When Will A.I. Finally Replace Your Boss?

How the automation bell might toll for your manager in the near future.

Nick Kolakowski
Sep 17, 2019 · 3 min read
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When people talk about job losses due to automation and artificial intelligence (A.I.), they usually focus on professions such as factory worker or help-desk specialist. But will the coming A.I. revolution also make a huge percentage of managers obsolete?

At first glance, that might seem unlikely. After all, managers and executives must heavily rely on “soft skills” such as empathy and communication, which are difficult (if not impossible, at least at this stage) for a machine to master. However, analysts from research firm Gartner, speaking recently at Gartner’s Digital Workplace Summit, think the day could come when software takes over an increasing number of management tasks. (Hat tip to Computerworld for covering the event.)

“Robo-bosses [will] become common in 2025. We are not necessarily saying that everyone is going to be reporting to an algorithm, so you can breathe a little bit easier,” Matthew Cain, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, told the audience, according to Computerworld.Nonetheless, automation and A.I. could play an increasing role in everything from performance reviews to offering career advice to employees.

We’re already experiencing automation in some aspects of management and HR. For example, a company could use a chatbot instead of a human being in order to interview candidates at the early stages of the hiring process, and video game-like tests are often used to evaluate potential hires and employees. As the algorithms underlying many A.I. services become more sophisticated, there’s a high potential for automation to expand into other areas, as well. Imagine an app giving you a quarterly evaluation — without a manager or HR rep in sight — and you have an idea of where this is potentially going.

However, workers don’t necessarily likethe idea of code taking over management functions — or hiring, for that matter. Pew research shows 57 percent of respondents think using algorithms for résumé screening is “unacceptable,” and 58 percent believe that bots taught by humans will always contain some bias. Nearly half (48 percent) of workers between the ages of 18 and 29 have some distrust of A.I. in hiring, showing that this negative perception isn’t going away anytime soon.

Gartner’s analysts seem to believe that automation won’t carve away a huge chunk of management jobs, at least at first. “Your manager won’t be replaced by an algorithm, but your manager will be using a lot of AI constructs to help improve and to make more efficient a lot of the routine work that they do. We think that that is going to be the combination,” Cain added during his talk.

However, technology always evolves, and it’s not impossible that automation could replace a certain percentage of managers in decades to come, especially those in middle management whose jobs largely center around reporting and analyzing data. If you’re interested in a management track, stay aware of how automation can make certain aspects of your job easier — but like workers in other professions, be on the lookout for how A.I. and algorithms could potentially take over your job.

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