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
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: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org