Your Merger Makeover! Surviving in consolidated circumstances isn't easy. But it can be done. Can we have Slide No. 1, please?
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Slide No. 1: Living and Succeeding in a Merged Company.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, circumstances in the iron/steel/automotive/entertainment/media/electrical equipment/defense/Internet/food/transportation/packaged goods/ telecommunications/toy/nuclear-waste-disposal industries have led to unprecedented levels of consolidation. While this may be good for shareholders, the impact on employees is less clear. That's why I'm here to help you today.

Slide No. 2. Those Who Cannot Learn From the Future Are Condemned to Live Elsewhere.

That's right, Buster. The past is over. The future is here. If that idea doesn't fill you with glee, you can get out of here! Right now! You're still here? Great. I knew you would be. Why? Because you're a winner! Next slide, please.

Slide No. 3. Pie chart. Eighty-five percent in green. Fifteen percent in red.

No, it's not Christmas. This chart simply shows that most of you will survive in the merged environment, because no matter how much fat is cut, all studies show that it's not going to come to more than 15% of corporate body weight overall. Unless you're in headquarters. Or in finance, law, or some other staff position. Or unless people don't like you. Okay, I understand that means most of the people in this room. That's why you're paying for this counseling session. The first issue, friends, is clarity.

Slide No. 4. Clarity! It's Where It's At!

As always, in a situation where nothing is clear, clarity becomes very, very important. So think: What have we got here? Is it good? Is it bad? There are only a few possibilities. Here they are.

Slide No. 5. The Four Possibilities:

--You've been acquired. (Bad for you, good for somebody else.) --You've acquired somebody else. (Good for you, bad for somebody else.) --Some combination of the two. (Good and bad for everybody.) --You've been merged. (Good for everybody.)

I believe there was once a merger where both parties benefited equally. I think it took place around 1946, in Bethesda, Md., when a small plumber joined with a local pipefitter in a fifty-fifty arrangement that worked out well for all concerned. Beyond that, forget about it.

The thing is, you already know what's happened to you, don't you? You can measure whether you're an acquiring Hun or an invaded Roman by the knot in the top of your duodenum. Feel it? It's one of your greatest assets. Next slide, please.

Slide No. 6. You Can Be a Winner! (Thumbs-up graphic.)

But not if you act like a loser.

Slide No. 7. Finding the Post-You You.

As your company has been transformed, so must you be. You're going to have to jettison your old persona in favor of a new one. What should it be?

Slide No. 8. Possible Personas: Basic Concepts.

However it shakes out, the new you should be:

--Culturally consonant with the leaders of the new world order: Are they dressed well? How well? Are they big touchers? Do they say good morning to each other like cheerful Moonies, or simply grunt while rushing by to their first meetings? Do they wear their jackets when they travel to the lobby for a sandwich? Observe and copy.

--Clean and sober (except in a sales-oriented culture): Some places like guys to sport ponytails and earrings while the women have real short hair and tattoos. With the sudden success of Internet companies, you could be bought by such a place. If you have large earlobes like me, that could mean career disaster.

--Schooled in the lingo: Each company has its buzzwords. These days, everything around here is sticky. Until I knew what that meant, I was confused. Now I get it, and it feels good!

--Worried about money: Most merged environments are looking for synergies. You want to find them, not be one of them.

Slide No. 9. Old You vs. Post-You You--Options Galore!

Look at all the choices you have:

Old You Post-You You

Small, stupid, dumpy Tall, smart, whippet-lean Plodding toward death Fast track to success! Obsessed with detail Big-picture guy Loyal as a spaniel Emotionally agile Dressed for success Successfully dressed

Or vice versa. Next slide, please.

Slide No. 10. Who's the Boss? Pie chart: 60% blue, 40% yellow.

Once you've got your post-you you well in hand and have decided who you want to be now, cast your rheumy eye around and ascertain who's going to be in charge of you. How does your current boss look? Are his or her reporting relationships disturbed? Is there somebody more likely around to whom you can apply your suction cups?

Slide No. 11. Read the Signs.

Here are some indications that your boss isn't worth sucking up to anymore. Is he:

--Behind closed doors a lot? --Eating lunch at his desk instead of at Chez Pouxpoux? --Not yelling as much, and suddenly wanting to talk about football, kids, etc.? --Asking your opinion on stuff he never did before?

If so, it's time to look around and figure out which donkey you can pin your tail on. They're going to need leaders in the brave new world. You can be one of them!

Slide No. 12. Kill or Be Killed. (Bar chart.)

Of course, it's possible that nobody will get hurt in the coming brouhaha. It's also possible that global warming will be good for the planet. Here you see a bar chart showing the relationship between income over time and the level of guilt people feel in post-merged survival situations. As you can tell, people who feel remorse about surviving others make significantly less money than people who sleep well at night after eating fellow passengers in their lifeboat. Next slide, please.

Slide No. 13. Have Fun!

Companies that don't do big deals kind of stay the same for a while until they are inhaled by other, more aggressive entities. If you work for a company that's having a lot of action, you're one of the lucky ones. Your waiting days are over. The future is here! Reach out and embrace it! Move into the light! Move into the light!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.