Survival is an option - sort of

May 10 2006 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Lots of news reports and magazine stories outline the tales of people who were axed as the result of corporate mergers, buy-outs, acquisitions - or however you want to describe the soaking up of entire companies in the great corporate sponge.

But very few people bother to tell the tale of those who really struggle - the managers who stay and try to herd their charges through the maze.

I think it was the great philosopher Black Beard who said, "Them what died right away were the lucky ones". Weathering the storms associated with major changes such as a change of ownership is possible with work and more than the usual quota of luck. Whether it's worth the stress is your call to make.

Why do you WANT to stay? If it's because you believe in the new vision or think there are opportunities for you and your staff, you'll have an easier time than if you're trying to survive simply because the next person you interview with might actually check the references on your resume.

First of all, you're in good company. According to the US Commerce Department, over 150,000 companies are bought, sold, merged or otherwise become part of a corporate anschluss each year. (Look it up under World War 2 History- the greed-heads at Time Warner put up less of a fight than Austria did).

That leaves a lot of people whose jobs simply go away for reasons that have nothing to do with their competence, dedication or talent. That should be a great comfort as you fill out the fields on in your Sponge Bob Square Pants slippers and tattered robe.

If though, you are really determined to get through it, here are some things you should know:

First the good news. It helps to be in IT. For once this works to your advantage, since during the due diligence process no one ever figures out how much of a nightmare it's going to be making your systems talk to the new mother ship. They'll eat up 6 months profit just trying to figure out how you managed to rout your email through Guam (which I'm sure seemed like a good idea to one of those geeks but no one can remember who).

It's better to be the changer than the changed. By becoming part of the transition team you'll be seen as a team player by the new management, which, warm and fuzzy promises aside, is destined to be the ONLY management by the time they're done.

More importantly, you'll meet the critical players and be more than a name on a list. They're less likely to fire you if they know and like you. Just know it's not going to make you the most popular kid in class.

Since we're using 1949 references, see Quisling, Vidkun. There is a difference between cooperating and collaborating - it's just usually in the eyes of the affected employees.

Like Marvin Gaye said, believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. It's important to know what's going on but don't fall into the gossip trap. Change management experts identify destructive gossip as the most damaging behavior to smooth integration - and spreading it is the quickest path to unemployment.

Be prepared for the stress of staying to be as bad or worse than the stress of leaving. Survivor guilt is only the most obvious challenge. Doing the work of those who've left because you're the only one who knows the location of the supply closet is no picnic either.

If none of this helps, think about this: the hardest part of surviving a buyout may be hearing from those who leave about their great new jobs and how leaving was the best thing that ever happened to them.

As the survivor of four buyouts in the last seven years I can testify to that one. The lucky @#%s never shut up about it.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.