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http://lea.sagepub.com Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’: Can Cultural Leadership Lessen the Casualties?
Michelle C. Bligh Leadership 2006; 2; 395 DOI: 10.1177/1742715006068937 The online version of this article can be found at: http://lea.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/4/395
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Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’: Can Cultural Leadership Lessen the Casualties?
Michelle C. Bligh, Claremont Graduate University, USA
Abstract Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity continues to rise, despite evidence that the majority of M&As fail to meet the ﬁnancial and synergistic expectations of shareholders or employees. Post-merger ‘cultural clashes’ are often blamed for disappointing M&A outcomes, yet little research exists to guide organizations through the difﬁcult process of cultural integration. In particular, the process of cultural leadership as an important inﬂuence on merging organizational cultures and subcultures has been only sporadically examined. Through an analysis of interviews with 42 post-merger employees, this study qualitatively explores the construct of cultural leadership (Trice & Beyer, 1991, 1993). The results advance the deﬁnition and measurement of cultural leadership, bringing it out of the theoretical realm to explore the key processes of creation, change, and integration that comprise effective post-merger cultural leadership. These ﬁndings have important implications for how organizations can anticipate post-merger cultural clashes and tailor leadership programs to address their underlying roots, ultimately enhancing merger success rates. Keywords culture; integration; leadership; merger/acquisition
When cultures merge, the problems encountered are as instant as whiplash. (Fisher, 1999: 12) Neither culture nor leadership, when one examines each closely, can really be understood by itself. (Schein, 1992: 12) It is commonly reported in both academic and practitioner journals that organizational culture is vital to the success or failure of mergers and acquisitions. According to a 1999 Hewitt Associates survey of 218 major US organizations, integrating corporate cultures was cited as the top challenge for 69 per cent of surveyed companies (Troiano, 1999). Five years later, De Camara and Renjen (2004) asserted that merger activity would continue to gain momentum in 2004 and integration will remain a ‘hot topic’ with senior executives. A wide variety of issues, including company identity, communication difﬁculties, human resource problems, ego
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clashes, and inter-group conﬂicts are often grouped under the umbrella term of ‘cultural differences’. As a result, culture is often made the scapegoat for the failure of mergers and acquisitions that, if not for culture, might otherwise have been profitable or even synergistic. According to Love and Gibson (1999: 51), ‘to an escalating degree, culture clashes are drawing the heat for mergers and acquisitions that do not work out’. The purpose of this study is to more systematically look at the role of cultural issues in a post-merger situation; speciﬁcally, whether cultural leadership can help facilitate cultural integration, ultimately leading to more successful post-merger outcomes. Despite evidence that mergers frequently end in failure, M&A activity has been steadily increasing. A single day in October 2003 witnessed four deals valued at more than US$70 billion, the largest wave of activity since the 1990s bull market (De Camara & Renjen, 2004). This continual increase in merger activity seems contradictory to reports that approximately 50 to 80 per cent of all mergers fail to meet expectations (Honoré & Maheia, 2003; Mallette et al., 2003; McCann & Gilkey, 1988; Mottola et al., 1997; Tetenbaum, 1999). Despite seemingly overwhelming evidence that mergers and acquisitions have extremely high failure rates, companies continue to see mergers as an irresistible way to cut costs and improve efﬁciency (Tetenbaum, 1999). M&As can be a signiﬁcant source of trauma for both employees and managers, and often result in lowered trust, commitment, satisfaction, and productivity, and increased absenteeism, turnover, and attitudinal problems (e.g., Buono et al., 1985; Larsson & Lubatkin, 2001; Nahavandi & Malekzedah, 1988; Nikandrou et al., 2000; Schweiger & Denisi, 1991; Schweiger & Walsh, 1990). These human resource difﬁculties may add substantial costs to the integration process and hinder the ability of the organization to achieve the desired synergistic beneﬁts of merging (Blake & Mouton, 1985; Haunschild et al., 1994; Weber, 1996). One conceptual approach to understanding the unique dynamics of a merger is to view the process as an attempt to combine organizations and departments with often very different cultural systems. As Martin (2002) points out, when organizations are examined from a cultural viewpoint, ‘attention is drawn to aspects of organizational life that historically have often been ignored or understudied’ (p. 2). A vast array of research on organizational culture suggests that culture is a powerful determinant of both individual and group behavior, and pervades nearly every aspect of organizational life (for reviews, see Allaire & Firsirotu, 1984; Martin, 1992, 2002; Reichers & Schneider, 1990; Rousseau, 1990). Buono et al. (1985) argue that the full potency of organizational culture is evidenced during a merger and acquisition, which creates a series of cultural collisions that ripple through the organization and may disrupt its entire workings. Troiano (1999) cites cultural integration as one of the most vital and difﬁcult challenges after a merger. Dutton et al. (1994) point out that distinctive organizational attributes often remain hidden to employees until the organization’s collective identity is challenged (see also Albert & Whetten, 1985; Fiol, 1991). A merger invariably threatens this collective identity, indicating that cultural issues may be critical, yet understudied, determinants of merger successes and failures. Despite the continual popularity of mergers and acquisitions and an incipient recognition that cultural issues may play a vital role in determining M&A outcomes,
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In particular.sagepub. and embody cultural manifestations. 1986: 104). changed. maintaining. the role of leadership as an important inﬂuence on merging organizational cultures and subcultures has been only sporadically examined (see Hunt. Finally. In addition. the article will review theoretical and empirical work that addresses the relationship between culture and leadership. . in which cultural transformations may be mistakenly attributed solely to top-level leaders and their actions (Meindl et al. All rights reserved. This study seeks to establish some middle ground between these two perspectives through empirically examining the role of leadership in facilitating post-merger cultural changes. 2005a). 1991. the review will turn to the concept of cultural leadership (Trice & Beyer. In contrast.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh few speciﬁc guidelines exist to assist organizations in managing this process. treatments of cultural change often reﬂect a ‘romance of leadership’. organizational culture scholars have critiqued what they see as the over-emphasis of leadership in both creating and sustaining values. pointing out some potential shortcomings of current conceptualizations. Sergiovanni & Corbally. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. 2002: 55–61 for an overview of the variety of deﬁnitions of culture in the literature and the dimensions on which they primarily differ). First. On one side. and changing cultural values. 1985). The culture literature thus suggests that ‘by the nature of its stability. 1991) and its hypothesized role in facilitating post-merger integration through leadership processes that create. Leadership and culture change Although culture has been deﬁned in many different ways (see Martin. many scholars have critiqued these ‘cultural magicians’ (Ott. empirical ﬁndings will be presented that speciﬁcally examine how employees themselves conceptualize cultural leadership through semi-structured interviews with 42 employees in a post-merger organization. and inherently 397 Downloaded from http://lea. 1993). or fail to take into account the important role of followers’ sensitivity to the cultural/symbolic messages of leaders (Collinson. Trice & Beyer. While previous research has suggested that culture may play an important (albeit largely undetermined) role in mergers and acquisitions. Schein. Linstead & GraftonSmall. In addition. historically based. 1985. In reaction to early conceptions of culture that treated it as a tool for managerial manipulation. The recent emphasis on charismatic and transformational leadership has contributed to the notion that cultural change emanates from the highest level of the organization. Building on this previous work. is difﬁcult to change’ (Langan-Fox & Tan. and is synonymous with truly amazing leaders with almost clairvoyant visions. change.. integrate. once established. 1992). 1996: 277). and manipulated from the top down in ways which meet the managerial needs for cost effectiveness and productivity gains’ (Turner. 1984. organizational culture. symbolic. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the majority of these deﬁnitions emphasize the collectively shared. other scholars have questioned whether cultural management is even possible (Alvesson. the leadership literature has for the most part over-emphasized the role of ‘top-down’ leadership in single-handedly creating. 1989) who ‘sell the belief that corporate culture can be controlled. 1990. emphasizing that leaders and managers cannot unilaterally impose a desired culture on their organizations. the current research empirically examines what employees interpret as successful cultural leadership at multiple levels of the organization in the wake of a merger. emotionally charged.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.
