Employee morale drops dramatically when major changes are made in an acquired company post-sale. The trust level heads south. Loyalty, the tie that binds, comes unraveled. Job stress hits new highs. The overall effect can be punishing, like a hard fist slammed into the stomach of the organization. And it can knock the wind out of work groups.

As a manager, you’d better take these emotional matters seriously. Strong feelings strongly influence people’s behavior.  What all this means is that your job gets a heck of a lot harder. It does not mean that you should make attitudinal issues such as morale, trust, and employee loyalty your top priorities. You shouldn’t.

For now you should focus on problems, not symptoms. Tangibles rather than intangibles. Hard results instead of soft issues. You could waste a lot of precious time and energy chasing the wrong rainbows.

These matters of morale, trust, loyalty, and such are best thought of as by-products. They come about, indirectly, as a natural consequence of good management and good results. You can pursue them all you want, but you’re basically just spinning your wheels unless you’re managing the place right and pulling off some victories.

So don’t make these intangibles during the integration the focal point of your efforts. It’s not enlightened management—it’s a big mistake. What’s your best bet for building trust? Simply be trustworthy in the way you have your group pursue productivity and profits. Want to help your people handle job stress? Eliminating "stressors" through effective change management helps far more than concentrating on “stress training.” Worried about morale, loyalty, and job commitment? Watch these matters take care of themselves when the team really starts cranking. Success is the magic potion that cures so many of the “soft” organizational ailments that accompany M&A.

The idea here is not to diminish the importance of these intangible factors. They are vital to the long-term success of your organization. The point is simply that they should not be the “stuff ” of your short-term objectives ...