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Should I stay or should I go?

Updated: Apr 20

Should I stay or should I go? How employee exit intentions can be predicted by looking at identification with the organization and the occupation.





One of the most crucial goals for the management of the acquirer is to retain key employees of the target firm. However, what determines whether employees stay or leave once the target has been acquired? Professor Norbert Steigenberger from Umeå School of Business and Economics and Professor Nicola Mirc from Toulouse School of Management explore this question by looking at how employee identification with the organisation and the occupation influence their exit intentions. Their longitudinal study of two hospital acquisition shows that neither employee identification with the organisation nor with the occupation alone can predict their exit intentions. Instead, the authors find mutually substitute predictors, where at least three of the below conditions must be present simultaneously to predict employee exit intentions:


1) employees identify with their occupation

2) the occupation is professionalised, meaning that decision-making autonomy is important and strong field logics exist that might clash with the new economic logic of the acquisition

3) employee do not identify with the organisation

4) employee are disappointed by the integration towards the topics where they were attentive to such as work-place and organisational change related issues


If managers can identify that certain key employees display risky combinations of conditions, they can adopt measures to counterweight these exit tendencies by

  • increase employees’ identification with the organisation by means of inducing them to stay, sensegiving or expectancy management

  • reduce employees disappointment due to changes that might be conflicting with the values of their occupation

However, it would be too comfortable if managers and academics stop their efforts to understand the influence of identification and exit intentions at this point. Future inquiries have to be carried out to better understand other scenario and conditions such as identification effects in absorption acquisitions, in which a target is fully integrated and a new organizational identity might be created. Moreover, the authors call for investigations into other foci of identification, such as identification with work groups, divisions, production sites and leaders.


This article has been written by Thi Nguyen (PhD candidate Toulouse School of Management) based on the following publication:

Steigenberger, Norbert, & Mirc, Nicola (2020). Should I stay or should I go? Multi-focus identification and employee retention in post-acquisition integration. Human Relations, 73(7), 981–1009.

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