Two judges on New Zealand’s X factor have been sacked for verbally abusing a contestant during the live show on Sunday night.

Husband and wife team, Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, caused a social media uproar when they said that singer Joe Irvine was “cheesy” and “disgusting,” and compared him to fictional murderer Norman Bates. This bullying criticism resulted in the couple’s dismissal by broadcaster TV3 less than 24 hours later.

James Marsh, head of HR consulting at Symposium Events, said that this kind of behaviour is an HR nightmare:

“This is a classic example of where a person in a position of authority and charged with delivering feedback on performance has misjudged the purpose of their role. This resulted not only in them being guilty of bullying but also of doing untold damage to the brand of their employer, resulting in their dismissal.”

After his performance of Michael Buble’s Cry Me a River, Irvine was attacked by Kills for “copying” her husband. She said:

“From the hair, to the suit, do you not have any value or respect for originality? You’re a laughing stock. It’s cheesy, it’s disgusting. I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence, even having to dignify you with an answer of my opinion.”

Moon backed up his wife, saying: “It’s just a little bit creepy and I feel like you’re going to stitch someone’s skin to your face and kill everybody in the audience.”

The comments sparked a #NataliaKillsHerCareer campaign on Twitter, with people all over the world calling for the judges’ dismissal.

Mark Weldon, chief executive of MediaWorks, which owns and operates TV3, said on Monday that such tirades were unacceptable:

“Contestants put their all into this competition and they should expect to receive feedback and criticism that is professional and constructive.”

James Marsh agrees, but feels that constructive criticism should not be limited to television personalities. He said:

“Whether you are a manager in an appraisal meeting or a judge on the panel of a television show, the principles are the same, as they have found out to their cost this week.”

There has been no comment on the two new judges who will replace the couple in next week’s live shows.

Title image courtesy of Justin Higuchi via Wikimedia Commons