First, the bad news: About half of all mergers undertaken in the United States fail. What’s worse, in the vast majority of these mergers and acquisitions, the human toll is high. And companyrarely, if ever, is absolutely candid with employees about necessary changes for making a merger or acquisition work.
So what does this mean for someone confronted with this situation? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Question the Company Line
Remember that leadership’s task is to make a case for why the merger or acquisition is a good thing for the companies involved and, ultimately, for you. Often, leadership will stretch the truth or neglect to reveal everything for fear of losing employee support and commitment.
The larger company acts like an alpha male, deciding who stays and who goes.
Companies involved in strategic initiatives may not really care about you. After all, their job is to make money for their shareholders, not to keep you employed. You are an expense item, a hired gun. Once peace comes to Dodge City, you may have to either hang ‘em up or mosey out of town.
So, don’t become a victim and don’t allow the company to dictate your future. Look out for your own self-interest by evaluating how the merger or acquisition benefits you personally and professionally. Will it ensure long-term job security? Will it provide more opportunity for promotions, challenging work or acquiring new skills?
Learn as much as you can about the upcoming merger/acquisition and the partnering company. Determine who will be in the driver’s seat. Usually, the larger company will be the alpha male, deciding who stays and who goes. When partners are of equal size and influence, it becomes less clear who will survive.
Manage Your Career Aggressively
Your career–the path you take through your profession–is the one possession no one can take from you. Protect and nurture it. Analyze your company’s merger or acquisition from the standpoint of how it impacts your career. Identify where you want to be in five years. Then ask yourself if this merger or acquisition will help you get there. If you don’t believe it will, start looking for another job.
Develop a relationship with your superiors. It does not have to be social, but it should be friendly. Work to earn the respect and support of your superiors. This will serve you well for a number of reasons. First, it will help with professional growth. Your superiors are more likely to give you good job assignments or promotions if they both like and respect you. Secondly, they are more likely to keep you on board during periods of change because they need trustworthy people they can rely on. And lastly, they can serve as valued mentors and confidants.
Become an Organizational Hero
Look for challenges that will give you a reputation as a rising star. This status comes when you make a significant contribution to the organization, such as reducing inventory costs by more than $1 million or dramatically improving the quality of a service or product. Organizations rarely get rid of people who contribute to the bottom line.
You should associate yourself with a needed competency, such as total quality management, strategic benchmarking or reengineering, that makes you the in-house expert on the topic. Such expertise is valued and adds immeasurably to your market value if you seek employment elsewhere.
Don’t assume that everyone knows about your contributions to the organization. When you have successes, publicize them. Also, share recognition with those who assisted you. Send a formal report back to your immediate supervisor and report your at staff meetings. Request an item in the company newsletter.
Some final advice: Never leave your future to chance. Be in control. You decide whether you want to stay or go. View a merger or acquisition as a career opportunity–an opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive!