Can you practice virtually firing someone?

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Robin Shea at Constangy
August 21st, 2019

Hone your firing skills!

Through the miracle of virtual reality.

Do you feel awkward when you have to fire an employee? Guilty? Nervous? Gleeful, you sick person?

Well, now you can learn to be a sensitive, emotionally intelligent firer. Virtual reality company Talespin has created a virtual guy named Barry Thompson, whom you can fire again and again until you learn to do it right.

According to CNET, 

The highly realistic-looking Mr. Thompson has gray hair and bags under his eyes and looks like he's probably put a whole lot of years into the company. His reaction to the bad news varies depending on how you handle the situation. In some scenarios, he gets angry and yells, in others he cries. If you handle his firing well, he calmly accepts the news.

Why did they have to pick (on) an old guy? I do hope that Talespin diversifies Barry, adding young Barrys, female Barries, and Barrys/Barries of different races and ethnicities. 

And there should be options for the type of employee being terminated. Was he a sexual harasser? A thief? Is he threatening or violent? Is he a poor performer who couldn't cut it after several warnings? Did he have poor attendance? Was he a good employee who now has medical problems that preclude him from doing the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation? Was he a great guy who was unlucky enough to be caught in a reduction in force?

I would think the appropriate demeanor for the firer, as well as Barry's reactions, should vary depending on which type of termination scenario we are talking about.

It does make sense to train employees using VR, and the CNET article says VR is currently being used to train real workers in a variety of situations. Certainly it isn't a bad idea to use artificial intelligence to teach people how to terminate in a sensitive way.

TechRepublic suggests using virtual reality to conduct sexual harassment training. Hmm. Sexual harassment? Virtual reality? I'm not sure we want to go there. 


This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers and our New Jersey Human Resources Manual. You can find the original on their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent).

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