Researchers in the US and Korea say that a strong bond between an employee of a company and a robot can be detrimental to business.
Situations where a human employee develops a strong emotional bond to their robot colleague could see the company’s overall “Quality and performance of teamwork” decline, a group of US and Korean researchers have warned.
A study penned by scientists from the University of Michigan and South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University was published on February 10. It found that in cases where a worker is more attached to a robot, a kind of ‘us-versus-them’ mentality often emerges, with the human-machine pairing competing with the rest of the team instead of contributing positively to “Performance and relationships within teams.”
Research shows that the introduction of robots to the workplace is largely seen as a positive development. Negative repercussions are often not considered.
Lionel Robert, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, and Sangseok You, assistant professor of management information systems at Sungkyunkwan University, carried out a series of experiments to find out how excessive bonding between humans and robots affects a team’s overall performance.
In a quantitative lab experiment, 88 workers were divided into 44 teams. Each team consisted of 2 humans and 2 robots. Teams were given the task of moving different bottles in a contest-like setting. Following the end of the experiment, participants were asked about their evaluations and how their relationship with robot partners and humans was. It transpired that, when humans developed more of a bond with robots, the tiny teams of four (two humans plus two machines) were likely to further divide into subgroups, which understandably undermined the overall team “Quality and performance.”
Researchers also recommended a variety of solutions that could prevent this undesirable development from occurring within an organization. Based on 112 responses, the recommendations reflect the diverse experiences of people working alongside robots.
It is important to make special efforts to increase communication between humans or they could end up being attached to machines.
If this is a sign of things to come, activities like joint picnics or sports events for employees can help increase team spirit.
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