The Dehumanization of Acquisitions

Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts — How to make M&A a bit more human.

Courtney Branson
8 min readDec 3, 2021


Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash

This is happening. But it’s not happening to me. I choose what happens.

I said these words again and again𑁋a grounding mantra to steady my displaced soul. The startup I helped build was acquired in early 2021. As ready as I was for that chapter to end, I had no idea how soul-crushing the due diligence process would be. Everyone assured me that was just the nature of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). But, when it was all over, I still felt awful.

Over a decade ago, I was in a car accident. My last thought before blacking out was, this is it. When I woke up, I looked at my hands; I couldn’t believe they were my hands. I left a car crash without a visible scar, but I wasn’t okay.

The acquisition didn’t leave a visible scar, and yet I wasn’t okay.

The acquisition renegotiated the norms and rules that bound me. It was like a breakup.

Due diligence is not for the faint of heart. I had to both defend my work and get comfortable with destroying it. All the pieces that made my work meaningful and played into my sense of self crumbled. So, I resigned.

At first, it was freeing to be untethered. But the warring emotions𑁋relief, fear, joy, regret𑁋had a familiar aftertaste. It was the breakup with my college boyfriend all over again. Consciously, I knew ending it meant we weren’t together anymore. What I didn’t know until I was in it𑁋was the journey of redefining rituals, friendships, plans, identity. Sometimes being unstuck is scarier than being stuck.

There’s a mental toll to putting your identity into work.

I joined the startup weeks after moving to Austin. My coworkers were my best friends. I started a family. My mid-twenties became my thirties. I evolved.

Leaving meant saying goodbye to a version of myself that I quite adored. It also left me with an identity tangled around a job. Like a dainty necklace all in knots, I had to delicately and painstakingly untangle myself.