Are Your Emojis Sending the Wrong Message?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So it’s not surprising that 76 percent of Americans reported using emojis at work, according to The Atlantic. Nonetheless, the use of emoticons and emojis are frequently the subject of office etiquette debates, with many arguing that they are too informal for business communication.
For employers and employees, the message is simple—emoticons often leave a lot of room for interpretation.
One of the biggest risks is that emojis can often be construed as flirting. A 2012 survey found nearly 45 percent of women and 59 percent of men engaged in an office romance say the relationship started with an emoticon in an email or text message. Even those who don’t date at work view emoticons as suggestive. The survey found 71 percent of women and 90 percent of men said that receiving a “winky face” suggests the possibility of romance or a first date.
A 2015 survey found that most of don’t agree on what a particular emoji is supposed to signify. As The Washington Post reported, what looked like “shocked” to one person was interpreted by others to mean “bored,” “surprised,” or even “dead.”
For supervisors and their subordinates, the use of emojis becomes even more problematic. For example, a boss “winking” at a subordinate could be construed as a pick up line. This, of course, opens the door for claims of sexual harassment.
While a smiley face may soften an email regarding poor job performance, it could also compromise the authority of a supervisor. Should the employee later be fired and claim wrongful termination, the email could be used to show that the job performance warnings were not serious in nature.
Given the proliferation of emojis in both personal and business communications, it may not be reasonable to completely remove them from your emails. However, given the risk of misinterpretation, it may be a good idea to think twice before using them at work. In addition, many companies have adopted style guides that detail the circumstances in which emojis are acceptable, if at all.