Subscriber OnlyBusinessCantillon

Accenture CEO says the quiet part out loud

Julie Sweet described mass layoffs as an ‘opportunity’

The tech, or tech adjacent, cuts kept coming on Thursday, as consulting giant Accenture announced it would cut about 19,000 of its workers around the globe, including 400 in Ireland.

Accenture doesn’t necessarily operate in the same market place as the likes of McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting but it is a gargantuan firm all the same, with a far more sprawling presence. With 738,000 staff worldwide, as well as pure consulting, its offers many things to many clients. In Dublin it provides outsourcing services to the likes of Meta and Microsoft, for example.

Usually, companies and their CEOs are at pains to make clear that these decisions are difficult – they’d rather not be getting rid of all these staff but they had no choice, or words to that effect at least. Not so with Accenture and chief executive Julie Sweet. Announcing the cuts, Sweet characterised the lay-offs to analysts as “an opportunity”.

“We’ve been dealing with the challenges of compounding wage inflation,” she said. “We’ve been doing that with pricing but we’ve also been doing that with cost efficiencies and digitisation and we’ve identified an opportunity to go after structural cost.”


Nevermind that Sweet announced the cuts as Accenture reported, in her words, “strong” financial results for the second quarter of its fiscal year as revenues increased 5 per cent to $15.8 billion. Of course, every company has every right to lay off whoever, or how many, it feels is appropriate for its business. Publicly characterising redundancies as an opportunity and “offensive” rather than defensive, however, is well, offensive.

In truth, Sweet is just saying the quiet part out loud though. While it’s undoubtedly the case that some chief executives do feel real, genuine pain when they decide to implement mass lay-offs, many bosses just accept it as the reality and move on.

It might be useful for workers in general to take a similarly cold view. Anyone who works in, say, investment banking, knows cyclical mass lay-offs are a fact of life. There is little loyalty and in truth, little is expected. Tech workers, especially, are now learning the hard way that attitude is almost universal in big business.