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Are Employees Really Upset Over Being Replaced By Robots?

Sep 9

I think we all want to believe that our employees are freaking out that one day their job, in the near future, will be replaced by a robot. It’s all you hear right now in our space! “A.I. will be taking over 97% of jobs by next week!”

The reality is our employees are not afraid of their job being taken by a robot. But they are afraid!

Turns out, our employees are more afraid of their job being taken by another employee, not a robot! A new study by the Technical University of Munich has shown that our employees are actually more afraid of other people taking their jobs, then by A.I.

The study shows: In principle, most people view it more favorably when workers are replaced by other people than by robots or intelligent software. This preference reverses, however, when it refers to people’s own jobs. When that is the case, the majority of workers find it less upsetting to see their own jobs go to robots than to other employees…

People tend to compare themselves less with machines than with other people. Consequently, being replaced by a robot or software poses less of a threat to their feeling of self-worth. This reduced self-threat could even be observed when participants assumed that they were being replaced by other employees who relied on technological abilities such as artificial intelligence in their work.

Turns out, it’s a huge punch to our gut to be replaced by another human since we compare ourselves to being equal, or better, to other humans, but we can comprehend that technology, like A.I., is actually better than ourselves at many tasks.

“The robot can definitely do parts of my job better than me, but g*d damn it, Mark can not!” 

It makes sense, for the most part, we all have fairly fragile egos. It’s hard for us to comprehend that our employer would replace us with another person because that means we probably suck at our job, or at least, our employer thinks we suck. If I’m replaced by a machine I can rationalize that away. If I’m replaced by another person, that’s a hard one to explain to family and friends.

It’s definitely something to keep in mind as we transition many tasks over to the robots. I think from an organizational behavior standpoint we are very concerned about what our employees will think, but the reality is they’ll probably have less issue with it than if we were shopping their jobs offshore to people who will do it cheaper but are real!

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