Human Synergies


You can call off the search parties and cancel your missing person reports.  I’m alive, and by most standards, I’m doing OKAY.

I only planned to take a few weeks off from writing to give myself time to deal with an unexpected and bizarre childcare issue.  I won’t bore you with the details, just know that “Burger King’ is now a verb in the O’Rourke household (see PS. section below for full definition).

At the end of those crazy few weeks, I sat down to write Candid, and I was empty. 

After spending weeks with my husband keeping a tiny tyrant alive plus doing our full-time jobs, all of my energy and the small amount of creativity I usually have were drained.

If I had managed to get a post written, it would have said something like this:

“I’m in a black hole. I don’t know what day it is. I don’t know what’s going on in the world.  Send help in the form of pizza with two sides of ranch.”

Instead, I chose to let Candid sit until I felt recharged.  So here we are, three months later, and I’m ready to start writing again.

To the Newsletter:

This Week’s Topic: Human Synergies

“Synergies” is an M&A 101 term.  If you merge two companies, you often have duplicative costs that aren’t necessary to run the new combined business.  These are “synergies” or cost savings.

On spreadsheets, synergies are simple.  You add up all the redundancies, add these synergies back to the combined profitability of the business, and now you have a more profitable consolidated business.

It’s one of those rare and beautiful occasions in life where you can make 1 + 1 equal 3.

In theory.

In practice, synergies are anything but simple, for one key reason: Humans.

Most synergies in a merger are associated with redundant employees.  You don’t need two CFOs to run one business. You don’t need maintenance staff for a facility you plan to shut down.  It just doesn’t make business sense to keep all these people in the post-merger business.

But people can’t be reduced to line items on a spreadsheet.  Spreadsheets don’t appropriately capture the impact your business decisions have on a person’s life.

That’s not to say the deal world hasn’t tried.

In my opinion, the term “synergy” was adopted as standard terminology because “people we are firing” doesn’t sound that great.  Synergy is to the deal world what “patient” is to healthcare. 

If we don’t call them people, and refer to them instead as patients or synergies, it makes it easier to disassociate ourselves with the effects of our decisions on these people.

Even if you are a sociopath, who can truly disassociate, human synergies still aren’t easy.

Spreadsheets can’t measure the emotional toll and loss of productivity in an organization when half the workforce is abruptly fired.  Spreadsheets can’t predict the impact on customer relationships or the loss of institutional knowledge when those employees walk out the door for the last time.

Human synergies are anything but simple, and it should never be easy. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the responsibility employers have to those employees who end up as synergies on a spreadsheet.  I don’t have to time to dive into all of that today, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

PS. – See below for the definition of Burger King.

Burger King


Past tense: Burger Kinged

1. To peace out in the middle of the day, with no plans to return, by using the excuse, “I’m going to Burger King for a sandwich.”

“Babe, the Nanny Burger Kinged today, what the heck are we going to do.”

About the author

Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

By Danielle O'Rourke

Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

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