Emojis might be fun, but are they appropriate in the workplace?

Is there a place for a smiley face in your office? Emojis can provide greater emotional context, but it’s easy to misuse them. A picture is worth a thousand words – and an emoji can save you that many characters. Emojis are based on symbols from Japanese comics and express emotion through digital communication. The idea is to provide a reaction when emailing, texting or messaging someone who can’t see your body language. Most messaging programs, even those used in business applications, offer a menu of emojis. But just because they’re available doesn’t mean you should use them. Here are some concerns with emojis in the workplace – and some instances where you might get away with including them.

They aren’t universal

Even if emojis might be appropriate in the moment, they don’t always work as intended. According to Andrea Lehr, brand relationship strategist at Fractl, there is no universal agreement on what specific emojis represent.

“Individuals bring their own personal experience to how they interpret an emoji, so although you might use an emoji with streaming tears after something you found incredibly funny, someone else might wonder why you’re upset,” said Lehr.

They make you seem less competent

According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, emojis actually make workers appear less competent.

Additionally, an OfficeTeam survey found that 39 percent of senior managers think it’s unprofessional to include emojis in work communications. Their opinions could ruin your reputation as a qualified expert.

“Emojis are a newer form of communication, so if your recipient is mature, an emoji can make you seem less competent”


Know your demographic. As Userlike points out, older people may be uncomfortable with emojis, and may not even know what they mean.

“If you’re sending an email to a supervisor, executive or client, or work in a corporate environment, emojis may not be appropriate,” said Seamas Egan, director of sales and marketing at Campaigner. “But for millennials and younger colleagues, or in a startup work environment, emojis may be more popular and acceptable.”

If someone has a serious complaint or issue, emojis are inappropriate. Above all, don’t use one if you aren’t certain what it means, and never replace a word with an emoji, added Egan.

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