Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Using Internal Social Media to Address Corporate M&A-Related Stress

By Dennis D. McDonald

Michael Auzenne’s comment on my post Incorporating Social Networking Systems with Mergers & Acquisition Planning struck a chord:

I was immediately drawn to the internal consequences of M&A activity, rather than the external. To what extent do Social Media assist in the integration of the two corporate cultures? Do Social Media, still largely based on the written word, do a better job of fostering *relationships* than email (which hasn’t proven itself terribly effective in helping to build relationships) in an organizational climate rampant with conflict and potential for misunderstandings?

I hadn’t thought of that perspective when I wrote my original post. I had been thinking primarily of how merging organizations need to manage external communities that overlap or if incompatible online social networking technologies have been used as part of the merging companies’ marketing and communications strategies.

Wouldn’t it be just as useful to consider how social media and networking might be used to support the merger of two organizations when significant internal organizational and process changes result from the merger?

The way I posed that last question makes it appear I am suggesting that social media and networking technologies can be used as “tools” to promote the integration of two corporate cultures.

While some of that might be possible, thinking of social media strictly as harmony-inducing “tools” run out of corporate HR to help calm employee fears would severely underestimate the role that social media might play.

Consider the situation where two companies are being merged, companies whose corporate cultures are very different and where everyone knows that “cost saving” layoffs will result. (If you’ve ever been through a corporate merger you’ll appreciate the fear-inducing uncertainty I am referring to.)

First, productivity will suffer as fear and uncertainty impact the performance of those in most fear of losing their jobs and management has to address the identification and retention of key staff. While there may be tried and true management techniques for reducing and managing such uncertainly, the ability for management to use internal blogs and other social media to respond immediately and honestly to questions, fears, and rumors might in some situations be a reasonable use of social media tools.

While I certainly believe that internal blogs and social media tools can be useful in controlling rumors and responding honestly to questions and fears, management should not be under the impression that use of such tools are in any way an adequate “control measure” for the inevitable human and organizational stress that will result from even a well handled merger. The reason is simple: employees will communicate among themselves with or without the involvement of management, as they always have. Employees will certainly turn to the use of their own social media networks, web pages, watercooler and carpool discussions, blogs, email, discussion groups, and other tools to communicate independently. Any thought that management might have of “controlling” such communications is a pipe dream.

That doesn’t mean that management shouldn’t engage with employees via available tools and techniques, but it should do so in an honest and straightforward fashion. Failure to do so will only make matters worse.

Do you know if instances where management has effectively used internal social media tools such as blogs to help manage communications during a corporate merger? If you would be willing to share your story with me, confidentially if you prefer, I would be very intersted in hearing from you. My contact information is here.



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