The next time you see or read about a top executive announcing a merger pay close attention. I’m betting the boss mismanages expectations by making at least one of these five common but wrong-headed remarks.

1.      “We don’t anticipate making any changes.”

Why wouldn’t you? During a merger or acquisition, people are primed for change. They expect it. So you should use this window of opportunity to make needed changes.  No company is perfect. Take advantage of the situation and seize the opportunity to make improvements.  Besides, over the weeks and months to come, something is bound to change. It may have nothing at all to do with the merger per se, but that doesn’t matter—the merger will be the convenient whipping boy. With the merger in the forefront of people’s minds, that’s where they’ll lay the blame.

2.      “This is a merger of equals.”

Actually, the term “merger of equals” is a technical term used in M&A to indicate, for example, that the deal qualifies for a specific tax treatment. But the phrase gets misinterpreted. Employees decode it to mean that both companies will be treated as equals so far as integration decisions are concerned. What’s worse, executives often misuse the term in attempting to assure people that neither company will dominate the other. Even if that’s the political intent of top management, it’s an impossible dream. Power is never perfectly balanced, so one of the two companies invariably will be a “little more equal” than the other.

3.      “We plan to take the best of both worlds.”

Hey, it won’t happen. It never happens. It’s an idealistic statement and you simply will not be able to deliver on it. Frankly, I can’t even imagine how you would go about accomplishing this. You might be genuine in your intent, but the people who are employed in those two worlds will never be persuaded that the best truly was chosen ...


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