Surviving a Merger: Turbulent Times Call for Composed Measures

by Denny Strigl

Much has been written in the press the last couple weeks about AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile.  Mergers and acquisitions are always exciting, particularly for the top executives of the companies involved and for people on Wall Street who worked to bring the deal together.  However, for many employees in both companies mergers and acquisitions can cause great consternation.  Employees immediately wonder what will happen to their jobs, and what will happen to them.

In the case of AT&T and T-Mobile there was immediate speculation that putting the two companies together could mean as much as $40 billion in cost reductions and the elimination of thousands of jobs.  Positive news for investors, but what about employees?

Most companies try to assure employees that there will be plenty of job opportunities, and that the most qualified people from both companies will be chosen to fill jobs in the new, combined company.  Nonetheless, job losses will occur.

During my 41-year business career I have “lived through” many mergers as a first line employee, a middle manager, and a CEO. Here is my best advice on how to “survive” a merger:

  1. Stay focused on doing your job. Try not to be distracted.  People who get distracted and stop doing their jobs are the first to go.
  2. Don’t choose sides. Keep your options open.  Be open to new ideas. Be willing to change the way you do your job.
  3. Don’t hesitate to let your bosses know you are excited about the opportunities the new, combined entity will create, and let them know you would like to be involved.

In Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? an entire chapter is devoted to managing distractions.  A merger/acquisition can be a major distraction, but like any other distraction the best managers I have worked with stay focused on the number one priority of all managers: delivering results.  Managers deliver results by giving undivided attention to the Four Fundamentalsgrowing revenue, getting new customers, keeping the customers they already have, and eliminating costs.

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