Surviving A Corporate Marriage

Charting your course with a new script

Yaw Asare Aboagye, a 32-year-old former network manager, now co-founder of www.conscioushiphop.com, says that before the recently merged company, marchFIRST, filed chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcy this past April and his job was cut, he wished he’d been more diligent about sending out résumés, and knowing that salaries and job openings in his field were declining rapidly. Even his attitude needed readjusting: “I ran all of the servers and knew everything,” says Aboagye, “I thought, ‘who would they hire to replace me?’” Plus, he was enjoying an $18,000 raise, earned for his role in merging the company’s New York region.

Aboagye had survived several mergers–USWeb/CKS bought Mitchell Madison Group in 1999, then joined with Whitman-Hart in 2000 to form the Internet consulting firm marchFIRST–but he had never considered strategies outside of being an indispensable employee.

Unfortunately, more and more companies are considering mergers and acquisitions as one strategy to cut costs. Cutting costs, however, can mean reassigning employees or announcing layoffs. Before the dust settles at your company, consider how to reposition yourself for advancement.

“The opportunities may depend on which company is on the buying end,” says Mitchell Lee Marks, Ph.D., an organization development consultant and president of www.joiningforces.org. He advises being proactive:

Get a sense of the big picture. Gather information about the buying company. Does it have a history of mergers? How has it handled merged staffs?
o Take the initiative. Ask your boss what is most important now. An acquisition can quickly shift priorities. Don’t wait for direction. Show that you are capable of shifting gears and moving forward.

Use your time and energy wisely. If you’re part of a project that may soon dissolve as a result of the merger, volunteer for a transition team and be willing to assume new responsibilities.

Handle your stress. Are you frustrated about not being in the loop? Guard against outward expressions of frustration and malicious gossiping. You want to be known as someone who can ride the waves.

Prepare for the worst. Polish up your résumé, use the Internet, contact recruiters, and network.

At press time, Joyce Cooper, a 32-year-old business planning manager at Compaq Computer Corporation in Houston, was still employed, but is one of thousands of employees anticipating a possible mega-merger with former rival Hewlett-Packard. Layoffs are now occurring at both companies. Cooper, laid off from Texas Instruments about two years ago, says she’s prepared herself financially this time around. (She used BLACK ENTERPRISE’s executive recruiter guide after leaving Texas Instruments to land her position at Compaq.) She also remains active in industry groups and professional associations, such as the National Black MBA Association and The National Society of Black Engineers.

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