Since reporting for work at my new job in Seattle back in October of 1999 I have survived two company mergers, three bosses, four administrations, a bankruptcy and the resulting sale of the company to new ownership. Amazingly enough I emerged with my own leadership role in tact along with the bulk of my creative team firmly in place. In fact, I was promoted to Vice President after the sale of the company during the last big shake up. I remember during our initial merger senior management passed out the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" A great read that reveals profound truths about dealing with change. I had no clue how handy that book was going to become since that first big merger.
Dealing with change can be a considerable stress producer, even more stressful when it's occurs in the workplace. It was recently announced in the press that my company and a long time competitor have sought federal clearance for a potential merger. It has only been eighteen months since the sale took place relocating our head office to Texas. I have since successfully remained part of the company's Seattle office. I'm now preparing myself to possibly start the merger process all over again. "It was a typical work week, thirty minutes into my lunch hour, I was looking forward to desert only to realize that someone had moved my cheesecake."
After nearly eight years on the job here, you can be assured that I have become well seasoned in dealing with sweeping changes in the workplace.
I present to you my Top 10 Survival Tips on what not to do during a company merger:
1. Do not panic. When you make panic decisions they typically end badly. Adopt a wait-and-see position, pay attention to company updates and maintain a positive outlook. Be patient.
2. Do not be influenced by the rumor mill. Focus on the facts not on fiction. The rumors will drive you crazy, change daily and potentially cause you to make a panic move.
3. Do not start bashing the company or bashing your co-workers. Negative talk travels fast, compliments travel faster. Choose to be a positive voice in the midst of uncertainty, it demonstrates leadership.
4. Do not assume your position will be eliminated. A major change can mean bigger and better opportunities for you. Look at change as an opportunity for you to shine and to grow.
5. Do not badger leadership attempting to get assurance for your job. Everyone is consumed with their own job security going forward. This will only make you appear self-serving rather than team focused. Instead, ask co-workers how they are doing with all of the uncertainty and be prepared again to be a positive voice.
6. Do not announce that you're circulating your resume. People who look up to you will see this as their cue to panic. Be discreet with your plans because you never know if you will actually find a suitable new job in short order. Be patient.
7. Do not stand still and assume your position will be in tact after the merger is complete. Update your resume, map out a go-forward-plan and run it by a few successful business people that you trust. Be prepared to take their advice. This does not mean you're bailing out, it means you're packing a parachute in case your position is cut.
8. Do not lose out on a reasonable severance package if you have been at your company for five years or more. Moving too quickly before you hear the parameters of the merger can result in you leaving money on the table. Also, unused vacation hours are typically paid out as cash.
9. Do not buy into false security. The term job security is an oxymoron in business today. You may be faced with another merger after taking a job at a new company. Mergers have become common place in today's business climate. Realize that a new hire is often most exposed in a merger.
10. Do not burn bridges. Your exit is always remembered more so than your entrance will ever be. Act professional, exit with integrity giving proper notice should you choose to move on in your career path.
Your goal in a merger should be to continue producing your best work, always remaining professional should you chose to stick out the process. The same standard applies if you are part of a lay off or if you are planning to trade up to another company. Your reputation and personal integrity is priceless so don't compromise it for anyone. Avoid making promises to your leadership or co-workers that you may not be able to keep. Remain positive and open minded, all mergers are not bad nor are they all created equal.
It's important to realize that staying or leaving is your choice. You are not a victim, you have the power to direct your steps. The gift of change can often be a positive thing that delivers exactly what we've been needing for some time. A large dose of self-confidence can also be a useful gift at this juncture. Draw near to those individuals who believe in you and are willing to shower you with encouragement. You'll need it now more than ever especially if you start the job search process.
I wish you success if you are in the middle of a company merger and I empathize with your challenge. There is no doubt that it can produce an unwelcome amount of anxiety. Accept it and make peace with the fact that a bit of chaos will be part of the journey. Use the energy of chaos as fuel for your fire. I will let you know how things work out for me personally in this upcoming round of potential change, taking on my own advice as a guide.
Now I must get back to the task of finding my cheesecake.