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Would having an AI boss be better than your current human one?

While businesses like UPS, Klarna,, external Dell, external and others have announced significant job cuts this year, with the intention of replacing many roles with AI, Prof Paul Thurman, from Columbia University in New York, argues that swapping management roles completely for AI would be a mistake.

“The middle management layer is the most critical layer in any organisation,” says the professor of management. “They’re the layer that, if it starts turning over, you’re in for a wild ride. Your people don’t see continuity, they don’t get mentoring and coaching… all the human things that human managers are better at than AI and should be focusing on.”

AI, Prof Thurman adds, can liberate managers from endless reminding and checking in, to focus on more innovative ways of working. For example, managers can cherry pick project teams based on individual skillsets, oversee the brief, then hand over to their AI to manage minutiae like deadlines.

AI can also identify who in the team is falling behind and may need to be managed more closely by a human, and by the same token, hone in on star performers who require extra recognition.

But companies should steer away from AI managers becoming a surveillance tool, he says.

“You don’t want to get to a point where you are noting that, not only do people not clock in on time, but they take too much time at lunch, and they’re not eating enough salad. You don’t want to go that far,” says Prof Thurman. “You want to find the right way to encourage the right behaviours.”

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