Every technological advance has its downsides. One innovation that has reduced more unrest and unhappiness is ChatGPT — is it causing employees anxiety?
It is, for a good reason. Many people who worked hard and trained their entire lives to perform a specific role now fear a robot stealing their livelihood and leaders have not done enough to assuage these valid concerns. Here is why this technology causes employee anxiety and how leaders can calm these fears to prevent panic from impacting productivity.
The expanding role of technology at work
It is hard to believe, but people invented the internet only 41 years ago, in 1983. Now, more things are automated than ever. Whether or not technology will improve the daily lives of the humans who use it to live and work remains to be seen.
For a while, things seemed rosy. Advances such as remote work freed people to work from anywhere, providing new opportunities for people with disabilities. It also helped clear the air by removing commuter cars and making it faster to accomplish certain tasks than ever before.
With all the advantages technology brings, is it any wonder 37% of all organizations have already implemented innovations such as generative AI into the workforce? However, this innovation interjects new concerns at a time when humans have not yet ironed out all the wrinkles with the computing power they already have.
How ChatGPT makes employees anxious
ChatGPT causes anxiety in many workers for various reasons. Here are the four most frequently expressed fears.
1. Fear of losing their job
A Google search for “what jobs will AI eliminate” generates tons of results. This fear tops the charts for many. Some — such as those with disabilities — have unique worries, as they have limited employment options. Someone with a visual or neurological impairment cannot simply drive for DoorDash, and someone with physical challenges may not be able to stand to run a register or stock shelves.
Despite gender equality advancements, certain sectors dominated by women — such as administrative and clerical roles — are much more susceptible to automation. If businesses don’t implement AI tools thoughtfully, it could disproportionately affect job security for women.
2. Fear of having to do a less desirable job
Even those who are in perfect health may fear AI taking their job, forcing them into a less desirable one. It is traumatizing for someone to go from a six-figure income to $18 an hour stocking shelves and many such jobs do not pay enough for basic housing, let alone getting ahead. Even those who relish the opportunity to work in customer care burn out quickly when their efforts do not meet their human needs.
3. Fear of poor customer experience making their jobs harder
Can technological tools make it harder to do your job? In some cases, yes. For example, you rely on a specific program to work, but it has a bug. You contact customer support, which responds with an automated message that systems are down, giving few details as to when restoration will occur. You have done all you can — however, when your boss wants an update on the work you cannot complete, it is your head on the chopping block.
4. Fear of complicated technology causing stress and delays
Learning how to use new technology takes time. That which is overly complicated causes workers to spend more hours learning how to use it and maneuvering around various bug fixes than they would if they simply did the job the way they already knew how.
Approximately 61% of businesses are worried AI will cause industry disruptions, with the highest levels of concern coming from the technology and software industries. Additionally, 14% of businesses have placed investing in AI as a top priority, making these fears valid.
AI anxiety and employee engagement
The four fears above can decimate employee engagement. Problems worsen if leaders ignore them, handing down edicts from above without giving staff space to voice their concerns.
Anxiety that tech will make life harder not easier
Some upper management members may be ignorant of what their lowest-paid support team does each day. Saying, “X will make your life better,” when workers have legitimate concerns that it will make their duties harder is dismissive and destroys morale. For example, some high-tech devices malfunction so often that workers may feel they spend more time fixing them than doing their jobs. This creates a stressful scenario if you judge performance on arbitrary productivity metrics, like the number of units output per hour.
Human rights and ethics often take a backseat when developing new technologies, and many workers rightfully fear these tools will make work even more devoid of compassion. Already, the impact of existing technologies on their health often goes unnoticed. How many people today suffer chronic health issues from being forced into unnatural positions at work, such as sitting for long hours at desks, or standing at a register or on an assembly line?
Many workers sacrifice their well-being for jobs that don’t provide health insurance and leave them impoverished — even homeless — if they become disabled. It’s well past time for those in the upper ranks to listen to those in the trenches. Too often, CEOs only hear the bright side of new tech from the sales rep.
Anxiety about job security
Leaders should assuage employee’s valid, existential fears regarding their job security. If their position is at risk, provide adequate notice and generous severance to guide workers through the transition. Prioritize advertising available positions to existing staff.
Fifty-one percent of businesses have reported considering hiring AI experts, which can make current employees fearful of AI experts — or machines themselves — replacing them. Job insecurity could lead to employees underperforming due to stress or looking elsewhere for more dependable employment.
If there is little danger that technology will impact the team composition, then issue reassurances, even if you prefer a less-emotional management style. The lingering sense of despair hovering over many businesses today negatively impacts engagement, even if individual workers do not express their concerns out of fear of being first in the firing line.
Is ChatGPT causing employees’ anxiety?
ChatGPT and other technologies have spurred as much anxiety as hope among employees. Savvy business leaders recognize the human element and take action. Society must evolve to match these innovations. While it does, strong, smart leaders prioritize the needs of their teams, and reassure them no robot or computer can replace their talent.
Mia Barnes is a freelance writer and researcher with over 3 years of experience in the field. With a specialization in workplace wellness, financial well-being, human factors, and ergonomics, her articles aim to educate and empower readers, providing them with practical tips and insights to enhance their overall well-being in various aspects of their lives. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online publication, Body+Mind magazine.