10 Steps on How to Manage Resistance to Change in M&A

Many merger/acquisition events are likely to be unpopular, at least with those groups of employees who are negatively affected. What people don’t like, they will probably resist. Management cannot keep everyone happy. But a number of things can be done to overcome some of the resistance and minimize that which remains.

1. EXPLAIN THE REASONS FOR THE CHANGE

Usually the best steps in dealing with problems are the preventive ones.

Perhaps the most effective way to minimize resistance is to make sure people in the organization have a good understanding of the rationale for the changes.

The people in charge should be very open, very willing to share their perspectives or the line of reasoning that led to the changes. When this sort of information is communicated, the odds increase that everyone else will come to see the move as appropriate.

But even those personnel who disagree with the logic behind the change, and who are personally against it, are far more likely to accept the situation than if they had it shoved at them without any explanation.

So giving people in the workforce the story behind merger changes is helpful in several ways. First, some people will be persuaded that the move was an appropriate one. Others will not be convinced, but at least they will understand why it’s happening, and therefore will accept it. Finally, still others who neither agree with nor understand the reasoning behind the change will elect not to fight it, because at least someone took the pains to try and explain the situation for them.

2. LEVEL WITH PEOPLE ABOUT THE PATHWAY TO CHANGE

There is a need for people to understand what the road to change looks like—that typically the pathway is a sequence of events where things get worse before they get better.

Several brief examples may help make this point. First, think of the young boy who wants to learn how to ride a bicycle. He can walk without any problem and generally gets where he wants to go. But his mobility actually becomes less successful when he starts trying to ride the bike. He falls down, bruises an arm, scrapes a knee, and cannot make forward progress as well as if he were walking. His mobility actually deteriorates. But he keeps working at the change, and ...