Trying not to screw myself.
February 6, 2007 2:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I figure out if I should go along with my company's acquisition?

I was about to find another job when the tiny (<10ppl) company I work for was acquired by a much much larger one. The new company is well-known, creative (video games), great benefits, etc. The downside for them is that instead of riding my bike to work I'm going to have to commute about 40min each way.

The stickler is that I started working here 9months ago at a lower salary than I'd preferred with a promise of a review at 6mos. As the old story goes, I was too busy at 6mos to request the review and my boss did not take it upon himself either. I did remind him about a month ago, to which he said we could do it the first week of February. In the meantime, the deal goes through and I get an offer letter from the new company at my current number. This has me seething because he put me off of the review right as the deal was happening, so I'm quite miffed at how he weaseled out of his promise. We have met over this issue because I have so far refused to sign the employment agreement, but he says there's nothing he can do or that we can see what happens once we're at the new company (and HR is out of his control, natch).

It's probably old news that people get exploited in business, but I've been busting my ass here so much that I haven't had time to meet with the recruiter who has been chasing me for months!
posted by rhizome to Work & Money (16 answers total)
 
Um, your boss does know that if he doesn’t get you a pay increase that you’re outta there, right? You have told him you’ve gotten a firm offer? Because that can have an effect on the tone of discussions.

If he knows and doesn’t care, that’s information right there. It’s entirely possible he’d prefer you to go because new companies often seek to “realise synergies” and people at the acquisition are let go.
posted by kika at 2:23 PM on February 6, 2007


Flee. Don't throw good time after bad. If your boss, who made the offer, isn't fighting for the new company to make good on it, what are the odds that anyone else there is going to take up the cause?
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2007


I haven't gotten a firm offer yet. He did offer to take me on as a contractor if I don't want to go with the acquisition as an employee, but this is likely because he'd need my help in the transition.

My safe instinct is to take the deal and look for a lateral move within the company as soon as possible, but I have no idea how likely or quickly this could happen.
posted by rhizome at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2007


It depends on your other background. If this is your first experience in the field I would take the deal. If you have a few years of whatever industry you are in find another job. I wouldn't advise threatening to leave for a higher salary unless you really are leaving.

Does the new company offer better benefits, bonuses, etc??
posted by bsexton at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2007


I don't know that you have much of a choice but to go along. It's probably better for you to have a job than not, right?

On the other hand, it sounds like they are working you to death with little pay. I think you should insist on getting overtime pay for your extra hours or not work them. I would have that conversation with HR and then refer your boss to them.

By the way, do you have a written promise of a pay raise from your boss? If that's the case, consider legal action, because that can be considered a contract.
posted by xammerboy at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2007


Do you have anything in writing saying that your salary would be reviewed? If so, that's something you can use to negotiate with your new employer - no guarantees, but usually when large companies take over small ones it's because of their niche experience, in which case it's in their interests to keep the transferring employees happy.

Instead of talking to your current boss, talk to HR in the new company. They're the only ones that can make things happen. Yeah, sounds like your boss shafted you but there's no point focussing on that now, focus on the future.

You also mention "great benefits" and you sound quite positive about the new company. You need to weigh that up against the salary and the extended commute - is it going to further your career and be worthwhile staying for 6 months to get additional experience and a wellknown company on your CV? All worth thinking about...

And in any case, get in touch with that recruiter! It's always a good thing to keep up with what else is out there and what your current market value is.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:42 PM on February 6, 2007


I've been through both sides of this equation.

I worked as an underling at an indie record label which was subsequently acquired by a larger entity. My boss (then the head of a tiny subsidiary within the label) gave me the "hang in there" speech, although he was a little cryptic with the reasoning. He couldn't offer me more money up front and made no promises in particular, but he seemed rather urgent that I try to keep it together. Being an impatient and immature undergrad, I didn't, and set a small fire to that bridge in the process. He became President of the whole operation about six months after I left, after which point it became impossible to find a real job in the (somewhat microscopic) music industry around here. Whoops.

In the second scenario, I've been working as a wage slave for a tiny financial-services company which was acquired by a Much Larger Firm. In this case, my manager again dragged his feet on making the situation more worthwhile for me. It was something like a year after the acquisition before things settled down enough for them to begin discussing things such as titles and raises, but when they did, he went to bat for me without asking, got me a raise and a promotion, and then offered more money again once the company moved too far for me to commute reasonably. I have zero inclination to be in the financial-services industry in the long term, but they're bending in all sorts of directions to make it work for me against the odds.

