Mental Health After An Acquisition
I felt a mix of anxiety and uncertainty when we announced we were getting acquired by a bigger company.
As a leader in our smaller startup, I knew this was “in the works” for the better part of a month. However, I didn’t feel the promised “ease” the moment the deal went live. It rather added unforeseen anxiety. The question became: now what?
The weird part about an acquisition is that the day-to-day details are not discussed until after the deal has gone through.
Where will people work from? How will the teams look like? What happens to the work you’ve already put in? Will you even have a job? These are questions that are tough to answer, and usually take weeks and months after the acquisition to be resolved.
You can try to assure yourself that things will “be fine”, but it’s harder than it sounds. Some of us had solid life plans before this acquisition, others were thinking of having a baby, and some were contemplating what to do next. On top of it all, 2020 has been an unstable year overall. This event didn’t add any stability to an already unstable situation.
The above mental state is one I felt and many of my friends and colleagues at my company felt and are feeling. I was finally able to get myself out of the rut caused by this and wanted to share what worked for me.
This is the first and most important step in this situation and any situation you may come across in life.
You were just a part of something less than 1% of startups even get to go through. Most startups simply go bankrupt and disappear. Yet, you created so much value that a bigger competitor decided to buy you out and bring in the work you’ve done. Think about it. You absolutely killed it and beat the odds.
In fact, teams constitute a big part of the decision making process involved in an acquisition or funding event. You made that happen. You contributed to the picture of a strong team that was worth acquiring and building on top off. That picture would have looked different without you in the frame.
What led you to get on this team? What life events happened before you joined or founded this company ? Whatever it is, it got you to where you are now. The good and the bad. The low times and the high times. The sickness and the health. The good jobs and the shitty ones. All of your previous experiences, managers, and life events gave you the wisdom and knowledge to do the amazing work you do today. All of it presented you with an opportunity that you took on, and that led to this present success.
Now is also a good time to reflect on the simple things in life. Your loved ones, the food on your table, your friends, and even the air you breathe. If you don’t meditate, now’s an amazing time to get started. My amazing coach Jenna Starkey suggested this amazing morning gratitude ritual. 10 minutes every morning that help you get grounded and start your day off. It helped me get started.
You were just in a startup. Startups mostly work under the pretense of quick iteration and crazy day to day work. At Kitab Sawti, we try to have a calm daily work life, but sometimes it’s difficult to avoid. Even if you employ every technique to keep a calm work life, you’re still part of a startup and startups work very differently than large companies.
Well, guess what? You’re now part of a large company. Flip the whole equation. Even if that company tries to work like a startup, things are still going to be a lot more stable and structured. It’s a way of life. Embrace it and let it be a blessing. Not only is it OK for things to take time now, it is actually encouraged. This includes this acquisition as well and everything involved in it. The transition is going to take months, and the last thing you want to do is worry about it everyday.
On the bright side, This means you have more time to yourself and to the things you’ve de-prioritized in your life. Did you let go of a hobby? Now’s a good time to pick it back up (or just dump it if you didn’t like it and pick up something new that you actually like). Did you lose touch with people you love? reach out and schedule some time to talk to them. Did you miss out on a bunch of sleep? Get into a routine and get your 8 hours per night. Whatever it is, now’s a good time to take a chill pill and recalibrate yourself.
Take Time Off (or lower your workload)
Simple. Take some vacation.
Enjoy the success you just had, and recharge for what’s to come next. You’re going to be contributing to a bigger company now. You’re going to have a chance to affect the vision and mission of a larger organization with a greater reach. For that, you need to be recharged and well-rested. Your best work is yet to come! What’s the best way to get ready? Take some time off and chill.
During your time off, it’s going to be impossible not to think about work. Usually, you can simply switch off. This time, your brain might give you a hard time doing that. One way to deal with it is to cut yourself some slack. Set some time off during the week from your time off to catch up with the latest at the company. You’re probably going to find out every week during your “catch up time” that there are no updates. Good! Embrace the slow and get back to your chill time.
Are you still going to work? Now’s a good time to do some growth on the job. Pick up things you’ve been wanting to learn. I know it seems weird to work on “big new things” right after an acquisition, but it’s actually the best time to do it. Your future colleagues are going to appreciate the learnings you will do in the next months, and the work you do can be crucial to the growth of the company. Also, it’s not like your work will be thrown out the window. It might be here to stay forever. If anything, it will be “transitioned out” in a prolonged timeline. Remember, Embrace the slow.
Talk To Your Colleagues
Now’s a great time to chat with your colleagues and catch up.
If you’re a manager, be there for your team members. They need you now more than ever, simply to talk and get some back and forth. Listen and share the moment with them. Also, talk to your own manager.
If you’re not a manager, talk to your fellow colleagues and express how you feel. Reach out to your manager and have some conversations about any questions you may have. More importantly, now’s an amazing time to reflect about the amazing work you’ve all put in. Reflect on the experience, the good and the bad, and the learnings.
All of the above things helped me reach a state of equilibrium. If you love to be in control, it’s still going to be difficult the next few weeks and months as life and work stabilize. So, make sure you do you. Do the things you love. Do the things that help you feel better and more relaxed. If you don’t know what to do, now’s an amazing time to learn more about yourself and how you can better handle these situations. If anything, get some help. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out to me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we can figure something out. Even if we haven’t worked together before, I’d love to help you if I can or exchange some ideas.
I love you. You got this. Your best work and life is ahead of you.