Merger – danger or opportunity?

Dear Joan,

I recently learned that my company was going to enter into a merger with another company. Since we are the ones buying them, I feel relatively safe. However, there is probably more change coming as these two companies combine. What steps would you suggest that I take? I am a manager of a technical division and the other company has the same kind of department but I don't think they are as well respected as we are. I don't want to be an alarmist but I also don't want to get caught by surprise. Any advice?



Sometimes paranoia is a good thing. A merger signals the beginning of many forthcoming changes and if you're not paying close attention, you could be a casualty.


Although you feel a sense of security because your company is the big fish acquiring the little fish, don't be fooled. Employees in both companies have reason to worry. The new management doesn't want duplicate positions or have redundant departments. It's likely that you will see some consolidation after they have had a chance to study the structure and the people.


Here is a quick list of 10 survival tips to help you come out a winner:


1.      Carefully examine the reasons for the merger. Look for likely ramifications on your job. Does it signal a new direction? What market conditions are driving this and how does it change the expectations of your job? The expectations of your customers? Your employees?


2.      Which leaders are going to hold the real power in making decisions? How do they view you and your department? Don't be too quick to affiliate with one person; it they go, you could go too.


3.      Mentally commit to becoming a part of the new team. Too often, both sides tend to go into their respective corners and camp out. They huddle together, criticizing the other side. They spend too much time justifying why their company is/was better, rather than looking for opportunities to join the two sides together. For instance, why not contact your counterpart and introduce yourself. Get to know how they do things. Look for ways to work together.


4.      Stay positive. The merger is going to generate critics on both sides as the implementation begins to roll out.  A gloom and doom attitude will not only look bad to those above you, it will demoralize those who work for you.


5.      If you get a new boss, take steps to understand what his or her expectations are. Even if your manager remains the same, set up a meeting and discuss what you need to do in light of the new changes.


6.      Don't dwell on the "good 'ol days," or "how we do things." One of the main reasons for mergers is to create synergy between two companies. Constantly talking about past history makes you look as if you are resisting the changes.


7.      Be proactive about selling your skills.  This is not the time to expect that just being a good worker is going to save you. Take stock of what you have accomplished lately. How have you added value? What results have you achieved? What skills does the organization find valuable?  Schedule a meeting with your manager after taking this inventory and ask him or her how you can help the new company succeed.


8.      It's not a bad idea to prepare a resume. Chances are, you haven't developed one in years. It will not only force you think through #7. Above, it will also prepare you should cutbacks occur suddenly. You may not want to circulate it around town, but the exercise itself will get you ready. In addition, pick up the pace of your outside networking.


9.      Don't share your strategy with peers. Although you are all friends and colleagues, make no mistake, you are also in competition with each other if the company downsizes.  They could use your comments against you or take advantage of what they know. People do uncharacteristic things when survival is at stake.


10. Don't make any decisions too fast. Find out what is going to happen before you jump. You never know, you could come out way ahead of where you were. But be smart. Be ready. Be a little paranoid. It can only help.

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,, or 
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