Maintaining Morale Through a Merger
Question & Answer
Maintaining Morale Through a Merger
Q: Jack manages the clinical laboratory at the Susquehanna Memorial Center located in a large metropolitan area. This health care facility provides testing 24 hours per day, seven days per week and offers multiple laboratory sites within the facility, as well as decentralized labs throughout the community.
Recently, Jack has learned that his administration has decided to merge with another large health care system across the city, consolidating laboratory services into one central core laboratory at that facility. This change will bring about significant cost savings and more efficient laboratory operations. However, for Jack’s staff, it may also mean a loss of work or perhaps transfer to the other laboratory. Needless to say, fear and anxiety have settled over the staff members. Many have voiced concerns over decrease in pay, retraining and disruption to their personal lives, such as daycare arrangements and commuting a longer distance. Some employees have even threatened to quit if such a merger takes place.
How can Jack assure the other laboratorians in his facility that their needs will be accommodated as much as possible? How can he encourage the staff to see the benefits of such a merger and transition? Can morale be restored within the laboratory?
A: Given the magnitude of transition issues surrounding consolidation, Jack is expected to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his staff. The daily operations of laboratory business must be well maintained with zero tolerance for compromise on regulatory compliance. Compassion, professionalism, equity and communication are essential components of the equation.
I suggest a transition laboratory project team be created with fair representation from all concerned parties. The team can facilitate the needs of the individuals, as well as the organization. Jack should encourage his laboratorians to review the proposed business plan, evaluate it objectively and make other recommendations to be equally cost effective and efficient. Involving staff in the process can be insightful and productive. It may not change the outcome, but it will provide a forum of understanding the mechanics of survival in the managed care climate.
Morale can be restored when staff members are fully informed, comfortable and confident that all options have been explored. Consensus may not be reached, but in the end, staff will know they had a voice in the decision-making process.
–Susan Sullivan, MS(ASCP)
A: One of the best things Jack can do for his staff is remain visible and available to answer their questions as often and repeated as necessary. Perhaps more importantly, Jack needs to listen to what the staff is saying and asking about. Rumors and fears are best controlled by frequent information, even if there’s not much to report for the moment, both informally and within the context of more formal department meetings. Jack owes it to his staff (and himself as well) to remain current on developments related to the merger as the information becomes available from Human Resources (HR) and his immediate supervisors.
Remaining visible extends to all shifts. Perhaps the department could spring for a pizza dinner or late-night snack for the evening and night shifts to afford a relaxed opportunity for the staff to speak with Jack and get the right information. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that’s needed to allay someone’s anxiety about the changes in store. It should come as no surprise to him that there will be employees who choose to leave rather than wait things out. Jack should be prepared to deal with the possibility of different staffing configurations as he works with HR to develop a transition plan and be able to answer questions related to severance, shift and wage changes.
By remaining proactive in providing information during a difficult transition, Jack will help the staff gain a more balanced perspective of the changes to come that will help them determine what personal steps they may wish to take in their jobs.
–Timothy McClung, MS, CHE
A: First of all, Jack needs to find out from his administrator the details of the merger and what changes it will entail for his employees. Jack will also need to ask what will be done to help ease the employees and the laboratory through the merger. Then, Jack should go to his employees with this information. Since, in all probability, they will be facing a disruption in their lives, the employees have a right to know what is going to happen to them.
Jack needs to stress the positive aspects of the merger, as well as being truthful about the negative aspects. It is important that he not sugarcoat the negative aspects, as his employees will only resent him later if a worse case scenario comes true. It would probably be best if this initial meeting included the entire lab staff. Jack should continue to have smaller meetings with staff to address their individual questions and needs. Questions that Jack can’t answer need to be brought to the attention of the administration. At first, most employees will feel threatened and have negative views, but gradually, if they feel they are being listened to and their concerns treated with respect, they will feel better about the merger.
–Evan Evans, MT(ASCP)
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This Month’s Panel
Susan Sullivan is assistant director of Pathology, Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn, NY.
Timothy McClung is a senior operations analyst at Norwalk (CT) Hospital.
Evan Evans is Hematology supervisor, Belleville (IL) Memorial Hospital.