Workplace cultures differ from organisation to organisation. To ease the stress of entering an unfamiliar work setting after a merger is to closely scrutinise the workplace culture and, if necessary, change your habits accordingly.

Even though you are delivering the same quality of work, behaving in the same way as you did in your previous job can possibly lead your co-workers and managers to perceive that you are inflexible to change and therefore not suitable to the new organisation. 

Merger and corporate culture

Cultural differences between the partners of a merger are one of the most common reasons for its failure. This may happen during pre-merger negotiations or during post-merger integration. Corporate culture refers to issues like objectives, personal interests and behaviours. Many problems in cooperation and teamwork are attributed to culture.

However, in a merger, “culture” involves more than making the people from both partners work together smoothly. The development of a new, shared culture is a critical factor for merger success. It is possible to manage this process in a structured way.

If a merger has placed you in a new or unfamiliar position, it is important to take a step back and understand your new setting. Entering the new company with a strategy will solidify your position and allow you to do your job with confidence.

With a merger, one company’s culture is more dominant than the other. Identify if the merger means a new strategic direction and if it will require different skill sets and an altered way to approach your job.

Lessons for all employees

Learn how information is exchanged, and adopt the same methods in your own approach. Each company communicates in different ways. For example, one company may have a stronger emphasis on face-to-face meetings or are heavy e-mailers.

If you are unsure, schedule meetings with key stakeholders to get an understanding of each other’s working habits and preferences.

Companies can also differ in the level of social interaction among co-workers, both during and after office hours. The grapevine and rumour mills may also run on overdrive, so it is advisable to be discreet until you gauge the level of openness among colleagues before you confide your opinions.

Get to know those you work with. While holding non-work-related conversations with colleagues may not be your preferred work style, understanding what motivates your co-workers can help you effectively do your job.

Showing a personal interest in their lives can break down any potential “roadblocks” in completing your work in the future.

Leaders too have individual styles and it is important to know how to work within these approaches.

Within any business, there will be varying degrees of management but there are only a few key decision-makers. Identify who they are and devise a strategy for getting visibility in front of them.

Look for obvious gaps in the leadership or middle management team as there may be possible opportunities for promotion.  

Gain a clear understanding of where you fit and the “hoops” you need to jump through to gain access to decision-makers. More importantly, try to build a relationship with the gatekeepers who manage them.

In addition, analyse the relationships that existing team members have — is it an environment where constructive debate is welcomed and practised or is it more a “top-down” environment?

Observe whether campaigns are worked in silos or if collaboration and sharing of ideas and support are at the fore. Providing constructive feedback can be either eagerly welcomed or despised. Find out whether your co-workers would be pleased or offended when you offer suggestions about their work.

Focusing on people

In the past, it was common for businesses to concentrate on the high-level financials of a merger, leaving the workers to learn and adapt to a new work culture. However, companies are beginning to focus more on the “people” aspect of change. Companies are starting to realise that its people are the only sustaining competitive advantage.

However, while most businesses are reasonably good at explaining the rationale for change, they are poor at explaining how the change will impact individuals.

If you are facing a merger, hopefully your company has the foresight to provide the support needed to drive organisational change and implement a new corporate strategy. If not, remember to analyse the corporate culture and adapt accordingly.