‘Office Politics’ occur where you have different people with varying values, beliefs and assumptions. Fundamentally it causes tension and strain in working relationships and means you don’t get the best out of individuals and therefore don’t optimise decision-making, collaboration and productivity. However, it can be positive, if managed and handled well, but often it’s negative.

When it turns negative, it can adversely affect the performance of a whole company; your people should be focusing their efforts on how to do their job well rather than how to out-manoeuvre their colleagues.

Mergers and acquisitions provide fertile ground for negative ‘Office Politics’ to develop and take hold.

Why mergers and acquisitions breed negative ‘Office Politics’

When two companies merge or one is acquired by another, two different company cultures are brought together. This means that:

  • There’s a whole new mix of differing values, beliefs and assumptions going on – often among people who have no prior relationship with each other to fall back on.
  • They may feel they have to compete with each other – potentially there will be a headcount cut, if not immediately then at some point, so this anxiety can cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t usually.
  • Uncertainty breeds ‘Office Politics’ as people often feel uneasy while processes and policies are in a state of flux, as well as a potential culture change – ‘how things are done around here’ – so they are trying to adapt to a new ‘normal’ while not always knowing what that ‘normal’ now is.

Aim for this: positive ‘Office Politics’

The good news is, negative ‘Office Politics’ doesn’t have to be inevitable when a merger or acquisition happens. It’s possible, with planning and work, to create positive ‘Office Politics’.

This brings many benefits, which include:

  • Employee retention is improved so expertise is retained and time and money saved.
  • Current clients are retained at a crucial time.
  • The ‘NewCo’ can focus on realising the benefits envisaged by the merger/acquisition.
  • A better working environment where individuals can fulfil their potential, which increases productivity.
  • Building trust, and trust, in turn, facilitates knowledge sharing, greater honesty, good decision-making and productivity.

Steps to take to minimise negative ‘Office Politics’ following a merger or acquisition

There are three key steps that you need to take to actively minimise negative ‘Office Politics’ and create a positive internal political environment:

  1. Accept that negative ‘Office Politics’ is going to happen following two companies joining together.
  2. Decide early on if you are going to tackle it or whether you’re prepared to accept and deal with the consequences if you don’t.
  3. Choose the right people (internally or externally) who will help you create and implement a strategy and tie this in time-wise with the merger/acquisition.

To conclude

Negative ‘Office Politics’ very rarely resolves itself, without intervention, unless many people leave the business and there can be a ‘clean slate’. However, this may take time and has other negative impacts including lost expertise and time and money to replace individuals. It also shows a lack of control from Senior Management, which can lead to loss of confidence and adversely affect business. Probably not the message you wish to give when merging two companies together.

About Joanna:

Joanna Gaudoin, of Inside Out Image, specialises in helping ambitious professionals and their organisations improve performance and achieve their goals.

She does this by helping them master and strategically use the business skills of Personal Impact and Relationship Management. These skills are required for professional success.

Before establishing Inside Out Image, Joanna worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates. She understands the business world and its challenges. She now helps organisations and individuals understand how to succeed in it.