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Employees should stay alert to subtle changes

Employees should be alert to subtle changes in companies following mergers and acquisitions.

Warning signs that cutbacks are in the works may loom on the horizon for weeks or months prior to any formal announcement.

Employees, especially those with longer tenures, may be vulnerable and should educate themselves about things to watch for.

The most likely time for workforce reductions is the period immediately following mergers or acquisitions.

Top and middle management are usually combined for the transition.

For the company, this may mean a change or new direction in company philosophy and mission; for employees, this may mean restructuring or consolidating existing positions, eliminating or combining departments, all resulting in a change in the customary working atmosphere.

When two or more companies merge into one larger company or when one company buys another, the functions and or services of various departments and subsidiaries are evaluated.

It takes most companies three months to a year to assess all the functions and services provided and all the departments in the newly formed company.

Many of the assessments will be made before daily operations are combined.

As the company's mission and philosophy change or are refined, some positions, departments and services are no longer considered assets.

Normally, positions are cut in stages.

Months prior to the official business deal, decisions will be made on strategies to increase the bottom line and boost stock values.

Also, decided will be which, if any, positions will be cut with the first round of cuts coinciding with the &uot;official opening&uot; of the newly formed company.

Making it through the first round of cuts is no guarantee that jobs are safe.

Evaluation of the various departments and the services they provide will continue after the official opening, so one to three more rounds of job cuts may happen in the future.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers workshops n New Beginnings:

Life After Job Loss n to assist employees who are losing their jobs.

For information on setting up a workshop contact the Butler County Office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.