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Making sense of mergers through metaphors : how do professionals make sense of mergers on an emotional level?

Huls, Anne (2020) Making sense of mergers through metaphors : how do professionals make sense of mergers on an emotional level?

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Abstract:Background: Many industries have become increasingly concentrated through mergers. Mergers are characterized by uncertainty as they involve confrontation between groups with different interests and disputes over resource allocation, and thus involve sensemaking. Metaphors are important as a form of sensemaking and sensegiving during mergers. Tracing metaphors during a merger makes it clear how people involved in the merger talk about what is going on. For example, previous research mentioned marriage as metaphor in the context of mergers. Metaphors are real types of thoughts and they occur naturally. People use metaphors regardless how slow or conscious or logically they think. Finally, metaphors are useful ‘devices’ of framing and for explaining emotions. This research aims to investigate how professionals use metaphors to make sense of the merger on emotional level. Method: Document analysis and a discourse analysis were performed. General emails, media messages and letters were analyzed in which stakeholders discussed topics related to the merger of two organizations. In addition, audio recordings were made of a meeting which was organized for people involved in the merger and external people from the region were the organizations are located. Findings: Three main metaphor groups and several subgroups were found. Metaphors are important to be on common ground and understand each other. When there is a clash between people who use metaphors from different groups, they can understand each other again when they use metaphors from the same group. Then there is also no collision on an emotional level. Implications: This study extends on research about mergers (organizational change) and metaphors. In addition this study shed light on how to make sense of mergers through metaphors. It is explained how metaphors give meaning on an emotional level during mergers. Furthermore, some practical implications are mentioned and give guidelines for communication professionals and organizations dealing with a merger. For example, system metaphors help to create acceptance and trust. Finally, this study gives some limitations and directions for future research. Conclusion: Metaphors give meaning on emotional level in different ways. First, metaphors are used to create desired emotions. In particular, system metaphors are used to create acceptance and trust. Second, metaphors evoke emotions. Especially relationship and patient metaphors evoke emotions. For example, metaphors such as war or battle are often linked to anger or fear. Moreover, these emotions are overall negative emotions. This means that during a merger mostly negative emotions are experienced. Besides, negative emotions give valuable data to the organization leaders about how change is being received. Thus, metaphors are useful devices for explaining emotions and making sense of mergers.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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