Life with A.I.

Almost two-thirds of workers say they would trust a robot over their manager

Morsa Images | Stone | Getty Images

Much talk of workplace automation paints a picture of an apocalyptic stand-off between humans and their robot replacements.

But the ultimate relationship may be much more harmonious, according to a new report, which suggests that many employees are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace.

In fact, as many as 64% of workers say they would trust a robot over their manager, based on the joint study from U.S. technology company Oracle and research firm Future Workplace. Meanwhile, more than half say 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 their human colleagues when compared to technology. For example, 89% of workers in India and 88% of those in China admitted to trusting robots over their managers.

The two gargantuan labor forces were joined by workers in Singapore (83%), Brazil (78%), Japan (76%), Australia and New Zealand (58%), the U.S. (57%), the U.K. (54%) and France (56%) in trusting robots over their managers.

A 'warning sign' for managers

The findings, which are based on responses from more than 8,300 workers across 10 countries, reflect a growing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

According to the research, 50% of workers currently use some form of AI at work, up from 32% last year. India and China lead that charge, thanks in part to their youthful populations and rapid rate of tech adoption.

However, they also highlight the need for managers to foster stronger relationships with their staff, Shaakun Khanna, Oracle's head of human capital management applications for Asia-Pacific, told CNBC Make It.

"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)," he continued.

5 tips for managing effectively

According to the survey, respondents rated robots' ability data-driven capabilities, such as providing unbiased information (26%), solve problems (29%) and maintain work schedules (34%).

However, they acknowledged human managers' superiority when it comes to emotional factors, such as understanding feelings (45%), providing coaching (33%) and creating a work culture (29%).

As such, Khanna said effective managers should work to combine both aspects, striving for objectivity and emotional support. That can be achieved in five steps, he noted.

  1. Use objective data to help inform your decision-making, guidance and advice.
  2. Personalize the experience to reflect each of your reports' individually.
  3. Develop your emotional intelligence to respond appropriately to sensitive issues.
  4. Be mindful and think holistically about the impact of your decisions.
  5. Build a meritocracy so employees know what to work toward.

"Those are the things managers need to look at if they are to outperform the AI manager that they compete with," Khanna said.

Don't miss: Indra Nooyi has advice for stamping out workplace bias

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