Credit Matters Blog

White Collar Robots Are Already In The Workplace

Kim Radok 13 February 2016


In an effort to operate more cheaply (but not necessarily more efficiently) many corporate enterprises employ people in soul destroying environments with restrictive work practices. Management in these situations seems to believe, cheap upfront costs are more important than operating effectively, although this is guise under which these environments are created.

Too often however, the environment which eventuates becomes more expensive and less efficient, due to:

(i)  unplanned expenses;

(ii) managing and repairing mistakes rather the resolving the cause of mistakes;

(iii) lost sales through employee apathy, ignorance or fraudulent behaviour; and 

(iv) compromised operational efficiency.

These work environments are created on principles of managerialism theory which dictates employees follow organisation rules to the letter. In addition, any questions or ideas concerning problems or offering solutions are largely ignored or discouraged. Nothing changes an otherwise dedicated worker in to an unhappy employee, as does a demeaning work environment.

Once employees become disillusioned, they learn to switch off their minds. They have found It was the only way to work, it keeps management (read bureaucrats) happy, and they needed the money. Worst still, the unhappy employee starts to manipulate the system to avoid their responsibilities and hide their inefficiencies in order to achieve the desired results demanded by management.

An organisation which employs human robots inevitably suffers a loss of reputation because nothing can be kept secret anymore. Social media provides unhappy employees an avenue to vent their frustrations with immunity and anonymity. Just this morning, inadvertently another website came to my attention, which allows employees to vent their frustrations anonymously.

Robots are employed in manufacturing for a good reason as they can be far more efficient than human workers. However, humans are still required at the end of the production line to ensure all the work was completed properly and to fix any minor mistakes.

In the white collar environment, this work practice of checking the work of human robots is not always verified and completed properly. The fact that inefficiency costs of incomplete or poorly completed work is rarely measured correctly, means the true cost of employing human robots and monitoring their behaviour is hidden from management's view.

Machine robots may have the required level of artificial intelligence to work to management's dictates. A human robot on the other hand, is still a human with an ability to think outside the required thought restraints of management. The disenfranchised human robot which wishes to act independently to management's desires, can cause a great deal of damage to the organisation.

There is no doubt, machine robots can add value to some areas of manufacturing and perhaps even to some areas of white collar work. Human robots can also be of value in a number of white collar work situations. Currently however, I respectively suggest many current human robots completing white collar are not adding value as would a dedicated employee.