CEO Sorry for 'All Time Classic Bad' Layoff Memo

Quoting MLK was 'inappropriate,' admits PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2023 10:35 AM CST
CEO Sorry for 'All Time Classic Bad' Layoff Memo
PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada raises her gavel in celebration after ringing a ceremonial bell as her company's IPO begins trading, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, April 11, 2019.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada announced she was laying off 7% of the company's workforce seven paragraphs into a 1,700-word email to employees that referred to the firings as "refinements," included news of executive promotions, and concluded with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. "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 in the Thursday email panned by digital media strategist Elizabeth Spiers as a "new low bar for a layoff announcement." The criticism came so hard and fast that Tejada apologized just a day later.

"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. There are a number of things I would do differently if I could," Tejada wrote Friday in a post on the cloud computing company's website, per CBS News. "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." Many onlookers noted the quote from King was out of place. He was, after all, "a proponent of unions and workers' rights," per Insider.

Others noted that Tejada announced executive promotions immediately after saying that employees affected by layoffs would receive notification "today and tomorrow." Tom Gara, a technology communications manager at Meta, called it the "all time classic bad layoff announcement." Writing at the New York Times, Spiers described the approach of communicating layoffs in "a platitude-laden mass email" as "not just cruel but unnecessary"—yet one that ensures managers "will not have to face the shock and devastation that people feel when they lose their livelihoods" or "weather any direct criticism about the poor leadership that brought everyone to that point." (More layoffs stories.)

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