Surprise. Fear. Anxiety. These are just some of the feelings you may experience after learning your company is going through a merger or acquisition. The company culture, processes, and policies that you are accustomed to (and in some cases, you may have built) are about to undergo some major changes.
Images of the “large, inefficient corporate company” stereotype start looming in your mind (remember Office Space and The Office?). Bureaucratic red tape, protocols, “TPS Reports.” Will my colleagues be laid off? Will I? What will it take to keep my job and come out ahead at the new company?
As time goes on, some of those emotions evolve to ambivalence, frustration, and stress. That nebulous cloud lingering over your head may also be accompanied by a drop in motivation and productivity.
How do you cope? First, remember that you’re not alone. Many people have survived these situations, in some cases, numerous times. The good news is that there are things you can do, and mindsets you can adopt, that will help you accept change and start thriving again in your new environment.
The Science of Certainty
Science has proven that the brain actually craves certainty in a similar way to how we crave food, and it avoids uncertainty as if it’s pain or a threat to our lives. A lack of certainty about the future triggers an automatic alert response in the nervous system. Once the brain notices something is awry, the ability to focus is compromised. This explains why we inherently avoid uncertainty and why change and ambiguity are so difficult for us in the first place.
So that nice map you likely drew of what things were like in the old regime has changed, and as you struggle to create a new map with missing parts, you’re not as comfortable as before. What’s important here is that although there is a physiological reason explaining why we want to remain in our comfort zone, exploring new ways of doing things might actually be better for us.
4 Ways Change Can be Good for Us
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus had it right – The only constant in life is change.
Being acquired involves new behaviors and ways of doing things, which can be difficult and overwhelming. Adjusting your attitude and focusing on the opportunities that change brings about can help alleviate stress and tension.
- Breaks the monotony. While we may lobby for things to remain the way they are, the reality is that we would all be bored out of our minds if nothing changed! Going through an acquisition can become like working for an entirely new company – allowing you to switch up routines, gain fresh perspectives, and form new relationships.
- You are pushed out of your comfort zone. When you’re stretched beyond your comfort level, your assumptions are challenged and your opinions and mindset are tested. Just like stressing a muscle builds physical strength, overcoming difficult changes builds character, confidence and mental toughness. This helps you deal with the inevitability of future changes you’ll experience throughout your career and life.
- Change expands your skills and horizons. Change promotes the development of new skills and expands one’s horizons. Mergers and acquisitions often involve learning and honing of new skills and processes, and the establishment of best practices. Exposure to new people, cultures, places, and things can also change your outlook and perspective in a positive way. In the end, everyone is better off with a more diverse, talented, and well-rounded workforce.
- Promotes innovation. Success does not last forever, and what worked yesterday may not be the best strategy for tomorrow. As the quality guru, Edwards Deming put it, “Survival is not mandatory.” In order to stay relevant in the marketplace, organizations need to continuously adapt to change and promote innovation and creative thinking to stay ahead of the curve.