According to Davis (1984: 1). In addition. 1991: 425) of his or her subordinates. 1995. 1996. 1993. jargon. which.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. although not necessarily an explicit one. Martin (2002) suggests that an organization’s culture can be interpreted through a wide variety of cultural manifestations. . Despite debates about epistemology. researchers have long suggested that cultural frameworks provide generalized guidelines or prescriptions for the way individuals within the group should interpret organizational events. Nahavandi & Malekzadeh. including rituals. pointing out that a leader’s effectiveness is likely to be inﬂuenced ‘by the extent to which a leader can create words that explain and thereby give order to collective experiences’ (p. 1988. Schein argues that the process of embedding a culture is a ‘teaching’ process. Schein. Deal & Kennedy. 1988). 2002 for a full discussion of these debates). 1983). 1984.. commitments. stories. 1986. and levels and manifestations of the concept (see Martin. Rousseau. 1990). As the long and somewhat convoluted history of culture in organizational research has been reviewed elsewhere (see Barley et al. that brought to the forefront and more thoroughly developed the relationship between leadership and organizational culture. Other scholars expanded this leader-centered approach beyond the CEO level. this article will focus more narrowly on the relationship between organizational culture and leadership. Denison & Mishra. these individuals have the ability to encourage employees to try particular methods. Other scholars have pointed out that organizational culture does not necessarily imply a uniformity of values: culture may be conceptualized as a ‘common frame of reference or shared recognition of relevant issues’ (Feldman. Characterized as a historically grounded bundle of deeply shared values and beliefs. Denison. motives. he or she is the one clearly responsible for shaping the beliefs. to involve middle. 1985).sagepub. and informal norms and practices. Denison. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. culture continues to be cited as an important determinant of the success or failure of organizational innovation. humor. Articles such as Sathe’s (1983) ‘Implications of Corporate Culture: A Manager’s Guide to Action’ provide practical advice to managers about 398 Downloaded from http://lea.g. methodology. however. Bennis (1986) similarly argues that ‘the single most important determinant of corporate culture is the behavior of the chief executive ofﬁcer . Given the collective. culture is likely to be ‘characterized more by continuity than by change’ (Trice & Beyer. it is not surprising that post-merger cultural integration can seem like an insurmountable task. formal structures and policies. if effective. become embedded into the organization as part of its culture. Researchers who focus on shared values as an integral part of culture have often attempted to link these values to measurable performance outcomes (e. . It was Schein’s (1983) theoretical work. restructuring.Leadership 2(4) Articles fuzzy characteristics of culture (Trice & Beyer. 1993). and provide them with the rules for behavior in their organization’. and perform work-related tasks (Mohan. 578). interact with other members of the group. Detert et al. Barney. 1982. physical arrangements. change implementation. Wilkins & Ouchi. 1991: 154) that members may disagree about or actively contest.and upper-level managers in the creation and transmission of organizational culture.g. obscure. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications.. 2000. and predispositions’ (cited in Morley & Shockley-Zalabak. .. All rights reserved. and ultimately performance (e. Pettigrew’s (1979) study was one of the ﬁrst to explicitly link leadership and the burgeoning concept of organizational culture. 1991: 149). and inherently conservative nature of organizational culture. culture is ‘the pattern of shared beliefs and values that give members of an institution meaning. As founders or leaders.
a situation posited to be conducive to founder inﬂuence. 1985. Martin et al. The authors’ in-depth study was conducted in a relatively new organization.. This type of leadership is 399 Downloaded from http://lea.g.. Pettigrew. 1985). the authors conclude that ‘in accord with the leader-centered integration paradigm.. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Jermier. Cultural leadership Trice and Beyer’s (1991. precisely because they neglect to take existing cultures into consideration and the difﬁculties inherent in changing them. Cultural leadership is formally deﬁned as the process through which leadership inﬂuences cultural ideologies and expressive behaviors. Given that top-down cultural change interventions have a poor record of success. 2006.. follower identities. Their results. 1991. This evidence suggests that a theoretically informed model of leadership and culture change is necessary to forge a middle ground between theories of imposed cultural integration on one hand and stubbornly persistent cultural frameworks that strongly resist modiﬁcations on the other hand. and underscore the fact that leader behavior is seriously constrained by contextual factors. ‘change that imposes “foreign” assumptions. For the most part. All rights reserved. and the inﬂuence of the developing culture itself (see Collinson. the issue of how leadership affects culture has received only scattered attention (see Martin et al. particularly if these efforts are primarily conceptualized and implemented at the top levels of the organization (e. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. 123). While most scholars and practitioners generally recognize that leadership does have an impact on organizational culture (with varying levels of signiﬁcance). Schein. it is clear that an alternate model for leading post-merger cultural integration is needed. salience of cultural values. In contrast.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. Siehl. Jermier et al.sagepub.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh the concept of organizational culture.’s (1985: 99) study warns scholars and practitioners against buying into the ‘seductive promise’ that a founder can create a culture that reﬂects his or her own values. 1979. Reichers and Schneider’s (1990) review concludes that most top-down interventions and strategies for making organizations more successful are doomed to failure. 2005b. yet only within the limits of powerful constraints such as organizational life cycle. . indicate that many of the concerns and interpretations of the founder were not shared by other members of the organization. This study helps qualify ‘top-down’ culture management. beliefs. a number of empirical studies have documented the failure of cultural management efforts to produce any lasting changes. Martin et al. 1985). Mohan (1993: 84) similarly concludes. demonstrating that leaders and founders can importantly inﬂuence organizational culture.. Despite these caveats. and vision for the future. or values on a community without considering or even building on strongly held prior conceptualizations will not succeed’. 1991. exploring the ways in which culture might affect an organization and suggesting managerial tips for how to effectively implement changes. leader–follower distance. the founder’s choice among this limited set of options made a dramatic difference in how people interpreted the meaning of events’ (p. 1985. Martin et al. however. norms. 1985). In a similar vein. 1993) concept of cultural leadership describes the role that leaders at all levels of the organization can play in inﬂuencing cultural change. 1985. these studies emphasize the importance of the leadership role for the creation and maintenance of organizational culture. Siehl.
embodies.sagepub. arguing that the two can exist simultaneously or independently. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.Leadership 2(4) Articles distinguished from instrumental leadership. changes. . 1999). making it a more prevalent and ﬂuid form of leadership that is difﬁcult to study (see also Beyer & Browning. or incremental changes in structures and strategies Afﬁrms and celebrates existing cultural ideologies and values Continues existing traditions Continuity is made appealing and vital Perceived situation Vision and mission Follower attributions I I I Performance Leader behaviors I I I I I I I I I I I I I Administrative actions I Use of cultural forms I I Use of tradition Persistence over time I I I I 400 Downloaded from http://lea. All rights reserved. conﬁdence in followers Motivates New structures and strategies. 150). they point out that cultural leadership may be particularly likely to occur outside of formal leadership roles and independent of an organization’s ofﬁcial hierarchy. which concerns how leaders inﬂuence the accomplishment of work in organizations. or integrates cultural elements. Trice and Beyer (1993) specify a number of leader behaviors and characteristics that facilitate cultural innovation versus cultural maintenance (see Table 1). In addition. or radical changes in structures and strategies Communicates new cultural ideologies and values Establishes new traditions Change is institutionalized I I I I I I I I Maintenance Conﬁdence in group Facilitator Strong convictions Catalyst Persuasive No crisis or manageable one Conservative ideology That leader represents existing values that were successful in the past Continuation of success Effective role model Creates impression of success and competence Articulates ideology Communicates high expectations. In addition. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. The authors suggest that Table 1 Trice and Beyer’s (1993) Elements of cultural leadership Elements of cultural leadership Personal qualities I I I I I Innovation Self-conﬁdence Dominant personality Strong convictions Evangelist Dramatic and expressive Crisis Radical ideology That leader has extraordinary qualities needed to deal with crisis Repeated success in managing crisis Effective role model Creates impression of success and competence Articulates ideology Communicates high expectations. conﬁdence in followers Motivates Refurbishes and strengthens existing structures and strategies. they further delineate four variants of cultural leadership: leadership that creates. The authors conceptualize these two types of leadership (cultural and instrumental) on different continua. According to Trice and Beyer (1991). a cultural approach to leadership goes beyond an instrumental approach to ‘illuminate the other side of leadership – how leaders inﬂuence the understandings and networks of meanings that others hold and express through their actions’ (p.
