CEO apologizes for quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in layoff memo
The CEO of a tech company apologized for quoting civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in an email that announced she was cutting 7% of its workforce. Her email sparked a backlash from critics, with one expert 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 trimming spending. Tejada's email was also posted on the company's website.
Toward the end of the announcement, Tejada said the moment reminded her of Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote 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."
The missive drew strong criticism on social media, with observers calling the email "tone deaf" and "disgusting." Tejada's communication, which veers between grim corporate-speak such as calling the layoffs "refinements," and optimistic comments about the "deeply talented individuals who #BringThemselves" to work, comes after a string of tech layoffs that have been criticized as lacking compassion and humanity.
"All time classic bad layoff announcement: CEO of PagerDuty opens with 'Hi Dutonians,' takes 370 words to get to the layoffs bit, continues for another *1250 words*, and ends with "I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said ..." noted Tom Gara, a technology communications manager at Meta, in a tweet.
On Friday, Tejada amended the email with a short post on her company's website, saying that using 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 upfront about the layoffs in the email, more thoughtful about my tone, and more concise. I am sorry."
All time classic bad layoff announcement: CEO of PagerDuty opens with "Hi Dutonians," takes 370 words to get to the layoffs bit, continues for another *1250 words*, and ends with "I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said..." https://t.co/OAg4SjqYIm pic.twitter.com/BtHvXDbtIS
Others said the original email felt like it had been written by ChatGPT, and one critic described it as "hid[ing] the human toll behind a smokescreen of jargon and passive voice."
The most tone-deaf layoff email I read so far was written yesterday, and it comes from PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada.The email is vey long, and feels like it was written by an AI that took all the phrases that people usually say, and put it one long email.See for yourself: pic.twitter.com/TX6ntwObjE