When Does Automating Away a Coworkers Job Cross The Line into Bullying

In a previous job, I found that a coworker was spending a full work week building an excel spreadsheet from our Azure DevOps data, so I spent about an hour writing a small program to replace his entire job. This triggered an arms race between myself and the coworker where they would slightly change what they added to the excel spreadsheet, and I would add that into the simple program (and then make it better). This went on for about 2 weeks until I was called into the manager’s office and was told that I was bullying the coworker by doing this, which I disagreed with.

This lead me to thinking about, when does automating away a coworkers job cross the line into bullying. Automating a manual process in the workplace is not inherently bullying. However, if the automation is implemented without proper consideration for the impact on employees, it can potentially be perceived as bullying or create a hostile work environment. There are both positive and negative aspects (which include aspects that could be considered bullying), they are as follows:

Positive Aspects of Automating a Manual Process in the Workplace:

Negative Aspects of Automating a Manual Process in the Workplace (Potentially Involving Bullying):

It’s crucial for organizations to consider the potential negative impacts of automation and proactively address them with empathy and sensitivity to prevent any situation from resembling bullying in the workplace.

Update: Knowing what I know now (years later, and multiple companies later), I would have gone about this differently. Rather than just writing the application, I would have written a detailed case to my management. I would have detailed the amount of time taken to compile the spreadsheet by a staff member and the costs associated with that, and then detailed the amount of time and cost it would have taken to build the application and the ongoing maintenance costs. Companies talk money, and only money, not only would I not have been accused of bullying in this case, I would have been praised for saving a large source of inefficiency, and paid for writing the application.

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