Workers Would Trust Robot Manager Over a Human

Global survey reveals employee attitudes toward AI management.

October 17, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—A new global study indicates that many employees are embracing artificial intelligence, according to CNBC. In fact, 64% of workers say they would trust a robot over their human manager.

The joint study from U.S. technology company Oracle and research firm Future Workplace found that more than half of the people surveyed said they have already turned to a robot for advice instead of their manager. The phenomenon is especially pronounced in Asia, where employees expressed a disproportionate distrust in humans when compared to technology. For example, 89% of workers in India and 88% in China admitted to trusting robots over their managers.

Labor forces in other countries also said they would trust AI over human managers, including workers in Singapore (83%), Brazil (78%), Japan (76%), Australia and New Zealand (58%), the U.S. (57%), the U.K. (54%) and France (56%). The findings are based on responses from more than 8,300 workers across 10 countries and reflect a growing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

Researchers found that 50% of workers currently use some form of AI at work, up from 32% last year. India and China lead that charge, the result of having young populations and rapid rates of tech adoption. But the results also highlight the need for managers to foster stronger relationships with their employees, said Shaakun Khanna, Oracle’s head of human capital management applications for Asia-Pacific.

“I think it’s a big warning sign for the managers,” said Khanna, noting that leaders and aspiring leaders must work to excel in areas where technology falls short. “I always tell people if they want to survive the AI risk, they should embrace EI (emotional intelligence).”

Respondents rated robots’ data-driven capabilities: providing unbiased information (26%), solving problems (29%) and maintaining work schedules (34%). However, they acknowledged human managers’ superiority when it comes to emotional factors: understanding feelings (45%), providing coaching (33%) and creating a work culture (29%). Khanna said that effective managers should combine both aspects, striving for objectivity and emotional support that can be achieved using the following five steps:

  • Use objective data to help inform your decision-making, guidance and advice.
  • Personalize the experience to reflect each of your reports’ individually.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence to respond appropriately to sensitive issues.
  • Be mindful of the impact of your decisions.
  • Build a meritocracy so employees know what to work toward.
Khanna went on, “Those are the things managers need to look at if they are to outperform the AI manager that they compete with.”
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