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October 21, 2015
Coping with a Takeover
If you work for a digital company, especially a start-up, there’s a reasonable probability you’ll be acquired, merged, or absorbed sometime along the journey. Most people initially freak out. But rather than immediately shooting out your resume or calling your shrink, consider these four coping steps.

Take a Sounding. Try to get some kind of signal to see if your boss will keep or protect you in the likely event of staff cuts. This is critical since you need a feel for how they see or value you in order to make key decisions for yourself. If you are having boss problems, now would be the time to bail out!

Seek Mentorship. Strike a posture or tone that is mentee-like. Ask: “What should I make of this news? What does it mean for me? Should I freak out or start looking?"

Suss out what your boss might know or feel that he hasn’t previous shared with you. Get a sense of his willingness to be selfish or to go to bat for you.

Assess Your Boss’ Status. Find out if your boss is antsy about her future. Where is your boss in the food chain? What is her status with her boss? Does someone more senior protect her? Is she aligned with someone higher up who is likely to stay or bolt? Is she packing her bags? 

If yes, ask her for a raise and tell her you want to lock in a spot and a new rate BEFORE things change. This will require you to become a co-conspirator with her, which is entirely dependent on her personality and confidence level.

If no, ask for a review with an eye toward near-term prospects with the company. Ask about the likelihood of a raise, promotion, or new assignment. Ask what the posture will be between now and the closing, assuming that the new guys won’t make their intentions known till after they take over.

Calculate Opportunity. Most acquisitions require an earn out, so it’s a fair bet top leadership and top lieutenants won’t just get the money and run. Re-orgs and restructures are common, which can open up opportunities for new assignments and more salary if you are positioned as a valuable team member or contributor. Don’t go easy on yourself; this is important. Determine where you stand first. Then make career choices.

Being acquired or taken over is rarely the end of the world. For some, it’s a nudge to get out of a rut, break a bad pattern, or escape a mediocre boss relationship. For others, it’s an opportunity to leverage relationships and personal performance. Don’t freak out. Make a critical, non-emotional self-assessment. Use your analytical and social skills to gather intelligence and read the situation. Then make some tough choices.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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