US Airways and American Airlines Won't Just Merge Operations, Also Corporate Cultures

December 23, 2013

(Photo by Peter O'Dowd-KJZZ)
American Airlines and US Airways have merged but are ranked separately in the report.

Tempe-based US Airways has officially started its merger with American Airlines, and the two companies will have to combine more than computer systems and work forces.

If all goes well, the new American should have a clear strategy for its future as one company, but the airline will have to contend with employees originally from two different corporations, each with its own culture, and that culture can largely be defined by past achievements.

"People don't want to change what they think has made them successful," said Joe Aberger, the Dallas-based executive vice president of Pritchett, a consulting firm that specializes in mergers. "Both organizations probably see themselves and that culture as some of the reasons they've been successful in the past. Now you're putting them together, and there's certainly going to be some cultural friction."

But, Aberger sais friction can actually be okay.

"People always talk about diversity in their organizations and that's always a positive, when they talk about the diverse employee workforce. But when they talk about cultural diversity that's always seen as a liability. That's always a negative the way people look at it, and it doesn't necessarily have to be," Aberger said.

Just like spouses do not have to be exactly alike to have a good marriage, Aberger companies with different cultures can succeed in a merger if they share values.