Love them or hate them, emojis are now an essential part of how many communicate with each other. This is particularly the case when sending texts to friends and younger family members. Many like the little symbols because they project a message that is more playful or descriptive than regular text communication, which can be short on nuance or includes acronyms more confusing than the classic LOL.
It is not surprising that 76% of Americans use emojis like the smiling face, thumbs up or winking face in professional communications. However, experts warn against using emojis too often in work communications. Reasons for this include the likelihood of misunderstanding. For example, adding a smiley face to an internal message or email can leave some to perceive that you are not serious or incompetent rather than warmer or optimistic about a program or idea. The misunderstanding can have the adverse effect of leading them to be less likely to share information.
When are emojis a good idea?
This will depend upon the recipient or group, but there are a few appropriate times to use emojis at work. Common circumstances include:
- Diffusing a situation: Work may be stressful when a group is working to meet a deadline, so sending a message to coworker or group can add some levity during crunch time. It can also reduce tension if there has been a heated discussion or debate.
- Short logistical emails: A simple question about meeting for lunch or coffee can include an emoji.
- Welcoming a new hire: New hires must learn the online culture of the workplace, but sending them an emoji tells them that you are approachable and not a stickler about rules.
Misunderstandings can escalate
Depending upon the workplace, employers may find it necessary to have a policy involving which emojis are appropriate for work. It’s no longer just words and actions that have to be moderated; emojis should be as well. One reason is to avoid the perception as a hostile work environment. Those that work internationally also must be mindful that different gestures have different meanings in different cultures.
Employers facing an issue involving emoji usage or wish to scale back on in-office emojis while maintaining morale can speak with a knowledgeable employment law attorney about drafting a policy and strategy for best handling the matter.