultures. Prior to co-founding Paladin, Scott was Chief Executive Officer of Armory Strategic Partners, the consulting division of Armory Group. Before that, he was Principal in Deloitte’s Corporate Restructuring Group and Managing Partner at CRG Partners Group prior to the sale of CRG to Deloitte in 2012.
These roles often required Scott Avila to step in and assume leadership of companies, and in fact, he has served as chief restructuring officer (CRO) at a $250 million international motorcycle products manufacturer and distributor, a $250 million branded apparel manufacturer and distributor, CRO and chief operating officer (COO) of a $900 million international leasing and computer reseller, an advisor to a $12 billion farm cooperative, and many other companies. He has also worked across a broad spectrum of industries such as media, publishing, telecommunications, energy, healthcare, finance, and many others.
After working at different firms across various industries, Scott Avila is a firm believer that a business’ culture helps to shape its success. Some of the strongest companies are those with mission-based cultures where achieving the company’s mission is the highest priority for all employees. In fact, one of the first things Scott likes to do when stepping into a new company is make sure that everyone understands the mission and is ready to make it a reality.
Scott Avila earned his B.B.A. from California State University and his M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. He currently lives with his family in California, where he frequently writes and lectures on a number of topics related to restructuring.
More About Scott
Scott Avila has held membership in numerous professional organizations. He has assumed interim executive or advisory roles in various restructuring projects for companies including but not limited to:
-A $250 million branded apparel manufacturer and distributor
-A $900 million international leasing and computer reseller
-An independent TV and movie production facility
Scott earned his B.B.A. at California State University, Hayward and his M.B.A. at the University of Southern California.