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Office Politics during Integrations, Part 1: Decision Making 

 April 16, 2021

By  Steve Nunn

After an acquisition, the decisions made during the integration can have significant effects upon the future of the business – and the future of the employees within that business. Leadership must ensure that decisions made are based upon the merits of the situation under consideration – or jeopardize the future of the company.

Typical biased decisions made during an acquisition integration are often used to either protect or improve a position. Some examples are:

  • To maintain the pre-acquisition status quo
  • To grow a team
  • To protect oneself from embarrassment, such as not reversing a prior decision
  • For personal gain, usually to grow one’s influence within the business
  • To return a favor, or expect to receive reciprocal favor in the future

Integrations are turbulent times with emotions running high due to the substantial amount of change taking place. Some may see this as a time to get ahead in the office hierarchy by playing politics. 

The Cost  

When employees are aware of workplace political decisions, the lose commitment, which lowers engagement. Lower employee engagement causes productivity to drop, reducing the willingness to juggle their current role and carry out additional integration tasks at the same time.

In short, political decisions are likely to cause an integration to fail, causing financial loss and affecting careers.

Preventing political decision-making during integrations

Give clarity to decision making

Post-acquisition, employees are often concerned about their careers. Communication is the key, giving transparency into how a decision was made

Demand accountability from your management team

  • When mistakes are made, the people that caused the mistake must take ownership
  • Employees should be given praise when doing well, and responsibility when they do not

Reprimand political behaviors

Use your judgement in how to do this. The objective is to prevent this happening again, without alienating employees

Promote urgency and communication in decision making, over process

  • This is a special case for integrations. Usually process is preferred over urgency, as it demonstrates fairness and visibility. However, with integrations there is a huge number of tasks to be completed, and urgency will create a positive energy of forward motion
  • Urgency can lead to chaos, so it must be accompanied with unambiguous, clear communication and cross-functional coordination

Be available to listen and to help. Do not be isolated from employees

  • Being unavailable can lead to negative power dynamics
  • Visit the acquired office(s) and allocate time to listening and learning about what people do, how they work, what they are concerned about and what they are hoping for
  • Be supportive and follow up on your promises, to build a trusting environment
  • When politically charged situations arise, listen to people to understand what the issues are, and resolve them in a tactful manner

None of us are immune to bias. It is human nature to consider “What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM), when making a choice. We all have our own interests, personal goals, egos, aspirations, and agendas that influence decision-making. However, leadership and management must minimize these influences upon themselves and others to ensure the long-term future of a business.

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