Employees Vote Their Co-Workers Out Of A Job

'Does Someone Have To Go?'NEW YORK -- This time "you're fired" is more than a Donald Trump catchphrase. Fox is turning the firing of real people from real jobs into prime-time entertainment starting this week. The network on Thursday will begin airing "Does Someone Have to Go?" a series where cameras go into small businesses and employees are compelled to rat out underperforming colleagues. At the end, they choose one co-worker to recommend for firing. "This is the thing they promise to do in retreats, but nobody really does it," said Mike Darnell, executive in charge of alternative programming for Fox. Darnell and Fox have pushed the boundaries of reality TV since it was first recognized as a genre, from the highs of "American Idol" to the lows of "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?" He said he sees "Does Someone Have to Go?" as a new direction for a programming form dominated by singing and dancing competitions.

It's a revamped version of a show, then called "Someone's Gotta Go," that Fox had been working on with the Endemol production company four years ago. In its initial incarnation, employees were given the power to determine who should be laid off within companies that needed to shrink for economic reasons. The show drew awful advance publicity -- one magazine called it a step toward public executions -- and never aired.

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"The network decided the heat was too intense given the economic climate," Darnell said. "We never lost our affinity for the idea." Along with the softer name, the new version takes the economy out of it; productivity and personality are at the roots of employment decisions. A firing isn't necessarily mandated -- probation or options like anger management counseling are considered. Within the three companies profiled for the six episodes, Darnell said that people are fired.

Thursday's first episode focuses on Velocity Merchant Services, a company based in the Chicago suburbs that sells credit card processing machines. Sixteen employees participate, and the show quickly labels them: the procrastinator, the motor mouth, the jerk, the slacker and the tattle-tale. Each employee is interviewed on camera talking about colleagues, then everyone is called into a conference room to see what the others said. They are also told each other's salaries, before voting on three of their colleagues that most deserve firing, a process that reduces one woman to tears.

Then, in the ultimate reality show twist, the 16 employees are brought into a conference room where the video screen shows portraits of each of them. One by one, a picture is removed, until only the three "losers" remain onscreen. One is the mother of company founder Dema Barakat, judged by her colleagues to be a management mole who is paid too much.

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Next week: choosing who among the three get to keep their jobs.

The show's executive producer, Cris Abrego, said it is "absolutely not cruel. It's not like a random firing. ... It really is a process of them proving their value to the company."

Why would a company put itself through this? Publicity is alluring, particularly for a small firm, and a show like "Undercover Boss" on CBS has proven beneficial to many companies that have participated, said Geoff Wilson, president and CEO of 352 Media Group, a digital marketing agency based in Gainesville, Fla., that seriously considered being part of the show. Producers offered to pay the company $25,000 to participate and would spruce up the office to make it more camera-friendly. Each employee who agreed to be part of it would be paid $1,500. Producers would contribute $10,000 toward a severance package for anyone fired, he said.

Velocity, or VMS, is a family-run company that had hit a plateau, said Danoush Khairkhah, CEO and Barakat's husband. Its biggest problems were with personalities, not with business, he said. "Opportunity knocks only several times in your life," Khairkhah said.

He was interested to see how his employees would perform when given the chance to take issues into their own hands. They knew what they were getting into, he said, although they didn't know specifically they would see film of colleagues criticizing them or learn their salaries.

"It's not bad to sit there and hear what your colleagues think of you," he said. "How many times in your life does someone sit you down and say, 'Here are the things I don't like about you?' That's great. Now you can correct them and go on the right path. Some people can, and some people crumble when they hear negative things."

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Things have improved at VMS since the show was filmed over five days last December, he said. Employees are taking more initiative and aren't afraid to speak up about problems. Khairkhah and his employees haven't seen the show yet. They plan a party Thursday night to all watch it together.

He does have some concerns after seeing commercials promoting the show. "No one wants to see a commercial about your business saying 'toxic office,'" he said. "If it was toxic, we wouldn't be here 15 years. When I saw that I was kind of shocked. But I understand this is show business and they've got to build up drama."

352 Media Group was very close to participating, Wilson said. Most of his employees wanted to, although there was a vocal minority. He was told the show was called "Office Life," he said, but noticed a clause in the contract that gave producers the right to change the title if they wanted.

Hmmmm. That made him suspicious. "I wouldn't say the producers lied to us," he said. "I would say that they creatively represented the facts." (Abrego said that dealings with the companies have been "100 percent above board.")

After Wilson turned Endemol down, producers sent him a copy of a show pilot to see what it was like and offer advice. He breathed a sigh of relief; his company depends on teams working well together and a public airing of dirty laundry would have been devastating, he said. "I am unbelievably happy that our sixth sense told us to stay away from this," Wilson said.

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janedear9

This has to be THE SICKEST IDEA I HAVE HEARD IN A LONG TIME. One word comes to mind: BOYCOTT!!!!!

June 18 2013 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msmcompel

These shows on TV have fallen to an ALL TIME LOW. Bullying and degrading people is entertainment??? For whom.... A bunch of sadists??? What moron comes up with these reality shows?

June 18 2013 at 1:31 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
brj7370

Oh, to be the one "voted out"!!!!!
The company involved wouldn't have enough money.

June 17 2013 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robtbunch7

I hope the people that came up with the concept for this show are mowed down by a fast-moving bus.

June 17 2013 at 12:11 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to robtbunch7's comment
janedear9

Seriously! Some people seem to possess no soul. HOW DO THESE WORMS SLEEP AT NIGHT??

June 18 2013 at 2:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
abourge458

GROSS!
It will make it to a second season IF it gets viewers, so... PLEASE don't watch! Especally those signed up or called by those survey companies.

May 25 2013 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jgcitygin

As the moral compass is being spun round and round, people are sinking further and further down. Pure and simple. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, which becomes more and more hideous.
Yes, it is pure evil. Like pit bulls tearing each other apart for sport. It is the epitome of selfish murderousness to hunt a fellow human being who works side by side with you, with the same needs and desires you have: a place to live, bread and butter, and the same for the wife and kids.

May 25 2013 at 8:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Dave

Sounds like the German brown Shirts of the 30's
How much Sh#t can the American public devour?

May 25 2013 at 6:02 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dave's comment
houcasey

It appears to be limitless.
What's next?... the Hunger Games?

May 26 2013 at 8:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bbkuzmich

Just when I thought America could not sink any lower----FOX farts out another show !!!!

May 25 2013 at 4:33 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
What's Shakin T

Stupid and boring----it's wrong!

May 25 2013 at 4:04 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
dlewis6785

This is just plain wrong...and evil.

May 25 2013 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

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