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Professional communication in the digital age: is it ok to send emojis to your boss

9th of November

The digital age has changed many aspects of how we communicate, but one of the biggest game changes in the last few years has been the great take over of the emoticon. They even have their own movie.
While Emojis may be a fun way to spice up your texts to friends and a convenient way to avoid having to give real responses to people you don’t have the words for – where do they fit in when it comes to the work place?

There are several schools of thought around the subject of sending emoticons in the work place. The truth is, there are different kinds of work place and different situations which warrant different sets of rules. The best would be to read the article below and decide for yourself where you fit in, and when in doubt - always err on the side of caution.

The Dangers of Emoji in the Work Place

Emoji are not Professional

It’s important to note that Emoticons are acceptable in formal communication and should never be found in serious emails or communication. They can make you seem incompetent and unprofessional. Sending a smiley face in an email to your boss (especially if said boss is a little older) could ruin your reputation at work and destroy your chances of being taken seriously in your place of work.

They are not universal

What seems like an obvious meaning in an emoji to you may seem like something else entirely to your boss or coworkers. You just don’t know how your messages will be received when you add a bunch of emoji to them. Factors such as the recipient’s background, age, where they come from, how they were educated – can all have a profound effect on how someone perceives the emojis you send them.  
That said, there are still many incidences where it’s not a bad idea to use them.

The Advantages of Emoji in the Workplace

Emoji can help to humanize short communication

If your office makes use of a system such as Slack or Teams where you are exchanging short messages with each other throughout the day then Emoji can be a useful method of making your communication more “human”. Sending short messages often leaves your tone undefined, and it can be easy to misconstrue a quick reply for a sharp reply. Adding a smiley face to that could go a long way to making sure that your message is received in the spirit in which it was sent.

Know your audience

Emoji can be okay in some business communication just like jokes are okay in some interviews – but you have to read the situation carefully and know whether your use of emoji is going to get lost in translation and whether or not the recipient will even appreciate them. If you know they’re going to hate it – leave it. A good idea is to mirror your audience. Would they send you a message spiced with little images and faces?

What if You Work Remotely?

If you are part of a remote team the rules of engagement and communication can definitely become blurred. You don’t have the opportunity to develop those “water cooler” relationships with peers and fellow team members. You might never actually meet them in person. In this instance the use of emoticons can help you to develop a relationship with your fellow team members. It can be a helpful way to set a friendly tone to your messages with someone who may not share your language or culture.

Again, if you are using a central chat system such as Slack or Google Teams you are pretty much already in a less formal environment where some use of informal language techniques may be expected.

Just make sure that your tone matches the situation. It’s one thing to add a winking face to a message where you are delivering work on time or asking for an update on a non-urgent task. If you are passed deadline, running late or about to break the news that there is no way you will get the job done on time then it is probably not a good idea to pepper your comms with yellow smiling faces.
It is okay to use them when discussing personal topics

If your teammates just got engaged or someone is having a birthday, a baby, or has shared any other kind of personal (and non-work related) information with you then you can absolutely pile on the emoticons to express your excitement and best wishes for them. That said, you probably shouldn’t send just a crying face if someone tells you that a family member has died.

If You Test Out the Emoji and it Doesn’t Come Back to You

If you try sending a test Emoticon or two and the recipient never responds in kind, that is a good indication that you shouldn’t send them anymore. Not even if you’re the boss. Some people feel deeply uncomfortable taking their work relationships to a personal or unprofessional place. This could be because they weren’t trained that way or perhaps they simply worked hard to get to where they are and don’t feel that your smiley face is fitting for a professional relationship. It’s important to never let your communication make anyone else feel ill at ease in the workplace, so it’s best to respect this person’s wishes and simply keep to the regular English dialect (or whatever it is you speak) when communicating with them.

To Sum Up

It’s probably a good idea to steer entirely clear of Emoji in your work-related emails and any formal communication, but okay to use them if you are firing off a quick slack message or Whatsapp – provided you are sending them to someone you already know is comfortable using them. When it comes to bosses and managers: follow their lead. If your boss uses smiley faces when sending you a quick text – you can do the same – just make sure you stick to the more commonly used emoji (like a smiley face) and steer away from anything controversial. Do not, under any circumstances, send anyone from work the Eggplant.

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