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Helping Employees Through Merger Madness

Like any merger, the proposed $39 billion marriage of AT&T and T-Mobile signals a period of high stress for employees at both companies. Layoffs will undoubtedly be announced, divisions reorganized, careers made or lost depending on where a line is drawn on the new org chart.

What should managers be doing at these companies to get their people through such uncertain times? How can you help your own staff when a major corporate shakeup is coming?

In a blog post on HBR.org, Whitney Johnson recalls advice she heard from Harvard Business School professor Stephen P. Kaufman, former CEO of Arrow Electronics. In these situations, people just want to know three things:

  1. Do I have a job?
  2. Who do I report to?
  3. How will I get paid?
Until those questions are answered, everyone but the CEO and the lawyers are going to be uneasy and probably less productive.

A one sentence answer to these questions won't cut it either, notes Johnson. To the question, Who do I report to?, the answer isn't just a name.

"Not knowing whom you report to, and therefore by what metrics you will be measured, or simply receiving mixed messages about whose opinion really matters, can result in chaos," she writes. Reporting lines need to be clarified.
Her post, Three Answers Every Employee Needs, is an excellent primer for thinking through the agony experienced by the rank-and-file, and what you can do to ease their pain.

Think back to when you were last caught up in a swirling reorg. What were your fears, and did your boss help you through? What advice would you give managers now facing the same situation?

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(Photo by Flickr user quinn.anya, CC 2.0)
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