Monkey business? Scientists put a group of five monkeys in a cage. At the top of a ladder, they hung a banana. As soon as a monkey climbed the ladder, he was showered with cold water; the group soon gave up trying to reach the banana. • Next, the scientists disconnected the cold water and replaced one of the five monkeys. When the new monkey tried to climb the ladder, the others Immediately pulled him down and gave him a good beating. The new monkey learned quickly, and enthusiastically Joined in In beating the next new recruit. One by one, the five original monkeys were replaced. Although none of the new group knew why, no monkey was ever allowed to climb the ladder. Like the monkeys in the experiment, every culture and organization has its unwritten rules.

These rules are probably the single most influential factor on the work environment and employee happiness. Though many work cultures embrace positive values, such as loyalty, solidarity, efficiency, quality, personal development and customer service, all too often they reinforce negative attitudes. In many businesses, an unwritten rule states that working long hours Is more important than achieving results. In one medium-sized company, the boss never leaves the office until it is dark. Outside in the car park he checks to see who Is still working and whose office windows are dark. Staff who risk leaving earlier now leave their office lights on all night. Other common unwritten rules state that the boss is so always right, even when he’s wrong; if you're not at your desk, you're not working; nobody complains, because nothing ever changes; women, ethnic minorities and the over 50s are not promoted; the customer is king, but don't tell anyone, because management are more as interested In profitability.

Often nobody really knows where these unwritten rules came from, but like the new monkeys, new recruits pick them up very quickly, despite the best intentions of induction and orientation programmes. The way staff speak to management, to customers and to each other gives subtle but strategic dues to an organization’s culture, as do the differences between what is said, decided or promised, and what actually gets done. New staff quickly learn when their ideas and opinions are listened to and valued, and when it’s better to keep them to themselves. They learn which assignments and aspects of their performance will be checked and evaluated, and whose objectives and instructions they can safely ignore. Monkeys may be so more direct, but work culture is every bit as effective at enforcing unwritten rules as a good beating. Mergers and acquisitions

In search of synergy Firms use mergers and acquisitions (MAA) to grow quickly and gain resources or market share faster than is possible through internal development. The terms "merger" and "acquisition ' are often used as synonyms, but there is a difference. A true merger joins equal partners. Two companies agree to combine their operations and assets on an equal basis. They each give up their own shares, issue new shares, and form a new company. Examples are the mergers to create ExxonMobil or (AOL) Time Warner. In an acquisition, also commonly called a takeover, one firm tries to gam control of another firm by buying a majority of its shares or assets.

If the target company welcomes the bid. this is called a friendly takeover, but if the company obiects, it is called a hostile takeover. The difference often depends on the price per share that has been offered. Many companies follow the M&A growth route in search of synergy. This effect happens when the value of the new whole is more than the value of the old individual parts. How does that work? Firstly, companies can lower their costs by cutting duplicated functions. This generally means reducing staff. Secondly, by combining assets, the merger or takeover creates economies of scale. A bigger company gets better terms and conditions with suppliers. Thirdly, companies can combine their skills to create something original. Disney, for example, combined its marketing strength with Pixar's technical skills to create new types of computer-animated films, such as Toy Story.

At first the relationship was based on cooperation, but Disney finally bought Pixar from its owner. Steve Jobs, in 2006. Although a pairing may seem perfect on paper. M&A require huge organizational and structural changes and often do not produce the ИМ investors had hoped for. There are many exam- Dies of MSA that fail, such as the DaimlerChrysler merger - but most company heads will nonetheless keep their eyes open and hope that the right opportunity comes along. QUIZ: A marriage of equals?