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Surviving A Takeover
Everyday hundreds of us find the company we work for being taken over or recommissioned, new providers chosen, teams amalgamated, assets sold off, and a hundred other ways of making money.
There is a human cost to this though in the impact on those people who deliver the service. A well-managed transition can leave those affected populations with a hopeful sense of a new chapter starting. A badly managed one will leave them feeling like they have been put in a bag and shaken.
Coping strategies for employees
If you are a member of staff on the ground in a company being taken over it does feel horribly uncertain but, although it's a cliché, change is one of the few certainties in life. There are a few basic strategies that may help during this period:
- Accept that things are not going to stay the same. Fear of change and insecurity can leave you frozen while your life moves on around you. Knowing the background to the things that are happening may make you feel less disempowered so if it hasn't been explained get together with your colleagues and ask for an overview and regular updates.
- Find out about the new organisation, take up offers to visit or attend information sessions, keep an open mind.
- Consider that they will have something to bring. There might be opportunities for you to do something different or learn new things.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve right now. It's probably not the right time to try to implement new initiatives or systems. Focus instead on getting things up to date and in order. Remember that your work may be audited or inspected after the takeover and you will be expected to be able to explain your role and evidence your achievements clearly and succinctly.
- Monitor your anxiety levels and take a break if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Get out of the office at lunch times and go for a walk. Regular exercise and healthy eating will help you to feel physically and mentally stronger.
- Try to support each other even if you are put into direct competition with each other. You didn't choose this situation and disintegrating relationships with friends and colleagues will make it much worse.
New Colleagues And Managers
Reactions to Change And Stress
Reactions to Change
Resistance to change presents itself in various forms:
- People who pay 'lip service' - not be immediately obvious and easily spread an insidious negative attitude.
- Hiders and refugees - keeping a low profile and hoping any change will run into trouble and disappear.
- The underground resistance - will quickly mount a covert campaign against change.
- Honest opponents - the first to be branded as troublemakers but are often trying to bring their concerns out into the open.
- Emigrants - have made up their mind that it is not for them and are seeking to move on at the first opportunity.
On the other hand you may meet:
- Missionaries – unconditional enthusiasm
- Believers –prepared to keep an open mind.
(from Rehnman and Harnwell in Krebsback Gnath 1992).
You may identify with one of these descriptions or recognise them around you.
Reactions to Stress
However people are presenting, this is a stressful situation. Levels of reslience will vary and may depend on the degree of stress and challenge at home. A build up of stress and anxiety during this time will affect people differently:
- Emotional effects – tense and weepy
- Thought effects – paranoid and anxious
- Physical effects – sleeplessness, losing weight
- Behaviour effects – withdrawn or defensive.
You may experience all of these at different times and feel yourself passing through distinct stages of shock, denial and anger as you come to terms with what’s happening.
Monitor Stress Levels
Good Practice for Managers
For the incoming organisation the situation is also tense, with a heavy schedule of crucial and sensitive tasks to be completed in a short time. There are often hidden challenges such as shrinking budgets and employment legislation to be negotiated that people on the ground are not aware of. However in the long term the existing staff are a resource, they know the area, the clients and the local culture.
Following Covey's rule 'seek first to understand and then to be understood (Covey 1989) is the first step to moving on from inertia and resistance. Some basic good practice will enable incoming organisations to win trust and ultimately deliver effective services without unnecessary disruption and expense:
- Be as transparent as possible. Publish a timeline so people know what to expect and roughly when it will happen.
- Bear in mind that they still have to deliver a service and this should be everyone's priority. The most respectful organisations make an effort to come to the workplace for meetings and consultations where ever possible. Failing to consider the practical issues and potential disruption will add anxiety for frontline staff.
- Try not to lose sight of clients/service users. Allow enough time to find out what they really think rather than making changes based on assumptions about what's best. An unfortunate start may mean a long hard road to building trust in the area.
TUPE and the legal implications
Your contact of employment will be transferred to the new organisation. In English law this will happen legally by a process called TUPE. Transfer of undertakings (or TUPE) is the legal process by which your contract is transferred to another employer. Your new employer can change your salary, terms and conditions by implementing a formal consultation process and this can be done on the first day of the contract. .
Despite early fears many people settle into new organisations and adjust to new employers, often after coming to terms with the fact that they are in a different job even though they haven't moved. However it is prudent to have sources of advice to hand should things go awry so keep the links below to hand for extra advice.