After a lot of uncertainty, the news finally comes out, and the shock waves ripple throughout the office: Our company has been bought.
Not every acquisition means that the new owners will immediately clean house, but you can count on the fact that everything will be under close scrutiny as they begin digging deeper into their new purchase… much like a new car owner starts fiddling with all the gadgets to get the “hang” of them. During this process, decisions will be made about what is useful… and what isn’t.
So where do you fit in this picture?
Believe it or not, there are some things that you can do to keep your head above water, but don’t be fooled into thinking that your job is secure. You will need to hope for the best while at the same time, plan for the worst.
Here are some tips to keep yourself afloat during this stressful transition time, and help you be able to weather the storm that is shaking up your workplace:
1) Learn everything you can about the new owner. Understanding the culture that you are going to have to fit in can make the difference as to whether you make the cut. Sticking with “this is how things used to be done” mentality can actually sound the death knell for your employment. Instead, try stretching your brain and learning to adapt. It could make the difference as to whether you end up successfully navigating the changeover.
2) Update your résumé. There is no job security anymore, and smart career managements update their career assets constantly. But if there is ever a time to start tweaking your résumé, now would be the time. You need to be ready to react at a moment’s notice, and sometimes, new company owners don’t even grant you that much!
3) Set up a meeting with the new boss. This isn’t so much of a “suck up” maneuver than it is a smart move to learn more about the person you’ll be reporting to… but also realize that it is a way for you to introduce yourself to them and help them ease through the transition by sharing information about operations. Most bosses who step in to take over staff from a company that was just acquired really don’t relish their job. It’s tough work figuring out what to do with everyone and consolidate workflows, job duties, and processes. Be the grease that can help ease the skids. You might earn yourself a champion in your corner as a result.
4) Quantify your results and have a performance portfolio at the ready. At some point, the challenge you’ll be faced with is actually justifying your job and / or work. The more in-touch you are with your accomplishments and your value to the company can be a saving grace as to whether you’ll be retained, or let go.
5) If the budget allows, sign up for much professional development as you can. While you may have made it through any initial personnel cuts, there is no guarantee that future ones won’t occur as the new company owners get more of a handle of operations post-merger. Don’t let up on your job performance, but make sure you maximize any workplace benefits you have coming to you, including taking additional courses/classes or attending conferences relevant to your job. There’s no telling when that will be cut back either! And in the meantime, you are adding to your job knowledge as a result.
6) If the company offers outplacement services, take them up on it. I recently worked with a technology company that was acquired and laying off a substantial part of their workforce as a result of consolidation of operations. The company generously offered outplacement services to all affected employees, but fewer than 50% took them up on it. Many were just waiting to get their severance check on the way out the door, never thinking for one moment of how tough the job market is out there. In fact, it was a very short-sighted rebuff on those folks’ part because they would probably have used up the severance check within a few months and then would be farther behind in their respective job searches because they had inferior résumé. Outplacement services offer employees the opportunity to receive professional assistance in résumé development and job search coaching… a valuable asset many would be jealous to have.
7) Before your original boss leaves, get a letter of reference. Sometimes, the management staff are the first to go in a merger, so if you have been reporting to someone who has great insight into your work and is considered a workplace ally, ask them for a letter of reference before they are laid off. This can make a difference for you in future job applications by having that recommendation already “in the can.”
Any time you hear rumblings about a corporate merger/acquisition should be taken as a sign to start paying attention to your workplace. Nothing is secure anymore, and it is up to you to make sure that you advocate for your career… because no one else will!