Strategies for Landing on Your Feet after a Merger

KWG PHOTO-1 2013by Kathleen Winsor-Games, senior consultant, GEM Strategy Management, Inc.

A merger or acquisition of your company has been announced, and you’re wondering, “Is my job safe?”

Whether you are with the acquiring company, the acquired company, or part of a merger of equals, don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is safe. From the day the transaction is announced to the day major changes are made within your company, you have a brief period of time to take action on your behalf.

Knowledge is Power – If you don’t have a clear understanding of your industry, including dominant players, emerging companies, economic trends, and recent innovations, now is the time to come up to speed. Gain insight into the financial drivers that led to the merger or acquisition in the first place. Understanding those financial drivers is one key to unraveling the mystery of whether or not you have a role to play once the integration phase begins.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to better understand how to position yourself moving forward:

  • Is your company making the acquisition or were they acquired?
  • Was it a merger of equals with complementary products?
  • Does one company have market share in one desirable market demographic, but not another?
  • Does the acquisition appear to be driven by the need to acquire technology or in-demand expertise that is already in place?
  • What does one company have that the other does not?

Perhaps one company has a loyal customer base that would have taken another company many years to achieve. Perhaps the other has successfully implemented the latest manufacturing technologies, positioning them to launch new products in a shorter window of opportunity compared to competitors.

Now you must determine what your role is relative to these factors. For instance, if you were involved in the initiative to select and implement new manufacturing technology, you may be positioned to lead team members in the newly merged company. On the other hand, if your company is the one with the outdated technology, update your skills immediately and identify new ways to contribute, or, take action to find a role in another company.

Hope is not a Strategy – Don’t ignore signs of an impending layoff or signal resistance to change. You may be swept up in a layoff without a smart career strategy and with no place to land. Listen carefully for indicators on how the new culture and integration will be handled and manage your strategy accordingly.

If management is paying attention to how the cultures will be integrated, and employee communication efforts are frequent and encouraging, take heart, but dig deeper. Find out if words and actions match. Are you being offered a retention bonus? Will it be worthwhile to stay, or could it damage your career long-term? Is your boss evasive about meeting with you or reluctant to identify a new role for you?

Here is where you must read between the lines to learn where you truly stand, and to see whether the new culture, the merged entity, and your career path can happily converge.

Solidify Your Alliances –  Are you on good terms with your boss and your colleagues? How is your visibility and reputation with senior management? If you are not in good standing, now is probably not the best time to mend fences. Instead, focus on the positive work you can do to facilitate the transition and put up any wins you can in the near term, while working on your exit strategy. Do everything in your power to ensure that your exit leaves a positive impression and that you can point to accomplishments that build bridges to the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, think carefully about who your true career champions are and quietly reach out to those trusted colleagues for insight and support. Be willing to do the same for others wherever possible. Keep your initial conversations focused on the concept of forging new relationships and brainstorming about emerging companies that hire people like you, while resisting the urge to ask for direct job leads. The idea is to re-ignite your network, expand your visibility and identify opportunities in their earliest stages.

If the newly merged culture is in disarray or a high degree of mistrust exists, don’t wait around and hope for things to get better. Start reaching out to your external relationships and network quietly to identify new opportunities.

Refresh Your Self-Marketing – Document your accomplishments and integrate your best success stories in your LinkedIn profile and resume. Re-engage your professional relationships that may be stale.

The bottom line is to move in the direction that best aligns with your personal values, professional strengths, and long-term goals. You may find new opportunity and upside in your recently reconfigured company, but if not, take the steps to ensure you are in a position of choice.

Kathleen Windsor-Games is a senior consultant to GEM Strategy Management. 970.390.4441





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