IT WOULD BE EASY IF ONE WOULD KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO DO - A case study of how middle managers handled organizational culture differences during a post-merger integration phase in a Finnish multinational corporation
Purpose: This study aimed to examine middle managers’ experiences of differences in organizational culture during the post-merger integration phase, to figure out what kind of problematic consequences the differences lead to and how the middle managers dealt with the challenges. Theory: Jordan’s (2014) inventory of the conflict potential theory was utilized to understand different thematic areas that can cause conflicts and which organizations need to manage effectively. Schweiger, Csiszar & Napier’s (1993) categorization of three organizational identities was applied to investigate the organizational identities described by the interviewees. Method: A case study was conducted by examining a Finnish company formed by a merger of two companies in 2020. A qualitative method was applied, and semi-structured interviews were held with 9 middle managers located in Finland. Pre-merger culture surveys and exit surveys conducted by the case company were utilized as secondary data sources. Comparative analyses were conducted between different data sources to improve the trustworthiness of the results. Results: Managers had experienced several cultural differences. Opinions regarding flexibility, roles, decision-making, characteristics of businesses, recruitment, communication, hierarchy, and general atmosphere varied. Several managers commented on differences in identities. As problematic consequences of differences respondents mentioned for example decreased ability to serve customers, decreased motivation, disengagement, and uncertainty. The most common ways of handling the challenges were discussion and communication, involving people, creating own new procedures, highlighting positive things, openness, and honesty, empathy, listening and support, and paying attention to one's own behavior. Both consistencies and inconsistencies were found between the pre-merger culture survey, exit surveys, and the interviews. The general perception was that company B was the more dominant party, presumably due to its bigger size. Generally, managers stated that there is still work to do and it will take several years until one shared culture will be achieved.