Go on offensive to keep your job

Dear Joan:
I am a long-time employee (close to 30 years) at a company that is in the process of being sold. My question to you is: What are the steps I should take before or shortly after the takeover to maximize my chances of securing a management position with the new company in the field of public relations/communications? I am in my early 50's and am looking forward to 10 to 12 years of productive work before I retire.

There are some things you can do to put yourself in a good position with the new company but, for the most part, the dye has been cast. A lot depends on whether the new company is planning on leaving the management of your company in place.

The best way to evaluate your situation is to analyze what the new company's strategy is. For example, if your company is healthy and the new company is acquiring you because you offer a complimentary product or service, there is a good chance you and the other members of management will be left alone.

However, if your company is a takeover target because of sagging profits due to management problems, you may be swept out of your jobs fairly quickly. Or, the new company may decide to take a wait and see attitude and watch the management team for areas of weakness and replace people as needed.

Other clues may be gained by watching how they have acquired other companies in the past. If they have followed a slash and burn policy-trimming the ranks, selling off divisions-there isn't much hope for you. Since you are in public relations, you know how to research companies, so check the public records to see how they have operated in the past.

Often, the acquiring company will find many areas of duplication between companies. Unfortunately, staff departments such as accounting, public relations and human resources are the first to go. If the new company plans on centralizing those functions, there isn't much you can do about it.

Another thing to watch is how the new company is treating your company. In other words, how much are they telling you? Has the new company taken any steps to calm people's fears or at least answer their questions? The more this happens, the more likely it is that your job isn't in danger.

Your own performance and reputation within your company are also good predictors of your fate. If you are viewed as a vital member of management; someone who solves problems and is relied on by people at levels above you, you're in a good position. You can be sure that the top management of both companies are discussing key staff members right now. The new company will want a full assessment of the management resources.

In the meantime, you are in the perfect job to take advantage of this opportunity. Use your position to take a proactive role. For instance, talk to your boss and other high level managers to find out as much as you can about the takeover. With your boss's help, launch an offensive strategy to keep people informed. For starters, find out who your colleagues are in the new company and introduce yourself.

Set yourself up as the key communications contact within your company to ease the transition. Suggest that you set up a "hot line" if appropriate, to answer questions from employees, customers and vendors. Write articles in the newsletter or write frequent Q & A memos to answer employees' questions. Suggest that top management hold some "fireside chats" with employees to help calm fears.

In other words, show them what you're made of. Rather than waiting in the shadows, step forward and deal with this huge communications/public relations issue. Not only will you be doing what's right for the employees, you'll be showing the new company just how good you are.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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