Salesforce CEO says he undertook a digital detox before firing

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told Insider he did a digital detox in October and December.
  • Benioff previously said he’s “addicted” to his devices and the journey is “liberating.”
  • Benioff told Insiders he took Salesforce’s time before the company announced layoffs in January.

In the months before the layoffs rocked Salesforce, CEO Marc Benioff visited French Polynesia for a hiatus that included a “digital detox,” he told Insider.

A digital detox is a trend in which someone refrains from using digital devices like phones or computers for a period of time — often with the intention of feeling more present and less dependent on social media.

A previous report from the New York Times seemed to indicate that it started the trip the month Salesforce announced layoffs, but Benioff told Insiders the report was inaccurate. Salesforce announced layoffs in January.

In a previous interview with The Times, Benioff opened up about the reasons for taking a break from his devices.

“We’re so addicted to our devices (at least I am) that it’s very liberating to get away from them all for a while!” he wrote The Times in a series of interviews.

Benioff’s Digital Detox offers an interesting insight into how tech CEOs can seek a temporary respite away from digital communications.

The next month was not a quiet month for Salesforce.

On Jan. 4, Benioff announced that Salesforce plans to cut about 10% of its 84,000 employees in the coming weeks.

In a letter to employees, Benioff blamed layoffs at the company, which had hired too many workers during the pandemic, as “accelerated sales” and accepted “responsibility” for hiring that has fueled the current “economic downturn.” .

The news caused confusion among employees and questions for Benioff, but the executive didn’t answer questions about the layoffs at a two-hour meeting with all employees the following day, Insider reported. Most Salesforce employees were confused as to when layoffs would come and for whom, according to Slack messages verified by Insider.

On the conference call the day after the layoffs, Benioff compared the loss of employees to layoffs and grieving people who have died. Insider reported that he was about 18 minutes late for a company-wide meeting the day after the layoffs were announced, and then, as the Times of London reported, he joked, “Did I miss something?”

He told the NYT that he now thinks the two-hour all-hands call is a bad idea.

“We tried to explain the inexplicable,” Benioff told the NYT. “It’s difficult to make a call like this and be effective with such a large group and we paid a price.”

After Salesforce began firing employees, over 500 employees sent a letter to management expressing “isolation from lack of information” and asking questions about why some managers were not involved in the first round of layoffs or about they knew and if there were cuts had something to do with Salesforce’s activist investors.

Salesforce continued with its planned layoffs in February, with one person telling Insider it was a “bloodbath” for sales and marketing staff. It’s unclear how many people have been laid off so far, but one person told Insider that 4,000 people have been fired after March 31.

The cuts at Salesforce come as many tech companies, from Google to Meta to Microsoft, have slashed their employee bases by thousands — with potentially more cuts on the horizon as executives look to cut costs in the wake of the pandemic boom.

Correction, February 18: This article has been updated to reflect Benioff’s comment on the timing of his digital detox, which he says occurred in the months leading up to Salesforce’s announcement of layoffs, not during or after the downsizing.

Are you a Salesforce rep or have insights to share? Contact Ashley Stewart via email ([email protected]) or send a secure message from a private device via Signal (+1-425-344-8242).

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