Losing your job due to a tech merger or acquisition?

Losing your job due to a tech merger or acquisition?

If you hear that the company you work for is being acquired, of course the first things you want to find out are … is it true, who is the buyer, when is the deal closing, what is the probability of the deal happening, and will the buyer want to keep me or not?

Let me share some thoughts on the first and last concern.

Is the company really being sold?

If employees ask the CEO/Owner if the company is being sold … this is a real dilemma for the owner. Does the owner tell the truth … or not?

If word gets out that the company is for sale, the best employees might start to leave the company. This employee departure might make the buyer of the company walk from the deal because part of the reason for the acquisition is the top quartile of the employee base. Or for whatever reason the deal doesn’t close, the company is worse off due to employee departures.

Worst Case Scenario:

So let’s say the company is being sold and the initial plan is that the buyer will not be needing your services. My advice is … be the classiest person to ever lose their job. Why?

  1. The owner of the company might be your best source of a personal and professional reference for the next job. Even better, the owner might know your next boss. Most owners feel deeply about their employees and will try to help the departing employees the best they can.
  2. If the deal hasn’t closed yet there is a chance the initial personnel decisions will change. This happens all the time, even after layoffs are announced. If you were a jerk about the news, then your fate will not likely change. However, if you received the news with great class, then your fate might change.
  3. If you quickly find another job, plans might change and the owner might want you back. This can be used as leverage either with the new boss or the old boss. When the dust settles there is a chance you will be better off than before the original announcement … granted, not without a few nights of lost sleep.
  4. Sometimes after a proposed deal is announced more employees leave the company than the owner and the acquirer thought in their original planning. This might open up spots for you to stay. Only time will tell if this plays out.
  5. Sometimes there are situations where a select number of people will be needed post closing, but only for a transition period (training/migration etc.). This can be a great opportunity for you to simultaneously work with the buyer and look for a new job. Who knows, the buyer might be impressed with you and offer you a much better job than the one you find during the transition period … and maybe better than the one you had prior to the deal.
  6. If you plan to work in the tech industry for the foreseeable future anywhere in the world, you will run into many of the same people over and over … maybe including the owner and senior management of the company you are about to leave. Believe it or not people will remember how you took the news. It’s interesting how many people are looking for the tiniest of events or actions to label someone either a really good or a really bad person. Try not to give people, many of whom might barely know you, the opportunity to label you for life because of a justifiably negative reaction to life changing news.
  7. And last but not least … why you should be the classiest person to ever lose their job … Because you know the owner of a tech company didn’t owe you nor could promise you a job for life, so be thankful for the opportunity you were given. Over the years I have been amazed at how many business owners almost killed their own company divestiture or lowered the value of their deal because the employees were not going to be taken care of to the degree they were comfortable with.

For those individuals who think they are safe from a layoff.

If the deal has been announced, yet the layoffs haven’t been announced, don’t assume that just because you are the top sales rep or the most senior engineer your job is safe. It’s a fair assumption but not a great enough one that you should not consider other employment options. For example, sometimes the buyer currently employs a full team of engineers and may be able to use a few of the more junior (inexpensive) engineers, but not the more senior (expensive) engineers … who might be set in their ways. The same applies to the sales, marketing, accounting and operations departments.

In conclusion

If you are being laid off from your job due to a merger or acquisition, stay professional, be appreciative for the opportunity you were given, and look for another job … yet wait until the deal closes to truly learn your fate. The specifics of private mergers and acquisitions sometimes change daily, so even if it is true that you are losing your job … it might not be true next week.

And yes, I lost my corporate America job in 1996 due to a merger (which luckily I knew was coming) after working for 5 years for some of the greatest people I have met in the business world. We are still friends today.

So what did I do? Since I lived in a small town where there wasn’t a “building block” type job available, I left and went to graduate school and have been working for myself ever since helping business owners acquire and divest Internet service businesses.

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