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Mergers & Acquisitions

by Douglas E. Welch

March 24, 2000

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

The mere mention of a business merger is enough to send a computer careerist running to the nearest job recruiter. As most of you know, technology staffers tend to take the brunt of layoffs when companies merge. Since, more than likely, each company has their own IT infrastructure there can be hundreds of people who are suddenly declared redundant.

Ducks in a row

While I certainly don't recommend outright panic you will want to start preparing your future the minute you start hearing those merger rumors. Depending on your situation you will be preparing either your defense or your exit strategy. Even if this particular merger doesn't happen you will be well prepared for any future upheaval.

Often companies will try to maintain the best staffers from each company during a merger. Acquisitions, where one company is buying another, are less friendly. In either case, there will only be a finite number of positions available once the merger is complete. Some people will leave of their own accord and some with take early retirement or other severance packages. This still leaves too many people fighting for too few jobs.

If you have decided to remain with the company that remains after a merger you will need to document all of your accomplishments and show a path of increasing responsibility. Gather all the recommendation letters you can. This allows you to present your best case and, hopefully, forestall a layoff.

My previous column, (A little recognition, June 1998, ), has more detailed tips for documenting your career and building a portfolio that can be used to sell yourself to your new employers.

What's the buzz?

After getting your affairs in order it is time to seek out as much information about the new company as possible. Usually everyone, from top management on down is reticent to say anything about a merger. In some cases, this happens because they don't have any information to share. It can also mean, though, that they have information that they fear may cause a panic among the staff. People can also be reluctant to speculate, as they don't like to admit that they have no information about what is going on. You may find that higher level management is keeping lower level management in the dark. One sure sign of trouble is when everyone in management assures you there will be no major changes and it is just business as usual. Mergers are never business as usual.

If the merging companies are traded publicly you can obtain a wide variety of information from the SEC reports they are required to file each quarter. This will show you mainly financial data, though. The business press can often be a better source of day-to-day information on the merger. There are many Internet sources that can search for information about the merging companies and automatically send you a report each day.


Loyalty has its place in all aspects of our lives, including business. I will say, though, that there is very little glory in going down with your ship. It is fair to say that there are liable to be job cuts across all categories of the merged company. You may have to face the situation where your boss is fired, but you have a chance to remain. In most cases you are better off staying at your current job unless your boss has an ironclad position at some other company where he has the power to hire you, as well. Don't leave just because your boss does. Unless you have a much better place to jump to, it is better to stay put for now.

Above all, keep in touch with anyone who might be able to help you in the future. Just because you no longer work together doesn't mean that you can't help forward each other's career.

Mergers and acquisitions are a fact of life in today's business world and I can almost guarantee that you will be part of at least one in your career. If you stay prepared, by documenting your career, you will always be ahead of the game when it happens. Whatever your situation your best course of action in any merger is to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and keep your eyes and ears open.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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