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Are emoji's suitable for work emails?

Are emoji’s suitable for work emails?


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In an email-centric, fast-paced world, emojis work great as shortcuts to convey a message quickly. A smiley face might say “that’s great work, keep it up”, while a frown often says “I cannot believe you just said that!”. But, how acceptable are emojis in the office? Should you use them often or sparingly, or should you refrain from using them at all?

 

Cross-cultural issues

Even if the use of an emoji might be appropriate to you, they don’t always work as intended. The reason for this is that there isn’t really a universal agreement on what specific emojis represent. Individuals bring their own personal experience to how they interpret them. A winking smiley face might seem friendly to one person, but another person might interpret it as arrogance. This difference can cause confusion and disconnect between communicators.

 

They make you seem less competent

Emojis are a newer form of communication, and many senior managers see them as unprofessional. This view could ruin your reputation as a professional and make you appear immature or incompetent. Perceptions of low competence can undermine your status in the office. Co-workers could see you as inadequate and chose not to share information with you. And it may weaken the respect your staff have for you, causing insubordination.

 

Message and tone

Before blanket banning emojis in the office, we need to remember that email does a poor job of conveying tone. Often an email meant as a light suggestion comes across as harsh criticism, even if that is not the sender’s intention. Emojis can soften what might otherwise seem like blunt or aggressive communication. Still, there is a more professional way to achieve the same goal, and that is to word your email appropriately. Some tips to follow are:

  • Avoid negative words in a subject line to avoid instant alienation
  • Think about the recipient(s) of your e-mail and how they might perceive what you’re saying
  • Avoid extreme phrases such as “deeply regret”, “it is too late”, “break the news”
  • Use positive phrasing
  • Avoid negative words
  • Don’t break the negative news right at the start or the end
  • Be proactive in your emails
  • Re-read your emails before sending

Using emojis at work depends on context. If you don’t have a comfortable relationship with someone, it is best to avoid the familiarity of emojis. Furthermore, be careful when emailing your boss and clients. But take cues from others too. If most people in your company use emojis in non-critical communication, then it is acceptable for you to as well. However, if you don’t need to use emojis to convey a point, then don’t.

 


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