1993). which is not the case in all types of M&As. weakening or replacing old cultural elements.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. the organization had to have recently undergone a merger. it was clear that the system was suffering from identity 401 Downloaded from http://lea. Are there identiﬁable variants of cultural leadership as Trice and Beyer (1993) theorized? 3.000 employees in four large hospitals and seven smaller facilities. Trice and Beyer leave the precise mechanisms through which leaders solve these core problems open to further research. effective post-merger cultural integration may necessarily involve all four variants of cultural leadership. the organization chosen was a large Northeastern healthcare system that went through a full-scale merger involving over 12. facilitate the integration of both existing and new values into the merging culture (leadership that integrates). . Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. modify.1 Through conversations with both employees and managers. As a result. while at the same time supporting and reinforcing new cultural values (leadership that embodies) (Trice & Beyer. in the wake of a merger cultural leaders may need to both embody the core values of the existing culture (maintenance). little attention has been paid to leadership contexts in which several or all of these problems must be faced simultaneously. as leaders seek to establish new cultural elements (leadership that creates). First. All rights reserved.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh these four types of leadership arise in response to different core organizational problems. post-merger leaders may simultaneously and/or sequentially face challenges attracting followers and uniting them. and reconciling the diverse interests of subcultures. Does cultural leadership entail processes of both innovation and maintenance in the post-merger environment? Method Site selection Two criteria were essential in choosing a research location for this study. systems. keeping the existing culture vital. In other words. However. For example. current theoretical work falls short of explicating the process whereby leadership may be more or less effective in facilitating cultural change and integration. and reconciling the diverse interests of subcultures. weakening or replacing old cultural elements. In other words. keeping the existing culture vital. modify some existing cultural values (leadership that changes). 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. Second. the organization had to place a high level of emphasis on completely merging the cultures. and processes of each of the members of the new system. What leader behaviors constitute cultural leadership? 2. while at the same time carrying forward new and/or modiﬁed cultural elements (innovation). as leaders help followers negotiate. Given these conditions.sagepub. This study thus makes the assumption that cultural integration in the post-merger organization is the desired goal. In addition. and manage cultural similarities and differences in the post-merger environment. The above review suggests that leadership in a newly merged organization may entail a relatively complex interplay of both maintenance and innovation. The current study will empirically examine postmerger cultural leadership in an attempt to address the following research questions: 1. which include attracting followers and uniting them.
inter-organizational competition. three of the top executives of the organization were interviewed in order to incorporate senior management’s perspective. a total of 42 interviews were completed over a four-month period. 1998). Within the larger organization. deviant. cultural leadership was deﬁned by respondents’ subjective perceptions about the type of leadership that is perceived to inﬂuence successful post-merger integration. Sample A stratiﬁed probabilistic sample of employees was chosen to interview. and three former employees. in which the aim is to ‘provide a stimulus to respondents so that they are forced to make an interpretation that is based on their cultural framework rather than on that of the researcher’ (p. the OB/GYN consolidation process had been underway for 18 months. In sum. and all were tape-recorded. at different stages of a similar process.. Thus. In addition. while the Cardiac consolidation had been underway for just under six months.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. the ﬁrst two service lines slated for integration (Cardiac and Obstetrics/Gynecology. or negative information and enhance the validity of the ﬁndings (Murphy et al. 1984). 303). Interviewees were asked to 402 Downloaded from http://lea. cultural leadership was not deﬁned a priori according to the theoretical components proposed by Trice and Beyer (1991. and document analyses conducted over a one-year period. The choice of interviews is appropriate given the current focus on the process of cultural leadership as perceived by employees themselves. This methodology incorporates an ‘issuefocused investigation’. Interviews ranged in length from one to two hours. 23 employees. . This within-case sampling is an important strategy to achieve content validity in qualitative research (Goodwin & Goodwin. Both consolidations involved the physical and cultural combination of well-established units that had traditionally been strong competitors throughout their histories. increasing the likelihood that cultural clashes and leadership issues would be particularly salient. taking into account previous and current organizational afﬁliations. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub. At the time of data collection. including all of the managers from both consolidations. or OB/GYN) were chosen for the current study. three senior managers. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. three employees who were no longer employed by the organization were interviewed in order to maximize the possibility of ﬁnding disconﬁrming. Rather. Comparing and contrasting both consolidations provided an opportunity to examine the same issues both within and across two very distinct consolidations. All rights reserved. The ﬁnal sample included 13 managers. Thus.Leadership 2(4) Articles problems. This purposeful sampling design provided a number of advantages. yet embedded within the same overall organizational context. 1993). as well as a random sample of employees under each manager. In addition. including facilitating the cross-fertilization of ideas across consolidations as well as increasing the validity and generalizability of ﬁndings. these consolidations represented two distinct efforts to merge geographically and culturally diverse departments. The interviewing component of the study incorporated a ‘mid-range’ methodology developed by Sackmann (1991). Data collection Data collection consisted of semi-structured one-on-one interviews. and markedly low morale in the wake of the merger. observations.
as well as some initial inductive codes that developed from themes that emerged in the initial stages of data collection. and a summary of the elements is listed in Table 2. cross-method 403 Downloaded from http://lea. After minor modiﬁcations to the coding scheme. two additional coders were trained to use the coding scheme and subsequently coded all of the interview data independently. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the network capabilities of ATLAS/ti were utilized to help group the categories obtained in the ﬁrst level of coding into analytic units and higher-order concepts and categories. as well as how the consolidation process might have been improved. a code-based theory-building software package. while others emerged from the data themselves. or pattern-level coding. 1993) previous theoretical work. consolidation work plans. in that they often reﬂect what respondents indicated should or could have ideally happened rather than what was actually experienced in the wake of the merger. some of the elements were predicted by Trice and Beyer’s (1991. As follow-ups. however. employees were asked to comment on the effectiveness of speciﬁc forms of leadership identiﬁed. All rights reserved. Some of these elements were based on actual experiences and observations. A detailed discussion of each theme following Trice and Beyer’s framework of the variants of cultural leadership follows.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. The data-analysis process therefore remained partially inductive throughout these phases of initial and pattern-level coding. In addition. and what types of guidance they had received during the process. In presenting the results. Following Miles and Huberman (1984). Additional data sources In addition to interview and observational techniques. To validate the ﬁnal coding scheme and establish inter-rater reliability. others were more speculative. organizational charts. and all discrepancies in coding were reconciled prior to drawing ﬁnal conclusions. The ﬁrst stage involved a list of codes generated a priori from Trice and Beyer’s (1993) theoretical components of cultural leadership. In the second stage of coding. and agendas and notes from departmental meetings and organizational forums were utilized as other sources of information. interrater reliability was satisfactory at . In addition.sagepub. This information was used to cross-validate the interview data. I have provided highlights from the empirical data in the words of respondents themselves. . coding of the data took place in two primary stages. These suggestions should be interpreted with caution. Data analysis Interviews were transcribed and coded using ATLAS/ti.91. These analytic units were then used to examine linkages and interrelationships among concepts. in addition to some more interpretive and prescriptive suggestions for developing effective cultural leadership based on data from the current case.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh comment on their experience with the consolidation process. Results Respondents spoke often and at length about the types of leadership or guidance they perceived to be most effective in bringing together multiple work sites and departments with very different cultures.
we can’t act like it doesn’t exist. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. OK. .Leadership 2(4) Articles Table 2 Variants of cultural leadership in a post-merger context Cultural innovation Leadership that creates Core organizational problem: To attract followers and unite them Core post-merger problem: Letting go of the old to prepare for the new I Recognizes historical cultural differences I Cultural maintenance Leadership that integrates Core organizational problem: To reconcile diverse interests of subcultures Core post-merger problem: Reconciling differences between the old and the new I Actively team builds across previous site memberships I Utilizes employee input into post-merger changes I Communicates informally about cultural differences Leadership that embodies Core organizational problem: To keep existing culture vital Core post-merger problem: Establishing and afﬁrming new cultural elements Leadership that changes Core organizational problem: To weaken and replace elements of the old culture Core post-merger problem: Weakening and replacing the old to move forward I Articulates an ideology for change I Provides outlets for loss and renewal Fosters realistic expectations of both challenges and opportunities I I Creates ongoing momentum for the change process Utilizes the symbolism of the mundane Role models a commitment to the change process I evidence for each theme along with sample quotes from the respondents is located in the Appendix. So that they know what someone is coming into and what someone is coming from in moving forward’. Another employee reﬂected.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. ‘I think a group of managers from each site should meet together and compare how things are run at each place.sagepub. understand. 404 Downloaded from http://lea. and utilize cultural differences at every step of a merger or consolidation in order to elicit employee buy-in. One nurse looking back on the OB/GYN consolidation reﬂected. Letting go of the old to prepare for the new Leadership that creates: recognizing historical cultural differences Many respondents reported that a successful post-merger leader needs to be able to explicitly recognize. According to one manager: ‘I think because we at Universal know the cultures. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. All rights reserved. People hate coming to the Colonial. then we have to respond to that. why? And then deal with it from there’.
