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  • #9: The newest autonomous software engineer is a robot; The autocratic boss is back; From criticism to constructive feedback.

#9: The newest autonomous software engineer is a robot; The autocratic boss is back; From criticism to constructive feedback.

BONUS: 1 in 3 employees with disabilities face workplace discrimination; How to deal with layoffs; Humorous bosses - good or bad?

Welcome to the newest edition of Hacking Work International Newsletter!

Here’s what you can expect every Thursday:
Updates on the global job market; the latest developments in leadership and organisational culture; valuable insights into professional and educational landscapes; modern perspectives on careers; and the evolving nature of work.

In today's email:

Devin or Devil? The first AI software engineer has been revealed

A few days ago, US AI startup Cognition AI unveiled a unique model of artificial intelligence, which it introduced as Devin, the first “tireless and skilled” AI software engineer. Described as a "state-of-the-art" model, Devin has already successfully completed several hands-on job interviews as a software engineer at several top AI companies. To demonstrate his capabilities, Devin successfully completed software engineer-specific work tasks in real-time on the Upwork freelancing platform.

According to his creators at Cognition AI, Devin can perform coding tasks 100% autonomously, and can also adjust the AI models he uses in real-time. Devin's demonstrated performance is far superior to that of GitHub and Copilot, as the new AI software engineer can work autonomously and comfortably complete its tasks on its own, without human intervention or assistance. Devin's launch is the most spectacular tech news of recent months and is being discussed around the world.

Devin is able to autonomously define the specifications of a software engineering project: it was presented with several problems on GitHub specific to real-world open-source projects and successfully solved about 13.86% of the problems without help. Compared to a previous model that performed 1.96% unassisted and 4.80% assisted, the tool developed by Cognition AI proved incredibly capable. At the same time, Devin is able to learn how to use unfamiliar technologies by finding and selecting all the educational resources it needs to complete the task in fractions of a second online.

an image with devin, the new software engineer imagined by dall-e

Source: Dalle 3. Prompt provided by the Hacking Work team

When might AI replace your job? - Researchers answer

If you’re a software engineer, you already know from the previous article. In a recent study, 2,778 AI experts were polled about their projections for the automation of various jobs. Their opinions were sought in both 2022 and 2023 to gauge any shifts in predictions. The verdict: considerable change.

  • In customer service — a robot took the place of 700 full-time employees at Klarna.

  • In copywriting — research indicates people favour content generated by AI over human-authored.

  • Illustrations — the capabilities of tools like Midjourney, Dall-E, or Photoshop's Generative Fill are well-established.

  • Video effects — OpenAI's Sora delivered an astounding experience just weeks ago. Hearing about Sora prompted director Tyler Perry to halt an $800 million studio expansion, citing an impending transformation in Hollywood and significant job losses.

  • Translations — Duolingo downsized its workforce by 10% as AI can now handle much of the translation workload.

  • In modelling — we have Aitana, a Spanish AI model boasting 300,000 Instagram followers and earning $11,000 monthly, despite being entirely virtual.

Experts speculate that within a decade, artificial intelligence will be penning NYT bestsellers, crafting chart-topping hits, and even tackling household chores like laundry folding. As depicted in the image below, timelines are accelerating, suggesting these changes may arrive sooner than expected.

This excerpt draws inspiration from the Uncharted Territories Newsletter. 

Higher compensation for new hires, a double-edged sword

Hiring new talent at higher salaries than current employees can lead to increased turnover, especially among high performers, according to a Visier study.

The study's key findings show that:

  • Employees who receive a pay rise shortly after a new colleague is hired at a higher salary tend to stay with the company longer.

  • Resignations are more common among employees who must wait six months or longer for a raise.

  • High performers are more likely to quit because of pay gaps than their lower-performing colleagues.

  • Inequalities in compensation can reduce employee engagement and weaken employees' trust in management.

The study identifies a few strategies managers and  executives can use to guarantee that both new hires and current employees receive equitable treatment:

  • Make people aware of the pay gaps. This includes educating managers and HR specialists on how to perform routine evaluations in order to find and address wage disparities.

  • Respond quickly to salary inequities. As soon as disparities are discovered, organisations must take action to prevent employee attrition and a decline in trust.

  • Invest in tools and processes. This means updating performance management systems, promoting a culture of transparency around pay discussions and adapting to the changing needs of employees.

Journalism - another unfair field for women

Although women are more prevalent in journalism, only 22% of the 180 top editors in the survey are women, a Reuters Institute report shows. In Europe, 41% of journalists are women, but their role is associated with subjects considered "feminine" such as science, health and social issues.

In addition, a global survey by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and supported by UNESCO reveals that threats of physical violence have affected 25% and sexual assault has affected 18% of female journalists interviewed. To achieve a more equal news sector, these inequities need to be effectively addressed.

Top 5 countries that excel in work-life balance

New Zealand is at the top of the list of nations that successfully balance work and personal life, giving high priority to employee well-being. The country also offers significant benefits, such as 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. Next up are Denmark and Italy, both of which have efficient policies and programmes that promote a healthy balance as well as a culture that values employee well-being and time off. Spain and France have statutory yearly leave of 26 and 36 days.

Byte-sized news

Elon Musk said that "nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week", but a new study reveals that the average American employee works 44 hours a week just to survive.
Morgan Stanley cuts its workforce by 9% in its China asset management division, responding to declining stock market difficulties; China's CSI300 index fell to its lowest level in five years, marked by a debt crisis in the real estate sector and a drop in local investor interest.
4 Simple Steps to Building Good Habits - a 58-second video from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.
Are you interested in applying for a job at Google? Here's a list of remote jobs open now.
1 in 3 employees with disabilities face workplace discrimination in the US. The data shows that, while 2023 was a year of high hiring rates for people with disabilities, organisations still need to do more to accommodate them. There are still significant impediments, both during the employment process and afterwards in the workplace. As if these people's lives weren't already difficult enough.
Out of all employed individuals in the European Union between the ages of 15 and 64, only 34.7% are women, with 53.5% being men and 46.5% being women.
Laying people off is a difficult decision and has a significant impact on them. However, it can be done with empathy and responsibility. This article explains how.

