- Salesforce chief Marc Benioff told Insider he took a digital detox in October and December.
- Benioff previously said that he’s “addicted” to his devices, and the trip was “freeing.”
- Benioff told Insider he took the time away from Salesforce before the company announced layoffs in January.
In the months before layoffs shook up Salesforce, CEO Marc Benioff visited French Polynesia for a break that included a “digital detox,” he told Insider.
A digital detox is a trend in which someone foregoes the use of digital devices, like phones or computers, for a period of time — often with the intent to feel more present and less dependent on social media.
An earlier report from The New York Times appeared to suggest he took the trip the month Salesforce announced layoffs, but Benioff told Insider that the report was inaccurate. Salesforce announced layoffs in January.
In an earlier interview with the Times, Benioff commented on the reasoning for taking a break from his devices.
“We are so addicted to our devices (at least I am) it’s very freeing to leave them all behind for a while!” he texted The Times in a series of interviews.
Benioff’s digital detox offers an interesting glimpse into how tech CEOs can seek out a temporary period of quiet, free of digital communication.
The next month was not a quiet one for Salesforce.
On January 4, Benioff announced that Salesforce was planning to cut around 10% of its 84,000 workforce over the following weeks.
In a letter to employees, Benioff blamed the layoffs on the company hiring too many people during the pandemic as “revenue accelerated,” and took “responsibility” for hiring people leading into the current “economic downturn.”
The news drew confusion and questions for Benioff from employees, but the executive didn’t answer questions about the layoffs on a two-hour all-hands meeting with employees the following day, Insider reported. Most of Salesforce’s employees were confused about when layoffs would come and for who, according to Slack messages reviewed by Insider.
In the all-hands call the day after layoffs, Benioff compared losing employees to layoffs to mourning people who died. Insider reported that he showed up around 18 minutes late to a company-wide meeting the day after announcing layoffs, 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 was a bad idea.
“We were trying to explain the unexplainable,” Benioff told the NYT. “It’s hard to have a call like that with such a large group and have it be effective, and we paid a price.”
After Salesforce started laying off workers, over 500 employees sent a letter to management expressing “isolation from the lack of information,” and asking questions like why some managers weren’t involved with or knowledgeable about the first round of layoffs, and if the cuts had anything to do with Salesforce’s activist investors.
Salesforce continued its planned layoffs in February, with one person telling Insider it was a “bloodbath” for sales and marketing employees. It’s unclear how many people have been laid off to date, but one person told Insider 4,000 people were missing from the company Slack after January 31, but could include contractors who were removed after the fiscal year ended.
The cuts at Salesforce are happening as many tech companies, ranging from Google to Meta to Microsoft, have culled their employee base by thousands — with potentially more cuts on the horizon as executives look to cut costs after the pandemic business boom.
Correction, February 18: This article has been updated to reflect Benioff’s comment on the timing of his digital detox, which he said happened in the months before Salesforce announced its layoffs, not during or after the job cuts.
Are you a Salesforce employee or do you have insight to share? Contact Ashley Stewart via email ([email protected]) or send a secure message from a nonwork device via Signal (+1-425-344-8242).