Cult of Matt?

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.


I am more motivated by impact than money

Those words are from the Automattic Creed.

Words written by the owner of Automattic that is multi-millionaire Matt Mullenweg.

If you want impact, expect less money than you can earn at other companies.

If you want fair compensation, do not apply to Automattic.

Automattic Unhappiness

April Fools at Automattic

– 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!

hacker , #winning

45 replies

[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, 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 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 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 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.


Funding, Buyback, and Hiring

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.


Fantastic Salaries

Episode 28: Erica Pandey of Axios on Returning to Work –

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.


Just read the words Matt

The CEO of Automattic needs a teleprompter as evidenced by his latest post where he says that to stream effectively you need a lot of expensive kit.

Trump spokespeople had teleprompters.
Newscasters have teleprompters.
Game show hosts have teleprompters.

Who is writing the words of the Automattic CEO that he needs a teleprompter?

In addition, how much can Automattic employees expense for their Zoom meetings? Or are they stuck with the 720p Macbook cam?


Outsourcing Support

Internal quote:
“In May 2020, we piloted the outsourcing of a temporary team of 29 part-time freelancers to offer English language email support for a subset of support topics.”

In that same post, Happiness Operations mentions plans to consider several different outsourcing firms.

Internal quote:
“bring our cost as a percentage of revenue down to 13%.”
There is a 3 year plan to reduce Support costs.

The fastest way to achieve a drop in support cost is to reduce the cost of labor.

Automattic is hiring new Happiness Engineers because it is less costly than continuing to pay for long time Happiness Engineers and their raises/benefits ex: sabbaticals.

Automattic’s Legal team is not prepared to allow Happiness to outsource sensitive support topics ex: billing and PII.

A long time Happiness Engineer would be eligible for a sabbatical in 2020 or Q1 2021.

Have any Long Time Happiness Engineers been asked to leave this year when they’re due for a sabbatical prior to taking it?



The Mysterious Status of .blog Domains

When the .blog TLD was started by Automattic, employees were given the option to reserve a domain for free. In return for this “generous offer”, they asked that the domain be used as a primary domain (no forwarding to a different site), and that the site be updated with new content at least once a month.

From the very beginning people asked “What happens if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain?”. As far as I can tell, no one ever clearly answered that question. Some employees found that silence worrisome and declined to take the offer, while others trusted that Automattic would surely not be a jerk about the whole thing.

Well, guess what happened? Earlier this year people started receiving emails from Automattic telling them that they don’t appear to be holding up their end of the bargain. The email asked that the owner either start using the domain according to the requirements, or return it to Automattic.

Now this is really problemattic (see what I did there with the extra “t”?). Even if someone is not using the domain to host a website, they might be using it for email. Losing the domain could be a very serious security threat.

So who really owns these domains? According to most customs, gifts aren’t normally something that can be taken back. Can Automattic even legally take any of these domains back? Aren’t they officially registered to the individual owners?

In my case, their automattic (I did it again!) script made a mistake. I got that clarified and I also asked if they could answer the questions I had about who really owns my domain. I pinged them several times and never got an answer. Thanks for that.

Now I have a .blog domain that I want to use as my main site… but not if Automattic can take it back any time. I don’t want to be at their unpredictable mercy. What if I decide I don’t want to blog anymore and just want to point my site to I wish I had just purchased the domain myself to avoid this mess.

I think it’s fair for Automattic to ask people to use their free domain according to the terms that were specified. However, taking the domain back shouldn’t be the only option for people not following those terms. How about revoking the free offer and making those people start paying for the domain?


[Not] Leading by example

Why aren’t Leads or HappOps in the ticket queues 3-4 hours a day helping out if we are in such bad shape that we’re cutting CSS Support?

Either they cannot do Support, or they see themselves above it.



So what we’ve done over the past few years is actually offer the same compensation bands globally. So wherever you’re doing the work, you can have the opportunity to make the same amount. It’s not perfect, because we pay people in the local currency and sometimes currencies can move quite a bit and we have to adjust for that.

Matt Mullenweg, NY Times interview

This definitely wasn’t my experience. There is a lot of secrecy around compensation at Automattic, much more than “the same compensation bands globally” would imply. Any discussion of salaries was subtly (and not-so-subtly) discouraged under the banner of “you should be more motivated by impact than money” – as though you could only care about one or the other.

Prospective Automatticians, expect to spend weeks in the application process (and many, many hours of your time on interviews and trial projects) before you’ll be told the salary that’s on offer. And don’t expect to negotiate – you can take it or leave it.

If Automattic were truly a company with fair, equitable, and transparent compensation policies, is this the kind of behaviour you’d expect?