December 9, 2007

What to do when your company closes

In the last 5 years, I have been through company acquisitions and closings. It is a rough time for everyone, and it is hard to stay focused when you are worried about if you will have a job in a month. We all have bills to pay and many have family to take care of, but in times like this it is important to not lose your head.

The Role of a Manager:
The role of a manager in times like this is to keep all the other employees working. In many cases, when a company is bought, the first thing the new owner will typically do is take away the managers power. They wont remove them, becasue they want a familiar face their to keep the employees working. At this point, managers essentially become figure heads in the store, no real power, except for the respect they earned from their employees. If the manager doesn't have that respect, you can be sure they won't be around much longer. Managers are also pretty much "out of the loop" by this point. As we saw with CompUSA closing, the managers didn't find out the sale was final until after the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. So please don't blame your managers for not telling you, it is very likely that they didn't even know.

Once the initial take over is done, the managers will be there to keep employee moral up and things moving like normal, even when things are all but normal. They have their own worries about losing their jobs so they will do what is needed to make sure their checks keep getting signed. They have bills and a family to take care of, remember that.

The Role of the Staff:
Depending on the company, the current staff may or may not be asked to leave. In the case of CompUSA everyone is out of a job. In my previous jobs, I was hired immediately (and into a better position with a raise) so the buy outs aren't always bad. Even if you are out of a job, don't do anything stupid to get "fired". If you start to steal things, or just doing anything to hurt the company, you have basically just said good buy to your benefits, your severance, and any good recommendation the company could have given you to future employers. I have also seen the purchasing company place the workers they did not keep into other jobs with companies they worked with.

Basically, you just need to keep your head. Being an asshole wont save your job, and you aren't going to change anything. The only thing you can do is hurt yourself. Keep doing your job, and take pride in your work. If you don't want to be there, then just quit, but there is no point in trying to hurt the company, they aren't out to get you and it is just business. Most companies understand what it is like for the employee's and many will offer a severance package for you, if you have medical, COBRA should kick in if you lose your job, you'll be paying for it, but you will be covered.

Positions of Confidential Information:
I worked as a tech during previous buy outs, and becasue of that, I had access to all client information, all contracts, basically everything the new owners needed and were paying for (companies buy clients...not operations) I could have been a real pain and not helped in the transition, I could have told my clients to leave, I could have trashed the buyer, but I would have lost my job, my clients would panic and not know what to do, and it would have made everything harder. The last company I left was basically a sinking ship. I knew it and I left before they went down. I was an administrator, so this is what I did.

  • Made a list of every client user name/password I had
  • Listed every daily/weekly/monthly task for each of the clients
  • Listed all of my contacts in each of our clients companies
  • Listed any quirks of the clients
  • Listed all work done in the last 6 months
  • Listed all pending work
  • Listed all proposals under review

Me leaving was business, they knew this. I got a months pay for handing over the info and not leaving them in a bad position. I also made my self available via telephone if they had questing in the next month. The company is now gone, but the former CEO (who was brought in to shut down the company) has offered me jobs in his other company (they were and are successful) but I've turned him down.

Other positions such as management, and sometimes security have similar information. Leave on a good note. Do not try and "screw" people, it will bite you in the ass. Jobs come and go, but your reputation and pride are with you forever. With a good reputation you will find a new job, with a bad one, people will avoid you like the plague.

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