Taking orders from a robot

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018 by Jessica Salerno

The next time you’re frustrated with your manager, consider what it might be like to report to Alexa instead. According to a study by Oracle and Future Workplace of 1,320 U.S. HR leaders and employees found that a vast majority (93%) would trust orders from a robot.

It might sound ridiculous, but consider the growing level of comfort the public has with AI. The article goes on to state that although most people are using AI in some form at home, it’s pretty rare in the workplace on a wide scale.

Still, this presents an interesting possibility. The saying goes that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. If you don’t hate your boss, you might be inclined to stay longer with your company. With AI, the human element – a supervisor with mood swings or one that is perpetually late – is removed from the equation. Some employees might enjoy a more transactional relationship.

But what’s lost here are the things that make bosses (and the employee-boss relationship) great: empathy, appreciation and support. These are qualities AI can’t match. Alexa might say “Thanks, Jan,” after you submit a lengthy report, but you will probably feel better when your boss stops by your desk to make eye contact, smile, and let you know how much she appreciates you busting your tail to turn everything in on deadline. Those human qualities are an important part of why people love their bosses. And while someone might quit a job because of a boss, would they stay for Alexa? I doubt people would feel as invested in their relationships at work when they talk to a machine every day instead of getting in the trenches with another person. Like so much with AI, how it will affect supervisors, and their employees, remains to be seen.

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