How to replace your boss with an app

Most people are badly managed. If your work is largely predictable, and you spend the majority of your time online, why not turn your boss into an app? Here are some things it could do.

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2015

Admittedly, this would only work in fairly simple contexts with jobs that are repetitive and where computers can quantify employee performance rigorously.

Imagine your job as a video game, where you are the player, and your manager is not the enemy but the scoring key embedded in the game. Importantly, there may be many different ways to achieve the same objectives, but your score would measure how well you accomplish these objectives compared to your colleagues.

A common complaint of employees is that their managers make biased evaluations of their performance. Surely machines can do it better (and more objectively) than a human boss? But there is a catch: if your boss can be replaced by an app, it is likely that your work can also be performed better by a computer, which makes you just as disposable.

That said, most jobs involve not only managing tasks, but also emotions and politics. And critical organisational goals are not accomplished by individuals, but by teams. In line with this, the key to effective leadership is the ability to build, motivate and manage high-performing teams.

Although team-building is more science than art (for example, individuals with similar values but complementary skills work well together), team management is still more art than science. This is why so many managers are useless at it, but also why good managers are much better than computers: Mourinho will always beat an algorithm based on Mourinho, or on the top 10 managers combined.

The fundamental difference between managers and computers, it seems, is that computers can manage, but managers can lead - even if they often don't. Ultimately, what employees want in a leader is somebody who cares about them, and computers don't care about anything. This is why most people still prefer a human wife or husband to a robot.

Rationality is not as desirable as we think, especially when it comes at the expense of love.

- Provide encouraging feedback when you do something right.

- Provide critical but constructive feedback when you do something wrong.

- Provide a mission or high-level action plan.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a professor of business psychology at UCL, VP of innovation at Hogan Assessments and co-founder of metaprofiling.com.

Follow Professor Chamorro-Premuzic on Twitter: @drtcp

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