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How to keep your cool if you suspect a layoff coming

Mary Godwin, VP of operations at QumuloMary Godwin, VP of operations at Qumulo
Mary Godwin, VP of operations at QumuloCourtesy of Qumulo

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you handle a management shakeup? is written by Mary Godwin, VP of Operations at Qumulo.

There are all kinds of management shakeups, but those brought on due to acquisitions and mergers have their own special challenges. During my career, I have been through three acquisitions — once as the acquirer and twice as the acquisition target. What I’ve learned from both positions is that if you’re at the acquired company — especially in an executive role — chances are you may not survive, at least not for very long in the newly merged company. I didn’t. Here’s why:

In both cases when I was at the acquired company, one of the justifications for the transaction was that synergy would be created by combining the companies. In other words: There was an executive in the acquiring company who already had my job, so in order to deliver on the synergies, one of us had to go. Since I was considered an “unknown” by the acquiring team, my role was eliminated.

See also: A company shakeup doesn’t (always) mean it’s time to quit your job

As much as I would have loved the acquiring company to be in awe with my imaginative strategies and substantial contributions, they weren’t. They had their own strategies and processes they wanted to maintain so they could merge the companies as quickly as possible.

I had moments when I wanted to fight the merger every step of the way, and if you ever go through one, you likely will too. But at some point, as a leader, you have to take your own feelings out of the equation and create the best situation possible for your team members, especially if they’ll be staying on with the new company. My eventual focus became promoting folks on my team to new opportunities and making sure that the new management team understood the high quality of the team I was leaving behind. If you can do this, the new management team will feel good about how you’re handling the situation, and the positive vibes will carryover to your team.

The hardest part of dealing with a management shakeup can be accepting that none of actions taken are personal. Once I did, I was able to be more constructive in supporting the transition, and even developed some great relationships with folks from the acquiring company. Full disclosure though, cooperating provided me with a fairly nice exit package and the opportunity to transition to a great new job, plus some really necessary time off. While surviving an acquisition may feel the most ideal at the time, it’s often not the best thing for your career.

Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: How do you handle a management shakeup?

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How to deal with a management shakeup by Kelly Steckelberg, CEO of Zoosk.