Featured in today's briefing:

  • How AI tools influence workers’ perceptions of power.
  • The rising cost of commuting.
  • How to disagree in meetings.

AI and Work Radar

  • New Stanford research found that an artificial-intelligence feedback tool improved the quality of professors’ teaching, leading students to rate their satisfaction with the class more highly and to complete more of their assignments.
  • Hedge funds are delegating low-level work—such as summarizing research and synthesizing information for investors—to generative AI tools, which Kevin Cole, CEO of the hedge fund Campbell and Company, described to Bloomberg as “very strong for code completion, editing, finding errors and fixing bugs.”
  • Freelance workers—including some full-time employees with side gigs—are using the productivity boost enabled by AI to grow their businesses and take on additional clients. One pastor with a freelance design business told The Wall Street Journal that since using Tome, an AI slide generator, he’s been able to triple the number of client projects he takes on at a time.
  • Generative tools such as ChatGPT are most useful as strategic tools when used for idea generation, and less helpful when offering recommendations for moving from the idea phase to next steps, argues an analysis in MIT Sloan Management Review.

Focus on How AI Tools Impact Decision-Making

A recent paper in the journal Current Opinion in Psychology highlights one potential challenge in AI adoption: the risk that the use of tools such as digital assistants can lead workers to act less ethically than they would otherwise.

“Users can ‘tell’ their AI assistants not only what to do, but how to do it,” the paper’s authors write. “These new forms of power could bypass existing social and regulatory checks on unethical behavior”—a phenomenon they attribute to “a well-studied phenomena whereby people are less sensitive to the moral consequences of indirect actions (where actions occur through intermediaries).”

“When you are interacting with somebody face to face, you have this sense of feeling a positive kind of pressure to treat that other person well, and to have the interaction go well,” explains Nathanael Fast, an associate professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, who co-authored the paper with USC computer-science professor Jonathan Gratch.“When you remove the human from the process… it removes some of that potency.”

We spoke to Fast, the co-director of the Psychology of Technology Institute and the head of USC’s Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision-Making, about how AI affects decision-making and how organizations can respond to those effects. Here are excerpts from our conversation, edited for length and clarity:

You’ve done some research on how AI and perceptions of power affect decision-making. Can you explain the relationship there?

When we're interacting with humans, there's a very clear sense of hierarchy, and that isn’t  changing back and forth during the course of a conversation. But when we're interacting with large language models or AI-based avatars, for example, they can completely change the way that they come across in an interaction. They can use low-power language, low-power tone, interact with us in a way that makes us feel powerful, or maybe we can program them to be more of a boss. We might see a day where we have not only a digital assistant, but a digital partner that in some cases is an assistant, in some cases can go into boss mode.

When might one setting be more preferable than the other?

When people feel more powerful, they tend to have an illusion of control. They feel more optimistic and confident, and they're more action oriented. They also tend to see the bigger picture. And so there are a lot of ways in which feeling powerful is adaptive.

On the other hand, some of those feelings and psychological states can lead us down paths of risk-taking, in some cases unethical risk-taking. They can lead to people being more confident in the knowledge that they have than they should be. While having a virtual assistant will make people feel better and more action-oriented, if you're doing a task that really requires attention to detail and not making any mistakes, it might be good to switch that knob a little bit and feel a little bit less powerful, because then you're going to be more careful and vigilant.

My advice is to test these things out. Don't reject them without trying them, but also have an evaluative mindset all the way through to say, is this really helping our productivity or is it harming our productivity going forward?

What considerations should go into that evaluation?

We can look at social media as an example. When social media came out initially, nobody really looked at it and said, ‘Oh, this is going to cause polarization or major distraction.’ But as it evolved and started using more artificial intelligence to dictate the next piece of content that comes down your feed, that had major implications for our attention, for our emotional experiences, and also societally for things like polarization.

