Self-Righteous CEO Quotes MLK While Laying Off Employees

Self-Righteous CEO Quotes MLK While Laying Off Employees

( – The boss of a tech company has apologized for a “disgusting” announcement that inappropriately quoted Martin Luther King Jr. In late January, Jennifer Tejada sent out an email announcing layoffs — and added a quote from King about the challenges of leadership. Now she’s acknowledged her mistake — after a furious backlash.

On January 24, Tejada, the CEO of San Francisco-based cloud computing company PagerDuty, emailed staff to tell them about a major restructuring of the company. Her message was buried in a long, jargon-filled slab of corporate parlance to communicate her plan to cut 7% of the firm’s workforce, mostly US-based jobs.

Tejada labeled the move as a “refinement” and immediately changed the subject to promotions in senior management. Tech writer Gergely Orosz called it “The most tone-deaf layoff email” he’s ever seen, as well as saying it looked like it had been written using artificial intelligence.

What really upset many people was Tejada’s decision to include a modified quote from MLK in the email. In a 1958 sermon, King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Tejada changed “man” to “leader” and “he” to “they” and used it in her message.

Was she comparing herself to King? Was she trying to justify the layoffs as an unfortunate necessity? Her meaning wasn’t clear — but the quote went over very badly indeed, with a New York Times op-ed calling it “a new low.”

Tejada was quickly forced to respond when the company received a huge amount of online outrage. On January 27, she sent a second email, admitting that if she had a second chance, she would do some things differently. She acknowledged that the MLK quote was “inappropriate and insensitive” and said she should have been more open about the planned job losses. However, that won’t save her from being forever known as the executive who gets paid $13.2 million a year to send tone-deaf emails.

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