While announcing layoffs for her technology company in a long email last week, chief executive Jennifer Tejada offered a quote about leadership from Martin Luther King Jr.
People criticized Tejada across social media, saying she used King’s quote out of context. On Friday, Tejada apologized in an email to her staff at PagerDuty, a San Francisco-based cloud-computing company.
“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.”
The announcement comes at a time when major technology companies are gutting their staffs. This month, Amazon, Google and Microsoft announced they’re each cutting at least 10,000 employees. IBM, Spotify and Vox Media have also laid off employees this year. Those slashes followed layoffs by Meta, Salesforce and Twitter last year.
On Jan. 24, Tejada wrote in a roughly 1,700-word email that PagerDuty would eliminate about 7 percent of its positions, though she didn’t mention the layoffs in the email’s opening six paragraphs.
Tejada, who was appointed as CEO in July 2016, wrote that laid-off employees would receive severance with an average of 11 weeks of pay, health-care coverage for at least three months and career transition support.
“It is my expectation that we show all of our colleagues the grace, respect, and dignity they have earned,” Tejada wrote in her original email. “As someone who has worked in this industry for decades, I have experienced this before and it is never easy, and I also know from experience that while we may not work together in the short term, our relationships and this community live beyond our tenure at PagerDuty.”
In that same email, Tejada announced promotions for a few employees before referencing King’s sermon quote, which was published in “The Measure of a Man” in 1959. The late civil rights leader’s quote is often interpreted to mean that people display their true character amid hardship.
Workers across the technology industry condemned the message, with one writing on Twitter it was the “most tone-deaf layoff email” he has seen.
When reached for comment Monday, a PagerDuty spokeswoman referred The Washington Post to Tejada’s apology email.
Other technology employees have complained about how their companies handled layoffs. Google employees said they were let go by email without advance notice. TikTok videos of employees reacting to layoffs have gone viral.
Tejada acknowledged Friday that her original email lacked adequate respect for the outgoing employees.
“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.