PagerDuty CEO apologizes after quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in layoff announcement

The CEO of a technology company has apologized for quoting civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in an email announcing that she was cutting 7% of her workforce. His email sparked a backlash from critics, with one pundit calling it “a new low bar for a layoff announcement”.

PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada wrote in a 1,700-word email that the digital operations management company was making a few other changes, including promoting some executives and cutting expenses. Tejada’s email was also posted on the company’s website.

Near the end of the ad, Tejada said the moment reminded him of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote that “the ultimate measure of a [leader] is not where [they] stand in times of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand tall in times of challenge and controversy. »

The missive drew heavy criticism on social media, with observers calling the email “deaf” and “disgusting”. Tejada’s communication, which vacillates between grim corporate language such as calling the layoffs “refinements” and optimistic comments about “deeply talented individuals who #bring themselves” to work, comes after a series of tech layoffs that were criticized as lacking compassion and humanity.

“Classic all-time bad layoff announcement: PagerDuty CEO opens with “Hi Dutonians,” takes 370 words to get to the layoffs bit, continues for another *1250 words*, and ends with “I remember in times like this, something Martin Luther King said…” Tom Gara, head of technology communications at Meta, noted in a tweet.

On Friday, Tejada edited the email with a short message on her company’s website, saying the use of King’s quote was “inappropriate and insensitive.”

“There are a number of things I would do differently if I could,” Tejada wrote. “The quote I included from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was inappropriate and insensitive. I should have been more candid about the dismissals in the email, more thoughtful in my tone, and more concise. I’m sorry .”

Others said the original email looked like it was written by ChatGPT, and one reviewer described it as “hidden[ing] the human toll behind a smokescreen of jargon and passive voice.”

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