Mergers, Acquisitions, and Employee Anxiety: A Study of Separation Anxiety in a Corporate Context

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This timely study examines the emotional and behavioral reactions to mergers and acquisitions. Astrachan's central focus is on separation anxiety-the cognitive and emotional state caused by cues of impending departures. He used a simulation of a merger situation to examine the effects of anxiety about employee departures on individuals and work groups in an existing company. Specific questions addressed include: Is separation anxiety stimulated by the anticipated termination of work group members? Does the number of people who are leaving a group affect anxiety? How do the experiences of those who are leaving differ from those who are staying? Astrachan begins with two chapters that explore the relationship between mergers, acquisitions, and separation anxiety at the individual and group levels and look at the specific patterns of behaviors and emotions that result from separation anxiety. He then describes the design of the mergers and ecquisitions simulation that served as the study's primary method. The fourth and fifth chapters describe, quantitatively and in the participants' own words, the results of the simulation exercise and the study's findings. Exploring work group members' behaviors and emotions during the simulation, Astrachan addresses such issues as the similarities among groups within the company and the effects of mergers on various employee groups. Finally, the author addresses the implications of his research for a greater understanding of separation anxiety in everyday life. In an era of recurrent corporate mergers and acquisitions, their effects on the employees who are let go, on those who stay, and on the organization are important issues for human resources executives, organizational consultants, and stress management specialists. Astrachan's study marks an important beginning to the examination of these critical issues.