Quitting a job is a big decision for most individuals. While there are many reasons to quit it can sometimes be difficult to identify those reasons, as well as the timing, when there are bills to pay and/or a family to support.
During the past 15 years in corporate America, I've worked for three different companies that were acquired by larger organizations on four different occasions. During and after each merger, I noticed several signs that the organizational change and evolution was not a fit for me at that time.
Based on those early-warning signals, I was able to identify and secure better opportunities with different organizations. Those seven warning signs were:
1. People you respect are fired.
During the second acquisition I went through, the president of our company -- one of the best bosses I ever had -- was fired. I was stunned by the surprise move, as was the entire organization. Since I was in charge of internal and external communications, the acquiring CEO asked my thoughts about his decision to fire the much-beloved president the day it happened.
I told the CEO it sent the wrong message to all employees. It conveyed to each of them that they were all expendable. He smiled, nodded his head and said, "Good, I like to inject fear into organizations."
Needless to say, I started looking for my next gig after that meeting.
2. People are no longer valued.
One of the main "benefits" companies realize from a merger centers around the fuzzy corporate buzzword "synergy, " which is the antiseptic-sounding catchword for layoffs and cost reductions.
I've been through this several times. Two times the layoffs occurred with compassion and a keen focus on employees, who were given ample severance, career placement resources and time to plan. The other two instances can only be described as mercenary. One day people were there, the next they were not. No explanation or context was provided.
While reductions in force (RIF) are part of virtually every business, dignity and respect need to be a part of every RIF. If they are not, consider looking elsewhere even if you are not laid off.
3. Growing incompetence.
All too often, organizational cuts go too deep, taking out linchpin individuals and keepers of intuitional memory, as well as unsung individual contributors who do the job of multiple people.
When those superstars exit the company, the shortcomings of remaining underperformers become more pronounced. Organizational upheaval tends to reveal organizational incompetence.
While it's important to allow for a time of transition, if the incompetency increases after six months a refresh of your resume might be in order.
4. Your boss doesn't understand the business.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of a transition such as this is when your incoming boss doesn't understand the nature of the business, customer needs or your respective role.
The fortunate thing is that you can usually decipher this particular sign pretty quickly, which can help shape your ultimate decision to stay or go.
5. Previous advancement opportunities are blocked.
This is an unavoidable reality that occurs with mergers. Typically, open opportunities at the acquired company are filled by individuals from the acquiring parent company who need to be "protected" for some odd reason rather than laid off.
If your company gets acquired and vacancies within your organization are artifically stuffed with folks from the aquiring parent organization, it's a telltale sign to seriously consider a proactive career change. Your advancement options are limited if you stay.
6. Retention and development programs are cut.
Frequently, in the rush to realize the aforementioned "synergies" and cost reductions, early casualties are education reimbursement benefits, career development training or even long-term incentive plans.
The dismantling of those types of employee-focused programs for the sake of costs is usually not a good long-term sign.
7. More work, less reward.
It's an acquisition axiom that once the cuts have occurred at a company, the volume of work doesn't decrease proportionately. By definition, a synergy occurs when productivity improves at a lower cost.
While that sounds great to the investment community, the actual implementation is very demanding on the remaining employees. The employees who still have jobs usually get the added workload of excised personnel, without a commensurate increase in salary, title or influence.
Once you're forced into that role, the outcome tends to be physical and emotional burnout. To avoid that, it's important to quickly recognize the unsustainability of that arrangement and consider other potential options.
These seven signals are not exhaustive nor unique to the M&A arena. They can, and do, occur at organizations at anytime. While one or two of these signals might be the post-recession "new normal" for your organization, if you see a majority or all of them in place for several months a career assessment is probably in order.
However, no matter how bad a workplace situation might be, it's best not to leave it until you've found a better situation.