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WHEN TO JUMP SHIP – AND HOW

Your hospital or health center recently affiliated with a bigger one, and things quickly went from “we’re just academic friends” to a full-asset merger faster than a Las Vegas wedding. Now, the new owners are changing their tune on what was originally promised and you’re feeling understandably nervous. In some moments, you are actually immersed in a dull panic that feels like slow-motion falling off a cliff in a bad dream, but in reality, you’re wide awake and wondering what’s next.

You’ve fended off countless “opportunities” from recruiters and diplomatically navigated your competitor’s courtships. Until now, you’ve felt safe and valued; maybe even irreplaceable. Chances are you are two of these things, but unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you are the latter. 

So what now? Start developing plans B, C, D and E? Dust off your copy of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and get to politicking in order to preserve your place? Cash in and start that mail-order microbrew business you’ve always wanted?

The answers are: yes, and also no. Not just yet. Read on for a view from the dark-roast recruiter’s side. I’ll point out the opportunities and landmines so that you can do better than just survive this all-too-common scenario.

How Do I Know When it’s Time to Jump Ship?

Making career choices is not a science. Your decision to make a move should be treated like any important investment decision, but always heed this caveat: don’t trust your gut when the clear-headed evidence states otherwise. 

As with any investment, timing is everything, and depending on your company culture and that of the incoming culture, there are several factors that could and should influence your decision. Remember that speaking to a reliable recruiting professional is always a smart move. You may not even have to jump, but knowing where there might be a happy landing place ought to give you some peace of mind, just in case you have to. 

Whether to Exit or Stay the Course

Here are some hypothetical scenarios that might speak to your individual situation, and hopefully illustrate possible actions (or non-actions as the case may be):

If the merging company cultures immediately seem to be like oil and water, and the rich one is playing rough with the runt, see if you can answer these questions honestly:

  1. Does the buyer have qualified people who can replace me?
  2. If there are candidates waiting in the wings, will my current employer be able to protect me? 
  3. Was the merger motivated by ACA market forces? If so, are these market forces putting my role at risk and possibly encouraging the buyer to trim the fat?
  4. If I work for the buyer, is there a strong team in my field who can negotiate better rates than mine? 
  5. Has my employer specifically told me that my job is vital and protected? 

If your answers to any of these questions point to any ambiguity about the security of your position, you should be speaking with a recruiter right away. 

If cultures are well matched, leaders are playing nice all around and you’ve got a sweet position that is unlikely to be eliminated, then do your best not to heed the normal grumblings. Practice the new name and keep on doing what you do, but be alert to signs of turmoil, as short-term situations can turn on a dime. Broken promises and unannounced changes can be clear indicators of trouble brewing. 

During the Change and After the Dust Settles

The chaos that ensues during a merger is unavoidable. One would like to think that the end result will be for the betterment of all, but that’s not always the case. If the honeymoon is short-lived, and there is a pervasive sense of dread amongst your colleagues, the answer might be plain as day. 

The time immediately after the dust settles and normality ensues is often the trickiest, especially if your position is not highly specialized or your skills not sought after. There may have even been a few of your colleagues who did take the plunge and decided to jump, either leaving the company altogether or moving into the handful of available openings. Being aware of the mitigating circumstances and being able to connect that to your own personal situation, you should be able to decide what is best for you. 

How to Make the Jump

No matter what, your decision to stay or go should always be made on your own terms while working toward a meaningful goal. If the timing is right, your choices will be viewed as judicious and well thought out – however, making a hasty exit, especially when you are within the ‘magic’ minimum of two years on the job can haunt you – especially if you do it again within the ensuing four to five years. A reasonable step up and a credible backstory will do wonders to allay any potential employer misgivings. 

Letting the axe fall, but guiding it away from any vital organs is also a viable plan – as long as you have built a strong network and have a solid exit strategy in place, such as might be the case if you are headed for retirement. In any case, always remember to avoid bad-mouthing your previous employer. If you end up working for a competitor or at a company nearby, they will surely have heard some of the scuttlebutt. Show that you are loyal to both your patients and your employer, and that you don’t run at the first sign of trouble. 

Finally, if you are nearing the end of your career, job-sitting with a ‘make-me-leave’ attitude is never a wise move. Even if you anticipate never working in your field again, or if you have a solid offer that is not dependent on a good referral, negativity is never a good idea. Your unwillingness to play that game will go a long way to supporting your image as a dependable, level headed professional who is bound to be a valuable asset rather than a liability. 

Polaris Placement: Partners in Your Future

If you are currently involved in a merger, or if you are anticipating this possibility in your near future, you will need some sound, unbiased advice. Polaris Placement has decades of experience in professional medical placement and can provide valuable insights when you need it most. Drop us a line or call today, and let’s talk about how we can change your situation for the better.

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