About company takeovers – and those taken over

Part 2: The integration phase

During the integration phase in the first months after a company takeover, the new employees can expect to experience all levels of emotion, from absolute nightmare to permanent elation. Much depends, of course, on how satisfied you were with the “old” company. If you have been complaining about decision-making inertia or even inability there for years, you may be pleased with the dynamism you encounter in the new company.

There are also pleasant surprises: For me, many years ago at my new (and first American) employer, it was a two-week English refresher course in Stratford-on-Avon and fascinating courses on German-American cultural differences. I retained an amazing amount of detail from the training and recently asked American female colleagues if it is still a breach of good manners in America not to wear stockings in the office…

Coming from a company where everything has been cut to the bone and the willingness to invest was zero, it can feel like Christmas and a birthday on the same day when two additional positions are approved under the new “regime” within a week.

Often it’s the little things that make a new start exhausting. In one case, it was the completely different communication processes in the new company that I had to get used to. As a coordinator at a technical helpdesk with employees on three continents, I was already used to a certain degree of transparency, but the multitude of group chats in which communication was continuous (with lots of smileys, thumbs up to the sky and GIFs!) was quite appalling at first. However, with time, many things become self-evident that you initially – to put it mildly – wondered about.

New terminology can also take some getting used to. Familiar things have a different name in the new company, and until you figure that out, you can talk at crossed purposes with your new colleagues to your heart’s content. (Do you remember the good old vocabulary book from your school days? You can put something like that to good use!)

The crucial factor in the transition phase is the integration and training plan. The first question is: “Is there one?” If there is not, new employees can expect a taxing few weeks. And if there is, the question is whether the concept has already been tested and is realistic or whether some manager has just decided that one week should do to familiarise them with eight different computer systems. If the plan is well thought-out and has possibly already proven itself in previous takeovers, the new employees are lucky. Otherwise, the only thing that helps is to keep your nerve.

In a takeover or merger there is so much to organise and consider: The “newcomers” have to be integrated into the management structures of the company and old and new colleagues need to get to know each other. Training for processes and programs must be developed or adapted and carried out, HR has to handle the change accordingly (because nothing boosts motivation like the punctual payment of salaries after the takeover has just taken place!), the new colleagues need new PCs and telephones etc. – and so on. It would almost be a miracle if something didn’t go wrong somewhere.

In my experience, one aspect is often neglected in the first few weeks, and that is an introduction to the informal rules of the company. These, of course, cannot be found in any process manual, and therefore some you only get to know when you break them. And that happens sooner than you think. And anyone who – like me from time to time – does or does not do something, expresses or asks what is “not done” for some reason in this company, may have to invest a lot of time and nerves in damage limitation. That’s why I’m a big fan of the mentor concept, which means that I have a person in the new company who is not identical with my manager and whom I can ask anything without restraint, and who is just as uninhibited in pointing out any faux pas to me. Not only have I had such mentors, but in the meantime I too have often been one. I can only recommend this arrangement.

And the show (whatever business it is) must go on during the integration phase, customers and their data have to be integrated and the acquired customers also need help to navigate around the new company.

It takes time to recognise and understand all the big and small differences in the corporate culture. And you should take this time before you pass judgement on the new company.

Coming back to the unromantic start of a relationship: in the meantime, I have made the experience that it can become love at second sight after all.

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO


Author: bbr

Hello, I am Beate Brinkman, the bbr.harlekin. I am editor and author for Harlekin.Blog e.V. and my “main job” is support coordinator in an international IT company. So far I have worked in German, Dutch, American and Indian companies and have acquired a great deal of experience of multicultural cooperation. I have been living in the Netherlands as a German for many years and have discovered that the cultural differences between Germans and Dutch alone could fill entire books. For professional and private reasons, I am particularly interested in multicultural (mis)understanding. Whether it’s about food, language, official conference calls or the organisation of funerals – when the cultures of several countries collide, things get lively. And that leads to sometimes unpleasant, often very funny, but always instructive situations.

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