It’s been several months since my first article on what to expect from the Zimmer Biomet merger. Not much has happened apart from the typical script being played repeatedly that “it’s business as usual” under the new Zimmer-Biomet banner. The transition team was announced and it appears that the early big winner is Biomet with Adam Johnson, Dan Williamson & Dave Nolan being selected as the new Group Presidents leading the transition. But what does this mean and what will happen next? No one knows for sure, but if I don’t miss my guess, there will be some big announcements coming out soon. Those announcements will signal the next phase of the transition and the first wave of several “Reductions in Force.” (RIF’s) Unfortunately, no one is protected from a RIF. All of the typical protected classes of employees are fair game during this type of transaction, so don’t assume that you are immune.
Zimmer will want to try to keep these episodes on as small a scale as possible to avoid a disruption in the field and mass exodus. They will count on the self preservation instincts of those who get ousted to “keep quiet and go along” in order to receive their severance packages. The first wave will be the Division Presidents followed shortly thereafter by the VP’s. They will allow the dust to settle a bit before the next level hits the AVP’s and subsequently Sales Directors. Each layer of retained leaders will be called upon to select the next level’s winners and losers. The most obvious redundancies exists in the field but before the RIF reaches the Distributor/Branch level, there will be the thinning of sales leadership. They will endeavor to keep most of the “high potential leaders” even if it means reassigning them to another role or division. For some, this will mean they have to endure a demotion, but their only other option is an exit plan. Due to the obvious redundancies across the board, the leaders who make these decisions will do their best to mitigate the risks of losing business. Yet as fiercely political as this may become, this will prove increasingly challenging Ideally, by combining two companies, they hope to enjoy the “One Plus One Equals Two” outcome when the dust settles. However, this takes incredible finesse to accomplish and most companies fall short of achieving it. Subsequently, their “One Plus One” will most likely equal “Less than Two,” and this begs the question “how much less?” Let’s face it, if you’re not kept around, you really don’t care too much about how things play out, but the business that is lost will go to those companies who stand to capitalize on this feeding frenzy.
Don’t expect this process to follow a logical progression in terms of winners and losers. In fact, if you end up on the wrong side, you shouldn’t view this as a failure. Only time will tell, but you may be significantly better off outside of the new Mega Zimmer-Biomet rather than within. There will be those who are retained that make perfect sense given who’s in charge. And yet, there will be some that make no sense whatsoever. You can drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of the new organizational structure. Invariably, many of the decisions don’t make sense given the limited information that you have at your disposal. This is because you aren’t privy to the behind the scenes playbook. Some of the new appointments will simply fall under the category of “pure politics.” The reality is that the decision making process is extremely difficult in most cases. And what makes perfect sense to one person is a mystery to another. To some it will seem random and although some will be surprised by who keeps their jobs, others will be shocked by who is sent packing. This is simply the nature of these proceedings. All the while, upper management tries to contain the damage and keep the people focused upon the goal of stabilizing the business.
If there is any advice I could give those of you who are dismissed from your job it is that there IS life after Zimmer-Biomet. Some of you will learn that your loyalty was not valued as you would have expected and you will be disappointed if not disillusioned. Some of you will take it very personally while others will feel a sense of relief as seeing the future in the Mega Ortho company as something they never signed up for. Back to my advice. I encourage you to stay positive and professional. Though this feels like a monumental, even catastrophic life event, it truly is nothing more than a temporary blip in your career and even though you can’t possibly know how this will play out or where you will be in a few months, you’ll be fine. If you’ve done a good job where you are, there are plenty of other companies who need your skills and experience to solve their most perplexing challenges. Hopefully, Zimmer will provide you with the means to take some time to find your next opportunity. The higher up the chain you are, the greater your severance package typically is. Subsequently, the closer you are to the “rank and file” level, the smaller your severance package will be.
It was 15 years ago this month that I was laid off by Stryker, almost a year to the date of the acquisition of Howmedica. It was one of the last RIF’s at Stryker Howmedica Osteonics that hit me right before Christmas. Interesting timing for sure and a fairly common phenomenon. A dear friend of mine offered me the advice of letting the holidays pass without panicking or trying to secure my next gig. It turned out to be sage advice for me. So if you should find yourself in a similar situation, I would offer the same advice. Whenever your RIF should happen, if you are caught up in one of the waves, take a reasoned and calculated approach to finding your next job. Try not to take it too personally. I know just how difficult that is, but nothing is gained through attacking people and making a scene. Keep a positive outlook and anticipate good things to come in your near future. A fresh start and perspective may be exactly what you needed and what better time than the end of a year.
– Drue De Angelis
Originally Published 12/22/2014