The rise of AI: The importance of building resilience in a rapidly changing workforce


James Deakin

Last week, I was invited to give a motivational talk to the biggest land development company in the country. I gave a 35-minute talk followed by a 25-minute Q&A, where the common theme of the questions was: “How do you deal with a certain mindset of workers that are always looking at the next job and just doing the bare minimum at their current one?” I gave my answer (which could probably be the subject for another column in the future) but it was only after we left and my manager started getting messages from several other companies asking to deliver a talk on the exact same subject, did I realize not only how important this issue is but how relevant it is in this new era we find ourselves in.

Ironic, in a way, because one could be forgiven for thinking that precisely because we all had to simultaneously cope with such life-changing restrictions together, we would have built up natural resilience and all be raring to go with renewed vigor and enthusiasm once the gates of lockdown were swung open. But sadly, I’m noticing the opposite. And judging by the number of inquiries and bookings we received after, so are the companies. They even have a name for it. It’s called “quiet quitting,” or “anti-work,” which is basically the gradual withdrawal from work without formal resignation driven by burnout, dissatisfaction with one's job, and the 24/7 work culture.

To address this issue, companies have been told to create a supportive and positive work environment that includes resources and support for employees, recognition and rewards for hard work, and encouragement to take time off. But here’s where it gets tricky. Because while I certainly agree with all of that, and I completely understand and sympathize with those who feel they have lost purpose and meaning in their work, objectively speaking, I believe we could be setting ourselves up for the biggest disruption in human history — AI.

AI is not coming. AI is already here. And it has only one mission: To replace jobs that are repetitive, routine, and involve tasks that can be easily defined and structured. Basically, anything that can be automated, like manufacturing, data entry and analysis, customer service, retail, and administrative support, among others are the first on the chopping board. So my fear is, regardless of whether the reasons behind it are valid or not, if more and more people join the quiet quitting movement, they are simply painting themselves into redundancy and will eventually be replaced by AI. Again, I say this without judgment because I believe that while we may have all gone through the same storm during the pandemic, we were all in different boats; so as much as it may have been a shared struggle, we all came out of it with a unique experience and/or unique PTSD from it.

But that doesn’t change the fact that by approaching our jobs in the most robotic way, we simply create the perfect space for the robots to disrupt us. Remember, it is nothing personal with AI. They aren’t designed to have compassion, emotion or even understanding; they are programmed to be efficient and deliver a bottom line. And regardless how compassionate and caring your company may be, if their competitors start using AI to gain an advantage, you can bet a sack of onions that they will too. It is as simple as that.

So while I can sympathize with those who feel under appreciated, it is absolutely critical to create value for yourself as an employee — or even a business owner — by approaching your role with positivity, creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, because these are skills and values that are less likely to be impacted by AI.

Quiet quitting may feel like a way of hitting back, but just remember, it can also be a back handed slap on you.