8 Tips for Surviving a Merger

February 8, 2017

Big or small, no company is immune to a merger with another firm. So here are several things employees can do to prevent themselves being blindsided by a merger, as well as several actions they can take once a merger has been announced.

1. Assume you’re fired today.

Adopting this mindset forces you to be proactive. Make a to-do list of everything that’s necessary to begin a search for a position outside that company. One that ranges from updating your resume to networking. What’s most important is learning how much the search process might have changed since you last looked. You may not have to “pull the trigger” on a hunt today. But, being prepared puts you in a position of strength, no matter what goes down. Having a plan to follow also helps you keep calm in crisis, and that means you will make better decisions and be able to better negotiate on your behalf. 

2. Do your homework while the merger is still on the drawing board.

Completing a merger takes time. It’s obvious which company’s values, strategies, methodologies, and terminology will dominate. If that’s not your company’s, then you have to understand how the other company gets things done. You can access that information and insight from media coverage, reading security analysts’ reports (if the company is public), and asking your contacts. If it’s the company you’re with whose culture will survive, then you have to identify what will be adopted from the partner. For example, the partner is valued for its cloud technology. Then you have to do a deep dive on that. Having this knowledge base equips you to present yourself effectively in the shifting environment. 

3. Accept that the past is over.

The reality is this: The goodwill you established with superiors, the reputation you built, and the promise of future rewards no longer exist. Don’t even mention those. Don’t complain. Doing that creates the perception that you are part of the “old order.” The easiest way to mirror the new order is to use its style of communications, including its buzzwords. 

4. Reconfigure what you do with what is needed.

The new order is focused on accomplishing its goals, as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. You have a shot at keeping employed if you can explain succinctly how your function aligns exactly with those priorities. For example, instead of describing your general duties in web marketing, show the sales numbers. Sketch out how you will increase sales. Without warning, you could be called in to justify your existence.

5. Don’t hide.

It’s only by being out there that you can make known your value to the new company. Reach out, beyond your own department or “silo.” Have an elevator speech ready. Suggest how you can be helpful. If rebuffed, don’t run for cover. Instead, identify entry points into the power structure. That could be joining them in the company gym at 6 a.m. or sharing your special expertise on the market in India. Maintain a self-confident persona. A display of fear invites torment.

6. Monitor signs of being encouraged to quit.

It reduces severance costs if the company can encourage you to resign on your own. Tactics to achieve that include lessening your workload, establishing impossible quotas, excluding you from the communications loop and public humiliation. Your decision depends on many factors. Those range from your financial condition to whether resigning versus being fired is in your long-term interest. There is no absolute right answer. Also remember a firing is perceived differently from a wide scale reduction in force (RIF). You might consult with a lawyer and career expert. 

7. Review all legal contracts and agreements. 

Your options may be pre-determined by what you signed during the hiring process. For example, from the get-go, you know you are not going to fit into the emerging organizational culture. But, you entered into an agreement to stay on for 18 months after any merger. Or, your contract reads that you can’t work for a competitor for two years. That means it’s in your self-interest to try to make this work if you intend to stay in the same field. Or, in the event of a merger, you are guaranteed a certain amount of severance pay. It’s your choice to stay or take the money and start over again somewhere else.

8. Don’t settle In.

You might like to look forward to the day when the dust settles and your work life returns to normal. Post-merger, that’s not bound to happen. That’s because the tough nut to crack is integration of the cultures, systems, and people. That could take years. During that process, every aspect of your job could continue to change. No, don’t anticipate settling in.

by Lisa Rangel

chicago river
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