All rights reserved. cultural leaders might be advised early in the process to make a concerted effort to understand the histories and uniqueness of the groups involved. drawing on different perspectives and ways of doing things in order to come up with new cultural meanings that provide adequate room for variation in their interpretation. We weren’t informed of what to expect. We are all caregivers. And you would be surprised when it’s their responsibility. there’s all these little nuances for each place. the executive VP can’t do that. They had completely different equipment. People have a hard time not agreeing what’s best for the patient. and keep that knowledge at the forefront of any new initiatives. Based on this feedback. but how the table is set up. For example. The CEO can’t do that. Another employee similarly emphasized the importance of recognizing existing cultural contexts before moving forward. If I get into conﬂict. when they know this service rises or falls based on what they do. their monitors were much newer. She recommended: Maybe having some direct meetings and saying here is the history of the Cardiac team at State. And we want to provide the kind of environment that we would bring our families to. A manager involved in the OB/GYN consolidation similarly reﬂected. just small things add up to bigger things. the process of getting the patient into the room. and back track. how the room is set up. That’s the only thing that will save me. Anything you do. then we’ll go back to what’s best for the patient and then back up from there. the results. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. We really didn’t know what it was like anyway. the whole protocol is different. Where I think some of the problem came in is that we forgot the history. we can do that.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh If you do an open heart surgery. but it’s really not. In other words. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. The basic procedure may be the same. . Trying to understand some of what has happened and then developing a plan that we can all get behind. ‘really it comes down to what’s best for the patient. And we’re the only ones that can do that. Effective cultural leaders may more effectively recognize and understand the inevitability of cultural variation. different approaches to how a department works together to perform a given task can be reconciled by appealing to how a new 405 Downloaded from http://lea. and in spite of them. And we are in this business because we take care of patients. By then it’s too late. Because it’s a daily thing. As one manager put it. and to learn those is another kind of a stumbling block. it’s a very powerful incentive for people. nothing. ongoing thing. it’s an all-day long. now as the Cardiac Service Line what is your vision in taking that and then trying to go forward with it. it should be the same whether you did it in New York or Texas. And you might not even realize all of the differences until you get into the procedure. that’s usually a place we can agree on.’ Another manager similarly reﬂected.sagepub. effective cultural leaders recognize how existing cultural differences can be reconciled under a broader umbrella of cultural unity. We didn’t know there were those kinds of differences. here is how it’s evolved. Managers and employees that recognized existing cultural variation were more easily able to draw on shared cultural values in the midst of cultural change as well. here is where we are at. If we really disagree.
Both managers and employees emphasized the importance of having a friend or manager available to talk about feelings and frustrations. Overall. In the absence of a cultural leader who recognizes and attempts to understand this emotional realm. it’s not that different. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. I just get sick to my stomach to think about if I ever had to go back there’. or to just have someone to listen. As one manager put it.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. Often they built networks of support with coworkers and peers to address the emotional trauma of consolidation. Cultural leadership involves recognizing and anticipating this dissent and conﬂict. Another manager similarly emphasized the importance of caring and empathy in interacting with employees throughout a consolidation: ‘I always tried to put myself in their position and see how this would feel if it was me and it helped me to ﬁgure out the right way to do it. Employees recounted numerous stories of trauma and emotional upheaval throughout the consolidation process. . and then overcoming it through appealing to a shared overarching value such as patient care. Crucial to this process is a focus on integrating best practices to reach a goal that everyone can agree upon. In addition. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub. Ybema (1997: 181) argues that in organizational cultures. Other managers viewed employees’ emotional distress as an opportunity to motivate them forward with a sense of renewal. In addition to recognizing and providing an outlet for the emotional labor employees often experienced. ‘consensus and dissent and harmony and conﬂict do not exist separately but rather occur simultaneously or successively’. this evidence suggests that recognizing and utilizing the dual cultural forces of unity and multiplicity can be a powerful tool in facilitating cultural integration. But when you step back. Until I moved to that place. Focus on 406 Downloaded from http://lea. the look in their eyes’. and who would recognize that it was traumatic to lose their positions or see a friend and coworker of 20 years lose his or her position. employees expressed a need for managers and peers who would be available to listen in an objective way to concerns. ‘you have to know what they are feeling. ‘I worked at my site for 14 years and never cried on my way home from work. there will be head-butting. regardless of where those practices came from. Many employees spoke of the need to cry. As one nurse who transferred put it. As one manager put it. to vent their emotions. the look on their faces. efforts to integrate employees may unleash emotional outbursts and resistance that might otherwise be avoided. several managers suggested that a critical post-merger task is to challenge employees to utilize their anger and fear constructively: There will always be a degree of anger if employees are displaced and told to go somewhere else. Leadership that creates: providing outlets for loss and renewal A prevalent theme that emerged from the data was the intense emotionality of the consolidation experience. The heart and soul of this is to challenge this anger. It’s just when you get into turfdom and stuff it’s very hard. and the need for cultural leaders to address this tense and uncomfortable aspect of post-merger reality. you have to see their expressions. And that didn’t fail me. Ever.Leadership 2(4) Articles approach combines the best elements to provide better patient care. ‘There might be a culture clash when they come over. it worked very well’. things are very emotional. it’s very hard to remember that we are all here to provide good patient care’. All rights reserved.
they know that. And it takes a commitment’.sagepub. Because it’s a major change for people. on the other hand. respondents overwhelmingly spoke of the importance of creating moderate. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Focus on the positives.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. in the current case often resulted in resentment.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh the care of patients. it may also involve challenging employees to channel those emotions into a renewed focus on making their work situation better for themselves. but not overly high. I mean if you work in a place for 20 years they are not going to buy that it’s no big deal to change’. coupled with consistent messages about its likelihood of success. According to one manager: ‘I think the key thing is attitude. It really does. providing state-of-the-art care. She reﬂected on how she tried to mobilize her employees to view the upcoming consolidation as a difﬁcult challenge. as they would be perceived as simply ‘touting the company line’ and not having the best interest of all employees in mind. and their patients. All rights reserved. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. . and lowered morale as employees perceived the actuality of the experience as being much different from the picture painted to them by management. This new state-of-the-art care we can provide. Inherent in this notion of creating realistic expectations for employees was the fear that employees would be skeptical and distrustful of leaders who glossed over the difﬁculties of consolidation. realistic expectations in people involved in an upcoming consolidation. It’s not. distrust. Cultural leadership may thus involve not only recognizing and understanding the emotional experience of employees undergoing a consolidation and providing outlets for their sense of loss. Leadership that creates: fostering realistic expectations of both challenges and opportunities Another prevalent theme across interviews was an emphasis on the importance of creating moderate. Another manager also reﬂected what she saw as the importance of preparing employees for the difﬁculties inherent in a cultural integration of this magnitude: ‘I think you have to be a cheerleader in saying it’s going to work. we’re all in this together. Does it take a lot of work? Yes. Does it take lot of energy? Yes. Although Trice and Beyer (1993) theorized that cultural leaders would create high expectations and conﬁdence in the ultimate success of the cultural change. but one that could be overcome with hard work and dedication to create a better work environment and increase patient satisfaction. on the ability to open up new job opportunities. but I also think you don’t prepare them well if you tell them that it’s going to go smoothly. it’s going to work. Constructively look at how to structure that anger and focus on making it not personal. their coworkers. And it’s not going to be easy. This evidence suggests that giving employees realistic expectations about the difﬁculties inherent in consolidation. As one employee involved in the OB/GYN 407 Downloaded from http://lea. it’s not going to work. and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that and I think staff can see through that. Both managers and employees felt that everyone involved needs to be aware that the process is likely to be challenging at best and crisis-provoking at worst. expectations in preparing employees for upcoming changes. to be honest with you. If you are all set in your mind that it’s not going to work. may be most effective in mobilizing employees to view the consolidation as a challenge that can ultimately be met. High expectations.
Several managers mentioned that cultural leaders should be able to articulate the ideology for change in a way that encourages employees to see how the change will beneﬁt both the organization and the employees themselves: ‘I think that makes a difference. some people will resist it’. you’re saving money for all of us’. . Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. All rights reserved. As one employee commented. In addition. One senior manager put it this way: ‘If people don’t understand why they are doing something. the underlying ideology for why a change of this magnitude was necessary. this evidence suggests that effective cultural leadership may involve being able to articulate a clear ideology for why change is necessary. We were being left to fester’. One nurse spoke at length of the pain her and her coworkers experienced as a lack of direction resulted in uncertainty and proliﬁc rumors surrounding the upcoming consolidation. 408 Downloaded from http://lea. articulating an ideology may not always be enough. Taken together. maybe I wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed’. they aren’t going to do it. in fact. what has Universal done for me?’ In other words. Weakening or replacing old cultural elements to move forward Leadership that changes: articulating an ideology for change Many respondents spoke of the importance of clearly articulating the rationale for the consolidation. . if they are really able to see the big picture and understand that when you are saving money for the organization. She reported not understanding why changes were being made. Another employee put it similarly: ‘You don’t phrase it as Universal needs you for this. if they had been truthful . If they had been upfront. or what the future might hold as rumors dragged on for months that her department would be closing: ‘In medicine. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. Ideally. a clean cut is a lot easier to heal than one that is jagged and left to fester. You’ll get. ‘It doesn’t seem like we are all pulling the rope in the same direction’. And that’s basically what was happening. ‘I was wholly unprepared for what consolidation actually meant.sagepub. Cultural leaders may need to articulate an ideology in a way that illustrates to employees that it is not a corporate ideology. respondents spoke of this ideology as providing a guidepost or framework for how post-consolidation culture differences could be resolved. Many employees reported that a compelling ideology or rationale for change was missing prior to both service-line consolidations. . Articulation of a clear ideology was often discussed as a mechanism for how broad cultural changes that were taking place could be interpreted and translated by employees in various stages and areas of consolidation.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.Leadership 2(4) Articles consolidation put it. it is a shared ideology that employees can capitalize on to create a better culture and better employee and patient or customer outcomes. and drawing on that ideology as a framework or guide for how to make the difﬁcult decisions that arise during a merger or consolidation. they aren’t going to participate. it likely involves helping other employees to see the ideology as a shared plan that they can use to make sense of the difﬁcult transitions and decisions they will be forced to make.