So, I guess the lessons are ...

- You can make pretty substantial sacrifices for things you really want to do, even if they don't serve you in the short-term. And if this gig's in an industry you're passionate about (especially a highly-coveted creative gig), never assume there's another one somewhere else -- unless you have one lined up, of course.

- Even in times of acquisition, some managers can find a way to sweeten the deal if they really put their resources to it. The caveats are that (a) they aren't usually in a position to make actual promises, and (b) it can take forever for those things to come to fruition under a merger situation.

So, either your boss is giving you the run-around on purpose with no intention of making accommodations, or his hands really are tied from above and you'll have to read between the lines. My experience has taught me both things are possible, but only you know how much it's worth sticking around to find out. I'd encourage you to take as much of a macro view of the situation as possible, vis-a-vis your long-term goals and where this job actually fits in.

In either case, I'd say make time to meet with the recruiter. ASAP.
posted by mykescipark at 2:43 PM on February 6, 2007


Yeah, I'm 38, I have about 10 years in my exact line of work (sysadmin programmer stuff), 25 years in computers generally, and I am confident of my skills.

I haven't worked at a large company before and I'm thinking that there's some structure there that I've been missing working at small companies and startups. The new company has much better benefits, bonuses, etc., but also has a reputation for overworking their employees.

@xammerboy
There is a written promise of a salary review in my original employment agreement, but nothing about specific numbers.

Another option I thought about was to just swallow my pride, go through with everything, all the while looking for another job.
posted by rhizome at 2:44 PM on February 6, 2007


Another issue is that I could possibly be burning a bridge by saying "I haven't decided yet" for the past week or so.
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on February 6, 2007


What is your impression of the new company? Simply by reputation, or better yet from friends of friends who work there.

What is the job market like in you industry right now?

The idea of being out of work is scary, but you will never find the job you want without taking some risk.

Assuming that the job market in your industry is OK, then you can afford to be fairly hard nosed. Your boss can do something about it. He can explain the situation to the acquirers, and invite them to make you a better offer, just as he would have if the meeting had gone ahead. If he refuses to do that, you can go over his head, and talk to them directly. He's not your ultimate boss anymore. At the same time talk to the recruiter directly, and get a sense of what you are worth.

If they won't make an offer, or the offer is too low, then you can use the contracting gig to fund your life, until you find a better job. If you love the acquiring business, and believe it gives you longer term opportunity, then you might accept a lower offer.

Mefi's standard advice is to walk in these situations, but I think the hive mind has it right.
posted by Touchstone at 2:57 PM on February 6, 2007


Negotiate with the new company. Explain that you were escheduled for a review & possible increase, and give them a list of reasons why they should want to keep you at an increased price. Leave out emotion, promises, etc. This is an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the new company. Be polite, cc: your boss, and just ask for more.

And polish your resume and meet with the recruiter. Employers will lay you off in a heartbeat. It's always good to be ready to move. You don't need to burn any bridges here. You're being reasonable and taking care of your best interests.
posted by theora55 at 3:08 PM on February 6, 2007


My experience has been that employers rarely ever pony up more money to keep an current employee, but will pay market price or higher to hire someone new from the outside. It makes no sense to me, and yet I've seen it happen more times than I can remember.

If you sign the agreement at the lower price, I doubt that at some point in the near future they're going to give you a big raise. They've already jerked you around, and you're still there. If you feel you deserve more money, and you're getting paid below market, I'd start looking elsewhere.
posted by Gamblor at 3:12 PM on February 6, 2007


Also, contractors make more money, but don't get benefits, and are usually the first ones let go when money gets tight. So be aware of what you're getting yourself into, if you decide to go that route.
posted by Gamblor at 3:17 PM on February 6, 2007


Yeah, I'm not too interested in the contractor angle. It'd likely be just to save his butt in the integration. Though people with my skills are fairly common (not sure about my skill *level*, but that's a different issue, bosses never have a problem with the functional aspects of what I write), I do have intimate knowledge with the crufty IP that the acquiring company has paid for.

In a nutshell I think this is a "follow bad boss to new company" situation. If I can get out from under him in a reasonable timeframe I can go along without much of an ethical problem, if the acquirer will try to keep the acquisition intact then I may be penned in more than I realize.
posted by rhizome at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2007


next time don't be too busy to get the review you need for the raise

too busy for a raise!???

sounds like they got you where they want you!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 5:06 PM on February 6, 2007


Believe me, it's been a learning experience!
posted by rhizome at 5:17 PM on February 6, 2007


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