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A tech CEO apologized for quoting Martin Luther King Jr. when announcing layoffs, calling it ‘inappropriate and insensitive’

Dr. Martin Luther King addresses people on April 3 1968; PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada in October 2019PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada said the quote she had included from Martin Luther King Jr. was “inappropriate and insensitive.”

Bettmann/Getty Images; Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

  • PagerDuty’s CEO has apologized for quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in an email about mass layoffs.
  • The email, which also included info on an executive promotion, has been criticized as tone-deaf.
  • The quote was “inappropriate and insensitive” and the email’s tone was wrong, CEO Jennifer Tejada said.

The CEO of tech company PagerDuty has apologized for quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in an email to staff announcing mass layoffs.

In a company-wide email on January 24, Jennifer Tejada announced that PagerDuty was cutting 7% of its workforce globally. She also said the company was cutting costs and reducing office space, attributing the changes to the “volatile economy.”

“I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said, that ‘the ultimate measure of a [leader] is not where [they] stand in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand in times of challenge and controversy,'” Tejada wrote, slightly tweaking the original quote from the civil-rights activist and including her own words in brackets.

The original quote was first said by King in a 1958 speech, and was included in his 1963 book “Strength to Love.”

Tejada faced backlash for the email, seen by many as tone-deaf. Tom Gara, a technology communications manager at Meta, called it an “all-time classic bad layoff announcement.”

Tejada also used the email to announce the promotion of an executive, saying in an upbeat tone that she was “excited” to appoint him.

“It is unbelievably callous to announce layoffs and the promotion of executives in the same email,” one person wrote on Twitter.

In a follow-up email to staff on Friday, Tejada apologized for the initial announcement.

“The way I communicated layoffs distracted from our number one priority: showing care for the employees we laid off, and demonstrating the grace, respect, and appreciation they and all of you deserve,” she wrote.

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

As of January 2022, the company had 950 employees. It has offices in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Portugal.

Tech companies including Google, Meta, Salesforce, Amazon, and Microsoft have all announced mass layoffs in recent months. Many companies have resorted to laying off staff using abrupt and largely impersonal emails.

Some affected Google staff told Insider they were surprised they were let go by email, which one calling it “super disrespectful.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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