. Morale from the day it starts. Everyone isn’t motivated to be a center of excellence. An integral part of keeping the process moving forward in a timely fashion is the symbolic message this sends to employees. Implicit in this characterization is the idea that ideally. Think of how great this will be for our patients. we’ve got to merge.sagepub. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. I take my stars and my stars help drive a lot of things. oh yeah. to be able to see the positives and look for the potential in the situation rather than the bad things that could happen. that’s the way it is. essentially the biggest issue is morale. ‘I’ve worked here long enough to know that change doesn’t happen quickly in this organization. without necessarily entailing the attention or direct participation of the cultural leader. and the people that just want to do the bare minimum will do it. And they’ll feel good about their day. they haven’t fostered it to make it better. All rights reserved. the longer integration takes.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh Leadership that changes: creating ongoing momentum for the change process Employees also expressed the desire for cultural leaders who could create an impetus or drive for change that goes beyond mere compliance. . And to be able to present it to staff in that light. cultural leaders create momentum that continues to grow on its own. Many managers expressed frustration that creating momentum for change felt like a constant battle: ‘If I hadn’t been pushing. but seeing it in a positive light . and felt that there was a leadership void in this respect: ‘Not that they aren’t good managers. Another employee talked about the lack of this momentum for change in the OB/GYN consolidation. They haven’t managed the change. That we have the best of the best all in one place and to have it streamlined so they get the best services that there are’. Another manager spoke of her attempt to create momentum for change by continuously referring back to the beneﬁts the upcoming changes would have for patient care: ‘I tell them. Any delays or lulls in the momentum of the change process breed doubt about the viability of the integration effort and allow employees to continue to cling to their existing values and beliefs. they haven’t grown it’. The bottom line is that you have to start making some changes and you have to make them quickly’. Not just saying. the more your patient care and employee morale suffers’. Some people just put in their eight hours. I don’t think it does in any organization. pushing continuously it wouldn’t have happened. I had to keep the ball rolling’. takes a serious toll. they are not managers of change. Another manager described how a leader can motivate employees through transmitting a sense of excitement about upcoming changes: I think the role of the manager needs to be the leader in giving the positive messages that the staff needs. So my job is to ﬁnd the stars’. The longer the process takes. Another manager expressed a similar sense of urgency in keeping the integration moving forward: ‘The longer that the process drags out. The creation of a continuous sense of progression through both symbolic and concrete avenues gives employees a sense of conﬁdence in the eventual success of the 409 Downloaded from http://lea. As one employee put it. or strong managers. . Several employees spoke of the importance of identifying key individuals who could act as cultural leaders themselves. we can make patient care better. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. keeping the momentum of the change process going in various areas and levels of the organization: ‘You ﬁlter to these jobs because you want to make a difference.
Employees were very sensitive to how leaders acted. As Trice and Beyer (1991. creating momentum for change also builds commitment to the change process itself. All rights reserved. cultural leadership may often operate through more mundane and informal channels. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. One employee’s lack of conﬁdence in the organization’s commitment to patient care was symbolically represented in the organization’s preparation for the 410 Downloaded from http://lea. In one employee’s estimation. In addition to being integrally involved in keeping the integration process moving forward. 1993) theorized. one of the primary roles of cultural leaders may be to create the impression of forward momentum. and fears to emerge. we need to help people realize that change is the most positive thing that secures their job’. “phew”. insecurities. stafﬁng would be increased’. it’s not going to happen’. and what these actions revealed about leaders’ ‘true’ beliefs and ideologies. ‘you need to get these people real positive and pumped up about it. For example. Money is all they pay attention to’.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. when they pushed back the date of the Cardiac consolidation. everyday aspects of organizational life. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. Leadership that changes: utilizing the symbolism of the mundane Schein (1983) argues that elements such as formal statements of organizational philosophy. as employees interpret everyday behaviors in ways that reinforce a perceived disconnection between the organization’s formally expressed cultural values and leaders’ observed commitment to those values. or the redesign of physical spaces. formal policies. ‘if patient care was really the issue. Encouraging employees to embrace change may be an extremely difﬁcult task. According to one manager. giving them a more signiﬁcant or telling meaning than the event itself might denote to an organizational outsider. For example. one employee interpreted top management’s new formal emphasis on patient care as insincere based on their informal priorities as represented by their actions: ‘The bottom line is money. [The consolidation] is not going to increase the quality of patient care. and organizational systems and procedures will strongly affect an organization’s culture. they say it is but they don’t care about patient care. As one employee put it. respondents’ perceptions of effective cultural leadership focused more often on the mundane. ‘everyone was like. these examples illustrate how employees nonetheless drew strong conclusions about management’s commitment and buy-in to these new cultural priorities. While the current ﬁndings do not dispute that these elements can and do act as levers of cultural change. . was a prevalent feature in the post-merger organization. Thus. the explicit reward and status system. but leaders who can create a constant impression that the change process has an unrelenting momentum and will ultimately lead to positive outcomes can begin to foster employee buy-in. Although these are not managerial reactions to critical events. through both concrete changes that support the change effort as well as through symbolic avenues when concrete changes are delayed.Leadership 2(4) Articles integration and allows less room for doubts. the design of physical spaces. many employees interpreted this status quo level as representative of management’s underlying lack of commitment to patient care. although stafﬁng levels had remained at a relatively consistent level since the merger. This interpretation of organizational events.sagepub. Leaders’ reactions to everyday occurrences were often interpreted as symbolic representations of their underlying values and beliefs.
such as the order of memos. nobody cares about patient care. In addition. suggests that employees evaluate a wide range of organizational events as indicative of senior management’s lack of commitment to an expressed cultural value. These stories suggest that cultural leadership in practice may have a strong element of the mundane. One employee recounted how management’s decision not to seek accreditation for her department reﬂected its lack of embodiment of quality: ‘They 411 Downloaded from http://lea. Indeed. Cultural leaders who act in ways that symbolically support a new cultural framework are more likely to affect employees’ interpretations of organizational events in ways that support rather than undermine cultural integration. one manager recounted how she had to pay careful attention to the minor details of communication with the departments involved in an upcoming consolidation: ‘By mistake I would send out memos. Symbolic interpretations of organizational events were not solely limited to senior management’s actions and behaviors. It’s not so much what you say. or who did I list ﬁrst was very important’. They put so much into trying to pretend that they are something they are not. ‘There’s no commitment. So we had to meet back and forth. ‘So for integration. we pretend we’re something we’re not. they really matter to people. and if I missed one person or one unit. cultural leaders can facilitate integration through everyday details.sagepub. and what they do not pay attention to as well as what they do pay attention to can be extremely inﬂuential. These accounts and interpretations of management’s ‘true’ values and beliefs support the notion that cultural leadership involves a strong symbolic element as well. All rights reserved. It’s hilarious’. but how you say and what happens in the aftermath’. 1993) assertion that cultural leadership may not be limited solely to senior leaders who can inﬂuence how buildings are structured. site to site’. It’s for show’. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. or the language that they use when referring to the groups involved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. This comment. For example. there is ample evidence that leaders can symbolically support their commitment to cultural change and integration through a variety of everyday activities. they thought it was intentional. and I would send it to everybody. this evidence supports Trice and Beyer’s (1991. . they only care about appearing to care about patient care. we’re not always going to go to Colonial. All of these minor details can potentially send very strong messages to other employees about a leader or peer’s commitment to the cultural integration process. Leadership that changes: role modeling a commitment to the change process Another mechanism for creating an impetus for change frequently mentioned was role modeling. As one employee put it. Instead. we have to start with the little things. where meetings are held. We go through this gyration that we’re doing something that we’re not totally committed to as an institution. As another employee put it. what they indirectly express through their actions. Another manager recognized how her choice of where to hold a meeting could be reinterpreted as favoritism for one site over another: ‘I had to go site to site because they were very funny about. What formal and informal leaders communicate. The cockroaches are swept up. taken with others like it. Our ﬂoors are clean in the public areas. or how the formal reward system is structured. how the organization is designed.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh on-site survey by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO): ‘Every two years.
