Your Company Just Went Through A Merger Or Acquisition: Now What?

Employees don’t have control over much when their employer is involved in a merger or an acquisition. But there are tactics that can help to ease any transition that comes from these business moves.

Joe Darrah

November 23, 2022

8 Min Read
Image courtesy of designer491 / Alamy Stock Photo

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic lingering into a second year in 2021, the rate of company mergers and acquisitions throughout the technology industry continued to increase. More than

$630 billion in ownership deals were recorded in 2021, a 91.8% year-over-year increase compared to 2020.

And, yet, despite the volitivity inherent with these types of transactions, Marissa Marsala is certain that professionals who work in this sector should not simply assume that their company will be involved in a merger or sale during their careers.

“That’s not the standard,” Marsala, an executive recruiter, career transition strategist, and career coach who manages her own consultancy service - Employer & Candidate Connection in San Diego, CA, told MD+DI. “I don’t think we can all assume that something like this will happen at our place of employment.”

There’s a range of mixed emotions that one can expect to experience in the event that their place of employment is involved in a merger or acquisition, and how people conduct themselves in response to this type of adversity can go a long way to defining one’s career, regardless of whether or not there is a change in their title or employment status as a result of the merger or acquisition.

To help navigate the personal feelings that come with these business matters, Marsala suggests practicing a set of seven strategies – it’s advice that she says all professionals should consider implementing when they’re involved in such situations. She says that preparing for these behaviors in advance of any potential activity at one’s organization is worthwhile in an effort to confidently conduct oneself in the face of possible future adversity.

  1. Become Indispensable.

A change of ownership hands is sure to bring with it a change in how the company conducts business. There’s likely to be additional work needed to be done during any transition period, which presents a perfect opportunity to be assertive and to seek out more job responsibilities that go beyond your job description. “Step up and be willing to take on more responsibility,” Marsala suggests. “If your assigned workload is under control, seek out your manager to see if there’s more work that you can take on. This will make you more marketable and position you for other roles within the company. You’ll also put yourself in a position to have more references if you’re laid off.”

Typically, managers don’t know if or when their team members are going to be laid off or reassigned whenever a company is acquired by another. In the event that the manager is required to make these difficult decisions, they’re more likely to retain those who have a track record of taking on more work and handling it competently, says Marsala. There’s a certain tact needed to be followed when pursing this path, however, she warns. To avoid infringing on someone else’s specific job, let your manager know that you are generally available to take on more work. Avoid identifying someone else’s job responsibilities directly. Also, initiate regular meetings with your direct supervisor on a recurring basis to keep communication open and ongoing.

  1. Don’t Take It Personally.

Most decisions about the status of an employee’s employment are made based on the function of their jobs and/or their salary. Likewise, when a company is sold or merged with another, it’s not done so based on personal feelings. Employees must remain neutral and not let their emotions get in the way of their business sense.

“This is easier said than done, but setting up the right mindset is so important when companies are acquired,” said Marsala. “Don’t turn inward when a business decision is made, because that can immobilize you and you won’t move forward. Avoid blaming yourself and/or blaming others. Do your best to keep a positive attitude and outlook. People who have negative attitudes cast a low energy level that is noticed and will likely get them earmarked for future decision making.”

It's not uncommon to feel a sense of worry or even grief when a major company change such as a merger or acquisition occurs. It’s not a time to dwell too long, however. It’s a time to evaluate one’s worth, skills, and desire to remain employed. “Know what your talents and your strengths are,” Marsala said. “Resist the temptation to feel that it’s a personal matter. If you’re part of the pool of employees that is retained, you need to prove that you are the right person for the job. Establish that type of reputation because there could be waves of layoffs over time. Don't feel so comfortable that you don’t feel the need to work harder.”

  1. Become Resilient.

When a merger or acquisition occurs, the initial wave of layoffs will typically happen within 3-6 months, Marsala estimates. Some employees could find themselves in a situation where they are required to re-interview for their jobs in order to remain employed. Or the administration could require everyone to conduct a presentation about their jobs and what they do in their roles. This can create an uncomfortable environment, but it is best to keep a positive disposition as much as possible, Marsala advises.

“You don’t want to necessarily be ‘on alert,’ but people will be observing you,” she said. “You’re not a victim. You need to take charge of your job and your career.”

Marsala also urges professionals to not become too consumed by the matters of others if layoffs do begin to occur. The good news is that, even with a potential recession looming, it’s still a candidates’ market for those who find themselves having to seek out another job.

“You can’t dwell on the loss of your colleagues,” Marsala said. “And don’t wait to be laid off to conduct your networking. “Too many people ‘find their network’ when they lose their job. And people will see right through that. We should always be networking.”

  1. Be Ready to Listen, Serve, & Adapt.

Without question, change accompanies any company merger or acquisition. That change might seem limitless. “You might be told that your responsibilities are changing. It could also be a change in hours, a change in work location, a change in remote, or office working. You might not be reporting to the same people. Or you might be another layer down in the hierarchy of the company. Your job description could change. Policies and procedures at the company could change. You might not be invited to the same meetings anymore,” said Marsala. While predicting the degree of change is not possible, there are measures that can be taken to help one to adapt to the many changes that could result. Chief among these steps is enrolling in continuing education. “Up-skill yourself,” said Marsala. “Take classes online or in person that lead to a certificate or certification in business skills that are job-related. Know what is trending in your industry based on your job title and description and seek out those certifications. This will make you more marketable and viable, and potentially be invited to participate in different projects. And you might be able to command more money.

Marsala also notes that some companies offer succession planning for those who continue their education. So, it’s important to inform those who need to know about any certifications earned because that type of knowledge could help with a promotion or avoiding a layoff when those types of difficult decisions need to be made.
“Look at job postings to see what’s trending and to know what employers are looking for in specific job roles,” Marsala said. “If your job were posted today, what would the job description look like? What skills would the employer be looking for in an employee? Marsala also suggests being active on LinkedIn and utilizing word clouds to gain a better understanding of what is trending in various job postings.

  1. Be Prepared, Plan Ahead, & Expect The Unexpected.

The best way to be prepared is to constantly update one’s resume. This is especially helpful even when there is no change in job status because it allows the professional to more easily communicate their job role if they’re asked by the new administration to characterize their role.

  1. Seek Support From Others.

Everyone should have at least one person who is a “safe haven,” whether it be a friend, family member, or colleague. This individual should be trusted and respected to lean on emotionally. They should provide encouragement, honest feedback, sound guidance, and help you to navigate through vulnerable moments by being supportive. “It’s important to approach the work world with a positive attitude, but we all experience moments of doubt and even dark hours,” Marsala said. “If you’re down and need to divulge your feelings, you don’t want to do that with just anyone. You’re making the wrong impression most of the time when you do that. Make sure you have someone who understands the job and the industry who can give you unbiased advice.

  1. Always Give Back.

During times of stress and uncertainty, thoughts of helping others might not be what’s top of mind. But Marsala says that this is the optimal time to try to think of others as opposed to becoming too self-involved. From a business sense, this can simply mean just doing what is asked of you with a sense of grace, even culture concerns arise following a merger or acquisition. “The best thing that you can do sometimes is to just give people what they want,” she said. “Assisting others actually feeds our own self-esteem and provides us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.”

About the Author(s)

Joe Darrah

Joe Darrah is an award-winning freelance journalist based in the Philadelphia region who covers a variety of topics, including healthcare and medical technology. His articles have been published in more than 40 publications.

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