Article: The Mortal's Guide to Surviving M&As

Strategic HR

The Mortal's Guide to Surviving M&As

While there are numerous 'corporate manuals' to guide the company, here is an 'individual's guide' to survive corporate mergers and acquisitions
The Mortal's Guide to Surviving M&As

M&A activity is an emotional time full of stress,fear,insecurity and resentment,but don't rush to the job market


A common feeling, especially amongst the tenured employees is a sense of betrayal and loss


While there are numerous ‘corporate manuals’ to guide the company, here is an ‘individual’s guide’ to survive corporate mergers and acquisitions

Mergers, acquisitions and takeovers are an integral part of the corporate world, and this trend is picking up momentum in India as well. The last few years has seen some big M&A activities in India too – iGate-Patni, MphasiS-EDS, Vodafone - Hutchisons Essar, Ranbaxy –Daichi, Tata – Corus, to name a few.

As the Indian market evolves, consolidates and goes through cycles of crests and troughs, each of us, active members of the corporate workforce, will definitely encounter mergers and acquisitions in some form or the other. We will definitely work for companies that will be sold to somebody, divisions that are hived off or services outsourced, and therefore rebadged. And most of us will be unprepared when this hits us!

There are tons of ‘how to manuals’ from a company perspective, but little for us, ordinary mortals, who will be the most impacted in an M&A process. I spoke with a group of people, employees, managers and senior leaders, who have experienced mergers, to shape this column and have used that discussion to structure the article in three parts1) what we feel, 2) how we react and 3) tips to succeed based on 1 and 2.

What do we feel when we go through a merger or an acquisition?
All of them admitted that they went through extreme lows. A common feeling, especially amongst the tenured employees is a sense of betrayal and loss.‘What will happen to me?’ is a common rhetorical question, coupled with ‘will I still have my job? will my medical benefits change? what will happen to my boss?’
Suddenly the familiar anchors: the logo, the company name, the familiar routine all disappear adding to distress and resentment – towards both the acquiring and the acquired company.
Clearly, it was an emotional time full of stress, fear, insecurity and resentment - a heady cocktail that leads to irrational behavior and actions that we would not indulge in, under normal circumstances.
Now that we know what we feel, let us see how we react?
All respondents admitted to updating their resume, renewing their recruitment consultant contacts and reaching out to past managers and colleagues. They rushed into the job market, often to the same watering holes.
Bonding near water coolers was another common thread through their experiences: foes now become friends because nothing brings people together like a common enemy. Every change from the weather, to toilet cleanliness is attributed to the new management and one confidant even admitted a strong urge to derail every new initiative. The poor lad who was willing to cross over and make a new beginning from their group, was seen as a traitor and labelled a “chalu chap”.
I re – read what I wrote and was worried if I had overdone the reaction. I was in for a surprise - when I passed the notes to my group for comments, all agreed that they did experience what I had written in varying degrees. Some smiled knowingly, others said it was a little on the higher side but nobody denied this. I felt better.
It is time we all feel better! I don’t think our reactions will change… most of us will feel this way and react this way simply because companies can be bought, not people!
Now that we know what we will feel and how we will react, here are some ideas on how to manage the feelings and reactions, to get the better of these events.

Treat it as a new job
Treat the post M&A company as a new company that you have joined. One of the group members said this well “Most of us would have behaved differently if we had joined a new company, we would have tried hard to succeed, to build relationships and align with the culture. I wish we had done the same when we were acquired”.

Misery loves company – but the new management may not like miserable company!
It is human to congregate, commiserate and conference with fellow beings. Get over it and focus on what needs to be done. Commiseration and congregation will not change things. Your results will get you the attention, a better retention bonus and who knows, a bigger job within the new entity!

Focus on what you can control
It is natural, you will be worried, feel insecure and all kinds of fears will grip you. No point in worrying about what you cannot influence. Focus on what you can – your attitude, and your willingness to embrace the new company. Make it easy for others to integrate and help the new management succeed.

Don’t jump but keep your options open
Update your resume, activate your networks but don’t jump immediately. Career decisions should never be taken in a hurry. Wait and watch before you take the jump. Sometime you may actually get a good severance package if you wait and not run.

Watch the company you keep
Always important, but in this situation even more. Avoid the company of dissenters and derailers. New managements start mapping and watching for such behavior from day one, so start building your bridges in the new organization.

Your earlier company’s culture may have been great, but it is over. Do we still wear the same pants we wore to school just because we loved school? Quickly align and find out what works in the new workplace and start learning how you can focus on making things happen.
Above all, think through, be calm and don’t be impulsive. Mergers and acquisitions are trying times emotionally and otherwise. Realize that and compensate for it.
Good luck and leave your experiences: success, failure and ‘I wish I had done differently’ stories as comments.

Elango R, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS. You can follow him on twitter@ agastyasays and read his blogs on

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Topics: Strategic HR, C-Suite, #MergersAndAcquisitions

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