For individual managers and employees, a merger or acquisition (M&A) is not just a corporate strategy; it’s a personally disruptive—often traumatic—event.
What C-suite executives and consultants euphemistically call “postmerger integration” is typically a period of tension, uncertainty, and even chaos. Workloads ramp up, as do pressure and stress. You may have to quickly adapt to unfamiliar policies, practices, and politics; work with strangers from different corporate or even national cultures; or report to new bosses who know nothing about your track record or ambitions. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee of a job with the resulting organization, let alone a long-term career. On average, roughly 30% of employees are deemed redundant after a merger or acquisition in the same industry.
In such situations, most people tend to fixate on what they can’t control: decisions about who is let go, promoted, reassigned, or relocated. But in our studies and consulting practices, we’ve found that individuals faced with organizational upheaval have much more power over what happens to them than they realize.
If your company is involved in one of the tens of thousands of M&A deals struck annually around the world, you can respond in a few ways. The first option is to keep your head down, focus on the tasks at hand, and hope that everything turns out OK. A second tack is to polish your résumé, reconnect to your outside peer network, and start looking for alternative employment. But we recommend a third and perhaps more constructive choice: Embrace the dynamic, intense integration process and use it as an opportunity for introspection and growth.
We’ve met and worked with hundreds of professionals who’ve taken this approach and say that as a result, their M&A experiences were exhilarating—maybe even “the best thing that ever happened” to them. Not all individuals were able to shape every decision in their favor or get their desired jobs; indeed, some had to retool themselves to succeed at their new organizations, and a few were ultimately forced to move on to different employers. …