With merger and acquisition activity approaching levels not seen since 2007, it is timely to think about what to do if your organization is acquired. Since mergers often create staff redundancies, it is common for the acquired company’s staff to be split into two groups: one group which is continuing and another which is separating. Whichever group of employees you fall into, understand that your old job is gone. Even if you are continuing and will sit at the same desk doing the same thing, you are at a new job in a new organization. While you may not have control over most of the things related to the acquisition, you do have control over the most important thing—your own relevance to a new organization.
As one who has been employed by 4 different organizations as they were acquired, I have observed several types of behavior which lead toward—and away from—relevancy in the new organization. For those who are continuing with the merged organization, relevancy requires that you avoid playing any of these irrelevant roles:
- Chief Esoterica Officer: Don’t try to seem indispensable by presenting yourself as the only one who knows esoteric secrets and processes related to your old job at the acquired company. If you have made your job so complicated that only you know how to do it, your relevancy is actually lessened.
- Guardian of the Legacy: Resist the temptation to lament loudly and often that the new owners don’t really understand the legacy business. This may well be true, but they developed an impression of the legacy organization and how to run it before committing to the purchase. Going on and on about the legacy business gets old quickly.
- Sycophantic Scrambler: Early in a merger, there is often a staffing soap opera as people anxiously watch to see who is going, who is staying, and who will rise to power in the new organization. If you scramble to be friends with the emerging leaders, after ignoring them up to that point, it could well backfire on you. Flattery, once exposed, works against relevancy.
While you may not have control over most of the things related to the acquisition, you do have control over the most important thing—your own relevance to a new organization.Regardless of how relevant you are to the newly merged organization, you may simply be redundant with a person that the acquiring company already has in place. In this case you will likely be separated from employment, so it is all the more important to be relevant to a new organization. For both the continuing and separating, relevancy is best achieved and demonstrated by playing these roles:
- Interpreter: Translate what you did at the old organization into terms that others can easily recognize as a business process which would add value to the new organization.
- Legacy Builder: Touch briefly on the past and then demonstrate the desire to add your forward momentum to building the legacy of a new organization.
- Relationship Developer: Regularly invest, however lightly, in professional relationships that have no apparent practical benefit to you.
Relevancy is related to, but not bound by: age; tenure; skill set; or other attribute. Rather, it is the ability to bring something of value to a new organization in a timely way.