“nurses are coming from another site. Pick up the paper on the ﬂoor. Hello! As long as we are consolidating. Several of the managers I spoke with. please welcome them. she drafted a letter assuring patients that they would continue to receive quality patient care. however. This was a classic example. here was a quality initiative. Employees also mentioned the need for managers who would set an example in minor ways. not to mention more signiﬁcant ways. their unit is closing” and then show them. There’s new things to learn from everybody. Employees spoke of a lack of good role modeling on the part of management concerning how they treated new post-consolidation employees as well. and their frustration was so severe that all but two of them eventually moved on to other jobs. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. she felt it made her transition to the new department less traumatic. Beyond role modeling simple behaviors. Don’t turn your back. People don’t know who you are. you don’t sit in that room until somebody remembers to come pick you up. As a result. what difference does it make?’ Many instances of role modeling – positive and negative – underscored the need for leaders to support desired values through a variety of behaviors. Another manager reﬂected on her ability to role model adaptability and success in the face of difﬁcult cultural changes: 412 Downloaded from http://lea. many of the transferred nurses felt a decided lack of empowerment and support. and would not be there screaming or suffering’. respectful way. it will take over and come to the forefront. Another example reﬂects how leaders in formal positions can forfeit their opportunity to act as symbolic role models of desired values: I tried to say from the beginning [that] just because it was always done that way doesn’t mean it’s right. All rights reserved. ‘Management needs to walk around the hospital. It means I take you back to your room’. as she had gone above and beyond what was required to ensure the patients were taken care of.sagepub. people just weren’t ready for information of any kind. One of the managers faced with an upcoming consolidation took it upon herself to write a letter to all of the patients and doctors that would be affected by the move. How about saying. ‘The manager didn’t have to do anything elaborate. As one employee put it. In addition. . As one nurse put it. But at some point it’s going to have to be. and they were going to snuff it because it might not look good for the other site. Act like you care’. Introduce yourself. such as picking up a piece of paper on the ﬂoor.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. ‘wait and see’ approach that her staff followed.Leadership 2(4) Articles aren’t even a good role model for quality. Rather than acting as a role model in the application of new information and procedures. this manager adopted a laissez-faire. With her staff’s input. and giving them her phone number to call with any questions or concerns they might have. ‘knowing the patients would be there. and maybe the staff won’t either’. Be welcoming. This statement was made over two years after the employees from another site had transferred into this nurse’s department. they spoke of how they could demonstrate through their actions both a commitment to cultural values and a commitment to making the change process a success: ‘To me quality of care means after you are done with that test. When the girls came from the other site they brought a lot of good information. took pride in their self-perceptions as role models. such as treating transferred employees in an inclusive. This made a very signiﬁcant impression on her staff: one nurse informed me that she felt it showed her manager had a real commitment to quality patient care. explaining the reasons for the consolidation.
Stories such as this one also fostered ill-founded hopes that if the new employees were ignored. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh They challenge me.sagepub. One nurse who was visiting from another site attempted to walk through the unit to get a sense of what it would be like to work there. Taken together. And the support I can give them in helping them to manage that change. and the door was slammed’. We sat there by ourselves. that’s my role. got their lunch. Reconciling differences between the old and the new Leadership that integrates: actively team building across previous site memberships Another central part of leading cultural change was an emphasis on building relationships across old cultural and site divisions in order to create an integrated team. and left. Other stories of managers and peers who ‘looked the other way’ instead of actively fostering teamwork abounded. and they came in. there’s no room”.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. These incidents were interpreted as a lack of commitment to making the consolidation a success. In addition. I actually had a door shut in my face when I asked if I could put my coat in an ofﬁce. They brought in lunch. . and heightened feelings of animosity and fear between the two departments prior to their 413 Downloaded from http://lea. despite the fact that she was in uniform and a member of the healthcare system. role modeling is an integral component of cultural leadership. this evidence suggests that as Trice and Beyer (1993) predicted. And I think as a role model for a change agent. these incidents resulted in irreparable damage to team building between the two sites in the department. and emphasizing a willingness to embrace change. they might just ‘go away’. That didn’t go so well’. Do I like it. certain types of role modeling may be particularly critical in a post-merger integration effort. “No. These include role modeling cultural values. but am I a part of this system? Yes. But I would say as a role model. One nurse recounted her experiences on the ﬁrst day of work at the new site: ‘These are the things that no one did anything about. it was supposed to be a meeting. and indirectly communicated to employees that treating individuals from the other site poorly was acceptable behavior. All rights reserved. In addition. everyone knew I was coming. This sent a clear message to the nurses in her department that they were unwanted at the new site. Another nurse reported a similarly dismal ﬁrst impression of working with the employees at another site: ‘So when I did go over there. However. so we could have lunch together. employees reported that role modeling in minor ways – such as creating a way to save a dollar by performing a procedure with two supplies instead of three – can potentially make a big difference in whether or not employees identify with a particular value such as cost saving and integrate it into their own behaviors. In the OB/GYN consolidation. How I adapt to changes will be reﬂected in how they adapt to change. an emphasis on success. but let’s just make it the best we can. She was quickly ushered out of the hospital by security. they see it in me. Many of the managers and employees I spoke to referred to the process of merging and consolidation as ‘being all about relationships’. It’s up to me to have a positive attitude and not to knock or criticize what’s going on. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. respondents spoke of the relative lack of teamwork that was fostered between employees from different sites. maybe not. prolonging the pain and trauma of the consolidation experience.
and they were willing to do it because she was such a valuable member of their team. Well what about how that made us feel?’ Given the salience of these initial impressions of their new department. we thought about it. This story highlights the importance of involving staff members in order to get their buy-in into changes. or outright sabotage. . If I had just made this decision and said. this is what we’re doing then it would have been a whole other story. she didn’t want to rattle up the nurses here. not only in what the leader says. but in how he or she treats new employees and monitors how new employees are treated by others. ‘The staff can make it work or they can make it fail’. As one manager put it. and suggests that soliciting and utilizing employee input in the process of making cultural changes may be critical to their success or failure. . To really involve them in creating what is best for practice. Employee input can potentially be utilized to help resolve issues of cultural variation. and best for themselves’. Taken together. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. All rights reserved. people were looking the other way. these stories illustrate the importance of having a cultural leader who makes building teamwork across sites a top priority.Leadership 2(4) Articles consolidation. .com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. they’re not going to like you doing this”.sagepub. OK. These incidents suggest that it is critical to closely monitor all team-building activities during a consolidation process in order to ensure that they do not result in stereotype reinforcement. increasing employee commitment to new practices and a strong patient care focus: ‘So my concerns are basically to get them to ease in and to welcome them and use their expertise and give them some autonomy in how to develop this the best way for our patients. “Just remember. Leadership that integrates: utilizing employee input into post-merger changes Not surprisingly. One manager recounted a story of how she involved her staff in a creative solution to avoid losing one of her best people due to post-consolidation changes: Together we explored it. You have to get the employees on board with it. They didn’t want to see you . 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. We got the message right up front that we didn’t belong’. So they were on board with it. Another nurse spoke of the pre-consolidation ‘walk through’ they did of the department before the ﬁrst day of work: ‘When we were touring doors were being shut. and I remember the manager saying. ‘They didn’t want us here. They report continuing to do procedures how they did them before. it is not surprising that these nurses clung to their pre-consolidation site identities and cultural values in order to maintain a sense of pride and worth. that’s the key I think. countercultural formation. and taking pride in being able to sustain a subculture of their previous site in their new environment. 414 Downloaded from http://lea. As one nurse put it. involving employees in cultural integration is another critical component of cultural leadership that emerged.
