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Surviving and Thriving in Difficult Times (part 2)

This is the second guest post  by an (anonymous) guest blogger from the Life Sciences training industry who has offered to give us some insider perspectives. It’s a continuation of the theme of the first blog post, about surviving and thriving in difficult times for the industry and economy:


When you find yourself in a merger or acquisition situation, it’s now just a matter of time before change is a reality. How can you prepare when your job fate is uncertain? Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for ‘Day 1’ of the new company.

1.  Plan ahead. Don’t wait for the business to ask you for integration deliverables. By having them prepared ahead of time, you are showing the new company that you are diligent, organized, and you have your job function and operations under control when it’s time to look under the hood of your work/team/business. Having been through this on both the asking and receiving end of several integrations, there are some standard items for a learning function that you or your team can organize. These can include: itemizing any physical assets such as product modules and workshops, status updates for major projects and associated budgets, metrics on classes/programs/evaluations, overview of any learning technology such as a testing platform, web conferencing, or LMS. A list of commonly used internal acronyms also goes a long way, since every organization seems to have different names for the same thing (DSM, SM, SL, DSL, BSM, CTM = field manager).

2. Be helpful vs. hindering. I have seen too many colleagues squander their knowledge and responsibilities thinking it will make them more valuable to the new company; i.e. ‘if I am the only one who knows how to do this, they won’t get rid of me’. Unfortunately this tends to have the opposite effect, as these folks are typically viewed as non-team players. Being helpful through an integration demonstrates collaboration and commitment to the success of the new organization, even if you don’t want to stay. As a leader managing people through several integrations, it’s much easier to justify for the collaborative people to keep their positions. Why fight for the people who are hindering the inevitable? Helpful people seem to have more choices coming out the other side of these integrations, and those choices give you back control of your career.

3. Support your staff. If you are leading people, they will look to you for direction, emotional support, and the latest information on the integration. They will have their moments of doubt, frustration, and fear of the unknown. Ambiguity is paralyzing for some people. While it may be personally difficult for you too, it’s your job to help them through this time. I’m not saying you should become their personal counselor, but maintaining very regular two-way communication and an open door policy goes a long way. Since you’re probably going to be representing them as you discuss your staff with the new company, your team needs to feel confident that you have their back and know that you care. It can also be helpful to know their wishes. Some may want to continue with the new company and some may not, so having a sense of this can help make the most difficult decisions easier if it happens to align with their requests. Support your staff because, ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.

4. Update your résumé. Certainly seems obvious, but I still know too many people who have worked for one company for a long time and never created one. It takes longer than you think to remember everything, deciding which pieces to include or not, and formatting is a pain! If you are on the acquiring side of an integration, don’t be lulled by a false sense of security – there are always bodies left behind on both sides. Just go ahead and update that résumé. If you’re on LinkedIn, this is a good time to update that on-line version as well.

5. Be flexible. No matter what the outcome, be open to the possibilities. This might mean keeping your role with reduced responsibilities. After checking your ego at the door, you may realize this is an opportunity to develop an area of expertise when previously you only had functional knowledge. You were a people manager, and now you are an independent contributor. Won’t it be great to not have to write annual appraisals, or manage a difficult employee? You did one job, now you are being asked to take on a completely different one.  This happened to me several years ago. While it was happening, I was mad that I didn’t have any choice in the matter. Looking back now, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took on a niche job role that enabled me to learn a part of my business that previously intimidated me, and it gave me a huge competitive advantage when I ultimately decided to leave and pursue the next level of my career. You were gainfully employed, and now you are holding a severance package. After you sign up for unemployment, why not consider taking that money and start that business you’ve always been thinking about?  I’ve learned something with every change in my career, and being flexible has helped to improve my outlook and perspective.

I’ve learned that just because two companies are coming together, it doesn’t have to mean the outcome is bleak.  Following the above tips helped to set me up to have choices and ultimately opportunities, which is how I now measure success. How do you measure it?


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