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People leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons: a bad boss, little opportunity for advancement, a bad fit. But should you consider leaving because your company gets acquired, either by a rival or a larger firm?

If you're lucky, you'll be the one to decide if you stay or go, rather than falling victim to restructuring or redundancy.

So, if you're able to choose, which path should you take and what can you do to ensure that your decision doesn't come down to the flip of a coin?

No sure thing

"At the time of a merger announcement, every employee at every level of the corporation will face the dilemma: Should I cooperate and make the extra effort to help the merger be a success, or should I leave?” said Tessa Melkonian, professor of management at France’s EMLYON Business School, in an email.

“As employees have no way of knowing how the new merged entity will recognise their efforts, there is no easy answer to this question, which is partly why turnover rates are high at the time of a merger announcement,” she said. Research has shown a peak in turnover just after a merger announcement, with 20% employee turnover and 25% top management turnover during the first year, she said. In some cases, the figures can be much higher.

Employees have no way of knowing how the new merged entity will recognise their efforts.

There are two key things to consider to help make such a decision, Melkonian said. Look at the example being set (or lack of one) by managers and senior figures in the company. “For a manager, setting an example as to what attitudes and behaviours the company represents in the beginning stages of a change process is particularly important,” she said. This is when the level of uncertainty is the highest. It’s easier to decide to stay if your own bosses are cooperating with or are on board with the takeover process.  

The second thing to consider: the fairness (or lack of it) at the organisation. People who feel they have been treated fairly in the past are more likely to believe that they will be rewarded or appreciated after the takeover. If you’ve been treated fairly in the past and that seems to remain as the takeover begins, it’s easier to feel comfortable deciding to stay.

Take a step back

It is important to stop and look around, according to Dave Sanford, executive vice president of client relations for Waltham, Massachusetts-based recruitment firm WinterWyman. Ask yourself the following questions. “What is the current condition of the company you are in?”  “Is it falling apart, or will the merger be one of equals?” If you are part of a failing enterprise, “then your cache with the new company may not be as highly valued,” said Sanford in an email.

Are you a highly regarded player whose talents are likely to transfer to the new organisation seamlessly?

Think about your value at your current company. Are you a highly regarded player whose talents are likely to transfer to the new organisation seamlessly? Are you someone who has a unique set of skills that are directly related to the value of your acquired company?

And, take a close look at the new company structure. Does it already employ staff members with a similar job description, skills and experience to yours?   “If so, then you may be redundant and left on the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to choosing who gets to play,” said Sanford.

Not readily available

There might not be much reliable information available about the merger. But that shouldn't stop you from trying to find out as much as you can, said Conrado Lamas, chief communications officer at Barcelona-based software start up MailTrack.

“You can always try to invite the people who are more involved in the dealings for a lunch or a coffee, and try to get at least a better answer to your concerns,” he said in an email. “Ask them to be brutally honest about your professional prospects.” Also, talk to people you trust, contacts and friends who know your market, said Lamas.

 “Consult as many people as you can, but make sure you're the one making the final decisions,” he said. And remember, mergers can go either way.

Time to network

It’s always a good idea to have an eye on the market.

“Whether you are being acquired or not, to be well networked with a solid sense of your marketability and an understanding of where you fit in the current job market is proactive and very wise,” said Sanford.

Be well networked with a solid sense of your marketability.

Plus, the better you look to the outside world, the better you will look to the company doing the acquiring. So, take the time to update your CV and your LinkedIn or Xing profile online.

And, talk to people. Let them know you might be looking for a new position. “Make a commitment to carve out time each week to grab lunch with an old colleague, coffee with a business contact or recruiter, or reach out to old acquaintances on LinkedIn,” said Kim Littlefield, a senior vice president with Boston-based management consulting firm Keystone Partners, in an email.

“Hopefully, if you enjoy your current job and are good at it, your talent will be recognised and you will be able to remain at the firm or move to a new role in the newly formed organisation,” she said. “If you do end up losing your job, if you have been actively networking, you will be that much further ahead in the job search process.”

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