3 Career Lessons I Learned When My Employer Dissolved

career lessonsAbout 2 years ago, the fairly well-known company I worked for was sold right under our noses to its two major competitors.

You see, my company was owned by Lehman Brothers and due to their stellar business ethics we were thrown into uncertainty.

Here are the 3 career lessons I learned from the experience.

1. Be The Debby Downer

Once Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, our company got to work applying to go public. I can honestly say at the time I had no idea what that meant.

Yet, I joined the conversation at the water cooler – half listening, half asleep, nodding every once in a while. The general consensus was that everything would be fine because our corporate office said so.

I didn’t ask questions.

Now that I look back the big wigs were likely feeding us propaganda to keep us lowly employees working instead of looking for other jobs. They must have had an inkling our company was doomed.

Career Lesson Learned: There’s nothing wrong with being a little pessimistic even if you keep it to yourself. Be aware and find out what people are saying on the outside instead of depending on the knowledge of people within – they have an agenda.

2. Pick Up on Tone

So in the middle of the push to go public there was a blip in the propaganda machine. An article in a major publication came outtbroadcasting to the world that our biggest competitor tried to buy our company and it fell through.

All hell broke loose.

As a result of the “scandal” an emergency companywide teleconference was called to talk us employees off the ledge.

Again, no worries ladies and gentlemen that move on their part was unrealistic. After all, buying our company wouldn’t be a smart business decision for our competitor and that’s why it failed.

Then some ironic things started to happen.

High level employees who had been with the company for decades started receiving other job opportunities miraculously. The quiet turn in a 2 week notice type of resignation without a peep from upper management.

A little weird for celebrated employees. But I was still drinking the Kool-Aid at that time so I took the reasoning behind their leave at face value.

Career Lesson Learned: No matter how positively upper management plays the spin game on major turnover keep your eyes and ears open. When a big switch up is happening, it’s happening for a reason.

3. Be Loyal to Yourself

Eventually things died down a bit, although people continued to leave.

Until one day it happened. We all received an email from the corporate office.

Urgent: Company-wide teleconference within the hour.

Of course the writing was on the wall – our company was sold to that same competitor. But this time they found a buddy to help obliterate us.

I’ll never forget the President’s final words of the teleconference.

God Bless You All.

It felt like the titanic was sinking. And I laughed a little inside. Because at that time I was just 23 and I figured life would go on whether they had a new position for me or not.

Plus I felt fairly certain that my performance record would translate well with the new company. So quite frankly, I didn’t really care.

Then during our next regional meeting I noticed people were sobbing. And making really emotional speeches and cheering on the deflated CEO like a celebrity.

And then I understood.

These people were a part of the in group. They had spent umpteen years being loyal, schmoozing, and befriending the right people to get where they were. No it was all down the drain.

Career Lesson Learned: Build valuable connections inside and outside of work. And be loyal to yourself before a company. It only makes sense to me that some of these employees must have known that things were coming to an end – yet they stayed.

Was it hope or blind loyalty? I just know that won’t ever be me. Being 100% invested in one place is risky. If it fails, you fail.

What are your thoughts? Has your company been sold or your position been eliminated? What did you learn from the experience?

Posted in: Career and Work

Top of page