Employees Describe a Week From Hell

Employees Describe a Week From Hell

When Salesforce began layoffs on Wednesday, it sent employees into a panic. CEO Marc Benioff’s all-hands on Thursday offered little clarity and frustrated many, insiders said. Employees say they don’t know who’s next. Some have begun to organize their grievances. “We can’t sleep at night.”

On Thursday some 47,000 Salesforce employees were nervously waiting for their CEO Marc Benioff to join them for a virtual meeting scheduled for 10am Pacific. He was 18 minutes late.

It was a day after Salesforce had begun layoffs — so far affecting at least 1,000 people, Insider reported — as part of its publicly disclosed plan to cut 10% of its workforce. That could be around 7,000 people based on Salesforce’s last published head count of 73,461 employees.

Benioff, who has a reputation for chronic tardiness, seemed unaware that he wasn’t on time. After co-founder and CTO Parker Harris started the meeting by apologizing for the delay, Benioff asked in confusion, “Are we late?” This was the first clue that the meeting would not go as the employees had hoped.

Benioff then launched into a two-hour conversation that insiders characterized as “dull.” He joked about Wednesday’s layoff disrupting Harris’ birthday and being “thrilled” about the pandemic allowing him to work from home. He lectured on the importance of gratitude and reminisced with Harris about how a rabbi on a bicycle helped them during the company’s first vacation more than 20 years ago.

Most importantly, he avoided questions from employees flooding the company’s internal Slack channel, asking things like, “What % of 10% of layoffs have been completed?”, “Have all those scheduled been notified?” be fired?,” and “How is employee productivity measured?” Some of the questions were read aloud to Benioff during the meeting, but the answers weren’t clear, several attendees told Insider.

Employees, even senior managers, were left with little information on the company’s restructuring plans other than to wait and see if they would be emailed and told they were out of a job.

“We can’t sleep at night,” an employee told Insider. “When is your next email coming?”

Benioff’s lengthy meeting inspired some down-right vitriol from some employees who took to Slack immediately after it to demand answers, according to screenshots seen by Insider. “The lack of awareness of what we are actually concerned about and the complete avoidance of Q&A questions is astounding,” one person wrote.

So many employees were upset by the meeting that a Salesforce executive apologized to their team for it in a subsequent meeting. All hands also inspired a group of employees to prepare a list of complaints about the company’s management.

Prepare for more layoffs and confusion

Employees first learned of the layoffs Wednesday through a 3 a.m. email from Benioff, saying all “initially affected” employees would be notified within the hour.

The rank and file had been preparing for layoffs for weeks based on news reports from Insider and others, as well as internal conversations about things like managers being asked to rank their bottom 10% of performers.

But many employees and managers still felt blindsided when the cuts began, the people told Insider, because only a few top executives were informed in advance. Senior vice presidents who were not affected themselves were invited to a mandatory meeting, Salesforce said.

A manager had to call each of his employees to find out if they had been fired, the person posted in the Slack channel during Thursday’s all-hands.

Another person who was let go learned about the layoffs through social media while they were taking time off, they said.

Those who were laid off received emails detailing a severance package that pays them as regular employees through the end of March and then additional vacation time based on time at the company, insiders say. The first layoffs were mostly in business units of companies acquired by Salesforce such as MuleSoft, Tableau and Slack, Insider reported.

The company told several managers that all affected U.S. employees had been notified as of Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter, and that employees in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa will continue to be notified in the coming weeks.

But Salesforce executives have repeatedly warned the workforce that more rounds of layoffs are coming in the coming weeks. And Salesforce confirmed to Insider that more US employees will be cut.

While everyone’s executives, which included chief people officer Brent Hyder, didn’t offer a clear picture of everything, they said flatly that more workers in the coming weeks would be laid off. Benioff also spoke repeatedly about how some workers, especially younger ones, were not productive enough.

“We don’t have the same level of performance and productivity that we had in 2020 before the pandemic. We don’t,” he said. But he did not provide a final date for the restructuring, and Hyder hinted that the company did not yet know all the specific employees who would be let go, Insider reported.

Sermons, layoffs and deaths

Instead of addressing those key concerns, Benioff spent most of Thursday’s meeting telling his employees about the importance of practicing gratitude, compassion, integrity and empathy as they wait to see who gets fired. from work.

He even described the company’s current situation as a “spiritual moment” and compared layoffs to death.

“At the beginning of every year, we have a moment where we always say goodbye to anyone who has died during the year. And loss is really hard and losing people, and especially losing our trusted colleagues and our managers or employees, is very difficult. similar in a lot of ways to me,” Benioff said.

The employees didn’t seem to appreciate what they felt was a sermon and a finger being pointed at them.

“I feel like I’m being counseled. I feel like I’ve done something wrong,” said one employee present at the meeting. “The call was deafening,” said another.

In the Slack channel where employees returned to comment on the meeting and request responses posted. “Is Marc gathering 47,600+ employees now by talking in circles and avoiding the topic at hand?”

Many others wrote variations of “ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS” and “what are we talking about?”

A group of employees is not content to wait for answers or pink slip e-mails.

As a result of their frustrations with all hands, they are compiling a list of grievances to share with Salesforce leadership, including how productivity is measured and used as consideration. And they are considering whether to begin more formal steps to organize their employees’ voices. “The executive response was a driving force that pushed us together,” said one person in the group.

When all hands were finished, one of the people present described the morale in the company as “in the ditch”. Another described the feelings they shared with colleagues as “angry, confused and worried”.

Don’t call workers family

Several employees pointed out that the layoffs coincide not only with pressure to boost sales during a softening economy, but also with interest from activist investor Starboard Value, which disclosed a significant stake in Salesforce in October.

Some Salesforce insiders have speculated that sales teams, which suffered cuts in November but were largely unaffected by this round of layoffs, could see layoffs in the first fiscal quarter of 2023.

“People can’t focus if they know layoffs are coming. If they’re going to lay off, I don’t know why they don’t do it all at once,” said one employee. “Doing it this way only hurts productivity even more.”

Benioff’s handling of layoffs drew frequent criticism of his “Ohana” mantra. Benioff often discusses spirituality and the concept of “Ohana” at Salesforce. In Hawaiian culture, “Ohana” represents family ties that encourage people to be responsible for one another, according to a Salesforce blog from 2017.

“Given how little of this call has addressed the layoffs, the questions asked on this channel, and the ‘family’ that was laid off, should we consider pulling the ‘Ohana?'” one employee asked in a Slack message. “Can executives commit to never referring to Salesforce employees as ‘family’ again? You don’t fire family to make up for your mistakes,” wrote another.

“Ohana is long gone,” an employee told Insider.

Are you a Salesforce employee or have knowledge to share? Contact Ashley Stewart by email ([email protected]) or send a secure message from a non-work device via Signal (+1-425-344-8242). Contact Ellen Thomas via email ([email protected]) or at Signal: (+1-646-847-9416).

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