There’s no denying it — company reorganizations are uncomfortable enough to make everyone squirm. There’s undoubtedly painful layoffs, new job descriptions, and a general uneasiness in the entire office.
Though each merger, acquisition, or reorganization is unique to the particular company and employees, you’re not alone when you’re forced to sink or swim after a tumultuous change in office culture. In the United States alone, there will be an estimated 11,000 mergers and acquisitions inked in 2015 worth more than $2.1 trillion, according to the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions, and Alliances. Worldwide, there’s expected to be more than 40,000 company reorganizations by the end of the year.
But just because they’re somewhat common doesn’t mean you know exactly how to handle the situation. If your job has been spared in the ensuing chaos, how do you make sure you’re on solid footing and continue to succeed? No matter the company and your unique place in it, there are several ways to make sure you keep moving forward. Keep these five tips in mind, and you’ll be able to weather the reorganization with ease.
1. Know expectations and future goals
The most difficult part about any reorganization or merger is combining two company cultures into one, experts agree. According to consulting firm Bain & Company, a culture clash is the No. 1 reason mergers don’t succeed as expected.
It might take some adjusting to adapt to the new company culture, especially if you worked for the acquired company that’s being absorbed. According to report from NBC, many employees who have gone through mergers before said it took more than three months before they knew exactly how their roles would change and what was expected of them.
But just because things are uncertain doesn’t mean you have to waste your time, waiting for information to come to you. Instead, listen to what senior staff members are saying about the intended outcomes and goals for the changes, Harvard Business Review suggests. Ask questions for clarification, but don’t get caught up in the unknowns. “The information in the gossip network is probably inaccurate; it will be highly emotional; and there will be lots of venting,” said Gretchen Spreitzer, a professor at Michigan’s Ross School of Business and coauthor of How to be a Positive Leader.
If you know the expected outcomes and the goals, you’ll be able to find ways to be the most effective in your current role, and also make sure the new direction of the company is one you can support.
2. Connect with peers
Though you might be lucky or skilled enough to have kept your job, there’s likely a few coworkers who were given the pink slip during the merger process. It might feel awkward to reach out, but doing that is in your best interest, the Harvard Business Review advises.
For one, you shouldn’t feel bad for expressing genuine concern and compassion. Don’t go overboard, Spreitzer advises, but do express your sadness that you won’t be sharing an office anymore. “Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would want someone to react if it happened to you,” she said.
In addition, those former coworkers will serve as a litmus test for seeing how the job market is, in case you face the same situation or decide to leave voluntarily.
3. Speak up
In the middle of a merger, “There’s a natural tendency to duck and cover after a merger,” Will Werhane, global managing director for Hay Group Insight, told NBC. “No one wants to be the person that stands out and might be identified as being redundant.”
Your natural inclination in the midst of company turmoil might be to quietly sit in the corner, minding your own business. It’s good to continue being efficient and not become a full-time fixture at the water cooler, but Werhane also said that those who “make their presence known” are more likely to stick around.
If you’re still working under your old boss, Harvard Business Review suggests analyzing your job duties and prioritizing how you can be the most helpful. Approach your boss with a working draft of a proposal, so you’re an asset instead of a hindrance while he’s stretched thin. “You need to figure out the most important and least important parts of your new job,” said Kevin Coyne, the co-founder and managing director of strategy consulting firm Coyne Partners and a professor at Emory’s Goizueta Business School.
If you’re under a new boss, your first job is to find out as much as you can about them — their working style, their goals for your department, and so on. Then, look for ways to discuss how you can be an asset to the company. Working under a new supervisor following a merger is a lot like starting a completely new job, Steve Spires, an Atlanta managing director at human resources consultants BPI Group, told Fortune. The only problem is that they probably haven’t had time to dig out your résumé.
“Managers usually have so much on their plates that they just don’t have time to research your background and experience and understand what value you can add. So it’s up to you to step up to the plate and tell them,” Spires said.
4. Manage your stress
Even if you’re doing everything right, you’re still probably under more stress than normal. Not only is stress bad for your health, it can also negatively impact your job performance over prolonged periods of time.
Hopefully, the stress from a company merger will be relatively short-lived. But regardless of the duration, take steps to alleviate it. Spend an extra day at the gym each week, avoid stress triggers, and perhaps even limit your caffeine intake. This period will pass, but you need to take care of yourself in the meantime.
5. Give it time
Just as the stressful periods will hopefully pass, you’ll need time to adjust to your new role. Even companies with previous acquisition or merger experience will likely have a few rough patches along the way, so allow managers and senior staff to work through them as time allows. Harvard Business Review advises against quitting immediately — you don’t have enough information to know for a fact if you’ll hate your new boss or new position in the company.
But once you’ve lived through the initial growing pains, analyze your situation again. “If the company is not doing something you feel proud of, you need to go to your contingency plan,” Coyne said. You should have enough information after 60 to 90 days, Spreitzer said, and can make a better decision about whether you’re happy in the new job or if you need to start writing new cover letters. If nothing else, showcasing your skills online can be a good way to garner attention from other companies who might be hiring, Fortune suggests.