Too much humour from your boss can be harmful

It can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction, according to a recent study. Based on the research, executives who use excessive humour push employees to act out, which raises the risk of burnout and negatively impacts their well-being. One of the main causes of stress is the emotional work that goes into reacting to jokes from managers, even if they are not funny. Humour can be beneficial, but only when used sparingly and with quality control can it enhance the workplace environment without compromising the well-being of employees.

2024, the year the autocratic boss returns?

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the fight to return to the office sparked a true employee rebellion, as people fought to retain the flexibility and quality of life that remote working offered. Some even obtained higher wages and better working conditions, and the focus of many organisations shifted to employee welfare.

But some experts say the days of saying "I don't like it, I'm leaving" are long gone. Giants like Disney and Amazon have forced the big return to the office, swapping free lunches and yoga for a more rigorous approach.

The result? It brought back the usual servitude of corporate culture where the success stories of ruthless leaders like BYD's Wang Chuanfu are once again becoming the model to follow. Celebrated for their assertive management style, these leaders have not only regained control but have also managed to undermine employees' spirit of independence by reintroducing a culture of overwork and fanatical devotion.

More than two-thirds of American professionals have dealt with a toxic boss at least once, and more than 31% say they continue to suffer under their tyranny. In Europe, the situation is milder, with only 13% confessing to working for a boss with dictatorial traits. In this setting, the development of new pathologically narcissistic bosses who disguise their brutality as “disruptive leadership” or “radical transparency” demonstrates that workplace tyranny can still be a problem, necessitating a rethinking of organisational principles and procedures.

an image that reflects the concept of an autocratic boss

Source: Dalle 3. Prompt provided by the Hacking Work team


Less than half of European organisations are assisting their staff in learning generative AI skills, despite forecasts indicating a 68% increase in the skills required by 2030 compared to 2016.

Half of neurodiverse employees missed work last year as a result of a lack of tailored support

 The annual Neurodiversity Index released by City & Guilds finds that half of neurodiverse employees missed work last year as a result of a lack of tailored support. 4 in 10 neuroatypical employees (those who struggle with autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, dyspraxia, or dyslexia) do not receive any form of individualised guidance or assistance at work, and 2 out of 10 are still waiting on improvements that would make their jobs easier. Many people feel overburdened by the lack of this help and are forced to work after hours to keep up. They feel alienated and alone when their efforts are viewed as one-way, which increases their likelihood of giving up completely on an employer who does not comprehend them.

 4 steps to get from criticism to constructive feedback

"Critical feedback sandwiched between two slices of praise doesn't have the same flavour as it might seem." - Adam Grant

Are you used to giving constructive feedback, or do you tend to offer people "compliment sandwiches"? This form of communication, which begins with praise, followed by criticism or sarcasm, and ends with more praise, may give the sender a sense of satisfaction. However, it does not contribute effectively to the recipient's development. Instead, consider these steps to deliver genuinely constructive feedback:

  1. Clarify the purpose of the feedback. Harsh feedback is 40% more likely to be received positively if it's accompanied by an explanation. For example, saying "I'm telling you this because I have high expectations and believe you can meet them" conveys support and confidence in the individual's abilities. This approach fosters an environment where honest appraisals are welcomed by those who are genuinely invested in your development.

  2. Adopt a humble attitude. While negative feedback can create feelings of inferiority, levelling the playing field reduces its intimidation. Acknowledging one's imperfections and continuing growth cultivates a collaborative atmosphere. For example, saying "Now that we've been working together for some time, I think we can offer each other suggestions for improving efficiency" encourages an open exchange of ideas.

  3. Ask for permission to give feedback. People often become defensive when their work is criticised or when unsolicited suggestions for improvement are offered. To mitigate this, politely ask if advice would be welcome. This approach encourages receptivity and minimises defensiveness. For example, asking, "May I share some insights on how to streamline your workflow?" invites collaboration and receptivity.

  4. Engage in transparent dialogue rather than a manipulative monologue. Instead of the conventional "compliment sandwich", prioritise transparent communication and active listening. Embracing vulnerability and inviting dialogue, as advocated by psychologist Roger Schwarz, promotes mutual understanding. For example, starting a conversation by saying, "I've noticed certain aspects of your work and I'd like to find out if you're aware of them. Let's discuss and determine the way forward" encourages collaborative problem-solving. Encourage dialogue to facilitate meaningful change.

AI adoption in slow-motion

While 76% of companies have experimented with generative artificial intelligence in the past year, only 9% have successfully implemented it at a large scale, according to a survey by MIT Technology Review Insights and Telstra.

This indicates a high level of enthusiasm for the potential of generative AI, with 60% of respondents expecting significant change over the next five years. The key areas where it will be integrated are innovation, supply chain logistics, sales and customer experience, with a focus on automating repetitive tasks.

However, there are barriers to widespread adoption. Inadequate resources, evolving regulatory frameworks and lack of employee training are cited as key factors slowing adoption.

While generative AI is poised to become a dominant force in the business world, companies need to improve their infrastructure, prepare for regulatory changes and provide employees with the necessary training.


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The newsletter is written by the Hacking Work team: Cristina, IoanaIzabellaAndreea, Ionuț, Loredana, Tibi, Iulia, Alexia and Doru.

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