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A CEO quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in an email to employees announcing layoffs. It did not go over well.

on the left, a photo of PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada at PagerDuty's IPO, on the right, a photo of MLK giving a speechPagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in an email announcing layoffs.

PagerDuty and Getty Images

  • In an email to employees announcing layoffs, PagerDuty’s CEO quoted Martin Luther King Jr.
  • People on Twitter quickly criticized her use of a quote from the noted civil rights activist.
  • The IT company is laying off about 7% of its global workforce, many of who are in North America.

In an email to employees announcing layoffs, PagerDuty’s CEO Jennifer Tejada turned to 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,'” Jennifer Tejada wrote at the end of the email, replacing some of King’s original words with her own in brackets.

The quote is from a 1958 speech that was included King’s 1963 book “Strength to Love.”

In Tejada’s email, she announced that around 7% of the IT company’s roles around the globe would be eliminated, with most of the layoffs occurring in North America.

The layoffs, which she called “refinements,” are part of the company’s approaches “to increase our capacity while improving out cost structure, focusing our efforts, and improving our return on investments.” In paragraphs before mentioning the layoffs, Tejada referenced the uncertainty of macroeconomic conditions and said the company is changing its current operating mode.

PagerDuty, which uses machine learning to keep companies’ IT teams updated on real-time security issues, went public in April 2019. The company’s stock price is down around 7% over the past year.

Tejada did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Her decision to include King’s quote did not go over well with some Twitter users, with one person asking what the reverend and activist has to do with layoffs.

Tom Gara, a technology communications manager at Meta, said on Twitter that Tejada’s email was an “all time classic bad layoff announcement.”

—Tom Gara (@tomgara) January 24, 2023


Some Twitter users even said the email looked like it was written by an AI bot. 

—Gergely Orosz (@GergelyOrosz) January 25, 2023


Although King is largely remembered for his civil rights activism, he was also a proponent of unions and workers’ rights. When King was assassinated in 1968, he was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting striking sanitation workers.

In a 1961 speech that King made at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ annual convention, he talked about how the labor movement at the time “enlarged” “the strength of the nation.”

“By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production,” King said. “Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.”

Tejada, who became CEO of the San Francisco-based company in 2016, has referenced King before. On MLK Day this year, she tweeted another one of King’s quotes, adding that PagerDuty’s “Dutonians” “are volunteering to help realize our company vision of an equitable world.”

Tejada currently serves as a board member at UiPath and Estée Lauder, according to her LinkedIn. Last year, she talked to The New York Times about increasing diversity on company boards, saying that when she was looking to make PagerDuty’s board of eight people, she didn’t have to make any compromises to make it diverse.

Read the original article on Business Insider