one-onone communication about cultural differences as a basic prerequisite for cultural integration. I think that really is universal in being able to get your employee buy-in’. anything just to make you feel better. set the timeline and stick to it. They had completely different equipment.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh Leadership that integrates: communicating informally about cultural differences Although Trice and Beyer (1993) hypothesized that cultural leaders would ‘communicate high expectations and conﬁdence in followers’. Anything you do.sagepub. . Respondents emphasized that cultural leaders often have to create time and creative channels in order to communicate effectively around difﬁcult integration concerns. As employees grappled with new norms. the problem is that there is not an open opportunity to have time to do this’. One reported. the whole protocol is different. . one nurse replied that her manager ‘should have talked to people. There’s no question. Employees in both consolidations also craved considerably more background information about cultural differences prior to consolidating in order to prepare themselves for what to anticipate: We weren’t informed of what to expect – nothing. and ways of doing things. explained to people. the communication themes that emerged in this research setting revolved around one-to-one communication that directly addressed consolidation issues. . you would say good morning as you would walk into a room with ten people and no one would respond. She advised. ongoing thing. you get a buy-in a lot quicker. communicate a true timeline.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. According to one manager. ‘when you sit down and start showing employees the nitty gritty. more communication. open. it’s an all-day long. sit everybody down together. Respondents repeatedly emphasized the need for creative. All rights reserved. but not being able to do anything about it. ‘I grab moments for informal communication. they were often left to make their own interpretations about the meanings of new experiences: ‘We got hung out to dry . talking to the staff when you are getting ready to go home or when the new shift is coming on rather than calling meetings that we just don’t have time for’. We really didn’t know what it was like anyway. Employees also emphasized the value of individualized communication. He felt that ‘we have to communicate around getting people to come around . One manager reported his frustration in recognizing the role of communication in creating cultural integration. I had no idea what I was doing wrong’. and what the goal of consolidating is’. Or ask a question and no one would respond. There was no communication about our differences’. Another manager voiced a similar opinion. 415 Downloaded from http://lea. their monitors were much newer. just small things add up to bigger things. ‘Communicate with each and every employee. We didn’t know there were those kinds of differences. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. frequent. I think that gives them a clear understanding of why we merged. . . and avoiding the assumption that employees know what is going on. Communicate the truth. after report or before report on the unit. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Because it’s a daily thing. values. Other nurses spoke of having to create creative ways to communicate with their staff members. When asked how her transition from one site to another could have been facilitated.
A change of this magnitude thus necessitates that employees believe in the underlying ideology of the merger. providing outlets for loss and renewal. interviewees suggested additional dimensions that extend Trice and Beyer’s original concept of cultural leadership. actively team building across previous site afﬁliations. and creating realistic (as opposed to high) expectations for challenges and opportunities. Previous theoretical and empirical research has fallen short of examining the process of cultural leadership at this level of detail. Overall. First. Overall. and the role of leaders in inﬂuencing this process. the results advance the study of cultural leadership both theoretically and empirically. respondents indicated that simple articulation might not be enough in many cases. Empirically. the results of this study suggest that cultural leaders at all levels of the organization can utilize any combination of cultural leadership elements to facilitate cultural integration. cultural leadership may be as problematic in post-merger environments as it has the potential to be 416 Downloaded from http://lea. delineating the channels and mechanisms through which individuals perceive cultural inﬂuence to be most effective. in addition to more speciﬁcally delineating the processual elements that make up cultural leadership. While some of the elements of cultural leadership were predicted by previous research. this study contributes to the literature in three fundamental ways. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. these results provide new insights into the elements that make up cultural leadership from the perspective of employees in a newly merged organization. the importance of relatively mundane yet symbolic actions. while articulating an ideology emerged as an important element of cultural leadership. Second.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. utilizing employee input into post-merger changes. Further. an orthogonal subculture. Employees who are facing a traumatic change such as a merger need to be psychologically committed to the underlying goals and rationale for consolidating. One prevalent ﬁnding is that the recognition of the plethora of different cultural meanings in a post-merger organization can be utilized to bring about cultural dissension or integration. including recognizing historically grounded cultural differences.sagepub. Theoretically. and provides a good deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that cultural leadership can help increase employee acceptance of post-merger cultural changes. in many cases employees expanded or modiﬁed them signiﬁcantly. 1983). Part of creating this buy-in involves helping employees to see how upcoming changes can create a successful service and lead to better quality care. For example. this study is unique in its focus on how the overarching contextual effects of organizational culture can be interpreted differently by employees throughout the post-merger organization. In addition. How these various elements are utilized determines whether or not cultural leadership leads to an enhancing subculture. All rights reserved. Cultural leaders can therefore be instrumental in creating counter-cultural resistances as well as cultural integration. and strongly identify with its core components. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Leadership 2(4) Articles Discussion Overall. results provide mixed support for the previously theorized elements of cultural leadership. this study provides insights into the processes of cultural leadership. . or counter-cultural resistance (see Martin & Siehl. the proposed study represents a ﬁrst step toward developing a more sophisticated measurement of the concept. challenging them to give up what is comfortable and certain for what is uncomfortable and uncertain.
All rights reserved. routines. and relatively mundane events. Organizations with relatively stable environments and long-standing cultural values may likely devote signiﬁcantly more attention and energy to cultural embodiment than cultural integration. it is important to emphasize that the focus of the post-merger organization in the current case study was on cultural integration. the potential for reactivity. .com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. this study indicates that cultural leadership does act at multiple levels of the organization. building on Schein’s (1985. for example. and this is an important theme for future research to explore. all of the elements of cultural leadership might prove just as conducive to the formation of countercultures as they might be to the creation of a uniﬁed postmerger culture. and incorporate data from multiple sources. Finally. Limitations and practical implications The results of this study will need to be replicated in a variety of M&A settings in order to establish the limits and boundary conditions of cultural leadership. or what the status quo might indicate about the organization’s culture and ‘true’ values. however. suggest that different types of cultural leadership may be more or less important depending on the life cycle of the organization. both within and outside of formal leadership roles as Trice and Beyer (1991. Further research in different industries and encompassing different types of mergers with larger samples is necessary to establish the robustness of these ﬁndings in a variety of settings. the current ﬁndings do not speak to Trice and Beyer’s (1993) theme of cultural leadership that embodies.Leadership Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh promising. every effort was made to ensure informants of conﬁdentiality. In addition. Further research will be necessary in order to assess whether the construct of cultural leadership differs in practice from how employees perceive and discuss it.sagepub. While future research is necessary to establish the prevalence of cultural leadership at various levels of the organization. the current ﬁndings suggest that the interpretation and modiﬁcation of cultural meaning may frequently take place at the level of daily procedures. the current results suggest that cultural leadership at the level of the mundane. Respondents spoke often of the symbolism of relatively minor behaviors. and whether or not cultural leadership does indeed objectively facilitate measurable cultural integration. 1993) theorized. cross-validate stories and organizational accounts. In order to overcome these limitations. 1992) work. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. rather than completely objective accounts of reality. and the routine may be just as inﬂuential as dramatic changes. or ‘keeps existing culture vital’. In addition. and integrate cultural elements are much more salient in employee perceptions. It is also important to note that due to the timing of the data collection. what leaders failed to pay attention to. Finally. rather than explicitly recognizing or embracing the differentiation and fragmentation aspects of culture 417 Downloaded from http://lea. the current ﬁndings suggest that cultural leaders who create. In the immediate wake of a merger. or well-hyped organizational changes in facilitating postmerger integration. and researchers and practitioners may currently overemphasize the role that changes in formalized rules and structures play in this process. reactions to crisis. this does not imply that keeping existing culture vital is not an importance task of cultural leaders. social desirability and impression management are all important limitations of this study. It does. however. it is important to keep in mind that interview data are a reﬂection of respondents’ perspectives. Third. change. the everyday.
these routine. and provide suggestions and input into how the consolidation process should be planned and implemented. it expands the dialogue on the relationship between leadership and culture. this study takes an important ﬁrst step toward identifying how effective cultural leaders may create. Cultural leaders can be vital to the success or failure of integration efforts. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. stimulating new approaches to cultural integration that focus on employees at all levels of the organization. and integrate cultural values? Despite remaining unanswered questions. As one respondent stated while reﬂecting on her post-merger experience. The responses analyzed in the current study indicate that many of the elements of cultural leadership operate at the routine. understand. and after a merger or consolidation. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. ‘the emotions were so strong. As a result. rather than waiting until the merger has taken place and playing ‘catch-up’. and the results of this study reveal how critical it is that they identify with integration efforts themselves so they can act as change levers rather than sources of resistance and counter-cultural meanings. Nonetheless. and have primarily incorporated quantitative methodologies to explore employees’ perspectives. All rights reserved. . everyday activities have a potentially dramatic impact on employee’s beliefs. everyday level. attitudes. In turn. change. It is clear that a great deal of additional research is needed on how to accurately assess. during. this information can be used to identify areas of training and education in order to foster cultural leadership prior to. and at times may seem like an unattainable goal. I would rather have my skin peeled off than go through that again’. First and foremost. the results of this study should encourage organizations considering an upcoming merger or acquisition to identify and utilize cultural leaders before a merger or consolidation begins. Employees that were at different stages of the very real experience of having nearly every aspect of their work environments transformed were given the opportunity to reﬂect on their needs for leadership and support. While further research is necessary to validate the elements of cultural leadership in a variety of industry and organizational settings. Employees who are educated about the types of leadership that are most effective in facilitating cultural integration can make an important difference in easing the often painful transition a change of this magnitude can entail. change. and overcome post-merger cultural clashes in order for both researchers and practitioners to be able to improve the integration experiences for the employees involved. this study has a number of implications for planning and implementing post-merger consolidations. as opposed to the more dramatic effects of how leaders react to critical events or crises.Leadership 2(4) Articles outlined by Martin (2002).com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.sagepub. This study is somewhat unique in its emphasis on uncovering employees’ own interpretations and concerns throughout the consolidation process. Implementing post-merger integration successfully in complex organizations can be a very complicated and painful process. Existing studies have not examined the consolidation process at this level of detail. As M&A activity continues to represent an irresistible 418 Downloaded from http://lea. future research is necessary to explore other important questions such as: How might an examination of the post-merger processes of cultural differentiation and fragmentation inform the processes of cultural leadership? How do cultural leaders from merging organizations work together to enhance and/or mute the concerns of one set of organizational members in the pursuit of other groups? How do efforts to harness potential proﬁt gains in the wake of a merger impact the success and/or failure of leadership processes that attempt to create. and behaviors. In addition. and integrate cultural elements.
