Robots are rapidly infiltrating the workplace, with some arguing they will transform organizational effectiveness and productivity. However, robots also have the potential to replace jobs traditionally performed by humans, which may leave employees feeling threatened. Researchers (Yam et al., 2022) investigate how being exposed to robots at work can impact feelings of job insecurity, burnout, and incivility. They also explain how organizations can combat the problems that robots may pose to workers.
EFFECTS OF ROBOT EXPOSURE ON WORK OUTCOMES
The researchers conducted four studies to determine how robots might affect work experiences. In Study 1, data from 185 US metropolitan areas showed that in places where there were more robots, workers experienced more job insecurity. In Study 2, the researchers found that when participants read about the role of robots in businesses, they experienced more job insecurity.
Study 3 utilized an experience-sampling methodology to uncover that – on a day-to-day basis – robot adoption (i.e. use of robots to make decisions at work) was related to employees feeling less secure about their jobs. In turn, this led to an increase in bad behavior and burnout. Lastly, the researchers found that a self-affirmation intervention (where participants wrote about their values and why they were important to them) helped mitigate the feelings of job insecurity.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The results of this study indicate that the rise of robots may make workers feel threatened, resulting in burnout and acting out harmfully toward others. Organizations should consider how the benefits of robots (e.g., efficiency) might come at a cost to employees. If organizations do adopt the use of robots, the current research suggests that utilizing self-affirmation techniques could be helpful, and leaders should affirm or validate their employees whenever possible. This could lead to more positive views toward robots and improve feelings of job security.
Yam, K. C., Tang, P. M., Jackson, J. C., Su, R., & Gray, K. (2023). The rise of robots increases job insecurity and maladaptive workplace behaviors: Multimethod evidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 108(5), 850–870.
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