- Robots in the workplace may boost productivity but also cause job insecurity.
- Job insecurity can trigger maladaptive behaviors among employees.
- Human skills such as creativity and problem-solving remain irreplaceable.
Robots are transforming the nature of human work. While they can increase productivity and create new job opportunities, there are concerns about how they may impact job security and lead to maladaptive behaviors among employees. In a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers explored the effects of robots on job insecurity and maladaptive behaviors in the workplace.
Drawing from the cognitive appraisal theory of stress, the study showed that exposure to robots is positively associated with a sense of job insecurity. This is due to the prevalence of pessimistic beliefs about automation and the obvious superiority of robots within a narrow domain of tasks.
The study found that employees who were exposed to robots (either physically or psychologically) reported greater job insecurity. This sense of insecurity was linked to maladaptive behaviors such as decreased work engagement, increased absenteeism, and decreased organizational citizenship behavior.
However, the study also found that companies can take steps to mitigate these negative effects. For example, providing training programs for employees on how to work effectively with robots can help reduce feelings of job insecurity. Additionally, companies can emphasize the importance of human skills such as creativity and problem-solving that cannot be replaced by robots.
But what more can be done?
The Impact of Robots on Job Insecurity
One major concern about the rise of robots in the workplace is their potential impact on job security. As machines become more advanced and capable, there is a fear that they will replace human workers in many industries.
Certainly, this fear is not unfounded. A recent report by McKinsey & Company estimated that up to 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide due to automation by 2030. While some new jobs will be created as a result of automation, many workers may find themselves out of work or struggling to find employment in an increasingly competitive job market.
As workers become more exposed to robots in the workplace, there is a natural fear that their own jobs are at risk. This sense of job insecurity can have negative effects on employee well-being and productivity. Employees who feel insecure about their jobs may be less engaged in their work, more likely to miss work, and less likely to engage in positive behaviors such as helping coworkers or going above and beyond their job duties.
Addressing Job Insecurity in the Age of Automation
Still, by providing appropriate training programs, companies can help employees feel more confident in their ability to work alongside robots. This can help reduce feelings of job insecurity and increase employee engagement and productivity.
Another important step is for companies to emphasize the importance of human skills such as creativity and problem-solving that cannot be replaced by robots. While machines may be able to perform certain tasks more efficiently than humans, they cannot replicate the unique skills and abilities that humans bring to the workplace.
By emphasizing the importance of these human skills, companies can help employees feel more secure in their jobs and encourage them to develop their own unique strengths and abilities.
The Impact of Robots on Maladaptive Behaviors
In addition to job insecurity, there are concerns about how robots may lead to maladaptive behaviors among employees. Maladaptive behaviors are actions or attitudes that are counterproductive or harmful to an individual or organization.
The study found that exposure to robots is linked to maladaptive behaviors such as decreased work engagement, increased absenteeism, and decreased organizational citizenship behavior.
Employees who feel insecure about their jobs are often less motivated to engage in positive behaviors such as helping coworkers or going above and beyond their job duties. They may also be more likely to miss work or disengage from their work behavior due to feeling undervalued or unappreciated, which can contribute to negative attitudes and behaviors.
Addressing Maladaptive Behaviors in the Age of Automation
To address maladaptive behaviors in the age of automation, companies need to create a positive work environment that encourages employee engagement and productivity. One way to do this is by providing opportunities for employees to develop their skills and abilities.
By investing in employee development, companies can help employees feel more valued and appreciated. This can lead to increased engagement and productivity, as well as a greater sense of job security.
Another important step is for companies to foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork. By encouraging employees to work together and support one another, companies can help reduce feelings of competition or insecurity that may contribute to maladaptive behaviors.
The rise of robots in the workplace has the potential to transform the nature of human work. While they may bring benefits such as increased efficiency and reduced costs, there are also concerns about their impact on job insecurity and maladaptive behaviors among employees.
To address these concerns, companies can take steps such as providing training programs for employees, emphasizing the importance of human skills, investing in employee development, and fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork.
By creating a positive work environment that values and supports employees, companies can help mitigate the negative effects of robots in the workplace and ensure that humans remain an integral part of the workforce.
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. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0001045