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management. and these are the things I can do for you. So I was honest with them. (Meeting Documents) Documents Leadership Interview data 422 Fostering realistic expectations of both challenges and opportunities ‘I was honest with them. it needs a lot of work and it’s not something that in six months you wipe your hands clean and say things are OK now. ‘You have to take the emotional personal end out of this whole thing.Appendix Cross-method evidence for cultural leadership Field notes LEADERSHIP THAT CREATES Recognizing historical cultural differences ‘I guess lessons learned would be the team building and the culture is really entrenched. these are my services to you. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. (Meeting Notes) Reactions of people in transition: guilt. and other job-related aspects of work. promote personal and organizational growth through education and development. monetary constraints) and let groups bring their different interpretations to the table. There were reasons we needed to close: the lease was very expensive and reimbursement is not great. And I don’t know that we’re always capable of doing that. self-absorption. (Personal Communication) 2(4) Articles ‘So you are going to consolidate a bunch of people that culturally have been brought up to be competitors and now you’re going to make them all go work together’. All rights reserved. And they knew the difﬁculties’. patient care. and how based on shared history we can build something that is better together’. anxiety.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. there are no more problems. but it’s not going to be easy’. resentment. Because it’s an emotional process for us. Downloaded from http://lea. recognize past differences.sagepub. and guide process of integration under emphasis on patient care. even people whose jobs are staying the same’. stress. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. (Meeting Documents) Frame conﬂict as broadly as possible (i. Goal: identiﬁcation of employees’ views.e. The Challenge: remaining responsible to our patients and employees in today’s constrained ﬁscal environment. and concerns regarding working conditions. ‘I’m going to encourage the people that have been there to put their trust in me to make this work. patient care. (Personal Communication) Providing outlets for loss and renewal Manager had to bring in the Employee Assistance Program due to the intense conﬂict going on in her department. needs. You have to keep pounding out that emphasis on integration. (Meeting Documents) .
It's part of change. We should right now start working with Cardiac people here and at Colonial on dealing with change. ‘You look at it as a challenge to make it better for everyone. All rights reserved. it's a change process’. (Meeting Documents) 423 .Leadership Interview data LEADERSHIP THAT CHANGES Articulating an ideology for change The plan itself. it’s like a new road to go down and people just have to think that they have to change’. (Meeting Notes) Creating ongoing momentum for change It's teaching people to deal with change. we should start working with them. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. from the standpoint of getting the organization to similarly understand it as the plan has been developed. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub. viewing this movement as positive stuff. That would be very helpful. has got to be precise in terms of outcome expectations and measuring the success of various work steps and time frames that have to be met and so forth. Formal evaluation of how the organization is orchestrating and engineering the process of change itself in order to engender employee support. securing our position in the marketplace. And I think it can be exciting. is to reiterate once again the reasons why and to articulate the plan as effectively as possible. (Meeting Documents) Downloaded from http://lea. Have to create staff buy-in to the vision of achieving the economic potential of the merger and establishing a single system culture. Where OD would be able to do that cultural shift thing. Working with people to cope with change. Then have to communicate it effectively to build employee buy-in. accepting the future. change shift. (Meeting Notes) Field notes Documents Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh ‘After you go through the step-wise things.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. back to the ﬁrst phase.
‘most important team effectiveness characteristics you will need to implement for the consolidation to succeed’. the degree of cooperation or conﬂict in groups. Always. being available. getting feedback to people. Comparisons. July’. (Meeting Notes) Team Development: investigate how individuals work in groups. I would always say. identify opportunities for continuous improvement and implement them to improve customer service and outcomes. sending out minutes.Appendix Continued Field notes Utilizing the symbolism of the mundane Story of CEO’s choice of date of consolidation a result of a passing conversation in the hall with the senior physician on the Cardiac team: ‘Does July sound good?’ ‘Sounds good.sagepub. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. change is never a bad thing’.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. (Meeting Documents) Focus on achieving measurable outcomes of performance in your own department. posting agendas. Interpreted by employees as evidence that senior management has a different plan every week. and isn’t really committed to making the consolidation a success. (Meeting Documents) Each and every employee has to emphasize through their daily actions that we can make this merger a success. having meetings. the manager’s reply was that he didn’t want to inconvenience the storage people’. I just blew it. ‘Team building is a lot of just nuts and bolts. the nurses can tell you. Just like you don't like to be compared to your sister or another wife. And then my. all kinds of things that are not rocket science and they're not sexy things but they help’. (Meeting Notes) Role modeling a commitment to change ‘Story of poor role modeling of patient care focus: employee asking her manager to improve the ﬂow of the patient care by moving three storage rooms out of the middle of her ﬂoor. ‘I was always positive. Forget it. well States does it like this. listening.’ ‘OK then. (Personal Communication) LEADERSHIP THAT INTEGRATES Actively team building across previous site memberships Team building initiative: employees asked to ‘identify the most important team effectiveness characteristics that will help you succeed at Universal’. So we relabeled it blending best practice’. and the use of team problem solving and process improvement. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. . (Meeting Documents) Documents Leadership Interview data 424 2(4) Articles ‘In the beginning if I would slip and say. Downloaded from http://lea. Showing up. I could just see people bristle and I knew I lost them for the rest of that meeting. All rights reserved.
The development of new units. You put workforce groups together with your employees. down in the trenches’. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Isn't this something they teach you in Management 101?’ ‘You really have to be there. That gets to the heart.Leadership Interview data Utilizing employee input into post-merger changes ‘The best thing you can do too is include them in the opinions. be in scrubs. and show employees that you understand. their creativity is beyond. (Meeting Documents) Downloaded from http://lea. literally. All rights reserved. Let them know what is going on.sagepub. it’s helping each and every employee to understand why a change or a consolidation effort is being made and handling all of the communication that needs to be handled’. except when she is changing. you’d be amazed at the energy that comes out of them. ‘Communication with each and every employee is the biggest challenge. be there. (Informal Communication) Field notes Documents Surviving Post-merger ‘Culture Clash’ Bligh ‘They didn't involve the people that do the work. We haven’t tapped into that’. (Personal Communication) Creating communication channels for cultural differences Manager advises to always listen. Managers become consultants with each individual staff member having an opportunity to provide input. (Meeting Documents) 425 . face-to-face discussion between manager and staff member. Empowerment or Participation: opportunities that leader affords others to share in decisions. how we're going to rework things. Her door is always open. the knowledge that comes out.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6. helps build the full-ﬂedged support of the people that have to translate it into action on a daily basis. involve staff in one on one interactions. the ﬂow. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications.
edu] 426 Downloaded from http://lea. She has consulted with organizations in a variety of industries. organizational culture. consulting ﬁrms. she has served as a visiting faculty member for the Executive MBA Program at the Singapore Institute of Management since 2004. She also serves on the editorial review board of The Leadership Quarterly. and real estate ﬁrms to assess and improve organizational culture. [email: Michelle. and political and executive leadership. Bligh is an Assistant Professor in the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences at Claremont Graduate University. and leadership development.Bligh@cgu. She has a book forthcoming titled ‘Follower-centered Perspectives on Leadership’ as part of the Leadership Horizons series. She is a research afﬁliate of both the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College and the Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) at California State University San Marcos. and is an alumna of Pomona College. including local and state law enforcement. and is co-editor of a special issue of Applied Psychology: An International Review on follower-centric approaches to leadership.Leadership 2(4) Articles Michelle C. All rights reserved. . Her recent work has appeared in a number of academic journals. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Her research interests include charismatic leadership. 2008 © 2006 SAGE Publications. Dr Bligh received her MS in Organizational Culture and Communication as well as her PhD in Management from the State University of New York at Buffalo. interpersonal trust.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on February 6.sagepub. change management. In addition. USA. healthcare organizations.