Sep 28, 2010

Matt at Work: The Office out West

Day 332

This is my last Matt at Work column. During the course of the year I have covered every single job that I have ever been employed at and this is my last one (excluding my current job) covering five years at WestHost.

I had quit Kraft/Convergys to concentrate on schooling and I attended Salt Lake Community College for about a year or so when Kristy became pregnant with Logan. I stopped going to school to take care of him when Kristy went back to South Hills to finish off the school year. After that she decided that she didn't want to teach anymore and wanted to stay at home, which meant that I was to get a full-time job. I didn't want to work down in the Salt Lake City area so we moved back to Logan and found a nice house down on the "Island". Kristy unfortunately had to take a job with the school district while I searched for new employment.

I interviewed at a couple of places but didn't get any callbacks until WestHost. I interviewed with a guy that I went to high school with. He knew who I was but I had no clue who this guy was but I played along. I first interviewed with him and then I interviewed with a man who eventually became my boss in Bevan. When I got into his office, Bevan had his assistant in the office with him, the person that I was replacing. Bevan started to ask me questions when suddenly I hear her say, "Matt Platis? You have got to be kidding me!" It was an old college friend. Her name was Jennifer and we hung out quite a bit many years earlier. It was because of her that I got hired. She even told me after the interview that she would make sure that I got this job. After two weeks of waiting, WestHost finally called me and I got the job to work in the Sales and Marketing Department.

I worked with some fantastic people in the Sales and Marketing Department and I felt in the beginning that I was a real force in the company. I invented a lot of the current policies and I quickly became the go-to-guy when it came to anything about Sales. And I loved my job.

There were certainly a lot of quirks though. The CEO of WestHost was this young kid who formed the company in high school. He never had to hold down a job himself and that led to some interesting and unfortunate situations which I have blogged about here.

Remember the Bathroom Memo?

Remember how mad our CEO got after the company photo was retouched?

And there was that time where they passed out anonymous and confidential company surveys.

And who could forget all the Chris-isms?

But like I said, I liked who I worked with and I liked my job and felt needed. One of the fun things we did at WestHost was the Madden Tournaments. Another fun thing we did was go out to eat all the time. We were constantly getting breakfast burritos or going on McGriddle runs. We also went out every month as a department for lunch as well. And then there was all the fun using Instant Messaging. Which actually leads to another interesting moment while working at WestHost.

Our CEO Chris took the whole Sales and Marketing Department out to lunch one day. It was actually pretty fun, Chris didn't talk too much about business and we chatted about movies and things like that. He also said that he liked that all of the Sales and Marketing Department had a lot of fun together. We told him some stuff that Zack and I used to do and Chris mentioned that he remembers the time when we counted how many Mark cleared his throat. (Just for the record: Mark cleared his throat ALL the time. We must have counted at least once a minute!) Zack and I looked at each other and just laughed it off. After the lunch Zack and I talked about it. We did count how many times Mark coughed but we did that all through IM (instant messaging) so now we knew for sure that he was reading all the messages we sent to each other. I think we wrote our IM's backwards for the next couple of days.

It wasn't ALL bad at WestHost. I did win Employee of the Month twice.

But as things do, things change. WestHost hired people that were Convergys people. Some of them were good but most of the Convergys people, especially those that were in management at Convergys, tried to bring their craft to this small company. And soon WestHost went from employee-friendly to being all about numbers. One of the guys they hired, a guy that I nicknamed Colby (a form of cheese), was extremely hard to work with.

Callback. (inside joke)

He was hired to be the Client Services Manager and was in charge of quality. I was going to share some of my old blogs concerning this man but I found that I would have to do some major, major editing and censoring. I will just share one so you get the general idea of what I am dealing with.
Colby is very cheesy and anal in his job. You need someone who is anal in the position that he is in. He monitors customer service quality and is very good at it but he goes overboard all the time and the program comes off very silly. Now that he is a member of the department, he is in meetings with me now. Our Sales meeting used to be an oasis for me, where I can finally unlock the shackles that tie me to the phone and where I can express ideas for the department. It was nice, being away from the beckoning of the phone for an hour until he arrived. Now, we have to have the meeting by my desk so I can continue to do my duties and to cover Tech Support with the dreaded callback program. We also get to hear "testimonies" of customer service, where Colby gets to the point of tears telling us why we do what we do and why we should continue to do it. I already know this, I have worked in this profession for years. He crams this stuff down our throats all the time. He sends little e-mail reminders, he leaves little reminders on our desks, but it is worse to hear them in person. I roll my eyes and draw little sketches of cheese while he is talking. I smile politely when he speaks of his "baby". It makes me want to wretch.
Not only does he possess anal abilities but he also possesses a large snoopy nose. He wants to dip his beak into everything and must know everything that is going on around him. At first, this was aggravating but now it has turned into a fun little game for me as I play on his eagerness to get information. I supply little tidbits for him, making it look like I know more than he does. I am sure this really gets his goat. It must drive him insane when I know something he does not know. A fellow co-worker sits at the desk in front of me and Colby is always asking me what he is doing. One time, Zack had to leave a little early to lunch because he was taking his wife to work. As soon as he left, I get a little message (IM) popping up asking me where Zack has gone. Even though I know the full reason why he has left, I do not give out all the information. Whenever there is a closed-door meeting, he asks me what it is all about. Here is a true life example:
Colby: "Hey I noticed Bevan's (my boss) door closed. Is Zack with him?"
Me: "Yes."
Colby: "Do you know what they are talking about."
Me: "I think so."
Colby: "How long have they been in there? Wonder what's up."
Me: "I think they are talking about some new programs, but I cannot tell exactly. That is why Zack went in there in the first place."
Colby: "Hmmmm. New programs for customers?"
Me: "Nope. New ideas for how we should handle our clients."

