advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Thriving as a senior-level professional during a merger

How managers caught up in the crush of mergers and acquisitions can keep their performance and morale high.

Thriving as a senior-level professional during a merger
[Studio Romantic/Adobe Stock]

A merger might be an exciting development for a company’s board of directors, but it tends to be highly stressful for managers who have to guide their team through the changes. Since it’s commonplace for managers and other employees to find out about the merger at the same time (just as the public announcement happens), it’s no easy task to keep everyone calm and productive. Never mind thriving.

advertisement
advertisement

However, there’s a big difference between “difficult” and “impossible.” Let’s look at why so many mergers have taken place in recent times and what managers caught up in them can do to keep their performance and morale high.

THE RISE OF MERGERS

If you’re currently grappling with the impact of a merger in your organization, you’re not the only one. In 2021, the value of merger deals (pending and completed) surpassed $3.6 trillion in August, while 2020 only saw $3.59 trillion worth of deals for the whole year. The total number of mergers also rose by 24%.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Interest rates have been lower than ever recently due to the Fed’s attempts to stimulate the economy during the pandemic by encouraging borrowing and spending. Meanwhile, stock prices rose throughout 2021. The result? A roaring market full of profitable companies and attractive financing deals to acquire them.

advertisement
advertisement

Although early 2022 spelled the start of a plummeting stock market and talk of rising Fed rates, many of us are still living in the afterglow of the previous conditions.

Besides, even if rates and stock prices do drop, there are still many factors that make mergers favorable, such as demand for SPACs and upcoming tax legislation that makes it important for companies to merge sooner rather than later. Not to mention the impact of globalization.

TO STAY OR GO?

Regardless of the economic factors that have created a favorable environment for mergers, let’s return to what really matters to you as a senior-level professional: doing your job well and managing your team during a turbulent time.

advertisement

If this is the first time you’ve experienced a merger, you might wonder if it’s time to jump ship. However, it’s usually best to stick around until you understand the new situation you’ve found yourself in—even if you ultimately decide it’s no longer right for you. Let’s look at a few ways to assess the situation and make the most of it.

TAKE A STEP BACK

Things can get crazy when your company is in the middle of a merger. Some workers on your team might be panicking and asking you 100 questions, your workload might skyrocket, and there’s likely to be a constant feeling of tension in the air. In such an environment, it’s tempting to throw yourself into the company like never before and try to work away your anxiety.

But sometimes, the best thing you can do is to calmly take a step back and analyze what you’re working with. Processes often change after a merger, so you’ll need to come to grips with this before hustling with your usual tasks.

advertisement

Which policies and practices do you have to adhere to now? What does the reporting structure of the organization look like? What kind of culture can you notice from any new work colleagues?

You might not be able to get all the answers you need right now (such as the future of your company), but learning the basics will at least give you something to tell the rest of your team and put you at ease.

Note that some firms change more than others during this period—it depends on the type of merger in question (whether two companies are combining operations or if your firm is being left to continue almost as normal).

advertisement

ADAPT YOUR ATTITUDE

As a senior-level professional, you’re probably used to being a valued and respected member of your organization. You probably don’t feel like you need to “prove yourself” the same way you did a decade ago, especially if you’ve worked in the same company for a very long time. Yet after a merger, you might well find yourself working with new superiors and colleagues who aren’t familiar with your track record.

You may need to adopt a more humble approach and be open to new ideas about ways to do things, and you might even receive negative feedback. Try to keep an open mind and work with others, even if you suspect you might know better.

With any luck, you’ll be leading by example and your team will adopt the same flexible approach.

advertisement

PREPARE FOR THE WORST

No matter how experienced or skilled you are at your role, there’s always the possibility you could lose your role. In fact, as many as 30% of employees may lose their jobs during mergers. Or maybe you’ll be unhappy with the new environment and choose to leave.

Accepting this early on and taking steps to prepare yourself for finding another position can reduce your stress because you’ll know that the worst-case scenario is no longer such a dire one.

You don’t need to make any applications, but tidying up your resume and LinkedIn profile can go a long way toward making you feel more confident if things do take a turn for the worst.

advertisement

GET READY TO THRIVE

Mergers are always going to be a stressful experience, but they can also represent some great opportunities. Remaining positive and calm throughout this sea of change will make all the difference, regardless of whether the outcome is you cementing your place in the organization or ultimately finding a different role.

Mergers may be here to stay, but you can choose how you react to them and remain in control.


Tim Madden is an Executive Coach and former Headhunter. Founder of Executive Career Upgrades, he’s on a mission to help accelerate careers.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement