The landscape at Automattic, can be as unpredictable as the sea in a storm.
No matter how good you feel in the current winds, they could change at any moment.
Protect yourself before that happens. If something feels wrong, if there is a tickle in the back of your mind, a twinge of doubt, even a sense of uncertainty… document it. Write it down. Save it. Scrapbook it.
Remember the adage, “rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”
Document Everything: Keep meticulous records of your achievements, feedback, and any critical communications or promises made by management or HR. In the corporate sea, these records could end up being your compass, helping you navigate through stormy waters. (Screenshots should be undetectable.)
Empower Yourself with Information: Stay informed about company policies, changes, and announcements. If not participation, at least active observation of town halls and discussions will help you keep a picture of the ever changing weather.
Know Your Rights: Understand your contractual rights and the company’s termination policies. If you are in the USA, consider familiarizing yourself with certain acts like WARN.
Build Your Support Network: Connect with your colleagues. Consider and discuss potential group efforts. Communicate outside of work channels. Forge alliances both inside and outside the company. When the ship starts sinking, it’s these relationships that will throw you a lifeline.
Mental Health Matters: If your job is chipping away at your sanity, raise the red flag. Seek external support if needed. Remember, no job is worth sacrificing your well-being.
Compensation Clarity Is a Must: Automattic’s compensation can be as clear as mud. Get everything in writing. Know your worth and demand transparency. If they’re playing hide and seek with your paycheck, it’s time to shine a spotlight.
Keep an Eye Open: Be alert to any shifts in company culture, policy changes, or rumblings of financial trouble. In the corporate jungle, the observant survive.
Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Stay critical. Question practices that seem off. Remember, corporate loyalty is a two-way street.
Stay sharp, stay prepared, and may the corporate winds be ever in your favor.
The Automatic mouthpiece posted a couple of days ago all about Happiness Engineers. Having been a HE, it is true that we really do seek to help you in the best way possible. But, having been a HE before Covid, the way we want to help has changed.
Automattic has provided HEs with a new mandate, as HEs you are now required as a factor of job performance, to upsell our products.
Obviously this compromises the support experience and introduces a sales angle.
Think Godaddy but by text chat not gaudy junk.
If you search ‘layoffs’ and many tech companies you will see the high numbers of people who lost their jobs. But if you search layoffs and Automattic you will find none. You might even find mention that Automattic did not need to engage in layoffs.
When a company is remote, when a company is relatively small, when a company is privately owned they can do whatever they want confident in the knowledge that exiting employees will not say the truth because they want to stay in the industry, and remaining employees stay silent in case the Eye Of Matt falls upon them.
There have been many people ejected from Automattic due to Covid and ‘streamlining’.
The post about Happiness Engineers is relevant for two reasons:
1 – there has been an active cull of experienced HE’s who were very well regarded by their peers.
2 – AI is on the way. The head of Support was recently given the job of bringing in AI. Specifically, the former Head of Support, whom has worked entirely in Support at Automattic for 99% of their career, is now Head of AI at Automattic. Surprising no-one, as a result of this career path, there is little experience in AI on the current Head of AI’s resume. In Automattic’s eyes, and indeed, at many other companies Support is seen as a ‘cost center’, and AI can solve that, by being cheaper to employ than a human support team member.
This Automattic post about how wonderful HE’s are is to reassure you that you are getting the very best, and for many years Automattic was one of the gold standards for customer support, but it’s now probably a bot, or some over worked Happiness Engineer who is worried about not hitting upsell quotas, and can’t really focus on helping you solve problems, because solving problems is no longer a primary concern for support.
Recently, the Automattic HR team answered a series of anonymous and not so anonymous questions. One question was about pay raises. Specifically asking if Automattic allows part time work for part time pay, (they do) then is there an option for HEs who want to work more than full time to get additional pay for extra hours?
This was the reply:
“If you’d like to make more as a HE, we’d suggest driving more sales and developing your coding skills. It is not clear that just answering chats or tickets will be as valuable to Automattic in the future.”
Within Automattic there are a ton of really talented people who want to great things and are genuinely invested in making the web a better place.
There’s also a group of others that don’t do much aside from…
Share irrelevant opinions on P2 without any real understanding of what is going on.
Site Field Guide pages that say very general things should be done if particular ways. Heaven forbid you forget to link to every loosely related P2 post in your Slack messages.
Tell people that they should use MGS to find the answer to their question because they are “sure” it’s there.
Keep a record of Slack messages and P2 comments from Matt to reference if someone suggests doing something he disagreed with.
Repeat what others have said in their own words so it looks like they have a valuable opinion and are worth keeping around.
I could probably go on, but I don’t want to.
Automattic has a toxic leadership problem, and it’s turning into a toxic culture problem. They’re luring talented people in with the promise of great benefits, but they’re also leveraging all of those “benefits” as a way to push complacency on people.
No one seems to understand what it means to execute on any idea completely and there’s a history of throwing strong leaders to the wolves.
Notes: – The post was made to the internal Human Resources blog and cross posted to the main internal blog for company-wide updates – If you work at Automattic and recognise your words, be assured that apart from this post’s author (and everyone at Automattic), no-one else knows or will be told your name. – Why is it posted here? Because it so incensed a current employee that they sent screenshots and wanted others to know..
Spin There, Done That! by [redacted] 10:32 pm on March 31, 2022 As a company we’re always iterating on how we do things, and we wanted to try something new for how we reward Automatticians for your hard work and service. Starting today we’re happy to unveil our new Awards, Prizes, and Rewards Inspiring Loyalty program, where each employee gets a chance at a variety of options for improving their compensation and benefits package. Once every 12-18 months your HR Wrangler will reach out to provide you with a token to use for one spin on the Wheel of Compensation, where you’ll have the opportunity to spin and win! But as Einstein famously said – “Without risk, there is no reward!” So be aware there is a Bankrupt field on the wheel. It’s a doozy 🙂 Since this is a new pilot program, we’re giving all current Automatticians one free chance to spin the wheel now ahead of their scheduled review. So make sure you’re proxied, and head on over to see what you land on! Good luck, have fun, and let us know in the comments what you got! +updateomattic
hacker , #winning
[redacted] 10:46 pm on March 31, 2022 All I got was some lousy AFK, when I was really hoping for a Hug From [redacted]!
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 10:56 pm on March 31, 2022 I may know someone that can hook you up, @[redacted] 😂
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 10:57 pm on March 31, 2022 I’m gonna need that hug before you head out on sabbatical plz.
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 6:45 am on April 1, 2022 I got a hug from [redacted] and I wouldn’t want to trade that for some lousy AFK either.
[redacted] 10:48 pm on March 31, 2022 It took me a frankly embarrassing amount of time reading this to realize what day tomorrow is. 🤦
[redacted] 10:50 pm on March 31, 2022 Hey I got a hug from [redacted]! Leaving this comment so that I won’t forget in the next GM
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 10:52 pm on March 31, 2022 Can I trade you 1 of the 2 AFK days I won for half of that hug??
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 11:13 pm on March 31, 2022 Sure! Group hug that is! [redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 10:57 pm on March 31, 2022 Deal! 😀
[redacted] 11:02 pm on March 31, 2022 After spinning the wheel for 26 minutes, I’ve won a total of 366 AFK days. See you all next year!
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 8:09 am on April 1, 2022 Extended sabbatical it is!
[redacted] 11:02 pm on March 31, 2022 Happy 1st April, [redacted] Can I trade you 1 of the 2 AFK days I won for half of that hug??
[redacted] 11:04 pm on March 31, 2022 I got a free blog! 🎉 Let’s try again, and this time, I hope I can get a hug from [redacted]
[redacted] 11:10 pm on March 31, 2022 I got 2 days of AFK!!! I have meetings tomorrow, so I think I’m going to take the 2 days off after that. HUZZAHHHHHHH!
[redacted] 11:14 pm on March 31, 2022 I didn’t know I was so gullible 🤦 Either way, the wheel said free swag and ✨ The Wheel has spoken ✨
[redacted] 11:30 pm on March 31, 2022 I got a hug from [redacted]! I hope the start of the queue’s marked on the next GM map 😂
[redacted] 12:35 am on April 1, 2022 Note to self: Internal P2’s don’t exist tomorrow (today).
[redacted] 12:41 am on April 1, 2022 Awards, Prizes, and Rewards Inspiring Loyalty program This didn’t click for me until the third re-reading. Nice job!
[redacted] 1:18 am on April 1, 2022
Thanks, [redacted]! I don’t know how this happened, but I’ll send you an email to sort out how much you can pay me. I’ll try not to bankrupt the company. 😉
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 2:49 am on April 1, 2022 But as Einstein famously said – “Without risk, there is no reward!” So be aware there is a Bankrupt field on the wheel.
[redacted] 3:05 am on April 1, 2022 I got a hug from [redacted] Hoping to cash this out in a not to distant future 😊
[redacted] 4:07 am on April 1, 2022 Thanks [redacted]. Really appreciate this.
[redacted] 5:52 am on April 1, 2022 I got the hug! Can’t wait to meet you @[redacted] !
[redacted] 5:55 am on April 1, 2022 Good one hahahaha
[redacted] 6:30 am on April 1, 2022 Where do I collect my new Bugatti?
[redacted] 7:09 am on April 1, 2022 Hug from [redacted] it is! 🤗
[redacted] 7:15 am on April 1, 2022
where each employee gets a chance at a variety of options for improving their compensation and benefits package.
I appreciate the thought and tradition of these April Fools jokes. And the implementation and touches are However, I did not find it funny when employees have been asking for clarification and improvements around compensations, review process, etc. consistently (most recently here, and, as usual, on the employee engagement survey). International contractors have been asking for equal (or similar) benefits as employees as well (health insurance, etc.). It’s a tricky topic to navigate and I’m sure there’s a lot of context I’m missing and behind the scenes work on it. But I’ve been waiting eagerly on an update on those topics from HR and it stings that it’s been turned into a joke.
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 10:23 am on April 1, 2022 It’s even more fun since this was posted about 45 mins before another benefit was slashed, https://updateomattic.wordpress.com/2022/04/01/four-year- anniversary-laptops/
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 3:45 pm on April 1, 2022 Thank you so much for your feedback @[redacted] . We take every piece of feedback on compensation seriously, if there is anything that you don’t think we have clarified in our recent posts on compensation, please let us know by either commenting here or by getting in contact with your HR Wrangler. Benefits for International Contractors is tricky to navigate with Automatticians in 98 countries. Our position is the same as when we posted this comment, and we continue to explore options. We are transparent with candidates on the Work For Us pages on what it will mean to be an International Contractor at Automattic, as well as making sure we are clear about it during the trial process. If we see an offering that we think would benefit all of our International Contractors, we will be sure to discuss publicly on P2.
[redacted] 7:19 am on April 1, 2022 Lol I thought this was serious for a few minutes, you got me! 😂 – gotta get swag
[redacted] 7:27 am on April 1, 2022 Ha! Thank you for the morning giggle @[redacted] and HR crew!
[redacted] 8:13 am on April 1, 2022 Yes! I won a hug!
[redacted] 9:02 am on April 1, 2022 YAY! I got a hug from [redacted]! #winning Thanks Human League — this was fun!
[redacted] 11:42 am on April 1, 2022 I’ve been sitting here for an hour and a half trying to find the words to express how disappointed I am in this post. I understand that it’s a joke, and I’m sure it’s not meant maliciously in anyway, but compensation should not be treated as a joke, especially by the very people who control it. I think I’d be more angry if this didn’t already strike me as not too far off from the opaque compensation review process that we actually have. This flies in the face of feedback that I have given to multiple HR Wranglers, and that I know others have as well.
I also want to highlight here that I asked a follow up on the A8c be sure to discuss publicly on P2 townhall which we didn’t have time to address, that specifically asked about this process and the mental health and morale impacts it can have: Follow up re: Retention – what thought, if any, have you given to improving the compensation review process? The current process has inconsistent timing, little to no transparency, and obfuscates ownership of the decision from an individual’s direct leaders. This type of uncertainty around compensation can have major impacts to mental health and morale Needless to say, this joke has compounded those mental health and morale impacts. I hope we can do better in the future.
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 1:18 pm on April 1, 2022 The part I found particularly bothersome was the bonus and raise spins, where it forces you to spin again. Even as a joke it’s not fun to have something dangled in your face and taken away. It also kind of parallels the anniversary laptops being removed. I know several people who were waiting on those because it seemed like a nice perk. The 2 days AFK and WordPress.com blog spaces were funny, but the compensation ones less so.
