Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
....You help me,
and I'll help you
we will see it through.
Why is it haunting me right now? It's the MERGER.
Did you ever have a moment when you were growing up and you joined a new club that your old friends weren't in...or maybe a fraternity or sorority? Or you changed schools or graduated and promised that you wouldn't change and you would stay in touch with those friends who had been with you for the past years? How often did that work out as planned?
I've been working at the same company for 21 years...since I was 23 years old....and I'm not alone. Many of us have been a part of this community for 20, 30, or even 40+ years. There was something special about this company, something that even with 1500 employees, still felt like a small family business. And it was successful, whether you measure that by bottom line, client satisfaction, or employee loyalty...it had all three. But market pressures were being felt and we saw the writing on the wall. We had tried to grow organically. And we had tried to grow through small acquisitions, but in the end, it looked as though we would need to do something radical - getting bigger or smaller - to find our niche. I still remember the day I knew things were going to change. That was the day one board member said to me, "Look, we can stay exactly as we are now. That would be perfectly all right. Just tell the last person out the door to turn out the lights."
So along came our MERGER. And then two years (coming this July) of pure HELL of integration. Most of us survived, but our culture has not....our culture has taken a beating. After all this time, and after all the griping and moaning we have all done about THEM vs. US, in the end, it's all about accepting that there is a new company and WE are now THEM and THEM is now US.
So now it's all about who will accept and thrive in the new MERGER company and who will fight against it or fade away. And for those who accept and thrive....will their friendships of old stand the test of time and the trials of change? Will they be seen as traitors to our old world? Or will they be the heros of the new one?
About halfway through our integration timeframe, I began to realize the truth was, no matter what, the old place was gone. Whether I stayed or moved on, I would be working in a new place, with new rules, new roles, and new people. I guess, despite times when getting out seemed the prudent thing to do, I was reluctant to jump from the frying pan into the fire, and I stuck it out to see what this new MERGER place was really all about.
By luck or hard work, I am one of the survivors. I have been named as a member of the management team and have found myself engaged in meetings with our U.S. CEO and COO and shaping our group strategy. I'm working with my colleagues this coming week on our teambuilding session, bringing our group made up of almost a perfect 50-50 split makeup of old and new staff coming together as one team. I've been invited to meetings in Amsterdam this month as part of a select group of managers from our international operating companies. It's heady stuff....and I'm trying to keep my feet on the ground and a healthy dose of skepticism with neither negativity nor ego clouding it.
At the same time as I am engaging with these new teams, I realize I'm losing touch with some of my old colleagues - they are moved into other divisions, or perhaps been sidelined with other managers taking the leadership roles. They are no longer on my meeting schedule, on my call sheet, at my lunch table. I've found myself defending the new normal. I've been extracting myself from the coffee room bitch sessions. I don't want to be disloyal to my friends, but I also recognize at a certain point you've got to recognize the new Sherriff in town...or get out of Dodge already.
So, as the song reminds me...I'm at that point. Making new friends and struggling to keep the old.