Updated: Jan 23
This is a brief checklist of behavioral factors to address when evaluating merger and acquisition synergies between two firms. For a more detailed discussion, see M&A Synergies Framework—Behavior.
Individualism vs. Collectivism.1 The way people view their roles in workplace can be different between cultures because of their individual and collective mindset.
Collectivist cultures may take longer to perform work. Collectivist cultures may have group or department assignments which they complete together while the same assignment may be completed by a single person in an individualistic culture. The collectivist process usually results in a longer turnaround because it takes time to sift through everyone’s opinion. Employees in a collectivist culture place more importance on team success rather than individual achievement.
Realize that people from collectivist cultures may feel intimidated by your independent confidence. People in collectivist cultures are used to working and making decision as a team. In the United States, it is common to work individually. As such, give collectivists time to ease into making decisions and working by themselves.
It will take time for people from collectivist cultures to adapt to independent thinking. Providing them with group goals may be more motivating. Additionally, individualistic cultures are motivated more when they have more choices. Try giving collectivist cultures fewer choices for their decisions.
Masculinity vs. Femininity.2 Motivations for working are different between cultures. Masculine cultures generally focus on material success while feminine cultures focus on quality of life.
Know that your international co-workers may have different expectations about work-life balance. Americans are known for working long hours, taking little vacation, and frequently moving due to job changes. In other countries, employees might consistently leave work at 5:00 P.M. daily, observe a daily “siesta” or other routine breaks, and may even have double the vacation days of most American workers. Make sure you clearly understand and agree upon their expectations and your own.
Belief Systems. Belief systems can impact the business process. Learning these beliefs can help strengthen relationships between different cultures.
Become familiar with the implications of your counterparts’ cultural beliefs. Religious beliefs will impact holidays celebrated, days considered “holy,” dietary habits, styles of dress, and moral codes, just to name a few. Find out major holidays that interfere with work schedules and learn the daily rituals that may interfere with your work schedule.
Strong Uncertainty Avoidance vs. Weak Uncertainty Avoidance.3 Some cultures deal better with ambiguity than others. Try these ideas when working with the ambiguity-averse:
Reduce ambiguity in any way you can.4 Most decisions include some ambiguity, but helping to reduce the amount of ambiguity will help the ambiguity-averse build trust in your decisions.
Focus on helping managers understand situations. Getting managers to understand your decisions will in turn help employees get on board with your vision since managers tend to look to their managers for an example.
Task-based vs. Relationship-based.5 Cultures often differ in the amount of relationship-building that occurs before business is done. Use these ideas when working with a relationship-based culture:
Plan time for small talk. Relationship-based cultures need to build trust through friendship before talking business. Build trust by beginning meetings with personal conversation. Although this may at first feel like a waste of time, relationship-based cultures may refuse to negotiate deals until they have developed significant trust with you.
Spend time outside of work with your co-workers. Co-workers will trust you more once you build a personal, non-work relationship with them. Talk to them about your weekend, your family, your hobbies, your goals and ask them about theirs. These types of conversations will help build the co-worker relationships their culture is familiar with.
Confrontational vs. Avoids Confrontation.6 The meaning behind confrontation differs between cultures. Some find it productive while others find it offensive.
Understand that confrontational cultures are trying to be transparent and honest, not disrespectful. Other cultures may view confrontation as productive. If you notice a lot of confrontation in the other cultures, this is most likely the reason.
Don’t confuse emotional expressiveness with confrontation. 7 Some cultures disagree with loud emotions while some disagree in a quiet and calm manner. Both may find confrontation necessary to make decisions, but their manner in disagreeing is important to note.
Adapt the way you express disagreement to match that of the other culture. In this case, adopting the confrontational manner of the other culture will probably lead to better discussion and decision-making.
Linear Time vs. Flexible Time.8 Cultures have different ideas of how time should be spent which permeates into their views on scheduling.
Learn how to be flexible with your time. Some cultures will shift meetings around with short notice. If you learn to be flexible with your time, you can shift around your day to still get everything done.
Learn their meaning of “10:00 am.” Some cultures say a meeting will start at 10:00 am when in fact everyone arrives at 10:30 am. Learning the level of time flexibility within a culture will help you make better use of your time.
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