Did Your Company Just Go Through A Reorg? Here's How to Thrive In It
Just follow the R.E.O.R.G method. It stands for React, Evaluate, Overinvest, Resist, and Grow.
You might love your job and your teammates. But don’t get too comfortable. A corporate reorganization could be right around the corner.
In my 1,500-person organization within Google, I’ve been through two large-scale reorgs in three years. Shakeups can be even more frequent for smaller companies or startups, and according to a Harvard Business Review study, 80% of employers see restructurings continuing at an equal or faster pace in the next three years.
This means that reorgs are a given. The only question is how you respond to them — and how you can leverage them for your career advancement. Here’s a guide to not just surviving your company’s reorg but to thriving as a result of it. I call it R.E.O.R.G, which stands for, React, Evaluate, Overinvest, Resist, and Grow.
React consciously — instead of automatically — to the reorg. Knee-jerk reactions of fear and frustration are normal, but managers notice how folks show up in the days and months after a reorg announcement. You want to show that you can thrive during uncertainty.
Conscious reaction doesn’t mean faking that you are over-the-moon excited about the changes. You might go through a real sense of loss and mourning — the loss of a great boss, the dismantling of a team you loved, and so on. That’s natural. But while it’s helpful to work through these emotions privately (and in the right way with your team or manager if you have that psychological safety), you should avoid complaining, naysaying, or bringing down the team morale.
In public, you should be a net-positive energy contributor. When you assume best intentions (i.e. there are probably some smart people at the top making these changes for valid business reasons), it makes reacting intentionally easier even as you process your own emotions.
Evaluate where you are in your career and what you want to do next. A reorg can be a useful inflection point even if you didn’t realize you were ready for one. You might ask yourself if you are comfortable where you are career-wise or if this is a great opportunity for a new role. Restructures almost always create new opportunities, and they can be a good forcing function to move on to your next adventure.
That new opportunity might be within the same team, a different org, or a different company entirely. During one reorg, I decided I was going to ride out the changes and stay put. During another, I knew right away that I wanted to apply for one of the new positions the reorg created. Neither decision was right or wrong; they both suited my needs and my career trajectory at the time. When you evaluate where you are, you can take the next step that makes the most sense for your professional advancement.
Overinvest in leading through the change. Whether you are an individual contributor or a manager (who might be dealing with your own sense of loss and uncertainty), you can shine in the aftermath of a reorg by leaning into the work that needs to be done. This might mean joining the workstream on change management or stepping up to lead the new customer segmentation strategy upon which the whole reorg was predicated.
For example, when I was reorged into a new team, I wasn’t feeling great about where I landed. I was the only employee based in New York City who would now work remotely on an all-Chicago team. Huh. I didn’t see that one coming; I was as perplexed as I was demotivated. However, I knew demotivation wouldn’t serve me or my career aspirations to get promoted in the next six months.
Despite my instinct to pull back on effort, I chose to overinvest. As it turned out, I was the only one on the team of seven who had a specific product expertise. I immediately offered weekly product trainings to my new peers. Right away, it gave me a sense of responsibility and ownership, and my new boss noticed my proactivity. To her, it indicated that I was “on the bus” and able to thrive during change. Your manager’s perception that you are overinvesting at a time when the company needs your leadership is always good for your career.
Resist gossip, or, more specifically, the negative sentiment it can cause. Reorgs often bring up emotions and may tempt you to speculate or seek information. It’s of course helpful to know what’s going on, and that doesn’t always happen through official channels. Frankly, speculative water-cooler chat can be fun and build culture between colleagues. However, when gossip is meanspirited, it can decrease your effectiveness in navigating a reorg, and it can harm your reputation to boot. Avoid it if you can.
Rather than saying to your peer, “I heard they combined the two orgs because they want to get rid of Brian,” ask your manager or manager’s manager, in an appropriate way, what the business reasons were for the reorg. Hopefully they’ve already shared the guiding principles, but if you’re eager to know one level deeper, have an honest conversation with your boss. If you’re a manager yourself, this also gives you clear information to share with your team. Spreading rumors leads to burned bridges, and that’s a fast way to thwart your career.
Personal and professional growth is a near guaranteed outcome of any corporate restructure. You might get the short end of the stick and get demoted, layered under an extra level of management, or even laid off. Alternatively, you might get the long end of the stick and find yourself promoted, managing a team of 200 up from 50, or being tapped to lead the key focus area for that year’s annual plan.
If the former happens, you may seek out a job change; growth inevitably comes from that transition. If the latter happens, you’ll have more responsibility or learn new skills; growth inevitably comes with that too! If you have a growth mindset, reorgs can be a boon to your career, because however you land in the reorg, something has changed, and change breeds growth.
With R.E.O.R.G., you now have a framework to help you navigate the challenging time that can come directly after a company or team restructure. When you’re dealing with the uncertainty and discomfort that reorgs can bring, consider how you might react, evaluate, overinvest, resist, and grow. This guidance will help you not just survive the reorg, but thrive in your career as a result.
Jenny Wood is the Global Head of Mobile Customer Experience at Google and the founder of Google’s Own Your Career