So it might be that on day one, a digital assistant is really helpful.  But these things evolve over time, and as we add more artificial intelligence or other algorithms to the products, they change. We have to be very thoughtful about what's happening at the individual level, psychological level, but also what's happening to the culture of our organizations. Are people interacting in really positive ways? Are they interacting more than they were before? Or instead, are we in a situation where virtual assistants are doing most of the work and the people in the organization are starting to pull away from having lots of interactions?

Read a full transcript of our conversation, including how AI use influences privacy concerns, manager behavior,  and employees’ fear of negative feedback.

What Else You Need to Know

Commuting is more expensive than it was pre-pandemic, in both money and time. The average commute now costs $8,466 and takes up 239 hours per year, according to an analysis from the real-estate platform Clever—ncreases of 31% and 20%, respectively, from 2019.

  • Commuting cost is among the top reasons why workers are resisting their employers’ call back to the office, with many pointing to the hidden costs for purchases that support in-person work, such as coffee and makeup.
  • Many workers on the other end of the spectrum—those who would prefer to return to an office but whose workplaces have gone fully remote—are now turning to coworking spaces for respite from home and a sense of community.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling to curtail race-based affirmative action programs this month. While the court’s decision won’t directly affect private employers, it could negatively impact corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by creating less diverse talent pools and a chilling effect on existing DEI programs.

  • Some leaders are preparing for the ruling by preparing evidence-based cases for DEI initiatives, investing in new recruitment pipelines to maintain diverse hiring, and prepping teams to respond quickly in the wake of the court’s ruling.

The labor market is stabilizing to a pre-pandemic normal in some key measures. Quit rates have fallen to 2.4% among nonfarm workers, just slightly above 2019 rates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary.

  • The report also showed that private nonfarm payrolls have added an average of 182,00 workers monthly over the past three months, mirroring the average from 2017 to 2019.
  • Teens have been unlikely winners in the workforce shortage: With a glut of open positions for summer and after-school jobs, many are enjoying higher wages and more attractive positions than in years past.
  • US employers added a seasonally adjusted 339,000 jobs last month, far surpassing economists’ predictions.

The child-care industry could soon lose $37 billion in funding without legislative action. Some pandemic-era child-care subsidies are set to expire on September 30, which could further exacerbate the existing child-care crisis by triggering reduced numbers of child-care slots, increased tuition for parents, and reduced or frozen wages for child-care workers, according to a new Senate report.

  • Covid stabilization grants supported over 220,000 providers throughout the pandemic, ensuring care for over 10 million children. Without the funding, a fifth of providers report that they would have to serve fewer children, four in 10 say they will have to increase tuition, and three in 10 say that they will have to cut or freeze wages for workers.
  • Many grandparents, especially grandmothers, are leaving the workforce earlier than planned to fill in child-care gaps for their working children.

Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:

  • Set a timer for agenda items. To keep your meeting running on schedule while hitting all the items on the agenda, set an amount of time to discuss each topic and start a countdown timer to keep the group moving forward.
  • Encourage productive disagreement during group meetings. Taking difficult conversations “offline” rather than hashing them out as a group can erode a team’s sense of psychological safety and make collaboration less effective and dynamic. Instead of talking about critical feedback in one-on-ones before or after a meeting, encourage team members to voice it in a larger group.
  • Invite reports to start talking about mental health with work-related questions. While some employees might never feel comfortable discussing mental health with their managers, you can create opportunities for them to do so by asking open-ended questions related to their job, such as, “Is your role what you thought it was going to be?”
  • Give employees a “break budget.” Encourage employees to take time out of their workdays to rest, exercise, or recharge by providing subsidies for them to furnish their own break space with plants, a yoga mat, or whatever items will help them relax.


Another advantage for sporty men. Just one example of AI hiring tools showing the same biases as human society: One tool prioritized resumes from applicants named Jared and those who played lacrosse.

Objection sustained. A lawyer recently landed in hot water for filing a brief citing multiple court decisions that supported his client’s case—only to discover that ChatGPT had made them all up.

  • The lawyer told the judge that because he had never before used the tool, he “was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.”

The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.