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ 3:44 pm on April 1, 2022 Thank you for being so open with your feedback @[redacted] . In terms of our compensation philosophy, we believe that there is less bias when it’s handled centrally, and the choice not to have it managed by leads/managers is a conscious one. We want there to be a distinction between feedback on performance and compensation reviews, mainly so that feedback is given and received in the spirit of development. I wasn’t aware of unanswered questions in the Town Hall; I’ll take a look there now. Thanks for the heads up.
[redacted] 1:47 pm on April 1, 2022
[redacted] 3:28 pm on April 1, 2022 OMG, hilarious. Free wordpress.com site. Seems about right since I work in dotOrg.
[redacted] 3:36 pm on April 1, 2022 For all those getting a salary boost, I hope you feel bad because it came from mine.
[redacted] 6:08 pm on April 1, 2022 What I’ve always wanted, 2 free WordPress.com sites, but then on the third spin I got a hug from [redacted]! Hugs shall be expected at the next GM!
[redacted] 6:52 pm on April 1, 2022 Thank you to those that have given us feedback on the April Fools post. It was not our intention to cause hurt by the post, and we are truly sorry it landed that way. With hindsight, we now recognize the timing and parts of the content wasn’t appropriate. It’s a world away from the experience that we want our Automatticians to have. We appreciate folks sharing feedback and have taken it to heart.
[redacted] to [redacted]⋅ Yesterday at 1:31 am Thanks for the apology! Any chance we could get a post-mortem on how this passed the editorial process and how we can avoid another SNAFU in the future? Just as I expect leads not to joke about firing people, I wouldn’t expect our incredible HR department to tease about compensation bumps, especially of the sort where the actual rewards for loyalty, dedication, and service are programmed to fail and instead lead us to non-rewards that are perks we already share. It would be nice to know that these things, which are intimately personal, contentious, and under which many of us have very torn feelings, are considered with respect by HR, and by extension, that HR respects us enough not to make light of their amount of influence over our employment.
[redacted] to [redacted] ⋅ Yesterday at 6:41 am I have been trying to find the right words to express my feelings since yesterday without success, but [redacted] translated what is also my position perfectly. We all make mistakes, and we all know that wasn’t the intention, and that’s perfectly fine. How can we make sure we learn from the experience and improve is the real and only important question.
[redacted] 6:53 pm on April 1, 2022 I’m all for a good joke, but this one seems like it could be particularly troublesome for the 40% of the organization that does not “believe my [their] total compensation (base salary+benefits) is fair, relative to similar roles at other companies”, as shared in the recent Culture Amp survey. This question has trended -3% since the prior survey.
This was also one of the ‘Top 5 questions impacting Engagement for Automattic’ as indicated in that survey. I bring this up not out of anger or retribution, but in concern for the folks working here who already feel like the existing process is as nebulous as spinning a wheel. I certainly don’t assume ill-intent from anyone responsible for this, but I do find it a bit concerning and surprising that this key factor wasn’t considered. 40% of our colleagues is a not-insignificant group
Post Author note: Since writing this post there have apparently been code changes to the wheel. It now cannot give bonuses or a raise.
Matt may think he’s the most innovative and generous CEO of all time, but let me provide some additional information.
Employees at Automattic generally receive subpar compensation:
Base salaries are much lower than most tech companies
No yearly bonus or company stock
As a theoretical example: Let’s say companies in your area normally pay 100k base salary + 10% cash annual bonus + 10% in stock. At Automattic you can look forward to earning 80K base salary + 0 bonus + 0 stock. Revolutionary!
If after all that you’re an employee with extra cash laying around, Automattic will gladly take it off your hands in exchange for “special” A12 stock. These shares are extra special because:
The shares have no rights to proceeds from acquisitions
The buy-back value is not tied to market prices
You agree not to sue if the plan is terminated
I genuinely hope Automatticians with A12 stock get an excellent payout for their investment. But my experience is that Matt’s definition of fair and generous is… interesting.
Matt describes Automattic’s salaries as “fantastic”. LOL.
Only Matt and the HR team could give hard stats. Even managers don’t know the salaries of their direct reports. But we’ve seen tons of examples of people at Automattic making half of what they can make elsewhere. And this is not just people living in expensive cities.