How to ensure your employees fail in the workplace of the future


As artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, and other intelligent technologies transform the workplace, enterprise employees are being told they must become highly adaptable and be committed to learning throughout their careers to ensure their relevance.

Likewise, enterprise leaders are advised that success in the fast-moving digital economy relies on their ability to harness the creativity and initiative of workers who (presumably) have been liberated by smart technologies from the menial tasks that comprise much of their workday.

“We need to focus on helping people unleash their creativity and innovation,” writes Forbes contributor Karl Sun. “Employees need to be able to share ideas, information, and processes effectively—because that is how they will help their company innovate and thus succeed as individuals.”

Sun is absolutely correct. The problem is that many enterprise leaders likely won’t want to encourage creativity or critical thinking in their employees. Instead, they want to their workers to “stay in their lanes” and do their jobs.

What could be behind such a counter-productive attitude? I can think of at least a couple of reasons, both of which are recognizable to employees who work in dysfunctional organizations.

The first reason is that some enterprise leaders are threatened by too much initiative from subordinates. These are the bosses who steal your ideas, present them as their own, and exclude you from meetings in which your valuable ideas and insights could be heard by others.

Then there are the bosses who look down at their employees — treating them as inferior underlings, replaceable cogs in the machine. These are the enterprise leaders who would jump at the chance to use the implementation of intelligent technologies as an excuse to lighten the payroll.

Bottom line: Control freaks and abusers not only make it hard for their employees to succeed; in the long-term they will make it harder for their organizations to be successful. For workers stuck in organizations led by these types of inflexible, myopic leaders, the only way out is to leave before your spirit is crushed or you lose your job (or both). Let someone else benefit from your creativity, initiative, and willingness to adapt.

And if you’re one of the enterprise leaders who refuses to recognize and adjust to the new rules of individual and organizational success in the digital economy, it is you who is expendable, not your employees.

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