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MISERY LOVES COMPANY: On Being an Acquiree, Not an Acquirer...

A lot of the people you support as an HR Pro are going to be impacted by a variety of types of organizational change that look a lot like an acquisition. More to the point, they're going to be in situations where they feel like the acquiree rather than the acquirer, which do I say it....suck.

So let's start this post by thinking about situations that feel like an acquistion: Stop-whining

1. An acquisition. Definitely feels like an acquisition.

2. A big layoff.  Pieces move around.  Feels like an acquisition - without winners.

3. Just got your department merged with another internal department. Cheese moved.

4. Reorganization of any and all types. What would you say you do here?

5. You just got a new manager. Meet the new boss. Different than the old boss.

All of these situations and more can make a professional manager of people feel like he/she has lost a major battle and has been minimized as a result.

Too often, the first emotion of the manager in question is to bitch and moan. Let's use some live ammo to talk about this - take a look at this post from Scott Weiss:

"It took almost six months for my former company IronPort’s acquisition by Cisco to close and it seemed like forever. Although I was still the CEO by name, I was essentially running a “puppet” government with every hire, major expense and strategic shift needing explicit approval from my soon-to-be-overlords. Since Cisco was a functionally organized company, I would soon be losing half of my direct reports as sales, HR, and finance would report into their respective groups. My job was becoming smaller and it had considerably fewer degrees of freedom. So here was the big dilemma: I had signed up for 24 months of re-vesting my founder’s shares that wouldn’t begin until the deal was closed and it already seemed like a paint-drying eternity. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t cut out for a big company but I just couldn’t spend the next two years watching the clock or I’d spiral into insanity. What to do?"

Scott's talking about a big acquisition, but the dynamics feel much the same for any manager of people in the situations I listed above. Change happens, you've got less authority as a result, and you're pissed.  That's a problem.  You might not have an earn out of 24 months, but the cost of switching companies is high enough that your thought process is going to be similar.  The new situation sucks, but you have three choices:

1. Leave.

2. Stay and complain at every turn, without trying to figure it out.

3. Attempt to re-engage and reinvent yourself.

Fortunately, Weiss understands that even if your ego is too big to re-engage, you might want to consider those that work for you/depend on you before you take your ball and go home:

"It’s not about you, it’s about your team. If you’re a disaffected leader, moping around, “doing time” and talking smack, your team will disintegrate and the acquisition will fail. On the other hand, if you land a larger role, you are in a unique position to help them out. You owe it to the people who ate Ramen noodles while you paid them in potentially worthless stock to work at your company in the beginning. In addition to promoting some of them to larger roles within your new org, you will be much more connected to the cross-company opportunities and can advocate for your top performers. When your team sees you engaging, they are more likely to pull harder, too. Most of the mid-level managers at IronPort had a significant increase in their responsibilities at Cisco and it prepared them to take on even larger roles both in and outside the company. There is a myth that employees that come from a startup aren’t cut out for large companies — in fact, many may be ready for a change. Over the eight years we built IronPort, many of our single employees got married, had kids and wanted the current income, benefits, lighter work hours, and increased stability of a larger company."

You owe it to your team. Truer words perhaps never spoken.

The disaffected leader in any of the situations I outlined at the start of this post = A selfish leader. Frustrated Incorporated - that's right, I'm pulling the Goo Goo Dolls into this.

Acquirees of all types: Help thyself.



Perfect timing and so true! I got a new manager (for a position that I applied for and didn't get) and it has been an adjustment. I have gone through all of the stages of "what to do" and I am currently working on "reinventing" myself. It has been about 4 months and I think the "new guy" and I are starting to hit a stride.

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