According to a recent study by Oracle, more people trust a robot than their manager.
When asked what robots can do better than their managers, survey respondents said robots are better at providing unbiased information (26%), maintaining work schedules (34%), problem solving (29%) and managing a budget (26%).
Oracle and other tech-pushers are hailing these findings as the arrival of the future — that our robot overlords won’t be overlords afterall! They’ll be better than what we’ve got now. And that “organizations need to partner with their HR organization to personalize the approach to implementing AI at work in order to meet the changing expectations of their teams around the world,” said Emily He, SVP, Human Capital Management Cloud Business Group, Oracle.
Whoa. Not so fast there, Sparky.
Several things to consider before we start hugging those overlords…
First, eroded trust in managers isn’t a love of all things digital. It’s purely a people thing. While there certainly are some amazing managers out there — (let’s give them the kudos they deserve!) — overall engagement scores with employers and managers have been in the basement for decades. Seventy percent disengagement is the overall norm, and that score hasn’t budged despite decades of saying “people are our most important asset.”
The problem is systemic: Most managers are way overworked and under-resourced and woefully underdeveloped in the art and disciplines of supporting, developing, and protecting their people. Even more problematic: Most managers are still evaluated primarily on how much they get done with the fewest people possible — not on how much their troops trust them or how much they protect and grow those teammates.
Second, don’t lay this on managers, it’s first and foremost a failure in 21st century organizational change, maintained by C-suite leaders. Most organizations still manage people in ways that were developed during the black-and-white TV era. Management, as originally designed, has been on its deathbed for decades. Most organizations are still far behind in freeing and training managers to coach and develop their teammates instead of managing them.
Third, at least currently, don’t look to HR to start fighting for your personalized and tailored work needs. This strategic role has been sitting on their doorstep for decades — yet they’ve chosen to be far more organization-centered than individual-centered. (See Fast Company post: Have We Finally Outgrown HR?) In the coming years, look for HR to be totally disrupted and restructured due to this major shortcoming.
Finally, think twice before trusting any robot over any manager. Do you really think that robot’s algorithm is going to be biased towards your individual empowerment, individual agency, and giving every individual the right to choose what they know is best? Or will organizational needs, greater efficiencies, and increased cost-reduction be the driving forces behind its algorithms?
I’ll give you a hint: Here’s what Genpact (an AI consulting firm) CEO Tiger Tyagarajan recently said about business’s use of AI…
So, Who Do You Trust? How Do You Trust?
When you trust: Trust, but verify. Trust your gut about who or what has your best interests in mind. Then verify what your gut is telling you.
And always trust: Empathy. Care. Hugs. Compassion. Conversations that matter. Vulnerability. Courage. Wisdom. Humanity. Values. Being encouraged to make mistakes and learn and grow.
In other words… Trust is a people issue. Maybe every individual person doesn’t get your full trust all the time, every time — but always trust our collective humanness. At least for the foreseeable future, that’s the one thing AI algorithms can’t replicate.
Machines are tools. And most machines, especially work-related machines, are NOT neutral. They have someone else’s biases, directives, and needs pre-built into them. But those biases and needs-that-aren’t-yours are completely invisible to most of us, and are built into transactions that feel fairly benign.
Do not, as Henry David Thoreau once warned, become a tool of your tools.
PS: Can AI also bring joy to your life? Yes, of course! Check out Google’s new FreddieMeter: An AI-powered singing challenge that rates how closely your singing matches the voice of Freddie Mercury!
Jensen Site, Twitter, FB. Bill’s upcoming book, The Day Tomorrow Said No, is a powerful fable about the future of work. (Spring 2020.) A fable specifically designed to revolutionize conversations about the future between leaders, the workforce, educators, and students. Go here to download a FREE copy of the final pre-press draft of the book.
Editor’s Note: This article republished with permission of the author with first publication on LinkedIn.