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ChatGPT’s Use in the Workplace a Growing Topic of Debate

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 22, 2023

The introduction of the viral chatbot ChatGPT has caused friction in the workplace between employees and employers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Some workers are using the tool to create emails, PowerPoint presentations, and computer code that can automate tasks. But co-workers and managers are debating whether it is appropriate for them to use the artificial intelligence (AI) tool to communicate, evaluate human performance and boost productivity. Company leaders are concerned about any corporate intelligence that workers might be sharing .

Several big companies have banned the tool. Others, such as Amazon, are encouraging alternatives, such as its own AI tool.

Northrop Grumman Corp. software engineer Richie Flores told the Journal that he used ChatGPT in his job at an aerospace and defense contractor for months before the company blocked the tool a few weeks ago, out of concern of release company data. But he said he wasn't using it for that, but, rather, to ask questions about coding concepts.

“It’s, like, a really cool, patient mentor, who’s not going to be annoyed by you asking a lot of questions,” he said.

Jamie Buckley, chief product officer for LexisNexis Legal and Professional, told the Journal that lawyers could use ChatGPT to cut down on “drudgework,” such as summarizing case law. Law firms have adopted new policies that range from restrictions on uploading proprietary information into the ChatGPT platform to bans on sharing unedited AI-generated text with clients as legal advice.

In a February survey, half of more than 900 workers polled by reported using ChatGPT for tasks such as writing and responding to emails. A quarter of them said they feared a manager might disparage them for that, but many thought their bosses would praise them for their efficiency.

Figma product manager Robert Bye, who is dyslexic, told the Journal that writing takes him hours, and ChatGPT makes him more efficient. “I spend more time on the stuff that I’m good at, which isn’t written language,” he said.

Yet many employers are concerned that using AI-generated text removes the human touch, especially at the moments when it is most needed.

Two Vanderbilt University employees left their positions after they used ChatGPT to draft an email to students after a mass shooting at another campus. The final line was “Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication, Feb. 15, 2023.” That drew criticism, and the dean who oversees the office that sent the email to students, said she was troubled that the message “so missed the crucial need for personal connection and empathy during a time of tragedy.”

Ben Jackson, founder of Hear Me Out, a culture-strategy firm, told the Journal that employees might be unsettled if software-generated feedback becomes a factor in promotions or terminations.

“It’s easy to see the benefits of using a technology like generative artificial intelligence when you are the person saving time by using it,” he said. “It’s also easier to ignore the potential risks.”