Colby: "Really? You know what?"
Me: "I wasn't invited to the meeting so it is none of my business. I have a couple of ideas though."
Obviously, I have either absolutely no idea what this meeting is about or I clearly know what the meeting is about and I am purposely doing this to tease him and make him curious and nervous. Jump through hoops! 
Colby eventually quit and things seemed to improve but that didn't last long. Now don't get me wrong, Colby is a swell guy. I just couldn't deal with all the WestHost/Convergys Cheese he forced us to eat. Unfortunately he had to do it and I understand that. Soon my boss Bevan quit and things quickly spiraled down the toilet. Zack became my new boss and I enjoyed that quite a bit and we hired a new guy named Matt. We had a great time together but WestHost was not honest in its dealings with the new Matt and he quit. And the pressure on Zack was just too much. There was a lot of gossip and a lot of backstabbing and false promises. Not a healthy environment to be in.

Still, the actual job was not bad. I liked assisting clients and being part of the Sales Department. The volume was unfortunately rising since essentially I was the only one keeping the day-to-day activities of the Sales Department afloat. One of my favorite things to do at WestHost was to work on the Affiliate Program but that didn't end very well and I used to have to train new employees on Sales matters and issue Sales Tests throughout the company. I really enjoyed those things and I thought I did them extremely well. I even wrote the entire Sales Manual for the company.

Zack stepped down as my boss and then they split the Sales and Marketing Departments. And this was the start of the end of my time at WestHost. I was given a new boss named Clint. He was Colby's replacement. Now I liked Clint until he became my boss. We all know why WestHost went this direction. They wanted to hire a Sales Manager but they didn't want me. No one else interviewed so WestHost was forced to do something. They made Clint the Sales Manager (whom I had to train when he was named manager) and they gave me this bloated title to appease me. At least they gave me a nice raise. But my time with Clint was numbered. I was stripped of the Affiliate Program (the one thing I really loved) and now I was the only guy answering phones/e-mails/chats. I went from a department of three down to a department of me.

My feelings of discontent were only hardened after the Rigged Christmas Party. And it seems like for every step forward, WestHost would take a step back and to manage always to poop on our parade.

I finally quit WestHost quite unexpectedly but that is a blog rant for another day. This one is much too long already!


  1. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your work experiences and really get a kick out of your sarcastic and clever remarks!

  2. This was a good read and a good overview.

    Regarding this: "And the pressure on Zack was just too much."

    To expound on my part in this which you have tastefully, but briefly gone over... it wasn't so much the quantity of the pressure of the job I found offputting, but rather how the pressure was applied.

    From my perspective, working at WH was a lot like team sports, such as a football team (using an analogy we can both relate to), where you have many people that play a role to the collective good of the team as a whole. Only our football team had a coach who was more interested in hamstringing his players than anything; intentionally breaking every other knuckle on his QB's hands, the arms of his receivers, and hobbling his RBs ala Kathy Bateman/Misery style and then immediately questioning their performance, with complete disregard to the maniacal behavior he had in crippling them... and when you add to that the appointment of an Offensive Coordinator who had never even set foot on a football field, well, it was not an environment conducive to productivity.

    Don't get me wrong, we had some touchdowns, and even some victories... but there wasn't a person on the team that didn't think that those were in spite of injury rather than a product of it.

    Every team must have its Randy Moss's, and it's T.O's... and once we started accumulating people like such who were more interested in how WH could benefit them rather than the team as a whole (in addition to the coaching staff), then I lost the vision of what was possible, and there didn't seem a point to it anymore. Despite my objection to those people, I can't really fault them for it... if anything, they responded to the hostile environment better than I could, so they get a cookie.

    It was a tough pill to swallow that those of us that worked hard to make the team function the most were the ones classified as the "bad apples". That burned like bile in my throat during the entirety of my tenure there... but it would be a defeat for me to look back at that experience and call everything with exception to the social aspects (relationships created) a failure. The best thing to come out of WH for me was a better understanding of how NOT to treat your clients, the people who work with you, or more importantly, for you... that and of course, the 'everyone must now sit to pee', which is a very close second.

    Of course, I didn't need to tell you any of this, since you lived it with me and already know it. But it was fun to reminisce a bit.