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Crisis Communication and Surviving M&A: Mergers, Acquisitions, and Integrations

Updated: May 27

My newest book, "Leading Through Crisis," was released under the prestigious “First-Time Manager” series by HarperCollins Leadership on September 5th, 2023. I’ve been given permission to release snippets of sample chapters to my Blog and social media audiences.

While these aren’t the full chapters, they should help provide insights into your “Leadership Through Disruption and Crisis” career strategies. I hope you enjoy the read and can develop action plans for your office or shop floor in terms of demonstrating outstanding leadership communication, agility, and teamwork, no matter what gets thrown your way in today’s crazy world. Yes, we’re building the plane while flying it, but we’re in this together!

Please feel free to share your insights here on the Blog or in an Amazon book review. Thanks for reading and hope you get a lot out of this! --

Paul Falcone

Adapted from The First-Time Manager: Leading Through Crisis, which you can find here:

First Time Manager: Leading Through Crisis by Paul Falcone HR

Crisis Communication and Surviving M&A: Mergers, Acquisitions, and Integrations

Adapted from The First-Time Manager: Leading Through Crisis

No self-respecting book on management crisis and disruption can look past the 800-pound gorilla in the room: surviving a merger, acquisition, or divestiture and the subsequent integration that’s to follow. Whatever the reason, layoffs are often a natural outcome of merger and acquisition activity. In fact, some industry experts estimate that roughly 30 percent of employees are deemed redundant when firms in the same industry merge. That's where crisis communication comes in.

M&A represents a unique opportunity in your career. The core question is, what do you and how do you approach your career when you learn of potential M&A activity coming your company’s way? Following are certain approaches and considerations you might want to keep in mind when you learn of a potential threat.

STEP 1: Don’t panic. Instead, take a collective breath to assess the situation by gathering as much information as you can.

M&A represents significant change and crisis. While bailing as soon as you hear about a potential M&A coming your way and getting your résumé out may be your gut reaction, it might be best to assess the situation objectively first. Significant changes in the corporate structure may create opportunities for voluntary leadership, cross collaboration, greater responsibility, and potentially promotions.

STEP 2: Conduct a personal SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is an excellent way to assess where you might fall on the spectrum of “keepers” versus those who are more inclined to be made redundant and laid off. Licenses, certifications, specialty knowledge of mission-critical systems, and tenure might all work in your favor. Of course, you cannot know for sure how you’ll fair because you won’t know what talent exists at your level at the other organization. You’ll rarely have a chance to look at your career more critically and objectively than when facing a merger or acquisition, so make the best of this “ancillary benefit” once it presents itself.

STEP 3: Decide where you stand moving forward and focus on what you can control.

There’s no judgment (or self-­judgment) here. Some people simply put their heads down and hope for the best. Others contact headhunters immediately and get their résumé out on the street without hesitation. But there’s a third option that might benefit your career interests best over the long haul: integrate yourself into the merger process. View this as an opportunity to promote yourself and your capabilities—there are a lot of moving parts involved, and you may need to turn up the volume to get noticed.

STEP 4: Ask appropriate questions.

Companies that lead M&A activities undergo a “due diligence” process in which they inspect the target company’s books. “Buyer beware” is indeed a core mantra and risk of merger activities, and if the acquiring company misses anything significant— underfunded pension liabilities, massive regulatory irregularities, or significant pending litigation—they inadvertently buy that liability at the time the purchase is complete. You should do the same thing. Ask your boss, your HR team, or a representative of the acquiring company any of the following questions:

Is our department unique, or will we be matched against a similar team in the other company?

Will my position be eliminated?

If I lose my job, will there be a severance package?

Will my compensation or benefits change?

Will my responsibilities, location, or who I report to change?

STEP 5: Follow the following "crisis communication" survival tips,

The following crisis communication strategies will likely serve you well when in the midst of a merger or acquisition:

Always be positive.

Don’t hide.

Leave the past in the past.

Don’t speak negatively about the merger.

Give up your turf.

Find ways to lead change.

Be aware of aspects of corporate culture that form barriers to change.

Practice resilience.

Remain cognizant of signs of being encouraged to quit.

Following these tips and strategies might not result in your remaining with the newly integrated organization, either in your current or in a different capacity. But if done right, you can emerge from the process as a winner, no matter what the outcome. After all, if you walk away feeling equipped with greater self-­knowledge, heightened visibility, and new skills, you’ll have made lemonade out of lemons.

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